Iconic Surf Brands

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I love surf/hippie/beach culture. Whilst it may be a complete mare to get to in July and August the realm of Tarifa, on Spain’s Costa de la Luz, is a Mecca for those who get their kicks on a kite, surf, SUP or boogie board – see our previous post here on Morey Boogie Boards – Morey Boogie boards.

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This is a lifestyle, available to all adherents. Whether you are a weekend hippie with a real job in corporate finance, benefit from a distant relative having invented some practical gizmo that makes life easier even today, a vacationing student or a “Crusty”, who sees the conventional pressures to earn a living, have a mortgage or to otherwise conform to some dated middle class ideal of the perfect life, as pointless, then there’s a welcome for you on the beach.

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For core participants of this tribe, whose transient existence may be complemented, if they have the funds, see previous references to those in the City and/or being a Trustafarian – by a VW bus – see our previous post here – Volkswagen Kombi – as the perfect transport for your kites and boards, their careful devotion to their appearance on an off the sand is crucial. Indeed being able to take the beach with them as they return to their other life is made possible by several wonderful and iconic surf brands who shroud the faithful when the smell of the salt air is a fading memory.

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Founded in Tarifa in the 1990’s by designer Andoni Galdeano and entrepreneur Herbert Newman, the El Niño brand of surfwear is defined by a passion for the perfect wave and embraces much of what our tribe of surf worshippers love. It’s colourful, expressive and almost all pieces bare the distinctive El Niño logo that my family has always called “the Angry Sperm” – the little discontented drip. In fact the name comes from the “levante” wind of the same name that blows from the East  over Tarifa.

For Adults and Children – add an El Niño shirt to your summer collection by clicking the Amazon link after the image

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El Niño The Child 11102 T-Shirt, Men, Men, 11102, Grey (Stone Grey), Medium

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El Niño The Child 0128013101 T-Shirt, Children, 13101, Orange (Fiesta), 12

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Quiksilver was founded in Torquay (Australia) in 1969 by Alan Green and John Law. It is now a multi-million dollar business, one of the largest manufacturers of surf and related sports goods, operating many stores worldwide. The company developed the successful young woman’s wear brand “Roxy” – who’s logo is a duplicate of the Quiksilver wave doubled to form a heart – it also owns the DC brand of skate shoes.

After a difficult period of trading in 2016 and restructuring the majority shareholder is now Oaktree Capital Management. In 2017 the company’s name was changed to “Boardriders” and is now based in Huntington Beach, California.

Quiksilver, along with Rip Curl – also founded in 1969 in Torquay (Australia) and still owned by co-founders Doug Warbrick and Brian Singer – and Billabong – founded on Australia’s Gold Coast (Queensland) by Gordon and Rena Merchant in 1973 and now co-owned by Oaktree Capital – are regarded as the “Big Three” Surfwear companies.

Add a pair of Quiksilver nubuck flip-flops to your beach collection by clicking the Amazon link below the image

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Quiksilver Men’s Molokai Nubuck Flip Flops, Multicolour (Brown CTK0), 42 42 EU

Or a pair of cool DC low top shoes….

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DC Shoes Trase TX, Men’s Low-Top, Blue (Navy/Camel Nc2), 8 UK (42 EU)

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Orange County on California’s Pacific Coast is the home Huntington Beach, Newport Beach and Laguna Beach each with their own distinctive surf communities. In the 1984 Shawn Stussy – a young surfboard manufacturer – who signed his boards with his distinctive signature – founded his eponymous surfwear brand with Frank Sinatra Jnr (unrelated to the singer) in Laguna Beach.

Stussy surfwear became a favourite of the hip-hop scene of the late 1980’s/early 1990’s. The brand is now a favourite of Drake and A$AP Rocky.

In 1996 Stussy left the brand selling his holding to Sinatra’s family who still own it.

A piece by Stussy is a must ….how about this signature cap? Click the Amazon link below the image

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Stussy Stock SP18 Snapback Hat Teal

Images with grateful thanks – El Niño Tarifa, Quiksilver/Boardriders, DC Shoes and Stussy.

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Unsung but Essential Icons

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As I control the creative direction of Aestheticons I choose what’s featured. Largely that means that I chose aspirational gems. However, instead of looking up in awe and appreciation we need to consider the more mundane.

The items featured in this piece are neither glamorous, alluring – unless you are into the really weird – nor really do anything in excess of their primary function. At that, they are superlative and without them elements of our busy lives would be a struggle. They are Unsung – not enjoying massive Instagram accounts with millions of adoring followers – but Essential Icons.

Cable ties

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I defy anyone who derives the smallest amount of pleasure from tending a garden, to fix a plant to a trellace or a bamboo cane or a brush screening to a gate without the use of a cable tie. Not only can this devilishly small but wonder strips of plastic fixing be a the gardener’s friend, they, with equal competence, support the work of electrician, plumbers and builders and many others in thousands of conceived and yet to be conceived ways.

Known as originally as Ty-Rap, cable ties were first invented, primarily to secure airplane wiring into the bulkhead, in 1958 by US based electrical business Thomas & Betts and more particularly their employee, Maurus C. Logan. Mr Logan developed into production the idea he’d conceived of aboard a Boeing during construction. The Patent was submitted on 24th June 1958.

Why not add to your tool drawer with this Amtech selection of 500 cable ties? Click the AMAZON link below the image

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Amtech S0680 Assorted Cable Tie, 500-Piece

WD40

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As our readers know I Like to cycle but over the winter months my bike has a tendency to be a little neglected and exposed to the elements. When the cooler seasons have done their worst on my waistline the time is right to look for the foot pump and adaptor and get some air into those bike tyres. The tyres are only half the battle. The gears, brakes and chain scream out for the TLC that can only be lavished on them by WD40 the spray delivered a light penetrating, protecting and lubricating oil.

As the saying goes a “Sucess has many Fathers” and there appears to be some controversy as to originator of WD-40. It seems that the formula of WD-40 was developed in 1953 by The Rocket Chemical Company in San Diego, California and first produced in commercially available quantities in 1958. The contributions – depending on sources – of a Iver Norman Lawson and a Norman Larson (President of Rocket) are named as the “inventor” of the formula with the name WD-40 seemingly stemming from the expression “Water Displacement  40th Formula” – suggesting there may have been a 39th, 38th and so on versions of the formula.

It may be that Lawson invented the low viscosity formula – still a trade secret but still has the original and distinctive smell – and sold it to Rocket where Larson had the bright idea of putting it into aerosol cans. It arrived in the UK in the late 1960’s.

For those many jobs around the home or office for which only WD-40 will do, why not pick up a can or two by clicking the AMAZON link below the image?

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3 x WD-40 Smart Straw Aerosol 420ml Penetrant, Lubricant, Releasant Oil / Stops squeaks / Cleans and protects / Loosens rusted parts / Frees sticky mechanisms

Paper Clips

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As a lawyer I am very pro the paper-less office, technology can teach us loads about sensible digital storage and retrieval. In parking our fears and posting to the Cloud we make a statement that’s more about efficiency and less about tree hugging.

For years we relied on the trust paper clip to secure our files, ensure correct attachments to letters and avoid inevitable embarrassment on a windy day. Called a “Trombone” in French, a literal use that I find very appealing, the simple paper clip does exactly what the tin says.

History tells us that in the US on April 23rd 1867 Samuel B. Fay successfully obtained the first Patent for a bent wire paper clip. On November 7th 1899 William D Middlebrook obtained a Patent for a paper clip making machine that produced an item – made popular as the “Gem Paper Clip” which went on sale in the UK in the 1870’s – and are similar to those sold today. The name Gem – trademarked in the US by Cushman and Denison in 1904 – became known Worldwide and in Sweden, I am told, that the word for paper clip is “Gem”.

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No desk is complete without a selection of plastic coated paper clips – please click the AMAZON link below the image to get yours.

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Zealor Paper Clips with Assorted Colors and Sizes (28 mm, 50 mm, 100 mm)

Image Credits – with grateful thanks – http://www.officemuseum.com, Zealor and the WD-40 Company Inc.

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RM Williams – Living Craftsmen

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I have received from the Australian based business of RM Williams – who our regulars will know that I really like their “Craftsmen” boots RM Williams Craftsman Boot – the following which I am really happy to promote.

We have a strong and increasing commitment to maintaining and nurturing crafts and supporting those, in both small and larger business, who plough their careers, honing practised skill and differing disciplines that result in beautiful products. RM Williams’ Living Craftsmen

Montecristo Cigars

Cuba, for someone who hasn’t yet had the opportunity to visit the island, seems to be renowned for four things. Its recently reconciled position with the USA, a bevy of 1950’s classic American cars – that half a century are still going strong – the work of the very talented “Buena Vista Social Club” and its World-dominant position in the making and selling of fine cigars.

For me, pre-eminent amongst the wonderful Cuban cigar brands, with their flamboyant cigar rings and sturdy packaging are the products of the Cuban state-owned tobacco, Habanos SA,  that are marketed under the iconic name of “Montecristo.

Our featured image is the cigar ring of Montecristo that was revised in 2013. The Montecristo brand accounts for around 25% of Habanos SA’s world-wide sales. It is reported that by volume the Montecristo No. 4 is the World’s most popular cigar.

The name of the Montecristo was inspired by the novel “The Count of Montecristo”. It was first used in July 1935 when Alonso Menéndez bought a factory, which until then had made cigars under the Particulares and Byron brand names, he rebranded using the name of Montecristo. In 1936 Snr. Menéndez, with a new partner, founded Menéndez, García y Cía. The new business acquired the H. Upmann factory, from J Franau SA, in 1937 and consolidated production of the Montecristo and Upmann brands at the Upmann factory. The business was nationalised in 1961 following the Cuban Revolution.

The Montecristo logo (below) comprises a triangle of swords and a fleur-de-lis, was designed by John Hunter Morris and Elkan Co. Ltd., Montecristo’s UK distributor. J. Frankau continued as the sole distributor of the H. Upmann brand in the UK, until in 1963, the firms merged to become Hunters & Frankau. The resulting business is still the sole importer and distributor of all Cuban cigars in the UK.

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Montecristo has grown its range of cigars over the years from an original five, plus a tubed cigar added in the 1940’s and further additions of five new sizes in the 1970’s and 80’s. In 2004, the Edmundo, a large robusto-sized cigar, was added. In 2009 a new range known “Open” was added that comprises a selection of slightly less densely flavoured cigars than the usual Montecristo. For me, the No 2 Montecristo, a Pirámide or torpedo shaped large cigar, continues to be a particular favourite.

A cursory study of cigars will show that aside from their range number and name it is usual that their ring size is given, to denoted their thickness. Over 22 years ago, and perhaps being slightly under-prepared, I asked my wife to marry me with a Montecristo No 1 cigar ring. Luckily, she said yes and I got a jeweller in Central London to make her an engagement ring that was stylised to look a little like the shape of the cigar ring with a central diamond and tapering to smaller diamonds around the band – it’s still beautiful ring.

 

Robin Wood – Traditional Wood Turning

When I was at school pre-O levels one of the elements of the scholastic week that I really enjoyed was our time in the Woodwork shop.

Overseen by a reliable older teacher dressed in a long brown workshop coat – probably with a breast pocket full of triangular pencils – I forget his real name but I think we all called him “Sid”.  I suspect he was a retired carpenter who wasn’t there to teach as any form of an academic subject. His role, at which he was unassumingly brilliant at, was to impart the wonders of working with wood and in so doing he sparked a life long affection for this beautiful material.

The Woodwork shop had a vaulted glass ceiling that echoed to the whirl and clatter of a series of old electric lathes, I say “old” as they probably pre-dated me by thirty plus years making them nearly over forty in the late 1970’s. We’d be taught to centre the wood on a spike which had a back plate that we screwed into the wood making it firm for turning. We’d be shown how to sharpen chisels to achieve a desired cut. After the Master has placed the blank in the lathe we then be shown how to rest the chisel and work it to cut into the timber. There was minimal Heath & Safety input but we probably had perspex glasses borrowed from the Chemistry lab.

Sometime around half-term we be the proud owner of a four and a half inch diameter freshly beeswaxed bowl which our Mother’s would then fill with peanuts and offer them at drinks parties to admiring friends who’d remark on the quality of the bowl.

Aged 14 I came top in the year end exams in two subjects, Woodwork and Religion. Shrugging off the suggestions of a Second Coming, to this day I have loved wood, particularly turned wood, and have sourced all manner of examples including spindles for chair back, table legs and stair bannisters.

What I have never attempted is to operate a manual lathe – indeed until recently I didn’t know that they existed but exist they do and they are seeing a revival in the craft of Traditional Turning one of its best exponents is a very engaging chap from Sheffield named Robin Wood – yes, seriously!

Robin, who holds an MBE – awarded in 2014 for services to Heritage Crafts and Skills – is a master wood turner who for the last 20 years has been making wooden bowls, plates and utensils on a simple foot powered lathe. His products, if respected and treat with some care last and age beautifully. His extensive studies have influence his design and techniques.

Fuelled by a simple mantra of “Never to do a day’s work he did not enjoy” it was the experience of working close to nature with the National Trust that introduced Robin to traditional woodland crafts and ignited his and he started to make spoons and bowls bringing “a little quiet beauty into everyday life”.

Robin was inspired by the work of George Lailey, who died in 1958. He was last person in England to make his living turning wooden bowls on a foot powered pole lathe. Seeing the great beauty in the simplicity of the craft Robin sought to revive the technique. His first task was to learn how to create the cutting tools required which involved him training as a blacksmith. It has become a source of some pride that no sandpaper is used and the smoothness of the finish is achieve by the sharpest of tools.

Clearly evangelical about the simple pleasure and satisfaction to be achieved from wood turning Robin teaches and also, in addition to hang his own tools, make tools for others help others learn to carve.

Robin has assured us despite the bitter weather that he is hard at work restoring his stock of bowls  – but it will take some time. So for those wishing to make a purchase please be patient. Please complete the Contact section of our site

In this film, Robin can be seen at work in his idyllic outbuilding/studio. Enjoy!

Film used by kind permission of Artisan Media/Image courtesy of Robin Wood

Jeremy Atkinson – The Last English Clog maker

There is a quite confidence that comes from knowing exactly what you are doing.

Jeremy Atkinson is a highly skilled and time-served craftsman who is also lamentably described as the last – no play on words here – maker of English traditional bespoke clogs, a craft going back to Roman times.

Based in the Hereford, Jeremy turns “green” unseasoned timber – sycamore, birch, cherry and alder into the soles of really very beautiful shoes with wooden soles – classically designed English clogs. Perhaps unsurprisingly Jeremy is also a skilled at cutting, dyeing and stitching leather uppers.

Having first split the timber with a froe, the half log is marked with the desired bespoke foot pattern and is then taken through a cutting process which sees Jeremy exert some force to manipulate a three foot long oversized cut-throat tool called a “blocker” or “stock knife” to slice the wooden blank to gradually take the shape of a sole.

The “blocker” is pivoted from the bench via a hook and eye arrangement so that Jeremy applies purchase with his right hand guiding the blade with pin-point accuracy where he want the cuts to be made.

Finer adjustments to the instep, cast and camber of the sole are achieved with two more swivel blade tools, the hollower for the footbed and the gripper for the welt ledge in which the upper is nailed.

The upper is shaped over a wooden last and then lightly tacked to the wooden sole prior to a final fitting with the client – if they are able to visit.

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The finished clog is completed with a brass toe piece and either clog irons – similar to horse shoes – or a rubber sole – clogs have a particularly good reputation wherever it’s wet underfoot.

Jeremy has been taught his craft, one that has experienced great longevity in the many regions of the United Kingdom and he travels extensively demonstrating his skills and picking up ideas for his continued work.

Given the physical nature of the work his wrists bear the brunt of the repetitive slicing of the “blocker” and he is worried that he may only have a few more years left in the craft.

Jeremy notes that a number of satisfied customers have used his clogs successfully to provide support for poor feet and in the management of painful foot conditions.

He’s not particularly sentimental about his unwilling role as the last in England to pursue this centuries old craft but he is realistic and in part doing his best to impart his skills having taught Geraint Parfitt (based in Wales).

The struggle to obtain recognition for the social and economic value of crafts and their exponents may well have a quiet champion in Jeremy who in the film below notes that in other parts of Europe people are given state funding to ensure that these crafts do not die out.

I for one would be willing to work much more closely with the Heritage Crafts Association – of which the Prince of Wales is the President – to see what can be done to harness both respect and funding for these legacy crafts.We are becoming increasingly involved in an effort to raise the profile of these crafts and through us I want to market and hopefully sell the work of craftsmen like Jeremy.

Please complete our Contact section so that we can introduce you to the more of the amazing products made with great affection and skill by Jeremy and his colleague.

Film used by kind permission of Artisan Media/Image courtesy of Jeremy Atkinson

RM Williams’ “Craftsman” Boot

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Reginald Murray (‘RM”) Williams was born into a pioneering settler family in 1908 at Belalie North about 200 miles from Adelaide, a horse trainer and bushman who rose to be a millionaire entrepreneur.  His adventures in the outback created a recognisable and iconic Australian style of bush-wear.

RM was taught leather working by a horseman, Dollar Mick, including making bridles, pack saddles and riding boots. In 1932, to fund the hospital care of his son, RM founded “RM Williams” and he began to sell saddles. In 1934, he established and rapidly expanded a small factory running in his father’s back shed at 5 Percy Street in the Adelaide suburb of Prospect.

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RM’s most iconic designs were his handcrafted riding boots. They are formed of a single piece of leather or suede and stitched at the rear with elasticated sides.  As of 2013, the company’s handcrafted riding boots comprises 70 hand processes and a single piece of leather.

RM sold the business in 1988 but sadly it entered receivership in 1993. The company was then taken under the control of RM’s long-time friend Ken Cowley who, with businessman Kerry Stokes, and Ken’s family ran R.M. Williams Ltd. for over twenty years.

RM died in November 2003. In March 2013, the Cowley family released a statement of an intention to sell the company to a new owner for AUS$100 million sum. In April 2013, R.M. Williams sold a 49.9% stake to L Capital, the private equity affiliate of LVMH.

These guys a wish list item for me. I have known of them for over twenty years as a friend from Sydney had the well known classic Craftsman boot which at that time he had owned for over fifteen years – they were pristine with minor tell-tale wear and a fabulous sheen.

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In July 2016 I was in London and went to the new Westfield Shopping Centre at Shepherd’s Bush. I walked into the newly opened RM Williams store to discover I was in fact the very first customer.

A charming girl who had been seconded from RM William’s office in Adelaide was so well informed and enthusiastic in her desire to impart details about the hand-made boots I felt almost rude leaving after the limited time I had ran out…only to be stung by the excessive parking charges at Westfield!

She explained that they would prefer – if I lived in the UK – that I should opt to have a rubber rather leather sole, as the leather is so thick it took a while to dry out and risked deteriorating if not totally dried before it got wet again. She explained the use of kangaroo hide – which caused my son some disquiet – but it was explained as a by-product of meat production.

I am determined to return to place an order in due course – but suspect I may go for a suede pair.

Stop Press: Since we became an Amazon Affiliate in December 2017 I have now discovered that I can get my favourite RM Williams chocolate brown suede Craftsman via this source – so the order is on its way! If you’d like to join me in this please click on the link below the following image 

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R.M. Williams Craftsman chocolate/suede, Größen:43

Images from RM Williams

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