The Spirit of Ecstasy

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I saw a program on TV recently about the Bentley Bentayga, the new signature 4×4 developed by the luxury brand to appeal to a new market and selling at significantly over $200,000. The iconic Jack Barclay showroom in London’s Berkeley Square has been updated to cater for this new market with an extensive and slightly brutal makeover.

I don’t want to sound at all grumpy old bloke about this development, the car certainly does look refined and comfortable, albeit that it could be easily mistaken for an Audi Q7, but I get a little worried by the need for brands to extend – to reach out to a new market.  Arguably the brand needs updating but should they resist the temptation to simply following the crowd? Or is it that these cars are intended to be highly aspirational but are simply not special enough.

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The Bentley “B” on the bonnet is still in place but the bonnet ornament – the chrome winged “B” is no longer – almost certainly for good Health and Safety, if not aerodynamic, reasons. Sadly, it seems a thing of the past. Well not for all manufacturers …and being fair the winged “B” does appear on the bonnet of the beautiful Bentley Mulsanne.

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Originally conceived as a way of making a dull radiator cover more attractive only Rolls-Royce and Mercedes seem to continue the fine tradition of bonnet ornaments. The most iconic of these pieces of classic automobilia is, of course, The Spirit of Ecstasy.

In 1909 the then Lord Montagu of Beaulieu – a family inextricably linked to the world of motor cars and the founder of The Car Illustrated – sought something distinctive for the bonnet of his new Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost. He commissioned sculptor Charles Robinson Sykes to produce a limited run of four figurines that became known as “The Whisperer”.

Some myth and legend surrounds the model, the sculptur’s muse, but it is said to be the Lord’s secret love, Eleanor Velasco Thornton, a Secretary from his office. Ms Thornton is depicted in flowing robes with her index-finger to her lips, perhaps keeping their love a secret? The affair is rumored to have endured for over ten years.

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By 1910 Rolls-Royce took a “dim view” as to the appropriateness of these ornaments and co-founder, Claude Johnson, commissioned Sykes to invoke the mythical beauty of Nike – the Goddess of Victory – to produce a dignified and graceful mascot. Sykes wasn’t so impressed by the brief but preferred to deliver the beautiful, “The Spirit of Ecstasy”.

It was a clear variation of The Whisperer but Johnson was very pleased with Sykes’ creation on its arrival in February 1911. Royce, however, who was then ill, felt it disturbed the driver’s view!

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Initially an optional extra by the early 1920’s the figurine was fitted as standard. Given changes to coach-work various versions of The Spirit of Ecstasy were used and in the 1934 Sykes was again commissioned to produce a kneeling version for the Phantom iV.

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As of 2003 – the Phantom model and all subsequent versions carrying a reduced the Spirit of Ecstasy only 3 inches tall and mounted onot a spring-loaded cradle that retracts when hit or the engine is turned off. Some years and a smart use of technology resulted in this retractable mount that clearly suggests Rolls-Royce’s determination to ensure the longevity of their iconic sculpture.

Whilst the majority are stainless steel a frosted crystal, illuminated version is a factory option.

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Images with grateful thanks – Tim Bishop, Jill Reger, Banham’s and Rolls-Royce Motors

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Favourite T-Shirts

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I have a favourite T Shirt – our featured image. It’s not the slightly lewd text, nor the “End of the Pier” – “Nudge, Nudge” – humour that appeals most to me. It’s the fact that Mrs W bought it over 20 years ago in New York City and it is loved as much for the item as the thought that went into its purchase.

Indeed it may have been on impulse – she doesn’t like shopping much – but it is the expression of her view towards me as her then relatively new husband who was coming to terms with his then slightly thinning hair. It’s been worn by us both over the years and amazingly it has outlasted many branded shirts that have been worn half as much.

I like T-Shirts especially as the summer turns to crank up the heat into the early 30’s.

T-Shirts have, in my view, to deliver in two simple respects. They need to be 100% cotton – whatever the brands try to persuade you of their new wonder fabric that will keep you as cool as a Polar Bear’s backside – sorry cotton is best. It’s also needs to be slightly on the big side allowing it to flap in whatever wind is available capturing some cooling and fanning effect as it goes.

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For me, some of the very best T-Shirts are made by Fruit of the Loom – they are consistently good and I really respect a company that stays loyal – in the main – to the one product that they are noted for and deliver year after year. We have featured Fruit of the Loom on Aestheticons before and you can read our previous post here – Fruit of the Loom – T shirts

I really like certain iconic T-Shirts that shout loudly about your preferences. Many of you will know of my love for New York City and the iconic Milton Glaser design – I ❤️ NY – is simply, though a little cliched by over familiarity, but as valid as a tattoo.

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Equally my London home is well represented by the shirts of the Hard Rock Cafe – again a little jaded and over-exposed – you can pick up the same shirt in London, Moscow or Marbella – but still its a cultural icon. Hard Rock Cafe T Shirt

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Last year I picked up on a ranking of the 10 most Iconic T-Shirts – Iconic T-Shirts    there will be those who will make it their mission – not in any charitable campaign sense but just as a bit of fun – to seek to collect all 10. Not for me, but please go ahead.

Enjoy the summer and enjoy your T-Shirts and I’d love to know which T-Shirts are your treasures!

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Image credits – with grateful thanks – Milton Glaser, Hard Rock Cafe and Fruit of the Loom.

 

Chrysler Building, New York City

Chrysler Building

I defy anyone not to marvel at the New York skyline.

So familiar from every episode of Kodak, Sex in the City and Friends, an endless film location starring in You’ve Got Mail, When Harry Met Sally, Breakfast at Tiffany’s,  Taxi Driver, etc. etc. The lofty skyline so cruelty and devastatingly diminished by 9.11 yet less than fifteen years later rising phoenix-like from the ashes. The skyline is not the star of the City but it’s undoubtedly the supporting cast.

The one building that I still think best sums up my fascination which New York, stemming from an era when the “My Skyscraper Is Bigger Than Your Skyscraper” ethos was at its most potent and ambitious, is The Chrysler Building. It is simply the most beautiful, charismatic and iconic of the standalone skyscrapers.

An Art Deco-style masterpiece, The Chrysler Building is located at the intersection of 42nd Street and Lexington Avenue, it stands 1,046 feet (318.9 m) and for eleven months in 1931 – before the completion of the Empire State Building – it held the title of the world’s tallest building. It still is the world’s tallest brick structure.

Designed by architect William Van Alen, who was engaged Walter P. Chrysler, who decided that he, rather than the Chrysler Corporation that he ran, would pay for the  construction allowing it to be inherited by his children. Chrysler’s purchased the land in 1928 although since 1902 Cooper Union (a degree conferring Institute dating from 1859 known for the The Advancement of Science and Art) has held the ownership of the land.

Chrysler’s modest additions to Van Alen’s plans included additional floors and the corner ornamentation on the 31st floor comprising replicas of the 1929 Chrysler radiator caps.

It was erected at four floor per week such was the competition at the time to build tallest and to get be there quickest. To compete with a rival project at 40 Wall Street which had threatened to force The Chrysler into second place, Van Alen obtained permission to add a spire. It measured a total of 197 ft (60m) and was secretly delivered to the site in sections. Following the bottom section being hoisted into place the completed spire was erected in just ninety minutes. This meant a victory for the Chrysler Building by the time of its completion in May 1930.

The Chrysler Corporation occupied the building from 1930 until the mid-1950s and had a car showroom on the first and second floors. The 71st floor which was decorated with a celestial ceiling and was, until it closed in 1945, the highest observation deck in the building. Until the late 1970’s, floors 66 to 68 comprised a private club – the Cloud Club with beautiful dining rooms favoured by New York’s wealthiest.

In 1953, the Chrysler family sold the building and following extensive dealings over several years the building is now owned by the Abu Dhabi Investment Council (90%) and Tishman Speyer (10%).

Chrysler Building NYC

 

 

 

 

Cross Classic Century – Sterling Silver ballpen

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The Cross family business was founded in Providence (Rhode Island) in 1846 by Richard Cross who manufactured gold and silver casings for pencils. Richard’s son, Alonzo T Cross, inherited the business from his father and developed a host of innovations including the predecessors of the mechanical pencil and modern ball-pen.

Cross pens are the essence of understatement and their simple, iconic and fine Art Deco lines make them timeless. The ladies’ Classic Century is elegant and its Sterling Silver body acquires an allure with age – a patina that, in my view, should only rarely be cleaned.

I was in New York looking for a gift for my wife and there is something classically American about this iconic and authentic pen that forms part of a range that was launched in 1946.  Its patented twist-action barrel sparked a design revolution and its sleek profile has found an army of loyal fans.

Cross is, perhaps, not regarded as being a foremost luxury brand but for me the range, style and workmanship are underrated. The Classic Century is an authentic American classic with a trade mark design that evokes the majesty of certain of New York’s skyline. See our earlier post on The iconic Chrysler Building Chrysler Building, New York City

In 2013 the business of AT Cross was purchased by Clarion Capital Partners LLC.

Should you like me be tempted to buy the special lady in your life an heirloom pen then I can highly recommend the Cross Classic Century – please click the following AMAZON link below the image – to gift this beautiful pen.

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Cross Century Classic Hallmark Silver Ball Point Pen

You may also be interested to add the matching and equally iconic Century Classic Sterling Silver Pencil to this wonderful gift. Please click the Amazon link below the image

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Cross Classic Century Sterling Silver 0.7mm Pencil (H300305)

Don’t risk losing you beautiful and valuable pens – keep them in a bespoke designed leather holder – available for one or two pens – please click the AMAZON link below the image

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Cross Classic Century Pencil Cases, 15 cm, Black

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Image Credits AT Cross & Co Inc. – with grateful thanks.

Levi‘s 501

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501’s were seen as work-wear for much of its first sixty years being rechristened ‘blue jeans’ in the 1950’s.

Jacob Davis, a tailor, was approached by a workman’s wife asking for a stronger pair of trousers. He sought a solution to pocket and fly tearing experienced by workers using his denim trousers by applying copper rivets to the stress points of the garment. He then went in search of a partner to help make these early examples.

Levi Strauss was a dry goods vender who had sold Jacob the denim he needed for his early samples. They joined forces and the production which following its the grant of Patent on 20th May 1873  for “waist overalls” heralded a massive success.

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In 1886 the Two Horse leather patch was first used and added to the overalls.  In 1890 the Patent passed into the Public Domian, meaning the company lost their exclusive over riveted denim. As a result the company introduced the “501” as the definitive version of their denim work “waist overalls”, with copper rivets and the Two Horse leather and later the “leather-like” patch.

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By 1936 the Red Tab appeared. These ingenious and other design elements have ensured that Levi Strauss have been able to seek protection for their design against cynical copying. The company spend million of dollars annually protecting their Intellectual Property Rights.

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Always at the heart of youth culture, the universal appeal stems from its integrity, a loyalty to the original design, the highest quality denim and sturdy manufacture.

I have loved Levi’s jeans since a teenager. Whilst the waist band may have expanded – and indeed contracted on various occasions due to mad cabbage soup diets etc – I have been through zip-fly, yellow label and 360 degrees back to red-label button-fly 501.

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They are simply my favourite jeans that have seen me through endless concerts and music festivals. Dylan at Blackbush in 1977 (that included sleeping on Waterloo Station concourse due to a missed last train), to Glastonbury mud-caked, U2 and the Rolling Stones at Wembley to Mumford and Sons at Benicassim they have simply been more than a wardrobe anchor.

Today they combine perfectly with classic shoes, an Argentinian woven belt and a great shirt and/or jacket – depending on the season – for London creative business meetings. Less Revolution and more Evolution my 501s – and I now have several favourite pairs – are still beautifully made, ooze classic iconic style and are, above all, hugely dependable.

Would you like a pair of Levis 501? Click this AMAZON link to buy your own iconic jeans click the Amazon link below the image: 

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Levi’s 501 Original Fit Men’s Jeans, Blue (Onewash), 34W x 30L

The essential Argentinian belt can also be added here by clicking the Amazon link below the image – make sure you get the right length!

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Carlos Diaz Mens Womens Unisex Argentinian Brown Leather Embroidered Polo Belt (85 cm/ 32-34 Inches)

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Photo by Levi Strauss