Many specimens in the menswear pantheon are born of utilitarian necessity. Few become electrically charged with symbolic meaning through their decades of use and abuse.
The leather motorcycle jacket falls into both categories: assembled from logic and imbued with snarling attitude, thanks to being embraced by countless iconic antiheroes from Marlon Brando to The Ramones. No one knows this better than legendary leather-jacket manufacturer Schott NYC, whose founder, Irving Schott, invented the motorcycle jacket nearly 100 years ago.
Keep reading for our Q&A with Jason Schott (great-grandson of Irving and current Chief Operating Officer of the family business)—and to see the historical figures who have built Schott’s legacy by donning their incredible leather jackets over the years.
You’re probably aware that Levi’s makes a great pair of jeans. But did you know Levi Strauss also invented today’s most prolific pant over 100 years ago, in order to outfit hard-working prospectors of the California gold rush?
A century later—after countless iterations of the classic 501 to best suit each generation of working men and women—a special branch of the Levi’s family, dubbed Levi’s Vintage Clothing, faithfully recreates the fabrics, packaging and fit of specific, bygone decades of denim. Because we firmly believe you should know your history to appreciate the present, we mined the LVC archive for incredible, period-specific memorabilia. Keep reading to see our favorites.
Reflecting on the rough weather thus far in 2014, and our New Year’s resolution to get some fresh air in spite of it, we decided to take a closer look at one of our favorite outdoor brands: The North Face.
You probably know that The North Face protects you from frigid conditions so that you can enjoy all manner of al fresco pursuits—from extreme sports to a corner-store beer run—in comfort and style. You might also guess that the brand has outfitted explorers, researchers, and daredevils on journeys to the furthest (and highest) reaches of the planet, from the Arctic Circle to Mount Everest. But did you know The North Face’s roots reach back to 1960s San Francisco, and that The Grateful Dead helped launch the brand’s first store?
Keep reading to learn more about The North Face’s nearly five-decade history of counterculture, innovation and environmentalism.
Having reached the mid-point of Movember—the month during which men all over the world grow moustaches to raise awareness and funds for important men’s health issues—we thought we’d offer some ‘stache-strengthening inspiration from a pro-grower, comedian Nick Offerman, above. So hang in there, gentlemen—and keep on cultivating, even in the face of humble stubble patterns.
Read on to see how some of our colleagues here at Nordstrom HQ are doing their part this Movember.
When our new Ultimate Coat Guide launched recently, the parka by Canada Goose above immediately caught our eye—as much for its weather-vanquishing protective qualities as for its time-tested mix of utility and aesthetics.
Founded in 1952 by French outdoorsman and entrepreneur René Ramillon, Moncler celebrates its 60th anniversary this year. The brand’s origin is rooted in pure utility: Legend has it that Ramillon created Moncler’s first down jackets in order to keep his employees warm (the company was located in Monestier-de-Clermont—for which the name ‘Moncler’ serves as an abbreviation—an Alpine town near Grenoble, France).
Soon, after patenting his down production process, Ramillon and co. set about collaborating with the world’s leading mountaineers on life-threateningly frigid missions: Moncler provided equipment for the first successful ascent of both K2 (by Lino Lacedelli and Achille Compagnoni in 1954) and Makalu (by Lionel Terray and Jean Couzy, 1955). In 1964, along with Terray, the brand organized the first ascent of Mt. Huntington in Alaska.
From these rugged roots, Moncler down jackets became a stylish status symbol in subsequent decades. Today, the brand embraces the dualistic nature of its heritage—continuing to manufacture down-filled outerwear to expedition specs, while also partnering with leading designers to create avant-garde, sport-inspired fashion statements. Watch this interview with Thom Browne, who designs Moncler’s experimental Gamme Bleu collection, for a taste of the latter—and delve deeper into Moncler’s history below.
Adventurers in the Himalayas, 1962. [First Image]: Renowned French explorer Lionel Terray, who played a key role in consulting on Moncler’s high-performance designs, in Alaska, 1964.
Scenes from the first successful ascent to the summit of K2, July 1954, for which Moncler provided the equipment. Note the ‘stockroom’—who needs a refrigerator?
Terray in Alaska, 1964. If you look closely, his tent is proudly labeled ‘Moncler.’
Villard-de-Lans, France, 1964. Near Grenoble, where Moncler outfitted the French National Team for the 1968 Winter Olympics.
French National Ski Team, 1966.
Expedition notes from the Moncler archive. Anyone read Italian?
A vintage Moncler ad from the 1970s.
Ski instructors at L’Alpe d’Huez ski resort in the French Alps, 1970.
An ad from the ’80s. Powder’s great on the moon this time of year.
Assorted Moncler ads from the 1950s and early ’60s.
Like most staples of modern menswear, Disruptive Pattern Material (that’s DPM for short—aka camouflage) has serious history.
The hand-crafted camo above (top left) was painted by Eugène Corbin in 1914, when the French military first commissioned artists to experiment with less-visible uniforms (advances in long-range weaponry having deemed the traditional, brightly colored infantry coats utterly obsolete).
To the right of that is an ‘Elm Leaf’ motif first worn by Cuban military advisers. Third over is the distinctive ‘Tigerstripe’ pattern, a Vietnamese version of the French ‘Lizard‘ print. Below those three is a modern twist on traditional British DPM from the ’60s, designed in 2004 by London brand Maharishi—whose founder, Hardy Blechman, literally wrote the book on camouflage.
(Check out Blechman’s detailed history of 25 camo patterns at Complex.com.)
The work of naturalist and painter Abbott Handerson Thayer (1849–1921) influenced the initial creation and implementation of military camouflage in WWI. In his succinctly titled 1909 book, Concealing Coloration in the Animal Kingdom: An Exposition of the Laws of Disguise Through Color and Pattern; Being a Summary of Abbott H. Thayer’s Disclosures, he contended that even ornate animals (like a peacock, above) are well-adapted to blend into their surroundings.
Soon Italy, Germany, America and Russia followed France’s lead, innovating and experimenting with camouflage styles of their own. The proliferation of unique patterns was not based on artists’ whims alone, however—this was serious science. Members of the US Engineering Research and Development Laboratory (ERDL) became experts in dyestuff chemistry, color science, and spectrometer measurement.
(Above, Cuban and Russian forces wear a horizontal ‘Lizard’ pattern. More at The Atlantic. Also find a thorough summary of every nation’s standard-issue camo print at Wikipedia.)
In the ’70s and ’80s, members of underground subcultures like punk and the increasingly political reggae of the time began donning combat gear—not as a fashion statement so much as a symbolic declaration of their own aggressive opposition to violence, injustice, and mainstream society at large.
(The Clash, 1982. Photo by Bob Gruen, via The Selvedge Yard. Click through for many more classic Clash images.)
Today, you don’t have to reject society to wear camouflage—but it does add a rebellious vibe to anything you pair it with (especially a suit). Just bear in mind: Pulled out of their element and placed in the concrete jungle, naturalistic camo patterns do the opposite of what they were invented for—they stand out. Which means even a little camo goes a long way.