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History resonates with me and this is strongly reflected in my choice of clothing, the older brands with a strong pedigree that have achieved iconic cult status appeal to me. Below are some of the clothing brands that I hold most dear.
The Converse All Star aka ‘Chuck Taylor’ is the world’s most popular shoe ever. It is a global icon that just keeps growing in popularity. Just five years short of its centenary the Converse Company was bought by Nike. Nike is definitely not to my liking but at least the ‘Chuck Taylor’ lives on. I’ve owned a pair since I was seventeen, a birthday gift to myself and I will probably own a pair for the rest of my days.
All my Converse shoes are made in the United States, which include a pair of Skidgrips and Jack Purcells; being made in the United States was part of the allure. The Chinese have definitely mastered the art of making the ‘Chuck Taylor’ and one can hardly tell the difference between those made in the States versus those churned out by the ‘Party’ faithful. The same cannot be said about the Skidgrip and Jack Purcell, if one were to compare, it’s like day and night, it’s so far off the mark I could definitely not see myself in a pair of either.
Jack Purcells were originally made by the tyre company BF Goodrich, the rights were bought by Converse in 1970. It was initially designed in 1935 in conjunction with the World Badminton Champion, Jack Purcell, for both badminton and tennis. Five years later Converse came up with their offering to tennis players in the form of the Skidgrip.
When the time comes to replace my beloved Skidgrips and Jack Purcells I just hope that ebay will have reserved a pair of each for me. I’ve always bought my Converse footwear from City Outfitters on the outskirts of Johannesburg. Last year my wife was still able to get a pair of Jack Purcells that were made in the United States – City Outfitters, what an Institution!
So what am I wearing when I am not in my Converse footwear? My Super GAs. My first pair of Supergas were then referred to as Cutter, today they have come back in fashion and are known as 207 Cotu Low Cuts. Admittedly, they are very similar in style to the Sperry shoe, the CVO sneaker, which Paul Newman was often seen in. Yes, my first pair of Supergas and maybe even my second pair were made in Italy, today they are made in Vietnam but the fit and finish is definitely up to scratch. Last but not least, are my Pro Keds that have been made since 1949 in direct competition to the Converse All Star. Today they are made in China but in keeping with the way that they were manufactured in the United States.
The MA-1 is yet another pop culture icon that I had to have since I’d laid eyes on it when I was sixteen. Officially known as Jacket, Flyers, Man’s Intermediate, MA-1 (MIL-J-8279), it was developed in the late 1940s with the emergence of the ‘Jet Age’. By the mid- ‘50s it became available to the public through army surplus stores in Europe and the United States. It is made from a durable nylon inner and outer shell with polyester fibre filling in-between; it is fully reversible – the inner shell is bright Indian Orange, for high visibility in the event of a crash.
My first attempt at securing a MA-1 flyers jacket landed me with a jacket that strongly resembled the B-15 which the MA-1 was developed from; the biggest problem was that it was not made by Alpha Industries although it did come from the United States. The second attempt was much closer but still no cigar. Brought to me all the way from New York for my seventeenth birthday, with an olive green nylon outer shell and inner orange nylon lining with a fur collar and various patches. Since then I have owned several Alpha flyers jackets which I acquired in New York, Toronto, London and Johannesburg. I still have my first MA-1 and recently was able to source on ebay a brand new Top Gun (nylon) jacket the very same which I had gotten for my seventeenth birthday but lost due to very tragic circumstances seventeen years ago. For extreme cold weather I also have a N-2B flight jacket. Unfortunately Alpha Industries like almost all apparel companies throughout the world has now started manufacturing some of its flyers jackets in China and before long all of its jackets will be made in China.
Bausch & Lomb made the first Ray Ban sunglasses for the US Air Force in the late 1930s, since then it has risen to iconic status. It has been worn by presidents, royalty, celebrity A-listers and everyone in-between. Like with my Converse footwear I still believe in getting Ray Bans that have been made in the United States, admittedly it does pose more of a challenge. I’ve always had a weakness for the Wayfarer, simple clean sophistication which is timeless. I am onto my third pair of Wayfarer Ones, it’s a Wayfarer I Blond Frost all the way from Reggio Emilia in Italy (but still manufactured in the United States). My second Wayfarer is a Max II Tortoise Havana, it also happens to be my third pair but due to no fault of my own. I first saw these being worn by Warren Beatty in the movie Bugsy. To be honest I do have a third pair which I wear daily; don’t tell anyone it is made by Luxottica in Italy.