Garath W. Henry

Archive for November, 2009|Monthly archive page

Hunting for Vintage stuff: An Essay.

In Vintage on November 27, 2009 at 7:26 pm
Vintage Swiss watch

Image via C R's Flickr photostream.

There is a saying: “They don’t make things like they use to.”  I’ve said it, I’ve heard people say it, and even though some people see the statement as hyperbolic, I agree with it at least 95% of the times that I hear it.

Disclaimer: I’m a history teacher.  I love the old stuff.  I love being able to have old (i.e. “vintage”) things in my possession so I can touch, smell, and wear them.  Of course there are many many people who share this desire for things-of-old, but I’m willing to say I believe that I lust after such things with more zeal than your average person.

So why do people like me exist?  Why do we devote large amounts of time and energy to acquiring vintage merchandise?  Speaking for myself I’d say that it comes down to the standard of quality which existed in the past, but died in the name of easy access to things at a low cost goods, and the idea of “planned obsolence” which has increased the profit margins of creators of disposable merchandise over and over again.   I like having stuff that was built to a higher standard of quality, stuff that has that “build to last” feel to it.  In addition to that I think that the style of items from the past is much more appealing than many modern day things, which I believe often have much less classy  look which reflects the fact that they are cheap and replaceable.

I like the fact that I’m a person who is into vintage stuff, I’d even go so far as to say that I take pride in it.  I like the idea of tracking down vintage stuff, of hunting it down.  But I do have to admit that at times it can be frustrating.

This essay is my attempt to outline three ways a now-a-days there vintage seekers like myself can acquire high quality goods that were / are made to last.  The way that I see it there are basically three ways to about finding and buying cool vintage stuff…

1. Re-sale of vintage goods via the hunting and getting lucky.

This method involves hunting for vintage goods by going to garage sales, estate sales, some sellers on eBay or craigslist, and thrift stores.  The methods requires lots of luck, and more often than not the hunter comes home empty handed.  However, on the rare occasion that some vintage stuff  is found  the hunter only has to expend a fraction of what he or she would normally spend to acquire the merchandise.

I see this method as similar to playing slots.  The hunter spends a small amount of time and money hunting for goods.  Most the time the hunter will come up with nothing, but he or she doesn’t spent lose much cash either.  When hunters use this method they don’t really expect it to pay off, they do it for the joy of the hunt.  However, every now and the hunter gets lucky, the same way that someone playing slots does, by putting in a small amount of time and money then getting a huge pay out.

2. Re-sale of vintage goods via vintage merchants.

Vintage shop sign.

Image via Paul Holloway's Flickr photostream

When a hunter is willing to spend some money this is often the method that gets used.  The hunter goes to a shop which specializes in vintage goods, finds what they need / want and spend a large sum of money to acquire it.  A good vintage shop is a very nice luxery for those who are near one, and happen to have the disposable income to spend large sums of money on vintage (used) goods.

The main thing that makes a good vintage shops such a boon to a hunter is that such shops take the time to create and cultivate good relationships with the customers willing to spend money by going the extra mile and keeping a look out for / stocking goods that a particular buyer is known to be interested in.

This method is far from 100% effective, because vintage shops don’t know when they will have a certain item in stock.  After all they are dealing in stuff that is scarce, so it is not uncommon for them have great items in stock at moments when it is finacially inconvenient for a hunter to buy said items.

(Side note: I think it is important to point out that the merchants who sell these high priced vintage goods spend lots of time using method one to track them down.)

I don’t really use this method, because I can never bring myself to pay what I consider to be a large sum of money for used clothing.  Even if it is vintage, my mortgage doesn’t care.

3. Buying goods where are made using “old school” manufacturing techniques.

A good example of a company making things today, but using “old school” techniques to do so is Billykirk, which makes some really amazing leather goods by hand.  Another example would be the Rising Son & Co which makes lots of great stuff by hand.

Billykirk at Pop Up Flea!

Image via official Billykirk blog.

(Side note: both the companies I linked to above make their goods using machines and tools that were used to create the kind of goods that we call vintage today.)

This sort of stuff tends to be really amazing, and extremely expensive.

True story: I’d love to buy this stuff, but again most the time it is so far out of my price range that I can’t.

The companies that make these goods stand by their products way that the craftsmen of old use to stand by theirs.  When ever I do see this stuff I wish I had the money to buy it.  It is new, but unlike so many other new things it is made to the highest standards of quality, and I know it will last for a long time.  It has all the advantages of the vintage goods that I covet, and because it is new I know they will last.

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Three Fashion Magazines (on the net).

In Publications on November 25, 2009 at 2:05 am

There are lots of great fashion blogs on the net now-a-days, but there are also some really amazing net based magazines that are focused on fashion.  I thought I’d share a few of these magazines that I check frequently.

1. Men’s Flair: The articles here are always well written, and full of insight.  This article about the closing of Baron of Piccadilly  is a good example of the quality writing that you will find there.

The lay out of the site is not the best, but what it lacks in design is makes up for in content.

2. Valet: If you just look at the design of this site alone you will be impressed.  The content of Valet is focused ons style, grooming, living, and culture.

When I first encountered the site I was somewhat confused as to the different between living and culture might be.  The destinction that Valet makes is this:

Living is about: Space, gear, food & drink, and travel.

Culture is about: Music, movies, literature, and Sports.

I think that this site is useful because, at least to me, being fashionable is about more than just dressing well.  It is about looking good, taking care of yourself, and being able to talk about things with out sounding like a fool.  It is for this reason more than any other that I see Valet as a highly valuable fashion resource for men.

3. Inventory Mag: This is the web site of a print magazine.  Everything that Inventory sells is VERY out of my price range, so the main reason that I stop here is for the images that I will see.  This magazine clearly has some of the best photographers working for them, as evidenced by the high quality shots of people, places, and things that I see every time I pull it up in by browser.

(I would have posted one of the images, but I don’t want to infringe on the copyright holders.)

Winter Footwear (in the midwest.)

In Boots on November 23, 2009 at 3:14 pm

Now that winter is almost here I took out a pair of well worn boots, which have served me well for many years now.  As I looked at the boots it very quickly became apparent to me that the will not make it though another winter here in Chicago, and I am going to have to start looking for a new pair of boots.  Finding a new pair of boots is going to be hard.  I don’t have a boat load of money to spend, and I’m really difficult to please.  Nonetheless I’m going to try to write a few posts as I go through my search.  The logical place to start is what sort of qualities I would like a pair of boots to have.

Here in Chicago winter is bitch, and wearing shoes is risky.  At times shoes are not really even an realistic option, so during the winter I like to have a good pair of multipurpose boots that I can ware both indoors and out doors.  I also like them to be a pair of boots that I can wear with jeans or other “street” clothing, and at least a few of my dress pants.

What do I look for when I’m searching for these boots?

1. The footwear has to be reasonably water prof.  There will be lots of snow, slush, and puddles of very cold water on the ground many of the places that you go.

I tend to prefer a higher boot than many people, because if the top of the boot is off the ground chances are that less snow will sneak in through the top of the boot.  Here is a good example of something that I might like…

GBX boots (about $80.00)

2. The footwear has to be warm.  I’m not talking about able to keep my feet warm as I hike through Antarctica for a week warm.  (You should have a pair of those too, for when you need to do some hard core snow shoveling or whatever, but I don’t think those will be the kind of boots you wear when attempting to look slick).   I’m talking about a pair of boots that will keep your feet warm enough as you wait for the train, move from pub to pub, get to class, or walk a few blocks.

Now this is probably obvious, but I’m going to say it anyway: The key to keeping your feet warm is keeping them dry!  Thus if a pair of boots looks good, and feels like they will keep you warm, make sure they can keep snow / slush / water out.  Because no matter how good they look, they will not keep you warm if they don’t keep you dry.  That is why I focused on waterproofness first and warmness second.

3. Durability.  The boots should be able to last for more than one season.

Again this might seem like a no brainer, but I’ve seen so many people buy a new pair of boots ever winter… Maybe buying “disposable” stuff has just become part of our culture, I don’t know, but I prefer to buy something that will last.  Some people have told me that they want the latest style each season, which sort of makes sense if you have the money for that sort of thing, but I find that a classic look is always “in” when it comes to boots.

In addition to this a good pair of boots that you have broken in feel much better than a new pair of boots that you have not broken in.

Here in Chicago they have been known to salt the hell out of the streets, so the boots need to be able to stand up to that, at least a bit.  (I don’t like spending the time, energy, and money tracking down a good pair of boots each year, so I do try and take care of them.)

4. Make sure you have a belt to go with the boots.  There is a rule that your belt should match your shoes.  The rule still applies when you are wearing boots.  I know lots of people don’t follow this rule, which is wired because it is so easy to follow.

They don’t need to be a perfect match or anything.  Just when you wear brown shoes or boots wear a brown belt, not a black one.  It’s that simple.

If your boots match your gloves and other accessories that is even better, but the belt is the most important thing.  Why?  Because you will be wearing the belt and the shoes or boots both inside and out side, while gloves and scarfs you can take off when your indoors.

5. The sole CAN’T be flat, like the soles on many dress shoes.  For non-winter boots a flat sole would be fine, but in the winter the last thing that I want is to end up taking a spill into some dirty street slush that ruins my clothing and my day.

Handmade Business Cards, via An Affordable Wardrobe.

In Design, Hand made on November 22, 2009 at 1:13 am

Maybe it is because I’m a sucker for hand made things, but I think that this business card design from An Affordable Wardrobe is totally amazing.

Hand made business cards, via an affordable wardrobe.

Hand made business cards, via an affordable wardrobe.

Giuseppe Timore (the author of An Affordable Wardrobe) went to a shop, bought these tags, and then used a typewriter to put the text onto the tags!

At the right event cards like this will make a much better impression on people than the “regular” sort of cards that everyone sees all the time.  In Timore’s case he was used these cards when he went to Pop Up Flea: A curated collection of new and vintage men’s goods. IMHO the prefect sort of place to make a good impression with such beautiful hand made business cards.

Other events where I think this card, or a similar sort of card, would be really effective are…

1. Any sort of fashion related event.

2. Anyplace where people who like “vintage” things gather.

3. Events about publishing or books.

4. New media (blogging / podcasting / DIY video) conferences, such as PodCamp or WordCamp.

5. Design conferences.

I really can’t say enough about what a great idea these cards were.  (I wish it was me who though of making them.)

FYI: Another fashion blog called the Trad also posted about this as well.

Sneakers with Dress Clothing, via The Sartorialist.

In Shoes on November 21, 2009 at 3:37 pm

Normally I disapprove of wearing athletic shoes with dress clothing, but I saw this image over at the famous fashion blog “The Sartorialist” that really made me re think that.

via The Sartorialist Nov. 19, 2009

Look at the Adidas!

On the Street….GQ on The Bowery, NYC

The post shows just how effective a person can integrate a pair of “street shoes” (i.e. sneakers) into a nice outfit.

I personally found this particularly useful because, in my own profession (teaching) I have often wanted to wear my very comfortable Adidas to work.  But I never did, because I never thought there was just no way I could pull it off.

Then I saw this!  Now I’m really thinking of giving it a shot.  I’m still not sure that I’ll be able to pull it off.  The brown is what makes me have some second thoughts…

Be that as it may, it could be a fun experiment.  If I do end up doing it I’ll post the result.

Side note: About two years ago I really injured my left ankle.  No-a-days I continue to run about three times a week, and at times my left ankle will be really sore.  It is during those days that I just don’t want to wear my dress shoes.  What I have been doing on the days where my ankle is bothering me, is wearing a pair of very comfortable Hush Puppies.

Hi there.

In Uncategorized on November 20, 2009 at 10:08 am

Hi.

I’m Cornelius. I teach high school history (world & U.S.) and some other social science stuff at an alternative school near Chicago.

I don’t make a ton of money, but I think dressing well is somewhat important.

Recently I thought I’d try to do a blog about dressing well, but not going broke in the process.

I started Attempted Style up via wordpress.com, and I hope that you enjoy it.