Sunday, December 8, 2013

That's an Odd One

Once in a while in this hobby (or should I say addiction?) you'll stumble upon something that's just plain odd.

Case in point, while browsing an online vintage shop I ran across a strange sports coat.  The seller described the jacket as being from the 1940s and made of navy blue flannel material.  It is dated but the date is incomplete: "4-1-?8".  I believe that jacket is from the late 1920s or possibly even the 1930s, though the former is most likely.  Looking at the photos provided by the seller we see some unique characteristics.

-Fishmouth lapels
-French cuffs
-Pleated patch pockets
-Multi-pleated and bi-swing back but lacks a belt
-Dual vents in the back, something fairly unusual to find on vintage sports coats

click images to enlarge

The buttons were obviously moved at some point in time.

You might expect to see this kind of odd sports coat sold in a fashion forward city like New York City or Los Angeles.  But no, it's originally from ol' Indianapolis, smack in the midwest.  I've found in my searches that some of the craziest, most unusual and 'Hollywood-esque' vintage actually comes from small town USA.

I purchased this jacket and when it finally arrives I'll post photos up, so keep an eye on this blog.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Fantastic Vintage for Sale... the Houndstooth Haberdashery.  My closet is bursting at the seams so I'm clearing some fine items out to make room for more pieces that will get more wear.

Now it's your turn to own and wear these 'holy grail' vintage pieces.  Or maybe a few pieces will make someone very happy on Christmas day just a month away.

Here are just a few of the suits and sports coats now for sale.

click links to visit sale site and images to enlarge

This is a rare and fantastic 2-piece suit from the late 1930s/early 1940s.  Heavy weight tweed, very well tailored, just a fantastic piece to see in person.  This suit will make someone very happy.

This is another very rare suit since suits from this period are getting more difficult to find, especially in good condition and a 'wearable' size like this one.  A few moth holes in the jacket and trousers, they are stitched up, not too apparent and don't take away from this gorgeous suit.  A rare piece of wearable art.

The flannel of this sports coat is some of the softest I've ever seen.  This jacket was custom tailored back in the 1930s and the quality shows.  It's a manly and stylish sports coat that will help you dress your best.  Lovely dark maroon pinstripes on a brown background.

I just recently found this one for myself but have decided to part with it because it is just a tad too large for me.  My loss is your gain.  You never see one like this again, it's fantastically unique.  Bold, wide herringbone with square patch pockets.  Very Hollywood and it could be yours.  Check it out.

A nice, conservative, attractive pinstripe suit from the WW2-era.  Not a lot issues with this suit at all.  It does, however, have a neat 'former' issue.  One part of the right leg has an expertly executed example of reweaving.  Reweaving is the lost art of making a hole invisible by hand-weaving individual threads from another area of the garment into the hole. Let me tell you, the reweaving on this suit is expertly done and is near invisible.  This has been the first and only example of vintage reweaving I've ever seen.  I love this suit but alas, not the best fit so off it goes.

The reweave spot.  Nearly invisible!

I have a lot more high quality pieces that will be going up for sale within the next few days and weeks so keep your eyes glued to this blog as well as the Houndstooth Facebook page.


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Quality of the Time

With the way I go on about the quality of vintage all of the time you probably think everything was amazing back during the Golden Era.  And that's not true, there were plenty of bad quality pieces, just like there are today.

The reason we don't see those pieces very often nowadays is that they were cheap and didn't survive.  A cheaply made piece isn't going to last as long as a well made piece, especially if it is all the owner can afford and wears it to death.  Not to mention certain materials didn't always behave the way the owner might have wished:


Woolen socks, woolen socks!

Full of color, full of clocks!
Plain and fancy, yellow, blue,
From the counter beam at you.
O golden fleece, O magic flocks!
O irresistible woolen socks!
O happy haberdasher's clerk
Amid that galaxy to work!
And now it festers, now it rankles
Not to have them 'round your ankles;
Now with your conscience do you spar;
They look expensive, and they are;
Now conscience whispers,
You ought not to,
And human nature roars,
You've got to!

Woolen socks, woolen socks!
First you buy them in a box.
You buy them several sizes large,
Fit for Hercules, or a barge.
You buy them thus because you think
These lovely woolen socks may shrink.
At home you don your socks with ease,
You find the heels contain your knees;
You realize with a saddened heart
Their toes and yours are far apart.
You take them off and mutter Bosh,
You up and send them to the wash.
Too soon, too soon the socks return,
Too soon the horrid truth you learn;
Your woolen socks can not be worn
Unless a midget child is born;
And either sockless you must go,
Or buy a sock for every toe.

Woolen socks, woolen socks!
Infuriating paradox!
Hosiery wonderful and terrible,
Heaven to wear, and yet unwearable.
The man enmeshed in such a quandary
Can only hie him to the laundry,
And while his socks are hung to dry,
Wear them once as they're shrinking by.

--Ogden Nash

Some of the worst-made suits (yet highly collectible today) are British 'Demob' suits from the 1940s. As British servicemen were returning from the war the government gave them suits to help them get back on their feet. They were often very crudely made with all sorts of errors: misshapen lapels, funky proportions, low quality materials. 

click images to enlarge

But they were only meant to be worn a short time to allow the owner to get a job and eventually buy new suits.  Demob suits sell for big bucks but beware: not every vintage suit advertised as a Demob suit is really a Demob suit.

A demob suit.  Note the wonky lapels and the poor pattern matching on the back seam.
Photos via Baron Kurtz Vintage.

Now let's once again look at the other side of things: good quality.  While poor quality items did exist they were definitely the exception, not the rule.  Let's face it, people back in the day cared more about quality and were more thrifty, fixing and salvaging and reusing items without tossing them away like we do today. As a result, we're able to find both the high-end and lower-end pieces from 70 years ago, often in perfect condition. And looking at vintage 'mid-level' pieces from run-of-the-mill department stores like Sears, Younkers, and JC Penney, we see that garments from these places that everyday low- to middle-class folks use to buy are often still better quality than higher-end off-the-rack of today. 

I regularly find vintage top quality tailored suits and other pieces from long gone shops that were once found in tiny farming communities. Back 70-100 years ago nearly every decent sized town had one or more men's clothing store and/or one or more tailor shops. They dotted the landscape from coast to coast. My great- great- grandfather owned, in central Iowa, as many as four quality men's clothing shops within 50 miles of each other back in the teens and '20s. The quality was better and people were willing to pay more for that quality.  

Examine the late 1930s/early 1940s drape sports coat shown below.

This sports coat is artful, finely crafted.  It has a gorgeous, subtle herringbone pattern to its wool material.  Add in the attractive leather buttons and the sleek roll of the lapels and you have an incredible piece of vintage.  Here are a couple more views of the sports coat:

For so fine a garment you might expect it to be a high-end custom piece from a custom tailor.  Let's have a look inside at the label:

Younkers is a local, midwestern department store that was founded in 1899 in Des Moines, Iowa.  Below is the original Younkers site from which the above sports coat was sold.

Interesting, that a department store company similar in concept to the more famous J.C. Penney's department store company would sell such a finely made garment.  I think this point demonstrates that quality mattered much more during the Golden Era than it does today.

Just out of curiosity, how much would that Younkers sports coat have cost back in, say, 1940?  Well, here's a comparable sports coat from a Spring and Summer 1940 Montgomery Ward catalog.  The price for this piece is $12.50 in 1940 dollars. 

How much is $12.50 from 1940 in 2013's dollars?  $208.52.  If we were to walk into any of the big name department stores like J.C. Penney's or Younkers and purchase a sports coat at a full price of $200 I think we'd be very disappointed in its quality when compared to its 1940 counterpart.

I think it's pretty safe to say as a rule of thumb, vintage clothing will be better quality than most modern clothing, even much of the higher-end stuff today.  Quality mattered back during the Golden Era, though from time to time junk would make an appearance.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Enter the Man Room

Cassie and I bought a house back in June.

Since it's fairly large, I've been 'allowed' a room to myself by the spousal unit.  I've finished this man room and post photos of it here for your enjoyment.  There's not a lot of vintage in it but it still fits in the topic of this website.

There is a mix of original, reproduction, and a tiny number of airsoft items but the large majority of what is shown is original. Some of the pics aren't great, the lighting wasn't the best and shooting items behind glass is tough. 


click images to enlarge

View upon entry.

Not 100% historically accurate but provides a good idea of how a GI would have been outfitted in Normandy in July, 1944. The helmet is postwar I stripped and repainted and the bandoleer is postwar.  His pants and shirt are repros that were used in the filming of "Saving Private Ryan".

Top is a 'last ditch' Japanese bayonet, middle is a '43 dated German bayonet, and the bottom is a battle damaged WW1 German sawback bayonet that is unit marked. 

The Great White Fleet.

The 'coffee table'.

My great-grandfather's WW1 helmet.

An original USAAF photo. Here's the story on this photo: the front bomber was hit by flak and the mortally wounded bombardier prematurely released his bombs.


U.S. Marine, circa 1945.

Three official USAAF photos from a set of five: P-38 making low passes. All marked "not for publication" on the back. 

Signed by the bombardier and navigator of the 'Enola Gay' as well as a WW2 war correspondent.

The helmet cover is a reproduction that was used in the filming of "Saving Private Ryan". 

Hope you enjoyed the quick look at my mini-museum.  If you have any questions or comments about it, please leave them in the comment section of this post.



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