Thursday, February 28, 2008

Art Deco

Today I went around my hometown and took photos of Art Deco buildings. I've never really noticed them before but they are quite stunning. Art Deco is a lost art that slowly disappears each time a Deco building is torn down or remodelled. Of course, Art Deco was not only a type of architecture. It also influenced automobiles, aircraft, clothing and other everyday parts of people's lives right down to their bathroom mirrors and dressers.
The Art Deco period went from the 1920s and ended as a mainstream art style in 1939 though it continued for a short time in the U.S. after 1939. Other countries continued it well into the 1960s. World War Two and mass production spelled the end for Art Deco in the United States.

Art Deco is difficult to describe. It uses lines and simple shapes to create striking designs. Stylization and Idealization are the rules of Art Deco. As seen in the photo below, the woman is stylized and simplified but appears somewhat like a Greek goddess in all her glory.

Like I said, quite striking. This motif can be found in Warsaw, Poland.

Art Deco can perhaps be traced to the idealism of the period. Though the Great Depression hit during the middle of the Art Deco period the idealism and hope for a greater society was still quite strong. It was the Art Deco-spawning idealism that also gave birth to such political movements as Fascism and Nazism in an attempt to bring about that greater society. And once these idealistic movements turned ugly (specifically during the Second World War) the Art Deco style that is often associated with them died out. The rejection of Fascism and Nazism also brought about the rejection of Art Deco.It's quite unfortunate, actually.

The Empire State Building is perhaps the most famous Art Deco building and was at one time the tallest building in the world. And, after the destruction of the World Trade Center, the it is once again the tallest building in New York City.

The above photo shows my favorite Art Deco skyscraper, though it's not the Empire State Building. It's the one in the background, the Chrysler Building.
And the highly polished gothic eagles scream of the 1930s.
Of classic car hood ornaments. Of sleek 1930s racing planes. The spirit of the Golden Era.

When buildings had wings...literally.
It is a feast for the eyes.

Here are the pics I took around town today. Enjoy.

I don't know the date of this sign but it is definitely Art Deco style. Interestingly, this sign is from the J.C. Petersen haberdashery that belonged to my great-great grandfather, the store selling out in the 1990s. He came to the U.S. from Germany by himself at the age of 16 at the turn of the century, not knowing a bit of English. He received ownership of the shop when his partner died and it stayed open for roughly a century.

A very simple example of Art Deco, this building was originally and still is apartments.

Schools are often great places to find Art Deco influence. Both of these are dated 1939, the last year of the major art movement.

And the most spectacular of the Art Deco buildings in Boone: city hall. Again, like the schools above, this was built in 1939.

This plaque could help solve the mystery as to why the schools and city hall were all built in 1939. It seems there was some sort of economic initiative or project put into place in Boone in 1939 funded by the federal government. Interesting. To help recover from the Great Depression, no doubt.

The interior of city hall appears to be relatively unchanged.

Monday, February 18, 2008

What I Wore Today

Will this harsh winter ever end?

-"Chinatown"cowboy conversion fedora
-Painted jacket
-1930s "Sugar and Spice" tie
-Modern suspenders and Arrow shirt
-Modern full-cut trousers

Friday, February 8, 2008

The Most Flattering

Today I wore my vintage Stetson 3X Open Road fedora. It was originally sold at J.C. Petersens, my great-great grandpa's haberdashery, back in the 1950s.

I was at Wal-Mart with this hat and an older gentleman approached me.
Him: Can I ask you a question?
Me: Sure.
Him: Where'd you get that hat?
Me: I bought it at an antique shop.
Him: Really? Well, would you want to sell it?
Me: No, sorry.
Him: Well, I shouldn't wonder why, you look good in it.
Me: Thank you.
Him: They don't make 'em like that anymore.
Me: No, they really don't.
Some people can still spot quality when they see it.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008


Inspired by some of the flight jackets found over at the Fedora Lounge, both vintage and modern, I took it upon myself last year to paint my very own World War Two-style flight jacket.
I bought the below A-2 style jacket at a garage sale for $3. It is not styled authenticly like a WW2 jacket but it does need to be perfectly authentic, especially since this is my first painted jacket. It fits well though is quite worn. The knit waistband is stretched. Yet these scars add a pinch of attitude and "combat wear" to the jacket.

I first started by deciding what I was going to paint on the jacket. I chose to paint the shield of the 56th Fighter Group on the left breast. Why the 56th? Because they were major users of the P-47 Thunderbolt, my favorite fighter of the Second World War. Anyways, the P-47 doesn't get enough credit.

I printed off the shield in the size I wanted, cut it out and traced the outlines in correct position on the jacket. Then, using acetone, I stripped the outlined area of any 'finish' the leather might have. I also lightly sanded the area with very fine sandpaper. This allows the paint to soak into the leather as well as give a rough texture to grab onto.

I then applied mulitple coats of watered down acrylic paint (I used craft paint that can be found at Wal-Mart). Thin coats allows the paint to soak into the leather so many coats must be applied to reach the desired vivid colors. Below is the nearly finished shield.

"Cave Tonitrum" is latin for "Fear the Thunderbolt", Thunderbolt being the nickname of the P-47.
After the shield was finished on the front I repeated the above technique on the back except with a different design. The finished product is below.

The plane is in the colors of the 56th FG. The "Highwayman" is yellow with a red outline on one side, giving the name a nice 3-D effect often seen on period flight jackets. I chose the name "Highwayman" as a tribute to the song by Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and Kris Kristofferson. The song can be found here.

After a bit of wear there is some paint flaking but this is normal and is easily fixed by reapplying paint to the flaked areas. A protective coat of clear sealer can be applied to give the artwork better protection and an extended lifespan.

Calling this type of project 'artwork' is not a misnomer. World War Two era painted jackets are quite collectable and go for large amounts not only because they are interesting to look at but also because they often can be identified to a specific unit and possibly a single pilot. Modern painted jackets are just as rare as vintage ones and are highly prized by their owners. The artwork adds a sense of personality to the jacket and lets the owner seemingly glance into the life of a long gone era when pilots wore painted jackets and flew prop-driven cadillacs of the sky.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

What I Wore Today

I wore this Howard Hughes inspired look yesterday:

And today I wore this:


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