Evolution of style: Self-centered 2

2021 was the year that I started dressing better thanks to working a construction job: I would wear the same clothes every day without washing for a week, and they would get so grimy with concrete dust, that I just felt disgusting all the time, plus it was all kind of samey.  In my initial search for a good pair of steel toe work boots I started watching a lot of videos online, and mostly they were oriented toward fashion boots rather than work boots, but that gave me plenty of ideas for nice clothes that I could enjoy when I wasn’t wearing my construction gear.  That carried over into going back to the job I actually enjoy.  I have to thank Carl Murawski, Stridewise, Rose Anvil, and maybe one or two other channels on the youtube, plus facebook groups like the Alden Shoes Enthusiasts and Selvedge & Quality Supply.  A lot of the pictures that follow were ones that I took to post on one of those two groups; a few were mimicking the standard shots that get posted there but I do try to give them my own personal flair, and I’m sure I’m the only one shooting on film.

Most of all I was concerned with buying new items that were not made in China, but also staying away from companies that don’t offshore their production, and prioritized American-made wherever possible.  By October I could put together an outfit that was 100% Made in USA and I wear that most days.  Brands featured in these photos include: Stetson hats, Brave Star Selvage, Alden Boots, Schaefer Outfitters, Ruddock Shirts/Flying R Ranchwear, Sugar Cane jeans, Nama Denim, Legacy 92.  And this year there is another new pair of jeans from Brave Star plus a pair of White’s cowboy boots.

And since I was adding a lot of color to my look (thanks to the shirts) I started shooting more color film, also handy considering it was Fall.  It seemed to be at the start of the film shortage and I was going around to Wal-Marts and Walgreens in the area and buying up whatever stock they had of Fuji Superia and Kodak Ultramax.  I’m glad I did because it might be the last time I get to use Superia 400 since Fuji shut down their factory in 2020 and we still don’t know right now if they are reopening it or having other companies manufacture film for them from now on.

On the subject of hats: an open letter to a coworker

Dear _____,

A few days ago you confronted me saying that my cowboy hat ain’t a cowboy hat or western enough because “it’s a fedora.”  And in the last 6 (almost 7) years of driving tours and fielding dumb questions by tourists, I have rarely encountered a statement so ignorant as to be downright idiotic, and certainly never one directed at me!  Just recently I’ve had several passengers at Garden of the Gods say they hoped they’d get me as their guide because they thought I really looked the part:

For point of reference, my hat is this one, a model made by Stetson, whose illustrious place in Western (and local) history you should know well: the original, the “Boss of the Plains,” was first sold in Central City, CO in 1865.  With all due respect, I regard their opinion of what constitutes a western hat higher than I do yours.  Also, absolutely every article of clothing you see me wearing in the above picture (and everything you can’t see) was made in the United States of America; I wonder if you could say the same on any given day.  There is nothing about my look that isn’t pure Americana.  Also it seems a strange time to bring it up, considering I’ve owned and worn this hat for nearly three years now.

(and this is how it looked brand new)

I don’t think I’d really care to have this argument if you weren’t over me and might have the power to make me stop wearing my favorite hat, so let’s do have this argument.  Now I suppose that when I think of the fedora and its famous wearers, topping the list would be Indiana Jones, and then perhaps Humphrey Bogart in any number of films.  Now I love a fedora because of these guys, they’re the epitome of mid-century cool.  My grandpa wore fedoras, one which I still have and wear.  I like the style, the look, and the ergonomics of it; it is familiar.  While not truly popular until the 1930s and ’40s the style itself can be found as far back as the 1880s if not earlier, and was worn by men since at least the 1890s along with similar hats like the homburg.  The fedora was worn (again by Bogart) in one of the best western films ever made, John Huston’s Treasure of the Sierra Madre.

On the right is Tim Holt wearing a pinched-front western hat.

Because of all the popular ways to crease a cowboy hat, one common style is called the pinched-front crease.  And I have numerous references to that effect:
https://horseyhooves.com/types-of-cowboy-hats/
https://www.langstons.com/resources-guide-cowboy-hats.html
https://www.rollingstone.com/product-recommendations/lifestyle/best-cowboy-hats-1196031/

It’s even a fact that cowboys back in the 1800s were wearing the pinched-front style, and there are several historical examples of this on display at the National Cowboy Museum in Oklahoma:

For further angles on this display I would send you here, here, and here.

You can also see historical pinched-front styles celebrated here and here.  I especially liked this pic from the late ’30s and include it below:

(probably a Kodachrome slide if I had my guess)
These are historical cowboys as they were dressing before Jack Weill of Rockmount (another Colorado connection) had created western wear as its own unique clothing style; that wouldn’t happen for nearly another decade.  So the pinched-front crease is an even older cowboy institution than either the bolo tie or the western snap shirt!

And another, a 1937 Arthur Rothstein photograph for the FSA

Anticipating a deflection to an entirely different argument, that of what the *ahem* general public will accept and expect a cowboy to look like (doubtless with eventual allusions to Walt Disney), I started off with passengers’ feedback regarding my look.  The public at large has never vocally questioned whether or not I looked enough like a cowboy, so is this perhaps your own perception rather than anyone else’s?  By that same reasoning I would expect you to take exception to the look of this particular cowboy:

“That’s a terrible cowboy name!”
Actually I could give you an entire gallery here but a simple google image search for “John Wayne hat” will suffice.  Or look here, here, and here.  Hell, Stetson even has a line of hats now that they call the John Wayne collection, all with pinched-front creases, because I guess he really liked the style!  And if The Duke isn’t enough of a cowboy for you or the perceived public you hide behind, here are other movie cowboys wearing the same style in these articles from True West Magazine: Jeff Bridges as Rooster Cogburn, Wayne (again), Val Kilmer as Doc Holliday, the Lone Ranger, and Roy Rogers.  I can’t tell you how much sleep I lost researching this and putting it together; honestly I regret the necessity of it, but there it is.

Work boots

Back at the beginning of March I took a construction job to keep the cash flowing in.  Here is a pic 3 months into my first construction job, and my Made-in-USA Thorogood steel toe boots look like I’ve had them for years and for the most part were very comfortable.

CWSu21eAB031A

Unfortunately there was a seam where the upper met the toe box that just did not break in, and eventually I had to retire them in favor of a pair of Danner alloy toe boots just to survive the last two weeks I worked there.  I don’t miss the job and might go back to it in a traveling position (the money is too good), but I will say it helped me in other ways: I experienced a new way of life, picked up a bit of Spanish along the way, and dropped at least 20lbs.

Out with the old, Pt.II

I’ve had this vintage Lowepro bag for nearly a decade now, it was a gift from a family at church, along with their Minolta X-700; I got more use out of the bag.  While it was with them it made a trip to India and God knows where else; certainly it saw a lot of use with me over the years.  I really loved how well-made the bag was, and started buying other vintage Lowepro bags when I could find them for a reasonable price.  I originally thought this particular bag had been used as an impromptu diaper bag at some point as it did rather tend to smell like a used diaper, but as I acquired more bags and encountered others at thrift stores, I smelled it a lot; it must just be something in the materials.  I also dropped this bag in a pile of horse shit once, but that’s another story (and honestly there isn’t much to tell, but it happened during this outdoor Katy Graves concert).  Anyway, the zipper stopped zipping and that was the last straw for me.  So here’s my new Domke Viewfinder Series photojournalist bag alongside for comparison:

It’s not quite the same but at least Domke still manufactures in America, something the brand formerly known as the Colorado-based Lowe Alpine Systems can’t claim anymore.  I loved the aesthetics of old Lowepro so much that I found a duffel bag with a lot of the same characteristics, from BAD Bags: hand-sewn seams, 1000D Cordura nylon, seatbelt webbing, Fastex fasteners, and YKK zippers (supposedly the best).  But in my case the zipper was the weak link:

YKK Zippers, you’re trying my patience…my jacket that I’ve worn for years is starting to misbehave now too!  I’ve used my new Domke bag for the last 6 months and have been quite happy with it, though I wonder if its being open to the elements will allow more dust than with the old Lowepro.  Of course, the alternative is a lot more zippers…

This is me also trying out the 55mm f/2.8 Micro-Nikkor lens that I bought last Summer.

Out with the old…

…and in with the reliable.  Just look at that old piece of crap: my mom bought me this officially-branded Chicago Blackhawks duffel bag when I was about ten years old, so I’ve had it more than two-thirds of my life.  It carried my clothes to sleepovers way back when, to film festivals in Colorado, and housesitting jobs as recently as last month; it got a lot of love along the way.  After 20+ years it’s finally getting retired in favor of a BAD Bags #3 duffel/backpack hybrid.

It’s a pretty important investment for me because I’m flying to Ohio towards the end of March and I’m sick of borrowing my mom’s luggage.  I certainly couldn’t take the Blackhawks bag with holes everywhere and no working zipper…

Made in USA

01AA017a

This is part of the Mead paper mill in Chillicothe, Ohio.  I snapped this from the car window as we were driving along (you’ll see the door frame in the top left).  Since going back to college I’ve always tried to buy Mead 5-star papers/binders when getting school supplies.  It’s nice to be reminded from time to time that things are still made in my country, and to have a part of that so close to where I grew up.

edit: It might not be Mead anymore, but it’s still around.  I found this article.