Tuesday, February 14, 2012


Many have attempted to label the growing movement celebrating historic fashion, vehicles, design, and imagery - 'revival', 'retro', 're-enactment' - but I prefer the term 'Heritage', which implies continuity between what our parents or ancestors found to be of quality, and our enjoyment of the same.  Nostalgia is a dead end...we can't 'do' the past again, and wearing a detail-perfect 40s/50s/60s ensemble looks great in magazine shoots with the help of an art director, but usually appears costume-y in 'real life'.  What's interesting in the present is the trend for discovering and embracing what's valuable from the past, intended for use today. 
Heller's Cafe was the subject of Tanaka's 'King of Vintage'
Ralph Lauren has built a billion-dollar empire on exactly this principle, but even his empire has recently refined the practice to chime in with what the 'kids' have been brewed up the past few years. The 'Double RL' brand takes select pieces from the enormous RL archive of clothing (he's sent scouts around the US for decades, buying up the coolest old clothes, rugs, jewelry, furniture, etc) and reproduces them exactly, down to the threads and loom weaves.  Sometimes the pieces are 'aged' to match vintage patina, sometimes they're simply brand new sweaters, shirts, or suits from another era, chosen because they still 'work' today.
Is it Easter yet?  Rust's collection of Bell helmets and their own gloves
The greatest push in the direction of Heritage has come from a culture removed from the original source - Japan.  Japanese magazines and manufacturers have been doggedly pursuing authentic examples of denim, workwear, and leather goods for years now, going as far as purchasing the original American machinery which created long-lost fabric weaves, in the quest to re-introduce obsolete gems.
'Made in Japan' means obsessive attention to detail and quality...
Rin Tanaka was the first to bridge the great divide of language and the Pacific ocean to bring the peculiarly Japanese style of presenting the obsession; plain white pages of a book laid out with dozens of examples of just THAT kind of jacket, t-shirt, boot, helmet... while his very basic layout style is typical of the Japanese magazines, it's considered bad design by Western publishers - too simple, too much information per page, no 'style'.  But of course, that IS the style, and Tanaka's self-published 'My Freedamn' series of books have become cult objects in themselves, and an inspiration to me for many years - they are the most 'punk rock' of books, with text in second-language English, and no-nonsense cataloging of California t-shirts, motorcycle jackets, motorcycle helmets, vintage work wear.
The new antique.  No crude stone-washes, all artfully done.
The depth of his obsession has been his success - 'The Motorcycle Helmet' and 'Motorcycle Jackets; a Century of Leather Design' books have sold (and still sell) extremeley well, and his 'Harley Davidson Book of Fashion' is an important exploration of the genre of moto-clothing.  With cooperation of the Harley factory and free access to its archives, Tanaka laid plain what had previously been an 'underground' phenomenon; fashion designers use Motor Clothes as inspiration for countless 'new' collections on the runway and in your local stores, but until Rin began collecting the original items and related imagery in books (by finding people who'd spent their lives - and savings - cultivating collections), a detailed history of motorcycle fashion was known only to a few.

As Rin Tanaka's influence expands with more books published and more readers, he's bringing the manufacturers and collectors of Heritage gear together with his 'Inspiration' shows. This was year 3 for Inspiration, and the second aboard the Queen Mary; the show grows every year, and next Feb may see it expand into the nearby dome for more vendor space.  The photographs here give a sampling of the people and businesses who inhabit the Heritage universe, quite a few of whom are motorcyclists. 

Savvy American companies 'get' what's happening, and bring out their own heritage designs, or partner with Japanese designers for a fresh look.  Vanson Leathers has 'only' been around since the 70s, but has earned their authenticity card.
Triumph Tiger 110 crankcase as décor; works for me.
Peter Max -inspired poster for Surfy Surfy boards

Sunrise Cycles from LA
Shinya Kimura's 'Needle' Harley Knucklehead based speed run machine; 118mph so far at El Mirage...
Sporster and vintage helmets...which is more dangerous?
Well-curated stalls; for the dedicated vintage-hunter, a pleasure
Not just Japan; Germany has a burgeoning Heritage clothing movement...Pike Brothers hails from Brannenburg.
This photograph in no way constitutes an endorsement of 'staying loaded'.  From Cycle Zombies.
Shinya's Knucklehead...
Shinya tries on his custom Dehen riding gear...with his 1915 'Cannonball' Indian behind.  He'll be running the Cannonball again this September, as will The Vintagent...
Non-rusty vintage stereo gear...still sounding great.  I grew up with radio-station McIntosh tube amps and enormous walnut-cabinet speakers...nothing like Dad's favorite Mahler symphony in the morning...(go ahead, give it a listen, its gorgeous).
Vincent - Right On!
This man is the Real McCoy.
Men's File!  Get yours now!  The premier English-language Heritage lifestyle magazine.
Men's File publisher Nick Clements discusses a vintage custom-order needlepoint Vans sneaker with avid Vans collector, photographer Dimitri Coste.
We are all nomads, wandering the earth for a time, our only home the dust of final resting.
Bill Wall, the Nomad, making jewelry on the spot.
Danilo Coto Cruz has been making non-DOT helmets since 1991 in Costa Rica, under the Pacto brand.  With a look like that, his wife could sell me just about anything...
Matsu and Co; the executive producer of EI Publishing in Japan, Atsushi Matsushima publishes Clutch , Lightning, etc; a Heritage magnate
Himel Bros. Leather of Toronto has published a great blog for many years, 'The Art of Vintage Leather Jackets'

Hats, newly made by West Brook Maker.  Lots of vintage American flags as décor, with fewer stars than today.
Jeff Decker brought some of his collection of 'Cuts' - motorcycle club cut-off jackets.  'Hell's Union' features a 5000 year old symbol used by many antique cultures, recently given an unfortunate association with a German madman, who spoiled it with a mere 25 years of mis-use.

Elvis 50s Corporation is a cross-Pacific business selling all sorts of crazy 'junk'
I remember Evel well, jumping at San Francisco's Civic Center on November 23, 1967, on a Triumph 'TT' Bonneville.

A vintage 4th of July costume ...

Sportster and Attitude.  Marble Cycles booth.
More Jeff Decker cut-offs; I lived next door to the Sons of Hawaii club house in San Francisco in the late 1980s.  There was no crime on my block, and I could leave my home and car unlocked - the Sheriff lived across the street!
Kelly Decker minds the store...
Promoting the new Clutch magazine, which features artist Conrad Leach in the magazine's premier issue.  That's Conrad's 'Lucky 13' satin jacket...
Brian Bent's daughter among his t-shirts and surfboards from United 50
Brian Bent of the Hot Rod Church for Sinners
Brian Bent's alter ego, 'Captain Fin', known for his dazzle-painted 'kook box' surfboards...
3 floors in Queen Mary's bilge...
It doesn't stop in the early 60s...a lone Psychedelic shop promoted the power of paisley.
Skateboards, surf boards, Cali tees...
San Francisco shoemaker Frank Beneduci
I have seen the future, and it is adorable.


Jesús said...


J.N. Heath said...

Hi Paul,

Re "heritage" gear, the First World War reenactors make some great stuff, and pretty economical. If I were a motorcyclist in 1928 buying clothes at an army-surplus shop, this is what I'd find: www.schipperfabrik.com.

Anonymous said...

Hi Paul, the link to clutch magazine, brings up a web site on afro-carribean fashion and trashy gossip!
check it out
Keep up the great work; I like the term 'heritage' also.

ciao george cohen

The Vintagent said...

I am so cracking up right now...I'll check the 'Clutch' link! Thanks for the heads up.

Anonymous said...

If your "cracking' up I know of a good shrink.................
ciao geo

erdobaz said...

Everybody loves The Vintagent :)

David Himel said...

hey paul,
thanks for the kudos...side note my new leather jacket brand is www.himelbros.com also this is clutch magazines link....

that is the blog anyway....nice to finally meet you I will be posting about our time and also Project. I was happy to share my project booth with Jeff and Eric Schraders Cuts, and will pop up some pics on my facebook blog and himel bros blog later

Vans schoenen said...

Really like the photo's you have taken! Nice blog also!