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2021 June 2021

Reaching Sustainability: Fashion and Bioregionalism

Once upon a time, humans lived and breathed interdependently with the land on which they lived. Whether they were hunter-gatherer nomads or agricultural communities, humans maintained an active relationship with nature; one which was built upon a foundational knowledge of the land, and its many plants, bugs, animals, roots, and trees. Today, however, humans have “evolved” from this way of life and instead choose to “gather” at Whole Foods and “hunt” not for animals but for steals on new garms at the mall or in flagship stores.

It’s almost hard to imagine that on the very land we, Perime, operate on, people once lived interdependently with their local environment, relying upon it for all necessities: food, clothing, shelter, drugs, everything. Native Americans, for instance, utilized bark from trees for some of their clothing, particularly for raincoats and hats, for when it might’ve been too cold for staying in the nip – which is probably the most sustainable choice we could all make today. But to create their bark clothing, tribesmen and women would strip bark from the trees, then pound it until it’s flexible, so it could then be shredded into thin fibers which would be woven into clothing. The process is much easier said than done; most people today wouldn’t know where to start making a coat out of the family tree. Even back then, Native Americans oftentimes only had one outfit because the clothes were difficult to make and clothing made from bark is quite hard to wash thoroughly. So Native Americans would constantly throw away their clothes when they were finished with them.

Native American coat made from Cedar bark

Unfortunately, by today’s standards, throwing away clothes when you’re finished with them is an equally common and destructive act. Still, back then, by throwing away their clothes, Natives were giving back what they had simply borrowed from nature. The act of discarding a janky bark coat could not be referred to as “throwing it away,” as we say today, due to the biodegradable nature of clothing of the time. Instead, it’s a genuine act of giving, one out of love, which is just one small factor of an active relationship with nature. This relationship is precisely what has been prized by groups like Native Americans but stolen from today’s average consumer.

Traditionally in North America, different groups and tribes would usually be separated based on bioregional borders. Bioregional borders are separated from one another based on biological features of that area, whether it’s a particular set of trees, plants, and animals that naturally reside within the region, a change in physical attributes, or a different climate. From this, it’s only natural that since people were separated based upon the natural resources accessible to them locally, the region to which they belong would be represented by the clothes on their backs, like a Cedar bark coat belonging to a Native American. But today, our regions depend on political decisions, and thanks to globalization, humans can now represent anything imaginable on their clothes; it’s easier for an American to sport a Chinese t-shirt than it is an American one.

Unfortunately, this current condition has not just impacted our environment but it has also diminished the value of the relationship people share with their land. In geographical terms, this relationship is known as an individual’s sense of place: the connection and value that an individual feels toward a particular area or region. This connection has been demolished by mass overseas production, a reliance upon mass-produced goods, and a 24-7 shoppers economy.

Sense of place and bioregions come together to form bioregionalism – a cause fathered by writers and advocates like Gary Snyder and coined by Allen Van Newkirk. Bioregionalism advocates for a connection between the land and its inhabitants, a connection strong enough to be parallelled to past role models such as Native Americans. In bioregionalism, this connection should run strong into all points of life, allowing people to unite the economy and ecology in a healthy way for both parties.

Bioregional map of North America

And yes, while it is wonderful to harbor a love for businesses and modern clothes, there’s something a bit lifeless about only experiencing clothes that have been manufactured, packaged, shipped, advertised, and sold – particularly when in a fast-fashion manner. It seems like a dream to imagine a world where instead of brands and logos, people could represent their local, natural world on their clothes. Whether by utilizing bark or using regional materials for dyes, the colors on clothes could represent something so much larger than a flex; they could represent a loving relationship with the land. If we, the common people, are to overturn the disastrous conditions of post-colonial, post-consumerist western society, we must take production back. It’s okay to take a step back from how things are done right now and accept that we may have fucked up.

But alas, no fate is ever sealed. We as a society can take steps to fix our industrial mistakes, but not without care and proper knowledge. As Gary Snyder once said, “It is not enough to just <> or to want to <> Our relation to the natural world takes place in a place, and it must be grounded in information and experience”. This information and experience is not otherworldly mystical information; it’s just a little unfamiliar to American culture because of a little something called ethnic cleansing. Native American history is living proof that once upon a time, humans lived happily right where this article is being written off of the land, and the land smiled back living with them. Sure, people don’t have to start wearing bark coats, but such history should be looked to as inspiration and a learning source. Not everyone needs to become a designer in the traditional sense, but everyone is capable of applying nature to fashion thanks to techniques such as natural dyeing. We as a society must learn what the world has to offer us, and foster a symbiotic, loving relationship with it.

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2020 2021 June 2021

Americana: A Working Definition

America is a relatively new nation compared to other fashion hubs like Italy, France, or England, and yet its history and relationship with clothing runs deep both nationwide and abroad. It’s remarkable how much of an impact America has had on fashion in such little time, but equally unsurprising considering its action-packed history, and the boiling pot nature of its own culture. Unlike most countries known for their fashion, Americana clothing has typically existed on the other end of the spectrum of its high-fashion counterparts in Europe. 

American style celebrates the heroism of the individual, as a maverick – the pioneer of your destiny, an identifier that remains integral to many present-day Americans. As we revisit our past, it is both surprising and expected to see the widespread presence of brands such as Levi’s, Carhartt, and Lee surpass their functionality and form to become the new staples of our modern-day trends. What sets American fashion apart from other cultural identities is its ambiguity and lawlessness. Whether it’s cowboys riding through the Wild West sporting Levi’s, hippies wearing the same pants in protest a hundred years later, or these brands’ lasting presence in film; Americana has continued to remain and evolve with the nation and world’s collective consciousness. 

Collection of ’70s and ’80s Levi’s Jeans

Levi’s for example, an industrial American staple was founded by a German-born, Jewish immigrant in 1873. With a focus on functionality, the brand established itself as one of the essential manufactures of early Americana style. While residing in San Francisco during the mid-1800s, Levi Strauss released his first jeans, when at the time, most Americans settled in the west were busy mining, ranching, and laying the foundation for the pre-urban West. It is during this time, that the American Dream and Manifest Destiny begin to collide in their efforts to define a nation. Levi’s paved the way for other denim-centric, heritage brands such as Lee and Wrangler to become household names and cultural mainstays, both nationally and abroad; putting quality basics like jeans, overalls, and denim jackets into the hands of Americans.

Movies such as True Grit, Stagecoach, and The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly, embodied America’s fascination with Western folklore. Directors like Sergio Leone, put the spirit of manifest destiny on a silver, albeit bloody platter to worldwide viewers; thus prolonging, and strengthening Americana’s already sharpshooting presence within culture, fashion, and media alike. 

Clint Eastwood in The Good The Bad, and The Ugly

Even if you’ve never seen these movies, the name Clint Eastwood is synonymous with the west. Sporting blue jeans, a suede fur vest, poncho, and cowboy hat, Eastwood embodies the fantastical American Dream: a ruthless horse riding, sharpshooting, rugged badass. While it may seem that films such as The Good The Bad, and The Ugly present a fictional, idealized version of Western America, to a certain degree, they are not far from reality. Unfortunately, the lawless privilege that comes from manifest destiny causes us to overlook its harsh and traumatic consequences. Despite this oversight, manifest destiny continues to influence the actions of future generations.

“Bill” Dressed in Americana Style 1958

Fifteen years before Clint Eastwood hit the silver screen as the Man with No Name, a group of Congolese teenagers, inspired by Spaghetti Westerns, began to dress and act like cowboys. This movement, later known as Billism, was the result of half a dozen movie theaters opening in the African neighborhoods of Leopoldville. On their quest towards manhood and assimilation, these teens abandoned Congolese traditions and adopted the unruly nature of cowboys – who embodied the freedoms and privileges they desired. It may have been the spirit of American badassery, and the resemblance of these characters in Congolese folklore that drew Bills to this imagery; but the fact that these marginalized African kids were able to embrace this aesthetic proves the ever-lasting desirability of Americana fashion.

Dr. King Schultz and Django from Django Unchained

The style is so irrefutable that even those oppressed by this budding nation wanted to adopt the aesthetics of Americana in their efforts to define their place in history. Quentin Tarantino shows us just how powerful the intersection between identity and aesthetics can be with Django Unchained, a modern-day Spaghetti Western. Jamie Foxx’s character, Django, begins his journey as a slave accompanying bail bondsman Dr. King Schultz as he collects his bounties. In exchange for assisting Schultz, Foxx is able to buy his freedom. Despite being a freeman, Django must adopt traditional cowboy adornment – not unlike the garments worn by the cowboys in The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly – to bring legitimacy to his newly freed status. The aesthetics present in Americana fashion work to legitimize the lawlessness synonymous with American independence.

Although Americana fashion may not be high-end, the values it embodies transcend functionality, giving the wearer a sense of contextualized pride. Donning the same styles as our favorite icons brings us closer to a history that we as a nation, are constantly working to redefine. Whether it’s sporting cowboy hats as an act of defiance, embracing a lawless attitude while wearing jeans, or simply hoping for the freedoms and privileges seen on the silver screen, we are all working to evolve, interpret, and represent what we as a nation love about Americana fashion.

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2021 May 2021

INTENTIONAL SNEAKER AGING

When choosing what to wear, color is usually my primary concern; since I stick to basic, safe silhouettes which will do me perfectly at any time, color is usually the only factor that requires a choice. But for some, on another end of the fashion spectrum, yellow isn’t just an option when choosing what color to wear. For sneakerheads, wearing yellow hasn’t always been a simple choice.

A couple weeks ago, a picture of majorly distressed Dior Jordan 1’s belonging to Daniel Arsham was doing the rounds through the mysterious world of Instagram mood boards. Then, @hidden.ny and similar pages began posting similar flicks, but these seemed to be an almost endless stream of posts made up of freshly distressed sneakers.

Usually, I’m too much of a snobby bastard to really get into what the trendy mood board boys are up to these days; that, or I just can’t keep up, but these really caught my eye. Most of these customs haven’t just had a cheese grater taken to the toe box; they really do look like a truly beaten-up sneaker, as if it could’ve been worn since the ’80s. Now, people can say what they will about pre-distressing anything, and those reservations are justified – not all distressing is made equal.

First of all, the process of yellowing sneakers is nothing new to the sneaker world at large. Sneaker yellowing is not an obscure condition for a pair of shoes; it’s actually an infamous side effect of aging. Even a mere fashion snob may know of shoes going yellow, whether from youtube documentaries, Rick Owens memes, Grailed listings, or the Round Two store videos. Most chalk up the process to oxidation, atoms may leave, but it’s almost like gentrification: poor old electrons move out, prices are driven up! Yellow colors on typically leather sneakers’ midsoles have often been used to identify older sneaks as a signal to influence resale prices, at least depending on the buyer’s opinions of yellow.

Yellow is really not just a simple color choice for some shoe bros. At first, the trend seemed lazy and even laughable that people were willing to pay just so their sneakers could be slightly yellowed and a little distressed, conditions which seem possible to achieve just through simple daily wear. But coming from a non-sneakerhead, who am I to speak on the worthiness of someone’s purchases, and even works! That day I was wearing my favorite pair of Number (N)ine jeans, which feature sashiko style stitching, distressing, and little bits of paint/bleach splatters. Sashiko is an ancient, hundreds of years old technique of clothing repair native to Japan. That, and the fact that the jeans come from a respected brand, have made people like me love and respect these particular pants so much in today’s culture; they represent a lush history – and a very strong passion for it. Now, jeans are clothes, and so are shoes – so what then sets Number (N)ine jeans away from custom distressed sneakers? They both feature distressing, even if the techniques may vary. Sure, sashiko represents an ancient, rich culture. Still, sneaker culture surely poses the potential to one day hold the same, if not higher, cultural value as sashiko, or any technique/style for that matter.

(Another pair of my AW01 Number (N)ine jeans, this photo belonging to vanguard.xyz) 

In thinking of the comparison between sashiko stitching and custom Jordans, I was reminded of something that I had asked myself in my journal: could Aphex Twin one day be considered traditional? In the same sense that Beethoven is a master of Classical, Louis Armstrong a cornerstone of Jazz, and sashiko stitching a token of Japanese culture? In this case, sashiko is our Beethoven, and maybe aging sneakers is Aphex Twin. Will people one day look upon American sneaker culture as a key point in defining 20-21st Western Culture as a whole? These customs feel like an homage, a continuation of a culture that has only grown since its spawn. In the same way, essential hip-hop sampling masters such as J Dilla and Q Tip were a call and response to Jazz – they picked and chose literal samples of Jazz and reintroduced them to the world in a new form allowing its energy to live on through younger generations – these artists are choosing to present certain facets of sneaker-culture, such as yellowing.

This particular style of customs has continued to grow even beyond sneaker culture. The free-form nature of the practice allows creators to display and create really whatever they can out of a pair of sneakers. One such pair which highlights this are Andrew Chiou’s custom sashiko dunks. The original pair of sashiko Nike SB’s dropped in August of 2020, and Andrew’s custom really took them to another level of beauty. The sun bleaching on the denim, rich browns, and rope laces genuinely feel like they could go hand-in-hand, with something as special as my pair of Number (N)ines. The beauty of this pair, in particular, is the fact that they prove that rich cultural values can live on and continue to grow through custom sneakers – something which some would never be quick to really consider.

These new distressed customs feel like a wholly natural evolution of the condition of yellowing and its significance to sneaker culture, which is only continuing to evolve. At the end of the day, people are allowed to wear and do whatever they want, and honestly, the customs look really good. America is a new-ish nation and a new culture relative to the rest of the world at large. So it’s a privilege to see how subcultures such as sneakers are continuously growing, evolving, and defining the United States culture – and subsequently the world. These past couple years have been really interesting in terms of sneakers, whether it’s the growing trend of “bootlegs”, these customs, or just how quickly prices can change if someone like Travis Scott wears a pair of Dunks, which only proves the intense presence that is sneaker culture in America’s collective thought.

Would I commission to get a fresh pair of’ jawnz distressed? Probably not. But more power to the people supporting themselves from it, some of them have fantastic eyes, so much so to even attract artists like Daniel Arsham, who is majorly respected in today’s ever-so-connected worlds of art and fashion. Maybe one day, this trend will be written in a footnote of a textbook detailing the evolution of modern 21st-century sneaker culture. The fact is, we’re in a world where the OG sneakerheads and streetwear bros are starting to become parents, and God knows where their kids are going to take the culture. This trend feels like just one small factor in this continuous evolution and only makes me more excited for the artists who will make a living and drive ideas forward.

Categories
2021 May 2021

THE FUTURE IS FOOD: SAVING TEXTILES WITH FOOD WASTE

Everyone reading this has a couple things in common. It’s safe to assume that you hopefully eat food, are currently wearing clothes, and are also likely interested in fashion, considering that we’re sharing this experience on a fashion dedicated website. I and many others here have discussed the consequences of our clothing habits on the environment, but food, just like clothing, is a critical factor in understanding our environmental situation. And for those of us who focus our environmental efforts on clothing, let’s all take a moment to ask ourselves, am I really walking the walk? I mean, besides the orange peel I toss into the woods on occasion, am I making a bona fide effort to minimize the damage I’m inflicting upon the environment; due to the food I’m buying and its subsequent waste? Just a rhetorical question. I’m sure many do, and I know that it’s at least one factor that I could definitely be thinking about more. But, to be fair, should it be the responsibility of us, the consumers, to ensure that the very same orange I just ate isn’t going to plunge us into eternal flames? 

As of now it seems like it is, since the big man is choosing to toss it in a landfill. According to a figure from 2018 from the USEPA (the United States Environmental Protection Agency), approximately 55.9% of food waste from the United States is being sent to landfills. Obviously, nobody out there is sending their food waste directly to the companies crafting landfills, so unfortunately, it’s mostly up to us to responsibly dispose of our excess food. Obviously, oranges aren’t at the forefront of the environmental costs of food waste, especially considering how easy it is to “compost” them. But between oranges and all remaining food in the US, food waste generates the equivalent of 32.6 million cars’ worth of greenhouse gases per year (WWF). Of course, even though everybody is generating food waste, the problem doesn’t end with simple solutions like smarter shopping, consumer-level composting, or even saving leftovers. Every day, major businesses, hospitals, jails, fast food restaurants, and more are generating remarkable amounts of food waste, which cannot realistically be packed away in a Tupperware container to be eaten tomorrow. But please, do not despair. Although you can’t control the food waste outside of your own home, there is much to explore, even involving clothes, which I think I’m safe to assume is more exciting to you than a compost bin. 

Similar to previously mentioned practices, integrating food waste into clothing at home can only go so far, but in this case, the at-home practices are far more fun than composting and far less scary than landfills. The most notable practice that anyone with access to water, an oven, some pots, and food can integrate into their life is dying. Sure, death would probably reduce your food waste by quite a significant margin, but I am speaking of natural dyes! While I wouldn’t call the practice of natural dying a trend by any means, it has absolutely gained some traction online recently, and for good reason. Natural dying is cheap, easy, fun, and allows you to experiment and truly breathe new life into your clothing.

(For a tutorial on how to naturally dye at home, scroll to the bottom of the article! But please, not now, keep reading friend :)) 

I for one have had some of the most rewarding experiences of my life while using natural dyes. The physical beauty you’re capable of attaining through materials you already have in your home is really, really remarkable. Yes, the process is lengthy and will often result in duds, but with that being said, when the results are good, they’re good. Instead of taking the same orange peel mentioned previously and throwing it into the woods, trash, or compost, you can save it, wait until you have enough peels, and make a dye out of them! Once the process is completed, you are still unfortunately left with a considerable amount of waste. However, using food materials for dye is almost like the Native American spirit of using each and all parts of a Bison. Rather than throwing away waste, or uneaten food, you can seal or freeze it and eventually come away with a beautiful dye on a piece of clothing or any textile of your choosing (and yes, I have had successful experiences using frozen fruits, materials do not have to be fresh). Natural dyes are the most unique and exciting experiences that I have had with clothing, and I really implore you to give it a try. 

Set of tote bags I made and sold in late 2020 using naturally dyed muslin

Admittedly, I am one of the most patient people I know, not to toot my own horn, but I recognize that the process may not suit everybody. It involves being in your house for the greater part of at least six hours, and even after all that, it could lead you into nothing more than a big mess to clean up, with some half-dyed textiles. But that’s okay! Not everybody who loves clothes is a tailor, stylist, or designer; you too can ethically enjoy and consume clothing made in a similar fashion to my own by turning to professionals that employ those practices. In my opinion, the most notable choice is Story MFG. Story is a husband and wife team out of England, who rely almost exclusively on plant materials in order to manufacture their products, whether it’s the dye, fabric itself,  or their packaging. This ethos rings true in their design language, which feels very authentic to UK style, hippy dippy, eastern influenced tie dyes, baggy capris, and knit hats. Over here in the states, one of my favorite representatives for sustainable clothing practices is 100% Avery Ginsberg. His company, Groundcover, has released boots, jeans, and sunglasses, which are also developed using similar sustainable practices. Most notably, the boots and other leather goods are made using PinaTex, a leather substitute that is manufactured using waste products from commercial pineapple farms. Developed by Dr. Carmen Hijosa, under her company, Ananas Anam Ltd, PinaTex fibers are developed using the leaves of pineapples, which are chopped from the top during commercial harvesting, and until now, would have been burned on site. In doing so, PinaTex provides an additional income source for farmers and creates a beautiful alternative for an otherwise horrendous waste management method. 

GroundCover boots by Avery Ginsberg, made using PinaTex leather

Fortunately, Pina Tex is not an outlier in the textiles industry; slowly but surely, food and other plant-based fabrics are picking up steam. Take our orange from earlier, for instance; thanks to Orange Fiber, an Italy-based textile company, there is now a new future to be had for our discarded orange peel! According to their site, approximately 700,000 tons of citrus-byproduct are wasted in Italy every single year by the citrus juice industry. So, Orange Fiber teamed up with the Politecnico di Milano University to create a silk-like luxury fabric using nothing but citrus fruit waste products. So far, both Salvatore Ferragamo and H&M have used the material for collections of their own. While both Orange Fiber and PinaTex are quite expensive at this time, I really believe that they offer a glimpse of what could be truly democratized fashion.

A piece from Ferragamo’s 2017 capsule made with Orange Fiber

If we want to take steps towards those ideals as an industry, I think there must be an equal playing field at every step of the process. Take PinaTex, for example. They are working with local farmers in a fair and meaningful relationship that is mutually beneficial for both parties, economically and environmentally. Sure, there’s an abundance of citrus fruit in Italy and many commercial pineapple farms in the Philippines, but imagine how many oranges are eaten daily, even just within five square miles of where you are right now? As shown by PinaTex and Orange Fiber, the technology to develop natural, waste-based textiles is here, and it’s functional for both utilitarian boots with Groundcover and luxury silk-like fabrics for Ferragamo. These techniques must be invested in and adopted by the industry, and hopefully, the world at large. Here in Massachusetts, we have abandoned mills almost everywhere you go. Who’s to say in ten years that we can’t have a system in which food waste is collected, then used for textiles? 

While this may be wishful thinking and an overestimation of our current capabilities with this technology, I really believe that this angle is a possibility. If we’re real, big-wigs will only invest in environmentalism when they can see a profit for themselves. But screw them! In my opinion, fashion and food are timeless industries; as I said earlier, we all wear clothes, and we all eat food. So it only makes sense for us to allow these two industries, which are currently quite literally poison to our world, to join forces and save textiles, and the environment for all. 

I’d like to close by referencing a discussion between chemist/filmmaker Hamilton Morris and writer Michael Pollan which I recently listened to, concerning psychedelic drugs and the possibilities they pose for mental health treatment. In this talk, Hamilton and Michael discuss one major takeaway from recent psychedelic trials: participants have reported a heightened feeling of interconnectedness between themselves and nature. In hearing this, I instantly thought of my experience with natural dyes. Natural dyeing has allowed me to see food and nature in a whole new way. Rather than buying dye from a store, I took time to create my own, and genuinely materialize the beauty and richness of nature upon a piece of clothing, which in turn, has absolutely heightened my gratitude, and feeling of connection to the world in which we live, a feeling which some definitely need more than others. I think that investing in garments from brands like Groundcover and Story MFG and seeking natural fibers like PinaTex and Orange Fiber can absolutely have similar effects. The world must be shown the beauty and functionality of sustainable methods that are already here. I hope that in doing so, some culprits of our current crisis may have a change of heart. 

DYE INSTRUCTIONS!

Before actually starting your dye, you must treat the fabric with a fixative in order to make sure the dye will hold. 

  1. Pre-wash your fabric, followed by a tumble/air dry 
  2. Gather your materials for the fixative: salt for fruit material, with a ratio of 1 part salt: 16 parts water. -> Vinegar for any other natural ingredient: ratio of 1 part vinegar: 4 parts water 
  3. Gather your pots and pans, ensuring that they will be big enough to hold your fabric, as well as the water necessary to boil your fabric with the fixative. 
  4. Place your fabric into your pots/pans, then fill with enough water to cover all of the fabric. Then, add your fixative ingredients, according to your chosen dye material, and following the set water: fixative ratios.
  5. Simmer the fabric along with your fixative and water, also known as a mordant, for about an hour on low heat. Then remove your fabric, wring out some of the water from the fabric, and set aside the fabric in a safe spot. You’re good to dump the fixative water whatever you see fit.

(I recommend beginning these next steps as much as possible while the fixative is doing its thing)

  1. Gather your dye materials 
  2. Chop up your material as fine as possible
  3. Place your chopped dye material into the same pots used for the fixative. Fill these pots up with enough water to cover and boil the material, as if you were making pasta.
  4. Return your pots (with the material and water inside) to your stovetop, and let the water simmer on low heat (2-3)
  5. Allow the dye to simmer on this heat for about 1-2 hours.
  6. Once the 1-2 hours have passed, remove your pots from the stovetop, and strain out your dye material.
  7. The remaining water is your dye. At this point, you may bottle the dye for direct use on fabric, or you can dye your clothing/fabric on the stovetop in your pots
  8. If dyeing inside pots, once you have strained out the dye material, keep the liquid dye inside it’s respective pot. Then, place your fabric inside the pot, ensuring it is fully soaked by the dye. Let the fabric simmer on very low heat for about 1-2 hours. Do not let the fabric sit for more than 2 hours on heat, as it may shrink and become damaged. 
  9. Remove your fabric from the dye, and thoroughly rinse. 
  10. Dispose of the dye water 
  11. Allow fabric to air/tumble dry with no heat. 
  12. Done!
Categories
2021 April 2021

CARE TAGS: WHY SHOULD I CARE ABOUT ‘EM?

One of the worst feelings growing up was having your favorite graphic t-shirt’s screen print destroyed after being washed. You flex it a couple of times and suddenly, the print is cracking, chipping, and your swag is lost. A golden rule that I’ve learned since those days is not to put my screen prints in the dryer. But if I think about it, what more do I really know about washing clothes? A while ago, I bought a pair of Kapital smiley socks which told me to hand wash only, and to be completely honest, they’ve sat in my drawer after a couple of wears because I’m too lazy to hand wash them, but too scared to machine wash. If that tag weren’t there, then I’d be going ham on my socks in the washing machine and ultimately turning those smiles upside down 🙁 

I hope that I’m not alone in these revelations and struggles alike. How often have you actually brought your nice pieces to the dry cleaner or chosen to do a batch of your washing by hand? Probably not very often – not to make accusations or anything. But I think that as we, as a society, begin to really internalize and practice our environmental concerns throughout our clothing habits, we must really consider the afterlife of our clothing and textiles. Although the environmental problems are relatively modern, the concept of caring for your clothes and the instructions which tell you how to do so are nothing new. But before there were care tags, the tags on clothing were generally for a different purpose entirely – they were for unions. 

Ah, unions! Imagine living in an age where you can mobilize as a workforce in order to protect and empower one another *cough cough* Jeff Bezos *cough cough*. Well, beginning in 1885, the hat makers of the United States were living, breathing, and making hats in such an age. The most prolific hat makers union of the time was known as “The United Hatters of North America”, who in 1885 began to include tags on the inside of their hats, indicating that it was made by the Union. Then, in the 1930s, FDR introduced the New Deal, and the idea of supporting proper work standards, worker’s rights, and true craftsmanship began to pick up steam. The New Deal introduced many government-run workers organizations, both to help existing laborers and to provide jobs for the unemployed. One of these organizations was known as the NRA, The National Recovery Association, not the rifle association. Clothing made by manufacturers supported by the NRA began to include tags on the inside of their products, which would help consumers be aware that the products they were purchasing were made both with solid craftsmanship and fair work standards. In 1938, Congress deemed the NRA and other portions of the New Deal as unconstitutional, and established the Fair Labor Standards Act in 1938, which established minimum wage, overtime pay, record keeping, youth working standards, and more. Although the NRA was dismantled, manufacturers who abided by the Fair Labor Standards Act continued to display so on their tags. Other unions, most notably the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union (ILGWU), continued to leave their mark on garments produced under their wing.  

An original tag produced by a manufacturer under the NRA

Sadly today, it’s no longer commonplace to see Unions, work standards, or even much info outside of the nation where the garment was produced on our tags. Instead, our tags provide much different, but valuable information nonetheless: care instructions. Many standard consumers simply rip out their tags and don’t think twice about the words left in the trash. Fashion enthusiasts, on the other hand, are sure to be proud of their tags and hopefully hold the information which lies on them close to their heart when caring for and washing their precious jawnz. But for the most part, I think it’s safe to say that wherever you lie on the spectrum of fashion consumers, you should absolutely care about the information on your tags. 

In 1939, tags began their journey of becoming what we know them as today. On October 14th, 1939, the U.S. government passed the Wool Products Labelling Act. On a surface level, the act served mostly to allow consumers to know that they were buying genuine wool products and the fiber content and origin of the wool. But, on a more grand scale, the act also began to regulate the fashion and textile market in ways that had never been seen before. Most notably, it made it a crime for manufacturer’s to misbrand or mislabel their garments, whether that be making false claims concerning its fabric, or the brand identity itself, one which remains to be critical in today’s market. But once the Space Age hit America, wool branding wasn’t going to cut it. Now there were all sorts of crazy materials and plastic everywhere! We were blending and making new fabrics like it was nobody’s business. So, the FTC passed the Textile Products Identification Act, which forced clothing manufacturers to disclose the fabric’s fiber composition, the nation in which the product was made, and again reiterates that false or misleading branding or information on tags is illegal. This act in particular, is one that remains to be critical today. It sets the bare minimum standard of disclosing just the country in which a product was made and has allowed consumers to be aware of the makeup of their clothing. But, even though this act allowed Americans to be mindful of the names of new-fangled materials, they were still yet to be aware of how to properly care for them, a question which was supposedly answered by the Care Labelling Rule of 1971.

This law made it mandatory for producers to not only include information such as fiber composition and place of origin on their tags but also how to care for the garment. Similar to the intentions of union tags, the purpose of the Care Labelling Rule was to protect the common consumer and to ensure that they were getting the very most out of their products, ultimately saving them money and allowing prosperity and healthy swag for everyone! Sadly, even if care tags are still mandatory today, for some consumers care is an absolute afterthought. In our modern age of hyper-consumption, you could probably spend just $200 on some fast-fashion online and have enough clothing to not have to wash anything for a month, underwear included. I’m sure this lifestyle works for some. And even if this is the extreme end of the spectrum, I really believe that caring for the products we own is a topic that seems to be partly glossed over when discussing how we can be more ethical clothing consumers. 

A quick guide to understanding the whacky symbols on your care tags

It’s not as if this is just a small, stickler factor of environmentalism and clothing. The washing of synthetic fibers, and their consequent pollution, is commonly noted as a primary contributor to microplastic pollution in our oceans. So yes, buying a reusable straw is great and all, but your washing machine is the real enemy at home – and your seafood, I suppose, but that’s a story for another day. But wait, not really! The damage comes full circle! Yes, the process by which your fish are being farmed in the ocean is extremely detrimental, but those very same fish are swimming around with microfibers from your swishy H&M, maybe even Arc’teryx cargos! Which then, instead of being on your body, is ending up in your mouth. Do you really want to be eating microplastics that have been living on the inner thigh of some head-to-toe polyester-wearing techwear beast? I, for one, do not. 

I don’t think that it should take much for one to understand that nobody, not even salmon wants to be eating plastic. Microplastics are floating around in the ocean and being chomped up by sea creatures, which then screw up their internal organs, thus decreasing their quality of life and disrupting ocean food chains, ecosystems, and the environment at large. If I was president of the world, I’d say we stop buying and producing synthetic fibers immediately, but for the time being, that just isn’t how it’s going to go down. But don’t fret, there are some washing practices that you can put into action. First, just generally wash your synthetic fibers as gently as possible while in the machine: reduce your washing temperature, reduce the spin cycle/rotation speed, and even wash them with a fuller load, since more clothes in the washer means less banging around. Overall, while those methods are effective, the best thing you can really do is to avoid synthetics altogether. If you can, wash them gently by hand, and if not, then try finding that low-intensity washing machine sweet spot! 

Tags were originally meant to empower unions and to provide a service to the consumer. Let that spirit continue today and use them to empower yourself as an individual! Let your clothes live longer, pick who you want to support, prevent pollution, and use those union tags to find the best vintage jawns win win win win. 

It’s also not just about buying used in order to be sustainable. Care tags allow you to fulfill your responsibility as a consumer and enthusiast of fashion. Take polyester, for example. Yes, buying it used doesn’t mean that you’re perpetuating its toxic production process, but lots of the damage done by synthetic fibers occurs in their afterlife, as microplastics and fibers are being slowly released into the environment over time. Should care tags include warnings like cigarettes, maybe saying: WARNING, THIS PRODUCT PUTS PLASTIC IN YOUR BELLY!. While I say yes, I think the manufacturers would disagree. But even if we can’t get that kind of transparency out of tags these days, use what you can get to your advantage. Look for low-synthetic fiber blends, pay close attention to their respective washing instructions, and most of all, be grateful for your tags – they’ve always got your back. 

(because tags are usually on your back) 

Categories
2021 March 2021

DR. MARTENS AND SOLOVAIR: AN ALMOST TRAGIC TALE OF OUR CORPORATE WORLD

(spoilers for othello, goodfellas ahead) …be warned

In my opinion, the brands which stand the test of time are those who can survive without their name–those whose image lives in the minds of people everywhere. For instance, yellow stitching on the soles of your shoes brings two words to most heads: Dr. Martens. 

So, who deserves the credit for a product as iconic as Dr. Martens, one which has only strengthened with time? Well, the story begins at the turn of the eighteenth century in England. Average cobblers worked within a similar payment system as many fashion industry workers today, in the form of a piece rate. This is when garment workers, or cobblers in this case, are paid by each finished product, not by a wage or salary. However, unlike today, these cobblers worked out of their homes, rather than a factory. Although, that wasn’t necessarily a good thing.

Most of the time, cobblers would sell their shoes to buyers who would show up to their doors with a certain quota and expected price points. If you failed to meet this quota and price, then your shoes weren’t purchased–meaning you weren’t making any money. So, in the late 1800’s, cobblers got together and said, “Right. We’ve had enough!” and got their shit together. 

Northamptonshire England has been a center of the shoe industry in England since the 13th century, due to an accessible supply of oak bark, close access to water, local cattle farms for leather. Its centralized location also made it a popular area for trading. One group of cobblers living in the same village of Wollaston, in Northamptonshire, England, got together and formed a co-op in 1881; they dubbed themselves the Northamptonshire Productive Society, and got a space together on Thrift Street, Northampton. Known locally as “The Duffers,” they hit the ground running quite quickly, grabbing a year-long contract from the UK government for army boots. Not to mention, while nearing the end of the 1800’s, England began to experience their second major Industrial Revolution–which meant that more and more people needed proper work shoes. So, following their banging success with the army, NPS moved out to a new space on South Street, Wollaston in 1901 in order to meet the new demands, the very same space which they occupy today. But here is where the tale leaves NPS, and where we meet Dr. Klaus Maertens.

NPS’s space in 1881 – the same which they use today

While on leave from the silly scuffle we know today as World War 2, Dr. Klaus Maertens–a military medic for the Nazi army–broke his foot on a skiing trip. After his injury, Klaus found that standard boots of the time were far too uncomfortable for his poor foot. So, Klaus, the crafty chap, decided that he’d design his own sole. This sole is the very same design used for the bottom of Dr. Marten boots today. The design is built around soft leather, and, most notably, air-padded soles, which was wildly innovative for the time. After designing his new sole, Klaus tried to sell and produce the shoes himself, but didn’t have much luck until he met up with his old friend, Dr. Herbert Funck. Initially basing themselves out of Seeshaupt, Germany, Funck and Maertens began to manufacture the shoes using discarded rubber from Nazi Luftwaffle airfields, some of which they even stole from their own war-torn cities. Together, Funck and Maertens were met with quite significant success–especially with older housewives, who loved the comfort of the shoes. Their business continued to grow throughout the 1950’s, and in 1952 they even opened a factory in Munich. Maertens and Funck saw so much success nationally that in 1959 they decided to begin marketing their shoes internationally, a decision which would change footwear forever. 

Young Klaus Maertens (left) and Herbert Funck (right)

Back in England, a shoe manufacturing company under the name of R. Griggs Group Limited saw an ad run by Dr. Maertens and Funck in the newspaper, and were intrigued by their innovative sole design. While Griggs was a prominent shoe manufacturer for the UK since its foundation in 1901, it wasn’t until they attained the exclusive production rights to Maertens and Funcks design that they finally reached a truly prominent status for the UK’s show world. But due to the unique nature of the Dr. Marten sole, Griggs did not have the technological capacity to produce the shoes on a large scale by themselves, which brings us back to good ole NPS. 

In 1959, once Griggs attained the production license to Dr. Maertens design, they outsourced said production to our friends at NPS–this time with a newly adjusted heel, rounded upper toe box, iconic yellow stitching, and a new, more consumer friendly name: Dr. Martens–Airwair with Bouncing Soles. While NPS took on the majority of the production under the name “Dr. Martens by Solovair,” (sole-of-air), remaining production was left to other, smaller manufacturers, under an agreement known as the Wollaston Vulcanising Cooperative. From then on, Dr. Martens was branded as Dr. Martens by Solovair. 

Klaus with the Griggs team

With the star-studded lineup of NPS handling production, and Griggs on the business side of things, Dr. Martens quickly became incredibly successful in the United Kingdom, and was soon to be successful worldwide. On April 1st, 1960, the iconic 1460 boot was released to the public of the United Kingdom (the title ‘1460’ being in respect to its release date). Almost immediately, the boot was a massive success. At an initial 2 pound price point, the boot quickly continued to be popular with the working residents of the UK, similar to Germany. Throughout the 60’s, Docs were picked up by train, postal, and factory workers, even policemen. Once the late 60’s rolled around, Docs quickly gained a cult following with the youth, thanks to their adoption by mostly musical subcultures, resting on the feet of icons such as Pete Townshend and Sid Vicious. However, sadly for the Griggs family, they faced near-bankruptcy in the early 2000’s. At this point in time, Docs were being produced in multiple factories throughout the UK–still most notably, NPS. Yet 43 years to the date of their initial release, on April 1st, 2003, the Griggs Group shut down five factories in the UK, resulting in the loss of an estimated 1,000 jobs for UK-based employees, between manufacturing and office work. In order to save the company, Griggs decided to move the production to China and Thailand.

A Dr. Martens advertisement from the days of Northamptonshire production

This move, while some would say was necessary, was a true tragedy. It is Othello killing Desdemona, it is Micheal Collins giving up Northern Ireland, it is Jimmy Hill giving up his cronies in Goodfellas, it’s the lesson which Cannon Wulf learns from the DelecaDancers of Lazer Wulf. Yes, the business survived, but at what cost? Many DM aficionados have suspended their support of the boots due to the move, citing quality concerns as their reason. This reaction is understandable, even outside of quality issues. From the beginning, Dr. Martens was built upon ingenuity and individual empowerment. Obvious character flaws aside (the nazism), Dr. Maertens made the best of a bad situation and created something fantastically innovative–so much so that it was adopted by a diverse range of housewives, skinheads, and policemen. Until the move to China, Dr. Martens provided such great empowerment to English citizens, both through a quality product, and an abundance of jobs. Dr. Martens was founded from a place of functionality, with a focus on quality, longevity, and the aim of giving the little man the very best he deserves; so were they right, then, to sacrifice this high standard of quality? But what if the working man couldn’t have afforded the boots otherwise, had they maintained production within the UK? Regardless, the fact is that the common consensus among Dr. Marten fans is that quality has diminished, but their price has not. According to a statistic from Quartz, the retail price of Dr. Martens has increased by 11,850% since 1960, while that of a Rolex has increased by just 3,725%. Of course, leather boots and watches are different products, yet what does the astronomical price increase say about Dr. Martens today? Has the spirit behind a £2, quality workbook died?

NPS, or Solovair, faced similar issues to Docs, especially following their split in 2003. In 2006, a man by the name of Ivor Tilley, a fellow native of Wollaston, offered to purchase the company in an attempt to save them from going out of business–and he succeeded. Today, Solovair continues to thrive, whilst still producing their iconic shoes, using the same air-cushioned sole, and essential design as Dr. Martens, all while remaining in the very same factory space where they started. Yes, Dr. Martens continues to produce some shoes in the U.K., but their “Made in England” line only accounts for approximately 1% of their total production. 

Of course, Dr. Martens was an already massive establishment in 2003, and it would’ve been incredibly difficult for the company to simply downsize, without losing immensely significant assets. Yet, was sacrificing their morals worth the transition? I’d say that Solovair proves that not only can business prevail, but so can morals. Ultimately, I think that Dr. Marten’s blessings came with a curse: the curse of lots of cash money. For me, fashion, in particular big fashion, should be looked at in the same way as modern agriculture. Must we continue to rely on massive corporations to provide our food? Or are strides towards local agriculture the way forwards, even growing our own? I’d say the latter. Solovair has proven that not all fashion company owners must become wildly wealthy. They’ve proven that work coming from a place of passion for the craft, rather than cash, can allow not only jobs to remain, but for beautiful work to continue. 

Categories
2021 March 2021

WELCOME TO THE FANTASTICALLY MODERN WORLD OF CHARLES JEFFREY

Charles Jeffrey is a thirty-year-old, Scottish born, London-based fashion designer. As the eponymous owner of Charles Jeffrey LOVERBOY, Charles has both created clothing and organized club nights, which he began in 2014 at the Dalston Vogue Fabrics location. At the age of eighteen, Charles moved from home to London in order to pursue a career in fashion. Once in London, Charles attended Central Saint Martins for design, where he went on to work as a design assistant at Jack Willis, and was later chosen for a three-month intern stint at Christian Dior–a remarkable progression for someone of his age. Later in 2015, he joined Topman and Fashion East’s MAN initiative, which allowed him to show in the spring of 2016 during London Fashion week. Charles went on to present three shows with the MAN program until spring of 2017.  

The first show Charles presented with MAN in Autumn of 2016 introduced a distinctly beautiful and quite playful depiction of Charles’ world. It was greatly influenced by the LOVERBOY club nights, an influence which hardly ever leaves Charles’ work. Between the music, decoration, and especially the guests’ outfits, Charles has consistently credited the LOVERBOY nights as a primary source of inspiration for his work, stating that the nights are just as much of a creative pursuit as they are a party. Right off the bat, the music carries you into the club and ever-so-effectively transports you to another place: one which is equally modern and faithful to traditional standards, while also being true to uncompromisingly queer and rave-esque looks. This allows for the styled-up, night-out feel of the show to feel perfectly in place whilst displaying Charles’ remarkable talents as a designer. Pieces such as his cropped tartan overcoat and trousers are a fantastic demonstration of strong tailoring knowledge. The styling is super playful, with the makeup and jewelry creating an incredibly distinct identity for the show–an identity shown quite clearly in the cable knit sweater, which has been mashed up with a graphic of Charles’ art. It’s faithful to tradition, and yet the graphic feels like it could belong on the wall of a club.  

But it’s Charles’ Spring Summer 2017 show which marks when his work began really striking a chord with me. Charles and I are both of a Celtic background, myself being from Ireland, and Charles from Scotland. To me, this factor of Charles’ life becomes apparent throughout this show in particular. Throughout the show, Charles presents tasteful distortions of very classical tailoring–which almost feels reminiscent of the work of respected designers such as Vivienne Westwood as well as the runway work of Jun Takahashi. But I found the most notable aspect of this show to be his use of chain mail. 

Having grown up in Ireland, chainmail is an instant reminder of my own heritage. I remember seeing it in museums, textbooks when learning Irish history, and European history at large. But it’s not just the historical allusion which the chainmail provides. I know that throughout my own life, clothing and fashion has been a method of escapism, and even armor. Here, the chainmail feels as if it’s serving that purpose not only in a literal manner, but also to indicate a confrontation between Charles’ modern world and his own heritage. Throughout the first segment of the show, chainmail is essentially used in its original orientation, lying underneath the clothes of the models almost in true armor fashion–maybe to protect the models from possible rejection, due to the queer nature of the show. The music is ambient and reflective as the models are sent down in classic styles, which have been tailored to fit the androgynous world of LOVERBOY. But right as the music changes, the chainmail stops acting as an homage to the past, and becomes the vehicle Charles uses to carry that former world into our own. Suddenly, the chainmail is decorative and evocative, blossoming from armor into jewelry. There are beautiful knits, whose patterns almost resemble that of chainmail linkage. The silhouettes remain classical and true to genuine Saville Row-traditional style tailoring, yet they are free-spirited and true to Charles’ world. The confrontation between the past and present is most apparent in one particular look, in which a youthful, grunge style sweater is directly and purposefully mashed up with chainmail, expressing Charles’ aim to collide the past with the present. Yet, this fusion is not simply his attempt at an homage, or a call to his heritage–rather, it’s an attempt to carry his culture and people forward into his fantastically modern, queer, non-binary world.  

Obviously, the world is much different now than it was when chain mail was used functionally; however, in many ways, it isn’t. Today, the concept of gender existing as a spectrum is still not widely accepted. Homophobia is sadly all too present in our world today: Charles himself has faced the harsh edge of this reality. In an interview with I-D, Charles recalls being punched in the back of the head during a day out in Glasgow, presumably due to his extravagant mode of dress. He also states that growing up queer in Scotland as a whole was difficult–a struggle which so many today know all too well. Yet even through such hardships, Charles has not rejected his identity, heritage or culture in any way, shape, or form. Instead, he has confronted the ways and morals of the past and introduced it to the progressive standards held by today’s youth. To me, this confrontation is beautifully displayed towards the end of his SS 17 show, with this chainmail-knit hybrid sweater. However, it doesn’t feel as if Charles is attempting to prove or validate himself and his identity to his culture. Instead, he is showing that the beauty of our heritage can live and adapt to the world of today. 

Later in Autumn of 2018, Charles presented his second independent runway show, titled Tantrum. This show, among many of his others, have quickly risen to become some of my all-time favorite runway presentations. If Charles’s SS 17 show is a confrontation between his present self and his heritage, then Tantrum is the outcome. It’s an incredible feat for a designer to comfortably communicate abstract concepts through their designs–a feat which Charles’ has crushed. Not only is Charles capable of advocating for political change, or acceptance of the LGBTQ community, but he is clearly displaying what change and acceptance could actually look like. My favorite looks from the show are those which transform cultural staples like tartan suits and dresses into stunning displays of freedom in terms of sexuality, gender, and expression as a whole. In no way is Tantrum a half-baked attempt at simply re-working cultural staples, or at making a sorely symbolic political statement. Instead, it feels as though Charles is genuinely comfortable utilizing the imagery of his culture and guiding it through the necessary adaptations, if the ways of the past are to survive today. The work which Charles has presented through LOVEBOY is a beacon of light for the youth of today. Charles’ has shown the fashion world that culture, heritage, and history can be wholeheartedly embraced without sacrificing a drop of individuality. 

Charles is exactly the type of designer that today’s world needs, and the fashion world at large seems to agree. In 2016, he was invited to Dover Street Market in New York to deliver an art installation alongside a stock of his clothes. Later, in 2017 he won the British Emerging Talent prize at the 2017 Fashion Awards. The fact is that our definitions of gender, sexuality, and identity are changing. It’s not enough for fashion houses, or even the world at large, to make symbolic posts or statements in support of LGBTQ people, or any demographic at that. Instead, designers such as Charles truly represent our future of fashion: one which is fluid, accepting, and most of all–willing to change.

Categories
2021 February 2021

A BEGINNER’S GUIDE TO MODS, FRED PERRY, AND THE REAL SKINHEADS

About two years ago while visiting home in Galway, I was looking around a TK Maxx. Usually, I wouldn’t find anything for me in a place like that; but this time, I noticed that they had a ton of super cool Ben Sherman polos, which were cheaper than they should be. Now, I’m not one to make hasty purchases, but I’ve got a soft spot for bits like Ben Sherman and Fred Perry. So, I scooped up a nice black and yellow tipped Ben Sherman polo and was feeling pretty good about myself. Later on, I showed the shirt to my Mum and Dad–to which my Mum said, “I think that belongs to some white supremacist group.” That group turned out to be the Proud Boys. 

This moment was incredibly upsetting; I hardly ever buy new things for myself, and the one time I do, it results in people questioning whether I’m a “western chauvinist”. To be a western chavunist is, for a lack of better words, to be a white supremacist. The Proud Boys believe that white, western, traditional culture is best. 

However, the reminder of my resentment towards the Proud Boys and their beliefs was not the sole cause of my disappointment. As far back as I can remember, I’ve been hearing songs such as “Town Called Malice” by The Jam, “Ghost Town” by The Specials, and “Our House” by Madness. For the most part, these groups may be considered punk, or ska, but in particular, they belong to skinhead, Mod, and Rude Boy culture.  This purchase should have been a moment of connection, and of a shared love for the culture to which this polo belongs–the same one that I was raised on. But instead, I felt as if I had been robbed of something which I hold dearly to my heart. It was as though a symbol of my own identity had been stolen from me. 

Mod culture has existed since about the late 1950’s, and was born out of the working class youth of England of the time. The word “Mod”, is a shortened version of the term Modernist, which these youths coined in order to contrast individuals who aligned themselves with “Trad”, or traditional culture. Following World War Two, the youths of England sought to create a modern identity for themselves through their newfound modern world of fashion and music; subsequently, the Mods sparked a revolution for the youth of England. 

The Mods were known for their fashion. Since most Mods were younger working-class individuals, their style was firmly grounded in utility and quality. This tendency was hard to ignore, given the constant sight of Mods rocking military surplus parkas and expertly tailored suits. In 1952, Fred Perry released its very first polo shirt; this quickly struck a chord with the Mods and their modern way of life. Fred Perry’s polo was designed with a function-first ethos, creating a perfect blend of sport functionality and neat tailoring. Second, the polo was affordable to working class youths, who may have had little to spend. But it’s also essential to mention that Fred Perry himself, the eponymous owner of the brand, was a living manifestation of many Mod values. 

Fred Perry was born in 1909 in Stockport England, but later moved to London at the age of eleven. His father, Samuel Perry, was a self-made cotton miller, and was the very first national secretary of the Co-Operative party–a centre-left, labour focused political party in England, which was founded in 1917. Fred Perry himself was often seen as an outsider within the professional tennis world, mostly due to his extensive play in amateur tennis as well as his working-class background. The snottiness did not hinder Fred at all; he managed to secure eight Grand Slam titles, two Pro Slam titles, and six Major double titles. Today, he is almost unanimously regarded as one of the greats in tennis. 

To a certain extent, Fred Perry is a Mod, whether he identifies as one or not. Fred Perry attacked an existing, traditional institution from a modern perspective and became a legend in the process. 

Mod culture was first defined by modern jazz in the late fifties through the sixties. Then, in the mid 1960’s came groups such as The Who and the Small Faces. Later in the late 1970’s, the so-called “Mod Revival” arrived, and was defined by bands such as The Jam, The Specials, Madness, The Purple Hearts, and more. In 1979, the film Quadraphenia was released, which is now seen as an essential piece of Mod art. Throughout all these subcultures and their respective styles there has been one constant: Fred Perry.

Paul Weller, the frontman of The Jam, is known today as the “modfather”. It’s honestly quite difficult to find an old picture of Weller wearing anything but Fred Perry. The characters seen in Quadrophenia are also constantly sporting Perry polos. Even once Mod culture had diffused into the subdivisions of skinhead, ska, and punk, Fred Perry was still the era’s staple brand. The term skinhead was coined because this specific group almost exclusively wore their hair shaved, mostly due to the fact that they were factory-workers, and long hair would get in the way. Skinhead culture in particular is very closely linked to punk and ska. Ska music was born out of working-class immigrant neighborhoods, where immigrants from areas such as the Carribean and Jamaica were able to fuse their culture with punk and Mod culture. In terms of style, besides Fred, the general ethos of Mod style remained, while some of the pieces were swapped around. Skinheads dropped the fish-tail parkas for MA-1 bombers (to those of you with Alpha Industry bombers: thank the Skinheads, not Raf), combat boots and skinny jeans. Ska-heads were known as Rude Boys; who instead of furthering the militaristic style of Mods, took the menswear and tailoring to a new, beautiful extreme. Unfortunately, skinhead subculture is where where the white-nationalist, neo-nazi influence began to worm its way in. 

Paul Weller of The Jam wearing the very Fred Perry polo which the Proud Boys have stolen today

 Sadly, today when many people hear the word “skinhead”, they instantly make the connection to white supremacist and neo-nazi individuals, which unfortunately outshines and clouds the history and the beauty of skinhead culture. But the blame for this connotation can be chalked up to The National Front: a hard-right, fascist political party based in England. They were anti-immigration, anti-LGBT, and essentially wanted a clean-cut, white, male, Christian society. Founded in 1967, the group quickly began to target the younger generation, most notably by recruiting outside of football matches and other youth hubs. Once they had successfully established themselves within these communities, they began to set up music venues and social clubs for their newfound young members. In response to a series of concerts known as “Rock Against Racism” in the late 70’s, the National Front organized their own shows, which they dubbed “Rock Against Communism.” Today, Rock Against Communism is used as a general term to describe any sort of neo-Nazi, white supremacist punk/rock group. As time will tell almost without fail: when given a scapegoat for their troubles, those who are down on their luck will easily fall to hate. The National Front turned certain youth groups of the time against their black, immigrant, diverse neighbors. Since these kids were both poor and surrounded by a wildly diverse community, it was easy for The National Front to take advantage of the situation. Now, unfortunately since at that time, the youth in England was partly defined by mod, punk, and skinhead culture, it was only natural for those who would’ve joined The National Front to be into these specific genres of music. 

From there, the issue of white-nationalism and far-right politics did not depart from skinhead culture, as we see today with the Proud Boys. However, it must not be forgotten that Skinhead culture comes from a place of multiculturalism, of a love for modern art, fashion, and music. Black culture is everywhere for true Mods and Skinheads: the term “Mod” partly stems from their love for modern jazz. The first skinheads arose from ska music scenes–a genre which is a direct love affair between English punk rock and the music of Jamaican and Carribean immigrants. Individuals such as the Proud Boys must not be allowed to cloud this history, and mustn’t be permitted to prevent any individual from calling themselves a skinhead, or from wearing a staple piece of history such as a Fred Perry polo.