It’s All About the Labels

A Dandy Guide To Dating Vintage Menswear From WWI to 1960

Sue Nightingale’s process for dating vintage is simple: look at the label. Most of A Dandy Guide To Dating Vintage Menswear WWI to 1960 is devoted to how to properly read and identify them. Only a few pages in, I found myself interested in learning just how to date denim, despite the fact that I haven’t worn jeans in about 12 years.

The book is filled with black and white ads for Sears, J.C. Penny, and other major menswear labels from WWI to 1960. Throughout the book, we see the graphic design of labels become less ornate and more regulated as the decades pass, showing us how subtle visual clues can reveal the exact date of the piece. A Dandy Guide goes into great detail over legislation that affected the look of labels during the time—incredibly helpful and very thorough—making some key notes on this section will help this guide become more functional for the reader. A quick reading of this section will familiarize you with the decades you are dealing with, but the book is a guide and having it handy while actually dating clothing will be when it’s most useful.

The second half of the book is an explanation of the general styles and trends of the time as well as practical care instructions for vintage clothing. Nightingale outlines popular styles on the pages filled with old pictures and advertisements, then gives tips as to what to initially look for when dating vintage. An entire chapter devoted to robes and “smoking jackets” is something we rarely see in contemporary men’s fashion, and is an interesting reminder as to how much the lives of men have changed—and thus their clothing. The same can be said for men’s work clothing. Denim was functional long before it was trendy.

A Dandy Guide to Dating Vintage is a valuable resource to anyone interested in vintage clothing, men’s or women’s, as the tips and tricks are helpful for both. Above all, this book is a guide. It’s not an evening read for the bathtub, but it’s not supposed to be. It’s designed to be lugged to Value Village with you the next time you’re eyeing those velvety smoking robes in the men’s aisle.

photography // Brianne Burnell

Book Review: Fugitive Denim

Rachel Louise Snyder’s Fugitive Denim comes with the tagline, “a moving story of people and pants in the borderless world of global trade” — and that’s exactly what it is. Having had no previous introduction to the ins and outs of things like global textile laws or the mechanics of a cotton gin, I was prepared for a book full of hard-to-follow facts and, although determined to learn, feared I might be in over my head. But Snyder (an author, journalist, and professor from Washington D.C.) takes this intimidating subject matter and makes it not just interesting, but relatable. Throughout the book, she shares the stories of people in five different countries: from cotton pickers in Azerbaijan to fashion designers in the United States, bridging our mental distance between the clothes on our bodies and where — and who — they come from.

Fugitive Denim begins by explaining the termination of the World Trade Organization’s Multi-Fibre Agreement (MFA) in 2005 — an agreement that, in simplest terms, “set limits on the amount of textiles and apparel any one country could export to the United States.” According to Snyder, limiting exports to the United States meant that no single developing country could have a monopoly on the developed world’s market, giving many small nations (such as Cambodia, Laos, Peru, Nepal) a way of entering a market in which they otherwise might not have been able to compete. With the termination of the MFA, competition would increase and clothing prices would drop. Developing countries previously given access to large consumer markets would now have to compete against manufacturing giants like China and India without help. It’s the uncertainty and upheaval set into motion by dissolving these laws that Snyder addresses in Fugitive Denim. She puts names and stories to the people whose livelihoods are affected by the global textile industry and in doing so, makes readers aware of exactly what exists within every fibre of their pants.

There were moments where Snyder’s story felt disjointed. While the book is organized into four major parts, they have no title to indicate the section’s overlying theme, and the chapters have titles such as, “The Little Volcanoes we Carry,” and “The Ghosts in the Trees,” which are interesting and poetic, but give the reader little indication of what they’re getting into. In a book that attempts to address such a far-reaching and complicated topic, a little structural guidance would have gone a long way.

Most interesting to me was the writing itself. I expected a book about the intricacies of textile laws and their effects around the world to read more like a textbook than a good novel — but it doesn’t. Snyder presents facts with creativity, offering information to the reader through stories about people. One that stands out in my mind is a garment worker and former union leader in Cambodia who notes, after recounting being attacked on her way to protest for holiday pay, “We all die; I wasn’t afraid of dying. In living we lose control.” Along with effectively telling the story of globalized fashion, Fugitive Denim is full of these kinds of small and stirring observations, making it, truly, a moving story of people and pants.

Fugitive Denim: A Moving Story of People and Pants in the Borderless World of Global Trade by Rachel Louise Snyder.
W. W. Norton & Company, 2009
review and photography by Hailey Siracky

LADY LUCK – Announcing the Winner of the Gambler Giveaway

Find more great pics of Kenny here.

Well, kittens, it looks as though the demand for high-waisted jeans is not yet at a fever pitch. Fair enough. To be entirely honest, choosing denim on the internet is risky business no matter what. But a few of you brave souls rose to the challenge and one of you is about to reap a chic reward…

Though there weren’t a ton of entries, it was still a tough call. I’m always impressed with a girl who knows how to throw a punch – real or faux – and I admit the idea of having some sassy lady actually singing “Lady” while wearing Lady jeans is almost too good to be true… But in the end I had to go with the girl who was not only chosen by fate (what are the odds you’d be listening to Kenny at the moment you read the post), but who also knew the name of Kenny’s backup band. I never could help being impressed by trivia.

Congratulations, unnamed girl from Victoire! Get in touch and let me know where (and to whom) I should address this fancy package and I’ll put it in the mail, toot sweet!