I was tempted to dig out an old magazine ad from the late 1930s showing Miller belts. Why you ask? Well way back in the day when things were slower and just plain better this weird tradition of Native and American folk art intermixed and made a baby. Indian and Mexican studding and conchos cross fertilized rebellious American cowboy culture and motor culture and studded belts were born. Traditional cool warrior cultures fertilized the new terrain and men took their spare time and skills and built shiny spotty armour. From these traditions of studded leather, more commercialized versions started appearing in department store catalogues. Soon entire companies rose up to make what became traditional and in some cases nontraditional or custom spot patterns.
From Wards and Miller to the mists of time I have collected many hundreds of these spotted commercial and custom belts. As part of my Himel Brothers project my good friend Kat has customized some belts in Japan and is going to offer very special hand-made belts and wallets here at Himelbros.com . Kat is an expert on 1930’s style and carefully researched techniques and aesthetics of these early belts and wallets.Â He orders his leather and spots from the U.S.A. He uses only the finest vegetable tanned belt blanks, hand stamps and colours them and individually sets the spots (metal studs) one by one. Cut a hole set a spot and push in the prongs. Each belt is finished with a New Old Stock original period Navajo stamped belt buckle. I have a very limited supply of original buckles straight from the past. There is no fake aging in slow leather making.Â The spirit of Wabi Sabi is in play. The leather will stain and develop the character of its owners. So as you wear it, it will interact and take on the shape, scars and character of its owner. We are offering ready-made versions of these fine belts on the website in the Drygoods section, and we are now able to make custom orders if you need it The wallets are hand cut, stitched and finished with nice polished edges. These are really beautiful icons or artifacts, and everyone deserves one good thing!
I seem to get a lot of questions regarding the “cost” of my jackets. I have noticed a rather disturbing trend regarding the use of the term “vintage” and worse, the use of the designs from the past. I rarely focus on the negative regarding the emerging new brands that are either heritage brands, or heritage based brands but of late these brands have been appearing in somewhat of a “frenzy”. Every week there seems to be a new clothing brand, or an old clothing brand, producing a replica vintage product. It would almost appear that as long as a garment contains some tweed, oilskin or horsehide it is now “authentic”.
Last week a leather jacket company called me looking for horsehide leather. They were quite frustrated that they could not purchase horsehide leather from Horween for 3 dollars a square foot. This was a very very old original California leather jacket maker and as I am an amicable fellow I offered up my expertise on available horsehide and design in the hopes that there would be a small exchange of history in trade. I was rushed off the phone, the company in question taking my information and assurance that there is not a “cheap” supply of vintage horsehide, and has since ignored my requests for a historical inquiry.
Last week I also saw some very interesting knockoff 1960s hippy jackets that were near perfect replicas of some original jackets…the problem being that the sewing techniques and leather were not of the same quality and character of the originals. Ok, here is my point. I am sure there are cheaper ways to simulate “authenticity” and certainly anybody can put a D pocket on a jacket and call it vintage design. The real art of making a perfect jacket is in spending the time and money to go back to the best of the best of handmade materials, cutting and techniques of manufacture. These are not always easily discernible on the surface. There is no shortcut or cheap way to imitate this kind of “authenticity”. Often the slightest improvement in technique and materials can increase the labour and cost of a great jacket exponentially. But isn’t that what one should strive for in an ‘authentic” jacket? I will not knock others efforts, and I am sure that many will not see the value in my search for the best of the best. But I think it is important to acknowledge the quest and be honest in the authenticity of what your selling not just what you are branding. The best way to be sure is to ask questions, and from my perspective share the quest and the process. Every person deserves one good thing, inform yourself, ask questions, and spend your money with brands you can trust to be true to your own values.
Everyday I speak to potential buyers of leather jackets. The two most common inquiries by buyers relate to sizing and whether to buy a vintage jacket or a new one. The answers would seem obvious to both questions, but this is not the case. Firstly sizing is about the most difficult issue when dealing with clothing. Buying online does not allow for trying on a jacket to test the fit. How do you figure out if something is going to fit? What do you do if the garment doesn’t fit and how do you avert problems before they happen? It would seem simple enough to measure yourself or a garment but until you do it rarely does the reality sink in that there are many ways to measure and it is not an exact science.
Firstly I have made a low rent video on how to measure yourself. Figuring out your size and body type is about the most difficult component of shopping via the internet. My video while humorous is only just the primer on self measurement…
I often refer to it when a customer calls me trying to figure out if something fits. Secondly measuring is a two person sport. It is virtually impossible to measure yourself without the help of a second person. I always recommend that you measure yourself and you measure a garment that is similar in design to the one your purchasing. I personally like my customers to send me a picture of themselves from the flat front on view and from the side in order to evaluate the body type. Real clothes hounds know their measurements but most of us have barely a clue. It does not help that sizing has become completely dishonest today. Even though WW 2 required a new set of standards and measurements for garments to cloth the millions of lads going off to war, it appears modern manufacturers have skewed true measurements to appease the growing obesity epidemic. Nowhere does this become more apparent then when I am comparing vintage (true) measurements to modern garments. This adds a further complexity when someone is ordering a jacket. They may believe they are a size 42 when in fact they are a size 48. They may believe they are a Medium or an XL without any clues what those sizes mean. Even more tricky is trying to compare measurements. If you measure a garment with a drop shoulder, or a shoulder pad, your arm measurement will differ to a raised shoulder line. Ultimately the safest way to figure out your size is to try on a bunch of jackets that are sized and similar in style at a store and noting the measurements of the jacket (short of trying on the actual garment you wish to purchase). I recommend two things when measuring: Get a friend to help and do it a bunch of times or,Â even better go to a suit store and get fitted or measured by a professional.
Number two on the recommendation list is find a similar garment to what you want and take the two dimensional measurements of that garment on the floor. For example my jackets have an average 4 inches of extra room in the chest for movement typical of vintage jackets. If your chest measurement iis a 38, then my jacket measurement would likely be 42 or 2 x 21 inches on the chest. Seems complex eh? The real key is to know yourself. Go to a tailor. Acknowledge your build and any freakish body dimensions you may have. If you have monkey arms accept it and order extra long arms (typically around 26 inches) if you have wide hips and a narrow chest you must note it. And if you have a big belly you better mention it because many vintage cuts will not fit at all! And for the bodybuilder set…if you don’t note it I can guarantee it wont fit because it is very hard to accommodate huge muscles. Part of my strategy is to have stores globally where you can try on a jacket. Short of that I am working on cotton mockups for paying customers to try on before ordering. Hopefully there wont be too many issues here.
Now to point number 2. Vintage or custom jacket? Well each one has its plus’ and minus’. It is a common misconception that collectible vintage jackets are unaffordable. While they are a “limited” resource I still get many vintage jackets that I sell both in my Ebay Auctions and in my Dry Goods section on my Himel Brothers website. Vintage jackets have definite plus’ in that they are broken in and develop crazy character and patina. Usually because I dont sell jackets that are not finest quality hides and the leather has reached a state of creasing and character that makes them pre worn awesomeness without any fakery. Beyond character the jackets are absolutely authentic in cut. The down side is of course they are partially through their life, with a strong possibility of failures of liners, zippers and seams.Â On a good vintage jacket these are all designed to be repaired and replaced. The upside of vintage is also the downside. If you wanted to break in your own jacket or get maximum wear out of it then you need your own new one. Plus often you will never find your exact size or style. In this case you definitely need a new jacket. Here is the kicker, outside of incredibly rare designs and brands, it costs more to make a truly authentic perfect vintage style jacket the to purchase a vintage one. So vintage is likely where you will find a deal. This is usually not the case if you are looking for a Trojan or a Buco jacket but buyer beware not all replica or vintage jacket makers are equal. There are a million websites that debate the quality and characteristics of each manufacturer. I have a particular philosophy when approaching the issue of vintage vs. new. I buy rare designs and vintage jackets, hard to find collectible jackets to add to the HBL collection and I make jackets that are inspired from old jackets or replicate old jackets allowing my customers to get perfect vintage quality. I like eccentric rare leather jackets and designs because I believe everybody deserves one good thing!