Banana Republic When It Was Banana Republic

An anonymous reader in Yucca Valley, California sent me a cool gift in the mail today - a group of Banana Republic catalogs from 1987 and 1988.

The company was founded by a pair of journalists in 1978, and purchased five years later by the Gap. Initially, they sold vintage international military surplus, then started reproducing their most popular items. In 1987 and 1988, the founders were still traveling the world, looking for unique and classic clothes to reproduce. The company didn’t become the vaguely Eurotrashy upscale cousin to the Gap until the 1990s.

Above I’ve photographed a few of the coolest items from the catalog - from Ghurka shorts (a passion of mine, I must admit) to reproduction flight jackets. There’s even a cameo from Bloom County artist Berkeley Breathed. If the catalogs pique your interest, the blog Abandoned Republic is dedicated to the early days of Banana, and features tons of photos of clothes and scans of catalogs. Just be careful: once you get yourself down the rabbit hole, it can be tough to get back out. You’ll be saving eBay searches soon enough.

Ghurka shorts are ALWAYS a win.
wellplaid:

Hemingway captains Pilar.

Ghurka shorts are ALWAYS a win.

wellplaid:

Hemingway captains Pilar.

Since I moved to Los Angeles from San Francisco, I’ve had to adjust to the idea of wearing shorts during the hottest months of the year. I get horrible migraine headaches, weather’s a big trigger, so when it’s over 85 or 90, it’s all shortpants, all the time.

As I’ve come to accept, if not embrace the situation, I’ve tried a lot of shorts. The height-of-summer outfit I keep coming back to is one that’s as at home in the 1930s as it is today. Ghurka shorts, linen shirt and espadrilles.

Ghurka shorts, like khaki pants, have a military heritage. They’re distinguished by their self-belting waist, which was purportedly designed to allow soldiers to tighten their trou as they lost weight in the field. They were originally worn by the British military, but they became a surplus staple, not unlike WWII’s chinos.

When the supply of WWII surplus dried up in the 60s and 70s, they faded away, only to return in the 1980s. Above, an advertisement for the old pre-Gap Banana Republic that celebrates their field heritage.

Nowadays they’re tough to find and rarely seen, but they still cut a flattering, relaxed, elegant figure when they are spotted. My pair is by Bill’s Khakis, though they no longer offer the style (and I had to remove a cargo pocket with a seam ripper). I just snagged a second pair, by J. Peterman, off of eBay. Bonus points go to What Price Glory, the UK military recreationists, for their reasonably price (less than forty bucks) and their authentic forward pleats.

They’re best worn with a shirt tucked in and casual footwear. No need for the kneesocks that British forces wore with their desert boots. If things get hot, roll the hem up a bit. It adds panache.

(Tip of the hat to (and further reading from) Maximinimus, To The Manner Born, The Selvage Yard & Mister Crew)

cooperfrederickson:

Too soon?

Summer is just eight short months away.  Here are some tips: put on some ghurka shorts, skip the shirt, grab a gun.  Also, be one of the greatest in your field, ever.

cooperfrederickson:

Too soon?

Summer is just eight short months away.  Here are some tips: put on some ghurka shorts, skip the shirt, grab a gun.  Also, be one of the greatest in your field, ever.

Ghurka shorts.  Maybe I’ve just been spending too much time with this book, but I’m on board.

Ghurka shorts.  Maybe I’ve just been spending too much time with this book, but I’m on board.