John F. Kennedy in SI, 1960

I was going through the garage of an estate sale this morning, and happened upon this old issue of Sports Illustrated. It’s from 1960 (the ad on the back references NBC’s coverage of “The NFL Championship Game”), and then-President-Elect John F. Kennedy on the ocean at Hyannisport.

For you prep fetishists, it’s close to perfection, but it’s a lovely lesson for the rest of us, too. Not much more than a blue polo, khakis, some canvas topsiders and a cotton sweater (or a tweedy sportcoat) are enough for the future president to look stunning.

Consider Vintage Ray Bans

The price of sunglasses can be pretty ridiculous nowadays, ranging anywhere from $150 to $750 for well-known brand names. And as many people know, most of those frames are just made by Luxottica – an Italian company that not only manufacturers ~80% of the major brands you see on the market, but also owns many of the retail outlets. I personally have no issue with the quality of their frames, but it’s true that their near-monopolistic position means that you’re likely paying very inflated prices. 

If you’re OK with spending that much on sunglasses, consider getting some vintage Ray Bans. Before Ray Ban became just another name under the Luxottica label, they were American owned and made by New York’s Bausch & Lomb. Those vintage frames are still being bought and sold today by boutique eyewear stores and eBay sellers, and they’re as classic in shape as anything sold today, but have a “vintage cool” factor that you won’t find anywhere else.

Some models to consider:

  • The Aviator: The most famous of Ray Ban’s frames, and the one that got Bausch & Lomb into sunglasses. Like with all the models listed here, there are a number of distinguishing marks on vintage pairs, but the most telling is whether or not you see a BL etched into the lenses (although, some vintage models dont have that BL etching, and you’ll have to search for other identifying marks). 
  • The Shooter: As the name suggests, the Shooter was originally designed for rifle shooters. They were popular in the ‘70s, and the o-ring you see at the bridge is meant to help strengthen the frames at that junction (important when bullet cartridges are flying back at your face).
  • The Outdoorsman: Another early Ray Ban model, this one was introduced in 1939 as an offshoot of the company’s famous Aviators, but designed for hunting, shooting, and fishing enthusiasts. It’s distinguished by the “sweat bar” at the bridge and temple end pieces.
  • The General: Originally released in the mid-80s for Ray Ban’s 50th anniversary, this model is one of the most coveted by collectors. The originals have a uniquely high gold content and a hollowed out font for the “50” at the lenses.

For a pair of vintage frames in good condition, you can expect to pay anywhere from ~$150 for your standard Aviators to $1,000 for The General. Unfortunately, if you have to wear prescription lenses (like me), then you may want to stick to newer models, as so much of what you’re paying for in vintage sunglasses are those original lenses. We have some suggestions in our sunglasses guide.

Discovered: The Oldest Trousers Known
These are 3000-year-old Central Asian pants, worn by horse-riding nomadic people. A generous seat and narrow legs are like modern riding pants. Personally, I’m most impressed by the beautiful weaving.
(Thanks O-Dub!)

Discovered: The Oldest Trousers Known

These are 3000-year-old Central Asian pants, worn by horse-riding nomadic people. A generous seat and narrow legs are like modern riding pants. Personally, I’m most impressed by the beautiful weaving.

(Thanks O-Dub!)

Via the Cooper-Hewitt design blog, a pair of men’s stockings from the late 18th or early 19th century. Surprisingly, they’re machine-made.

Via the Cooper-Hewitt design blog, a pair of men’s stockings from the late 18th or early 19th century. Surprisingly, they’re machine-made.

One of my favorite ways to waste time is browsing through militaria and surplus shops online. These days, your average Army-Navy store doesn’t have much actual surplus, but there are still some shops on the web which cater to enthusiasts and sell both actual old stuff and careful reproductions.

A few choice items I’ve run across lately (L to R, top to bottom), besides my old favorites, Gurkha shorts:

This incredible embroidered silk nightcap was worn by an Englishman in the middle of the 16th century. According to the Smithsonian’s Object A Day blog, it was worn at home informally, but not to bed. What a spectacular thing.

This incredible embroidered silk nightcap was worn by an Englishman in the middle of the 16th century. According to the Smithsonian’s Object A Day blog, it was worn at home informally, but not to bed. What a spectacular thing.

Abandoned Republic, a blog all about Banana Republic, back when it was cool, has a wonderful scan of a 1985 profile of the company’s founders in Metropolitan Home magazine. Catnip for the safari shirt set.

Abandoned Republic, a blog all about Banana Republic, back when it was cool, has a wonderful scan of a 1985 profile of the company’s founders in Metropolitan Home magazine. Catnip for the safari shirt set.

There are some truly stunning photos in this roundup of Carl Van Vechten’s portraits of Harlem figures of the 1940s, 50s and 60s. Above is James Earl Jones at 30 in 1961. Don’t miss W.E.B. Dubois with striped suit and handkerchief or the almost distressingly handsome Harry Belafonte.

There are some truly stunning photos in this roundup of Carl Van Vechten’s portraits of Harlem figures of the 1940s, 50s and 60s. Above is James Earl Jones at 30 in 1961. Don’t miss W.E.B. Dubois with striped suit and handkerchief or the almost distressingly handsome Harry Belafonte.

Fashion of the 1930s at the FIT Museum

Curator G. Bruce Boyer says that modern fashion began in the 1930s. His new exhibit, at the FIT Museum in New York, is “Elegance in an Age of Crisis: Fashions of the 1930s.” Director Ben Harrison talked with Boyer at the posh opening party for the exhibit, and the curator drew the line between the Victorian and Edwardian fashions that still prevailed through the 1920s, and the strikingly contemporary styles of just a decade later.

The exhibit features vintage examples, ranging from evening clothes to trench coats to Fred Astaire’s shoes. In the early 30s, America was tightening its belt, but contemporary style was just getting started.

The exhibition runs through April 19th at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York.

Crazy Stuff on eBay

I spend a lot of time digging up auctions for our eBay Roundup and Inside Track posts. Sometimes, when I want to take a break from looking up stuff on eBay I … look up stuff on eBay. Lately, I’ve been really fascinated by vintage military and biker gear. To be sure, really beautiful Italian suits and modern streetwear labels are nice (and often what we list in our roundups), but for the purposes of just browsing, they rarely capture my imagination like these vintage pieces. 

Such items are easy to find in retrospect. All you have to do is search for a term, click the “Completed listings” checkbox on the left side of eBay’s page, and then sort by “Price + Shipping: highest first” (that’s in the drop down menu on the right side of eBay’s site). That’ll give you the highest priced auctions that just ended, which usually yields some crazy stuff that collectors recently fought over. 

For example, take leather A-2s. The A-2 is a military jacket worn by US pilots in World War II. They’re distinguished by a fold down collar, zippered front, and two flapped pockets. Ever since there’s been a vintage clothing collectors scene, there have been A-2 fanatics. The really awesome pieces tend to have sewn-on patches on the front and hand painted art at the back. Jesse put up a link to a Collectors Weekly article a while ago, and it has some interesting history about how these paintings got onto the backs of our servicemen. 

Anyway, do a competed listing search for “leather A-2” (without the quotation marks) and sort by price highest ended. You’ll get really incredible looking things such as this leather jacket with a painted demon’s head and this one that says “Flying Jenny." Other cool terms to search for? I like "motorcycle club," "car club," "engineer boots," "Champion shirt," and "Buco," just to name a few. Make sure you’re looking in the "Clothing, Shoes, and Accessories" section, however, lest you want to wade through a lot of non-menswear related results. 

Wearekolas also aggregates some of these finds, although they don’t update their blog too often. The above pictures are from them. This jacket in particular is a doozy, although it has that damaged shoulder line I talked about last week.