The Valstar story could be divided up into two distinct eras: Before-Valstarino and After-Valstarino. B.V. Valstar was a completely different brand, one that had been founded in the late eighteen-hundreds as “English Fashion Waterproof” with a focus upon raincoats. In 1911, this company moved their offices to Milan to become Italy’s first rainwear company, dropping their convoluted name along the way in favor of the more streamlined Valstar moniker. For the next twenty-four years they continued to churn out effective, if not ordinary, trench coats, until the creation of the Valstarino in 1935. With its cropped body, knit collar and unstructured design, the Valstarino was a revolution, not just for Valstar, but for Italian style as a whole.
As more and more of New York’s endearingly grimy dive bars are pushed out daily (R.I.P. Milady’s) to make room for whatever organic farm to table “bespoke ale experience,” is trending that month, the precious few hole-in-the-wall joints that we have left in this city must be treasured, least they end up out on the curb like a kicked keg. And no gritty saloon is more worthy of our admiration than McSorley’s, the self proclaimed “first Irish Tavern” in New York City.
With a tap list that includes just two options, a grimy straw floor, and an interior that hasn’t been altered since 1910, “McSorley’s Old Ale House” on 7th Street is where you go when you’ve had enough of the preening and pretension that runs rampant in downtown’s bar scene. “Light” and “dark” are the only words you’ll need to know at McSorley’s, as their minute mugs are exclusively filled with the soapy suds of their two in-house brews.
Could it be? Are the leaves already changing? Is the temperature already dropping? Is winter already rounding the corner on us? It feels like summer started just a month ago. Maybe it’s because here in New York, we never had to fully face the syrupy air and searing heat that mark most East Coast summers. But we’ll admit, a mild summer felt like a gift from heavens after last winter’s endless freeze, but it also ensured that those frostbitten memories never quite faded away.
We can still recall mornings where we thought our fingers were going to crack in half, afternoons where seven layers weren’t quite enough, and evenings in which the prospect of building a fire right on the floor of the living room didn’t really seem that insane. This winter experience has us thinking of the weather ahead and considering the purchase of the ultimate overcoat: The Polo Coat.
As we noted a few months ago, Abercrombie & Fitch catalogs are fairly common, and while these relics do present a glimpse into the once great brand, we would trade them all for just a few photographs of A&F’s old Madison Avenue location. This twelve story emporium at the corner of Madison and 45th towered over midtown Manhattan, encapsulating every conceivable item that the modern man could ever need. At its height the shop contained a shooting range, a fishing pond, an art gallery, and a golf school, but in the mid-century the store (and really the brand at large) began to shift away from outdoor pursuits towards home goods as a way of courting a younger audience that had no interest in A&F’s hunting heritage. It was around this time that they introduced Omersa’s leather ottomans to the shop. Abercrombie & Fitch was an Omersa stockist from the sixties through the eighties, but the brand’s story starts back in 1927, when “Old Bill,” a luggage maker for Liberty of London crafted a pig shaped footrest from his leftover pigskin.
Tourist traps the world over are littered with self-proclaimed caricaturists, but these shoddy scribblers that churn out cutesy watercolors for a handful of cash are nothing compared to the classics. Over time, the term caricaturist has come to signify an artist that is inferior, one that creates works more for shallow entertainment than for true expression. Caricaturists of the past did paint in a style that largely endures today in the rapid-fire works that hang throughout touristy locales, but back then it was the message that the artist was trying to convey through this aesthetic that really mattered. As Marshall McLuhan would say, the medium has now become the message, and that’s a shame, because it has trivialized the works of great artists like Miguel Covarrubias, who were really saying something through their caricatures.
Book/Shop was founded by Erik Heywood in Oakland, California back in 2007 as a way to showcase and sell his substantial collection of used and rare books. For years, Heywood’s shop remained comfortably in California, with the occasional pop-up elsewhere, but earlier this summer Book/Shop officially found an East Coast home at New York’s C.H.C.M. Tucked in the corner of C.H.C.M.’s Bond Street store, the Book/Shop permanent pop-up will feature a rotating selection of art books, as well as hard-to-find texts of all sorts. These books were no doubt picked as much for their design as for their subject matter, and their arresting covers are the perfect compliment to C.H.C.M.’s sharp space.
On the left side of the Battenwear showroom hangs a vintage elementary school map of the United States, with each adjoining state painted in a different shade. You might recall a hanging such as this from your childhood days behind the desk, but in Battenwear’s showroom the map appears less like an educational artifact and more like a representative collage of America’s distinct yet interconnected territories. I tend to think of Battenwear in similar terms, as a brand that revels in the open flow of American style while celebrating regional quirks.