While Alden continues to make some of the finest shoes in the world, and Red Wing is the standard bearer when it comes to rugged American made footwear, the market for American made sporty shoes has been extremely limited. New Balance has of course been the foremost producer of American sneakers for some time, and upstarts like Victory have definitely created a lot of excitement with its small-batch-no-logo approach, but no one has really come along and put an American spin on all of the super-clean stitch-down sneakers that have been coming out of Italy. That is, up until this summer when our old friends at Rancourt & Co. up in Lewiston, Maine launched these two classic American sneakers called the Court Classics. Made from full-grain cowhide leather, these simple sneakers were at least two years in the making with Rancourt taking note of the void in the market for this type of footwear. It seems the inspiration was equal parts want and need. “We developed the court classic because we felt that a simple yet traditional high quality leather sneaker at an affordable price was missing from the US market.” And the results are impressive.
“Sailing dinghies down the Charles, M.I.T. men sometimes convey an impression of leisurely living,” imparted the May 7, 1956 issue of LIFE in a story headlined “Amidst Grinding Work, Some Fun”. “But in their fraternities and their rooms on campus, these same men line the walls with banners proclaiming, ‘Tech is Hell.’ Boasting they have the toughest regimen of any U.S. campus, they point out that they average 55 hours a week in class and laboratories, nearly double that of their liberal arts counterparts at Harvard.”
The magazine seemed at pains to point out that the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (est. 1861), which other college men might accuse of producing “milquetoasts”, was in fact doing our country an essential service in a time when the Soviets seemed to be outpacing us in the realm of science. Another article titled “The Need for Better Scientists and M.I.T.’s Answer” focused on recruitment strategies and their commitment to turning out more and better engineers and scientists that the pesky Reds.
During my summer vacation to Maine earlier this month I spent a perfect Saturday morning at the Arundel Flea Market. It being Maine, there was a plethora of vintage hunting and fishing tackle on hand. The best of which was a deadstock 1960s LL Bean fly fishing vest (as pictured above), which I acquired in short order as it fit perfectly and of course because I of course needed it. Flea markets like the one in Arundel are a fairly common coinsurance in Maine, especially along route US1 which is lined with antiques stores and all sorts of other vintage hunting opportunities. The dealers are friendly, the prices are reasonable and you tend to find all sorts of interesting things and different themes than you would in Connecticut or New York. The fishing and nautical vibes are strong as are the selection of other New England centric goods. There are also fresh coffee and donuts, so there’s that. Not a bad way to spend a Saturday morning.
While lots of people come to gawk at the insanely gorgeous cars on the lawn at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance every August, there are also plenty of men with very deep pockets who come to do some serious shopping. There are a few blue-chip auctions during Monterey Car Week, of which the headliner is the three-day event produced by RM Sotheby’s. This year they’re also staging an auction-within-an-auction, with one of the world’s best car collections, called the Pinnacle Portfolio, going up for sale. RM is billing it as “the most significant and valuable private automobile collection ever presented at a single-day auction,” including everything from early model Ferrari race cars to the final production Enzo, gifted to the late Pope John Paul II.
In addition to the 25 Pinnacle cars, which include both classic and modern machines, are some of the most expensive and desirable cars in the world are set to cross the auction block. Top of the class is a 1953 Jaguar C-Type Works race car (top photo), which finished fourth overall at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1953, and is the second of only three “Works Lightweight” cars ever built by Jaguar in thin-gauge aluminum. It’s expected to bring in $9 million or more, making it one of the world’s most expensive Jaguars. It’s easily the most beautiful car in the sale in our opinion, though the competition is fierce – the 1950 Ferrari 275S/340 America Barchetta by Scaglietti (below) isn’t exactly an eyesore either. It could fetch $8 million-plus, in case you were wondering.
While in Texas for the Cadillac ATS-V adventures I took some time to cruise over to see my old friends at the Austin Speed Shop. Always welcoming and unpretentious —even when I show up unannounced— the guys at the Speed Shop are always open to showing me around and letting me checking things out. It’s a testament to their collective chill. It sort of reminds me of when I am traveling and I find a cool store that could be interesting to highlight on the site. At lot of times people who don’t know me will tell me “no pictures”. Though interestingly, 99% of the guys with the coolest, best merchandised places will always say yes and give me unlimited access to take as many photos as I would like. I think this goes back to confidence in what they do. Like the Speed Shop, they know what they do is unique enough that a few pictures won’t instantly become a facsimile in some other place.
Despite all the hype that the medium has garnered as of late, street photography as an artistic style is marked by delayed acceptance. Vivian Maier, Bill Cunningham, Diane Arbus the entire cast of the film Everybody Street, these photographers practiced their craft for decades, but have only recently drawn the eye of the mainstream art world. That many of these artists have not been able to garner an audience until well into their careers (or in Maier’s case until well after her death) is a testament to the fickle sensibilities of the art world, but it does not detract from the quality of these artist’s work. Garry Winogrand stands out among this pack as a prime example of a street photography that is finally getting his much deserved day in the sun.
It seems to me that the reason Ben Clymer ascended to the top of the watch media food chain (or more significantly, the online media food chain in general?) has to do with his ability to put things into perspective. Ben’s got a nose for watches and obviously lots of other very cool things, but the thing i’ve admired most about him is his deft skill at describing subtle things in powerful and insightful ways. You’ll catch these interesting little takes in everyday writings on Hodinkee, and in all sorts of other places like this Mr Porter Aficionado piece. At the minute twenty six mark Ben talks about the significance around his Universal Geneve Tri-Compax and the larger importance the original owner’s grandfather had to horology. Clymer then goes on to connect those things back to his own grandfather, to watches and the larger meaning all of those things have to him. Those are the moments and circles of thought which impress me most about Ben and Hodinkee. I like watches a lot, but obviously not on the same level as him. But I like the way in which Ben talks about watches and what makes them important and interesting.
I think that it is perfectly fine to just own things simply because you just like them. It’s also fine to own nice things that you know nothing about. And it occurs to me that nothing must be better than being at a cocktail party or dinner and blowing someone away with hyper in-depth knowledge of your specific timepiece when someone makes a small remark about liking your watch as Ben must be able to do. “Did you want to talk about the weather or were you just making chitchat?”
Clymer’s combination of good taste, sense of significance and attention to detail should make us all think a bit more about what we own and why we own it. Or maybe even what we aspire to own — a 356 and a Paul Newman Daytona doesn’t seem like a bad way to start that list.