Just the right timing. Just the right location. Just the right product. A perfect storm has three different weather-related phenomena combined to create its absoluteness. An equation that can easily be applied to 2008’s own fashionable perfect storm... Classics. This sartorial downpour is actually seven years in the making and is just starting to reach its critical mass in the coming months of 2009. Wake up and smell the thornproof dressing…
Phenomena number one comes in the Fall of 2001. New York’s alarm clock goes off and no one can find the snooze button. For your stylish narrator the location was a Greenwich Village apartment in the last semester of his senior year at NYU film school. For most it was a television set everywhere in the world except New York’s financial district. In a matter of moments the meaning of American was redefined for all. Shot. Blead. Gasping for breath. Dead? We were left with the why and the lasting impressions that have lead us to today.
Back to basics in the from of the parts… The people… Like a world-class athlete losing his form, we all reevaluated our lives, meanings, priorities, and yearned for simpler times. Style’s collective subconscious of innovators came up with an answer… Forever, built-to-last, classics… It was in the air and could not be denied and would soon become a tangible series of events that would take several years to unfold.
Flash forward to 2004… Brendon Babenzien’s nautical inspirations of Noah, by way of the shores of Long Island, are replaced with holiday parties in the deep woods of the Adirondacks. Earnest Sewn introduces C.C. Filson bags, Case & Sons knives, in-house moleskin hacking jackets with fly-fishing details, waxed Barbour coats and Carpe Diem hand-made cobbled boots to the likes of the Thom Browne boys on Little West 12th Street, *the Supreme kids off Lafayette, and the Wall Street types with deep pockets just trying to keep up. The parties were just that… A mix of all the right elements at just the right time. The downtown kid wearing the latest camouflage Red Wings from Harajuka with raw cuffed selvedge, looking at just the right buffalo plaid cruiser on the cedar hanger, getting jocked by just the right Eastern European model, and finally just the right businessmen sucking it all in.
* The likes of James Jebbia (owner of Supreme & Union) and his staff have been influencing and innovating for years, before ground zero was merely a ton of debris. Union was the first to carry countless classic lines like 68 & Brothers, McNairy Brothers, Evisu, Duffer of St. George, Penfield, Post O'Alls and others. There was a time when the only boutique you could find Clarks was by import through Union. There was no such thing as Originals and Supreme was doing collaborations with Padmore & Barnes (the original Irish manufacturer of Clarks), before David Z. was merely a bridge and tunnel tourist destination. The people associated with the Chapter 4 conglomerate have offered a lot to this city by way of style and unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) the media and fashion world has almost always missed the real innovators here.
In the following year the calm of the perfect storm's synergistic elements approached the shore of my island. Bleecker Street sees the addition of RRL (previously outposted on an inconspicuous nook of Mulberry Street, ironically across the way from Supreme, with no foot traffic, but the true brilliance of the Ralph Lauren brand at full volume for its true heads, the grown-up lo-life). Rugby takes its collegiate inspired designs from the tradition of Newbury Street to the NYU dorms of University Place (where twenty years prior Russell Simmons and Rick Rubin practically invented modern hip-hop). Taavo Somer starts mixing in some irony of his own with the brilliant backwoods staples of his youth in the form of Freeman’s. And when everybody in-the-know was hiking the woods of upstate New York another RRL store pops up on the corner of Prince in Nolita.
And then there were the true New York hipsters. But a strange thing happened in that summer of ’05. John Leland releases Hip: The History. And a true, genuine, New York subculture dies, just like that, with the publication of one best-seller… like the last words of Mark Twain, like the last joke of Lenny Bruce, like the last blow of Miles Davis.
But an even stranger thing happens… It spawns a new generation of youthful tourists eager to dwell the cheaper parts of lower Manhattan and Brooklyn. A flock of recently graduated, wet behind the ears, liberal arts educated idealists searching for their own meaning, career, and path in my beloved city...
As it seemed all my friends were leaving for the west coast and beyond, a generation of Kansas, Maine, and Oregon raised on irony, lies, and coddling (or syndicated television, the Bush administration, and eighth place trophies) wanted to buy into the culture with their own version of what-it-means-to-be-hip-makeovers. But they also brought an element of their own traditional Americana upbringing in the form of homesick Woolrich buffalo plaids, Bean Boots, and Levi's.
All a staple of what it means to be American.
The final element of this perfect storm comes in the form of technology. The best and worst invention of my time… The internet… The blog. At its most beautiful it’s Scott Schuman’s The Sartorialist, which launches late that summer. At its worst, well not much point in even pointing that out. In the coming years each one of these phenomena grow. The realer-than-life instability and virtual collapse of politics and economics begs for the comfort of Mama’s mac-n-cheese, cozy Penfield flannel shirts, and freshly cut wood for the fireplace. More stores and better product from the likes of Ralph Lauren, J.Crew, Supreme, Steven Alan, Jack Spade, Nom De Guerre, Rogues Gallery, Engineered Garments, Woolrich Woolen Mills and others. And finally '08 brings the year of the blog in the form of some of the newest, most inventive, most refreshing entertainment, news, information, stories and visuals from the likes of A Continuous Lean, Men Style, H(Y)R Collective, Selectism, Hypebeast, Kanye West Blog, Valet, Highsnobiety, Inquiring Mind, JJJJound, Secret Forts and me... Yeah, I said it.
It’s no coincidence that… The break out artists of 2008 prefer buffalo plaids, watchman caps, waxed cotton, and moccasins. The break out designers are all engineering their own version of Americana. And the break out style is classic. Fleet Foxes, Bon Iver, Vampire Weekend, Michael Bastian, Daiki Suzuki, Alex Carleton, Stefan Miljanic and others are all part of something much bigger than themselves. Much bigger than the moment. They are not only caught in the eye of the perfect storm. They are the perfect storm... My only hope is that they, we, us… are able to ride it out…
- Jake Davis