Wednesday, 9 January 2019

Jungle Heritage: The Pike Brothers 1952 Lowkinawa Boot

The 1952 Pike Brothers Lowkinawa Boots have their origin in the jungles of South East Asia.

US forces in WWII had problems with their issue footwear going rotten in the Pacific Island jungles, several attempts were made to produce a boot capable of surviving the climate, but none were particularly successful. So, soon after the War it was decided to properly develop and trial boots for hot and humid environments. 

This was the fist real attempt at a jungle boot.

Early advisors to Vietnam were often based out of Japan, and these particular boots were first tested in Okinawa, hence the original name: Okinawa Boots. 

The originals were exactly the same as the double buckle leather boots issued to American troops WWII, but with part of the upper in canvas. Good luck finding a pair though, they are as rare as rocking horse sh*t!

An original pair.

Luckily Pike Brothers stepped in and have made their own version: much shorter than the original, dispensing with the double buckle, they've named it the Lowkinawa. 

The upper boot is a mix of cowhide and canvas. Construction is a durable Goodyear welt with an outdoor sole.

It's a stylish and comfortable boot, the cowhide is beautiful and sturdy, however, the canvas ensures that the boot remains nice and light.

In short, it's a boot that wears it's military heritage proudly, but won't make you look as if you're about to retake the Solomon Islands single handed.

For those of us that wear boots year round the Lowkinawa is a great option for Spring & Summer. I can't wait to see how these break in.

Check them out here.

(Pix courtesy of Pike Brothers & Saunders Militaria.)

Monday, 7 January 2019

Your New Winter Jacket - Early Pattern WWII Tanker Jacket

I have a confession to make... I own too many jackets. The last thing I needed was another addition to my collection.

However, I'd be searching for a stylish alternative to the  ubiquitous N1 Deck jacket for a while. When I saw this one, I knew it had to be mine. The Tanker Jacket, in terms of look, cut and fit is the perfect option.

The Tanker Jacket, as the name would suggest, was issued to American armoured crews in WWII. Its  short boxy fit suited the tight confines of armoured operations.

The jacket went through some minor changes through its service, with early versions having large patch pockets and later ones (1942 onwards) sporting sash pockets (left). 

Original early versions are extremely rare and most reproductions concentrate on the later jackets, so tracking down first pattern jacket was a bit of a challenge.

Luckily WWII Impressions, an American company that specialise in accurate and high quality reproductions, were able to deliver. Don't just take my word for it - they produced the costumes for Fury.

Brad Pitt in Fury wearing an early pattern Tanker Jacket
This jacket will not make you look like Brad Pitt, however, it is very stylish.

For this uniform WWII Impressions had their own 100% wool melton custom woven and heather dyed to match originals. They used 100% cotton twill in the correct 8.2oz weight dyed using military spec dyes to match the earlier shade OD #3. The knit cuffs, collar, and waist band are made of 100% wool yarn dyed to the authentic shading. 

The zipper is a genuine durable Talon or Ideal bell shaped nickel/brass slider on nickel/brass teeth. To top this off they slapped an authentic wash-away US QM inspector tag inside bearing the size, their name and authentic contractor and spec information.

I've never seen an original jacket, so I'm not qualified to go on about how accurate a reproduction this one is, however it's clear that the attention to detail on this jacket is exemplary.

Simply put, it's beautifully made and timelessly stylish jacket. What more could a chap need?

Go ahead and order here.

(Pix courtesy of WWII Impressions.)

Thursday, 29 November 2018

The Year Dot For Denim Jackets: Levi's Vintage Clothing 1880 Triple Pleat Blouse

LVC may be moving in a more contemporary direction with their recent collections, but this does not mean the label are forsaking their vintage roots.

The reintroduction of the 1880 Denim Blouse, the first denim jacket Levi's ever made, proves this.

This jacket is perfect as a mid layer

First released a few years ago, LVC also made canvas duck and indigo gingham versions for their 2012 Miners range. Great jackets, but it's good to see a raw denim type back in the fold.

The unearthed example in the LVC archive, upon which all reproductions are based, was exactly that - dug out from a Nevada mine.

The fit is not as boxy as the later 507 jacket, but still cut short to rest on the hips - accurate for the era, given that workmen would have all worn very high waisted trousers. If you want to tweak the fit further there's the cinch on the back.

Fabricated from loom state Cone Mills 10oz denim, this light weight reflects how the originals would have been worn - as mid layer blouse, probably with a heavier duck jacket over the top. 
Unusually the weft has been woven vertically. LVC are not quite sure why this was done historically, but think it was to help shrinkage occur only on the width.

The stand out detail for me is the triple pleating on the front. Aesthetically it looks fantastic, but again it's something that shows the jacket's DNA as a utility garment - the pleats allowed more freedom of movement for manual workers. Further reflecting this simplicity are the two copper riveted open patch pockets. 

LVC have had a bit more time to spend on this reissue and have tweaked the stitching slightly, but other than that the jacket is as close as they could get to the original.

Every now and again you see an item that turns your head - exactly what happened to me when I clapped eyes on the 1880 Blouse at Bread & Butter in 2014. If I could pick one denim jacket to have above all others it would be this one. For me that's the mark of an excellent repro.

Simply put, it's the best jacket in the LVC collection.

With the sad demise of Cone Mills quite what the future holds for the label is uncertain. Watch this space...

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

A Slice of Heaven in Copenhagen - The American Pie Company

Copenhagen is city spoilt for choice when in comes to quality konditories & bakeries, so much so that one almost gets cinnamon bun fatigue... tough times indeed! However, I recently discovered something a little different that revived my jaded tastebuds - The American Pie Company. I caught up with owner Grace Lovig to find out more.

A Family Affair

Grace makes all her own pies in the shop, from scratch. Every time I go in the shop she emerges smiling from the kitchen smiling through a cloud of flour. As  a baker Grace is clearly passionate about what she does. So, what inspired it all? 

"My great grandmother started a small resort called Wilson's Camp Prattville in Lake Almanor to feed and lodge the gold miners & loggers of the time. She was a fantastic cook. Her pies were pretty good too. My grandfather took over when she died and he just happened to have a wife who was an amazing pie maker. The restaurant part of the resort is still run by my grandmother Carol and the resort is run by my brother. People travel miles for a taste of her pies. I spent my summers there working in the kitchen. After college I did a small stint at CIA , California Culinary Academy, but most of my practical training was done at the Ritz Carlton Mauna Lani and Campton Place, San Francisco. I left the food industry after my daughter was born and ran a production company for 15 years. Last year and decided it was time to return to my true love - food."
A true love that inspired Grace to swap the sunny West Coast of America for chilly Copenhagen. 
"I met some exchange students at University of Oregon from Denmark, Norway and Sweden. I hooked up with them when I decided to come to Europe to travel. And every time I left I ended up missing it and returning. Met a Danish man, married, had a child, got a dog, bought a house in the suburbs, same ol, same ol, blah blah and then ditched the guy, kept the kid and the dog and moved back to the city!!!! Big changes, all of which included the birth of the American Pie Company."

The American Pie Company

A New Path in Life - The Bad Ass Baker

Grace has dreamed of opening a bricks & mortar pie shop since she wrote the cook book 'American Pie' with her business partner Erin. 
"The Danes loved our take on having fun cooking American sweets and pies. After running my own production company for too many years I felt i wanted to take a new path in my life. I knew I wanted to return to food, so I started putting the thoughts in motion, looking for kitchens and talking to people in the industry. I started creating the energy to make the dream come alive. I had no idea how it would unfold but i knew it would somehow."
 A meeting with one of Erin's clients, Dorte, a huge fan of Americana, gave them their next business partner and the stimulus to get the ball rolling. As Grace says,
"we both felt that the gods had just handed us the missing part of what now makes up the all woman triage of The American Pie Company. Erin Chapman has owned an advertising agency for many years here in CPH. She is known as the Pie Pusher. She handles all PR and Marketing and design. Dorte Pripp is our CEO. She is a business powerhouse. And me…. I am the pie lady otherwise known as the Bad Ass Baker."

Everything We Love In One Dish

So, what inspires Grace's recipes?

"Everything inspires me. Often I have dreams of what pies i am going to conjure up. More often than not I draw my inspiration from peoples desires. People desire, and I mean desire, chocolate and caramel and salt and fresh fruit and butter and sugar. Its never hard for me come up with a new combination or revisit some of our oldest and most loved American staples and add a Gracie twist to it. Thats the great thing about Pie. Its everything we love all in one pan."

On a recent visit I tested out Grace's Pecan & Bourbon Pie - a normal pecan tart is one of my favourite sweet treats, but add bourbon to a  deep pie? It was fantastic. The pastry was just right and the bourbon helped to take the edge off the sweetness.

As this is Denmark Grace also has a Cinnamon Breakfast Pie as a staple on the menu - a kind of familiar safety net for the wary Danish palate! The pie just melts as you eat it - all the best components of Danish & American baking rolled in to one dish.

Fear not if you don't have a sweet tooth - there are also savoury pies on the menu - the Chicken & Thyme is highly recommended.

Tempted to pay a visit? You should be. The shop is on Skindegade in the centre town. Find out more here.

Friday, 4 March 2016

OldBlue Co. Duck Canvas Jacket

When people think of quality selvedge denim what automatically pops in to the mind is Japan or the USA.

However, there’s some great things coming out of places like Indonesia. One such label is Oldblue Co.

New Utility - Old Blue Duck Canvas Jacket

Can a Man Have Too Many Jackets?

Founded in 2010, Oldblue Co. is, perhaps unsurprisingly, inspired by work wear of the late 1800's to the 1950's. The label take a lot of their styling from Levi’s Vintage Clothing (LVC.)

I’d been on the look out for a duck canvas jacket for a while so when I saw this one I knew it had to be part of my collection. I must admit here that I own far too much denim... I couldn't justify buying more of the indigo stuff, so duck canvas seemed like a good compromise.

New Utility - Old Blue Duck Canvas Jacket

An Alternative to Levi's

As with the LVC original, the first jacket the company ever made in 1878, the key features of the garment are characterized by the triple pleats front and back with box stitching, round bottom pockets (with no arcuates) and a cinch back. The waistband has a little tilt on it, so shorter in length at the back than the front.

New Utility - Old Blue Duck Canvas Jacket

Old Blue added their own details to the jacket. The front pockets are larger and they’ve added a hidden pocket on the left chest. All the seams are felled for added strength. There’s black selvedge line detailing on the hang loop and down the centre seam.

The cut is also more like a modern jacket, longer than the original vintage blouse, cut to sit on the hips.

You Want Duck?

For fabric Oldblue Co. use an 11oz brown duck selvedge. (It says 12oz on the label and 11oz other site, I suspect the former is the post wash weight.)

The duck fabric is produced by Cone Mills, their famous vintage shuttle looms using single continuous threads to produce a tighter, heavier and more durable fabric. (The same mill where the bulk of LVC’s fabric is produced.)
This duck fabric starts out quite rigid and gets heavier after it’s first soak

For the hardware Old Blue have used Japanese made 100% copper washers - burr rivets and silver "Laurel Leaf" iron plated doughnut buttons. The custom-made brass cinch back hardware is made in Indonesia, and given an antique copper finish.

New Utility - Old Blue Duck Canvas Jacket

The leather patch is a bison hide imported from its origin, USA. According to Old Blue it varies in thickness, 3-4 oz on average, or 1.4 – 1.6 mm. Genuine American bison leather is more than 40% stronger than the traditional cowhide and known for its strength and durability. Compared to the cowhide, bison leather grain is more pronounced, and the fibers are also thicker.

New Utility - Old Blue Duck Canvas Jacket

The fabric sanforised, however after a first soak there's just under a centimetre of shrinkage on the sleeves and the jacket in now nice and snug across the chest.

So, the verdict? This is great little jacket and very well made. I hope labels like this grow and thrive to make the denim industry, or the selvedge part of it at least, a more diverse place.

The jacket is available from Oldblue Co. here.

Friday, 5 February 2016

Weekend Man-Food - Spiced Mozzarella Stuffed Meatballs

As regular readers will know I've been away with the British Army for a long while and, horror of horrors, have had to subsist on the slop provided by their civilian contractors for the last year. The MOD should be utterly ashamed of what it feeds its troops, but I digress.

Well, I'm home now and have had an emotional reunion with my kitchen! So, here's the first Weekend Manfood post for a long time. I had this at a restaurant last year whilst nursing the mother of all hangovers after a friends' wedding. I knew immediately I had make this dish at home.

I give you meat stuffed with cheese... or mozzerella stuffed meatballs.

Meat. Cheese. Oh yes!

Assemble the following:

500g beef mince
100g chorizo, diced in to small cubes
1 hunk mozzarella, diced in to small cubes
250ml bread crumbs
100ml milk
2 eggs, beaten
3 tbs of Herbs de Provence
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp ground garlic
1tsp ground black pepper
1tsp salt
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp chilli flakes

Throw the whole lot in to a large glass bowl and mix thoroughly.

Form the meat in to ball and press the mozzarella cube in to the centre and re form.

Brown the meatballs in a large pan, then pour in some tomato sauce. Bring to the boil then lower the heat and simmer partially covered for an hour. (I have to admit I cheated here and used a jar of ready-made passata but it's easy enough to make your own sauce.)

Serve with penne. Simple as that. Have a good weekend chaps.