Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Bristol Via Jakarta - NoKipple & The Elhaus Panna Shirt

Social media can be a wonderful thing, enabling us to discover brands that we otherwise would not have been exposed to. It's thanks to NoKipple pinging me on Twitter that I discovered Elhaus.

Based in Bristol NoKipple are very selective as to who they stock, specialising in high end denim and related clothing that is near impossible to find otherwise in the UK - but Elhaus have made the cut.

Elhaus Panna Shirt

Launched in 2010 the Jakarta located labels' philosophy is to take Indonesia's strong, traditional design history and combine it with modern cuts and experimental materials.

Indonesia has an up and coming clothing design and manufacturing scenes with brands such as Elhaus and OldBlue Co. at the forefront.

As NoKipple argue,
"We love Elhaus because they have no fear, they are more than willing to work on products that most smaller labels would deem as too risky or too costly, they love a challenge just as much as we have enjoyed working with them on a challenge."
A point amply demonstrated by the hand-woven jeans NoKipple & Elhaus collaborated on last year. (I know, I came slightly late to the party. The Denim HQ article on these awesome jeans, written by NoKipple's Gav, aka Megatron, is quite thought provoking.)

Elhaus NoKipple Jeans

But we're here to talk about the shirt. The material is light 5oz cotton, with a beautiful blue and white diamond Batik inspired pattern (a traditional technique of manual resist-dying - blocking the dye with wax to create the pattern.)
Elhaus Panna Shirt

The detailing is spot on - single needle stitching throughout, mother-of-pearl buttons, a split yoke, pointed collars, rounded hems and cuffs. 
I particularly like the side seam guessets and the stitching at the bottom of the placket - very period touches. The cut is slightly fitted but still quite classic in length.

All of these elements combine to create a classic American style work shirt, but with traditional Indonesian flourishes.

Elhaus Panna Shirt

In short it looks fantastic and, though long-sleeve, is lightweight enough to work perfectly for summer.

Tempted? The shirt is available only from NoKipple. Denim-heads amongst you should definitely check out the hand woven 21oz left hand twill jeans too. You don't normally see such attention to detail and commercially difficult artisan techniques used outside of Japan.

But that's rather the point. The selvedge denim industry is perhaps wrongly obsessed with branding and provenance. In an increasingly crowded market it can be hard for new brands to make headway, particularly those perceived to be from the wrong countries.

When did simply making something well become not sufficient?

Elhaus Panna Shirt

Indonesian brands like  Elhaus deserve recognition and wider popularity for what they're trying to do. I'm excited to see what NoKipple will get in from them next. Elhaus are definitely a brand to watch.

(Pix courtesy of NoKipple.)

Thursday, 3 July 2014

1952 British Army Denim Battledress Blouse

The DNA of the humble battledress blouse can clearly be seen in post-war casual and work jackets - most famously in civilian versions of the American "Ike" jacket.

British Army Denim Battledress

The blouse began life when, looking for a replacement for WW1 era Service Dress (SD) more suited to modern combat operations, the British War Department settled on Battledress in 1937.
Much shorter than its SD tunic predecessor, the BD blouse was originally worn over a collarless shirt and buttoned at the back to a pair of matching trousers.

British Army Denim Battledress

Issued on a large scale in 1939, this is the itchy heavy wool uniform that most British and Dominion troops set off to war with.

A Working Dress version was also made in selvedge denim - cut larger to be worn over the wool uniform for doing dirty jobs around barracks. (So you will need to size down.) However, as we all know, denim is ever practical and the material proved ideal for operations in hotter climates - it was widely issued, or "acquired" by troops fighting in the Mediterranean.

Made from green or brown selvedge selvedge denim (I'd guestimate the denim to be around the 11oz mark) these are robust little jackets.
With pleats front and rear they're quite roomy too. The buckled belt nips in the waist to give a quite boxy silhouette.

British Army Denim Battledress
The trousers are identical to their woollen cousins, obviously apart from the one line of selvedge visible on the strong felled out-seam.

With a high waist line hovering dangerously close to the nipples, they were clearly meant to give a silhouette that emphasised height - important when attempting to instil fear in the the hearts of advancing German infantry!

British Army Denim Battledress
Waist belt buckle detail.
In fact such large stocks of denim and wool battledress blouses were left behind by the British at Dunkirk they were recycled by the Germans and issued to U Boat crews. 

Various patterns of the wool blouse were made over the years, with the most alterations being made to the collar and button placket, but the denim versions always stuck closely to those first issued in 1937 - with a simple rise & fall collar clipped at the top, and the exposed buttons of the later 1940 "Austerity Pattern." The removal of the covered placket an economy measure that saved on cloth.

British Army Denim Battledress
Simple rise-and-fall collar clipped at the top.
These blouses were made to be used hard, so the bakelite buttons are held on by cleats - easy to remove for washing. I suspect soldiers back then had other things in their mind than developing fades on their denim!

The blouse you see here was made in 1952 by Denham. There were a myriad number of contractors over the years, all with small differences between them. (Sadly I could not find any information on Denham.)

Original War Department label.
As a combat uniform battledress was still worn in the Korean War, but fell in to disuse with the issue of Herringbone Twill uniforms poached from the Americans.

As our own cotton combat uniform came in to service there was no real need for denim or wool battledress and it ceased to be issued in 1961.

British Army Denim Battledress
Pocket detail with what look like bakelite disc buttons.
American uniform items have always been extremely popular, with companies like Buzz Rickson's offering top dollar recreations. They're fantastic I agree, but I'd argue that, although not as well known, British denim uniforms are just as stylish. To Nigel Cabourn's credit he did a version of the trousers for his SS14 collection.

Worn with jeans the blouses look great over a guernsey or a submariner jumper, or a work shirt in summer. Just the thing for cutting about town. (Or a clandestine meeting with your resistance contact to blow up a bridge!) 

Earlier examples are becoming scarce, but post war versions are still straightforward to find.

I found mine on Ebay, but it is worth checking surplus suppliers to see what they have. There are also various reproduction companies making copies for re-enactor types, though the denim is not selvedge.

I'd argue you're better off with an original.