Sunday, 15 November 2015

FOR SALE: Beautiful Double Breasted Harris Tweed Overcoat Size 40'' - £99

Fantastic 1970's Harris Tweed overcoat from Willerby of Oxford Street.

Biscuit brown & white herringbone tweed - the material is quality thick & very heavy Harris Tweed. Though the coat dates from the 1970's it's styled after the military 'British Warm' great-coat and could easily pass as a 1940's era garment - great if you're after the correct period detail or simply a very stylish vintage overcoat. I'd love to keep it but it's too big for me.Lining is viscose. Exterior buttons are leather covered wood, the interior ones look like horn.UK P&P - £10

Please see my other items - I'm clearing out the bulk of my vintage clothing collection.

Contact me on for details.



Wednesday, 23 September 2015

How Not to Buy an Old Motorcycle: The Perils of Vintage Life.

Original BSA C10 Advert

It’s all change here at New Utility. The best part of 20 years of vintage VW ownership came to an end last month as I posted the keys and documents for my 1953 Beetle to the new owner, ready for him to collect from it’s garage in southern Sweden.

It was a tough decision, but one that fellow vintage chaps will be familiar with – the struggle between owning a mode of transport that actually works vs. something that, despite looking and sounding brilliant, is still 60 years old and full of mechanical quirks and character. (Read: unreliable.)

Looking for an alternate mode of propulsion I had every intention of simply purchasing a cheap, 4 wheeled, run-around.

That is, until I started researching motorbikes.

Now, common sense says that I should have bought something modern. I’ve been broken down by the side of the road often enough to know this. Did I do it? No.

Why? Because I’ve chosen to live my life a certain way – a way that does not involve a few hundred quid’s worth of characterless modern bike or car. That’s just how it is.

How Not To Purchase A BSA

I am now the proud, yet rather nervous owner of the 1952 BSA C10 you see here. I did something that I would never have done in my VW days – I bought the thing sight unseen from a classified ad on Ebay. After a long conversation with the dealer up in Wigan and a bank transfer the bike was mine.

As purchases go it’s a big one - it cost me rather more than its original £42. 10s! Yet, for those looking for a way in to classic riding 250’s like my C10, or the even lighter Bantams, are more financially accessible bikes than their bigger cousins.

BSA’s are undoubtedly beautiful machines. The marque helped to define the golden era of British motorcycling and is very much part of our motoring heritage. 

Another factor in choosing BSA is that after-market parts are still readily available. When the bike inevitably goes wrong I won’t have to scour the earth to find the obscure bits I need.

For those more willing to compromise than I am Royal Enfield Bullets are well worth a look – with the longest running production history in the world they are still made in India and have British distributors.

I should also confess at this point - until recently I’d never ridden a motorcycle, and I know precious little about the mechanics of classic British bikes.

That said the principles are the same as an air-cooled VW.

Much like its new owner the bike is pretty simple, so I’m hoping I should pick this side of things up quite quickly.

For those who don’t know, old Brit bikes were all right foot shift. Modern bikes (ie the one I’ll soon be doing my test on) are left foot shift. Some riders struggle to ride ‘goofy foot.’ However, as I’m a total newbie and haven’t really developed any muscle memory I seem to be able to switch between the two. That doesn’t make me clever I suspect, just the biking equivalent of a bilingual toddler… 

A New Challenge

New Utility's 1952 BSA C10
My new baby in it's garage.
Clearly I’ve taken on a new challenge here and have a lot to learn. I mentioned what I’d bought to my instructor. He said simply, ‘You’re a brave man.” Time will tell whether I am just a fool.Predictably there are a few small jobs to do but I'm genuinely excited to have a new project to work on. I’ll need to take some time to give it a proper once over with a BSA service sheet to hand.

As I toodled around my army camp yesterday getting to know my new machine (I legally can’t ride a 250cc on public roads yet) I had a huge grin on my face. And, that’s what it’s all about. Vintage vehicle ownership can be difficult and expensive on occasion but also immensely rewarding. You don’t get that feeling sitting in a Ford Fiesta.

I should say a thank-you to the chaps at Bike2Bike in Berkshire for the training they’ve given me so far. They took me from total novice to a 2 hour road ride within a day. I can’t recommend them highly enough.

More updates to follow soon.

Wednesday, 9 September 2015


Universal Works, founded by David Kyte and based in the heart of the old English textile industry in the midlands, have been producing beautiful yet functional men’s fashion since 2008.

The launch of the Workshop Denim collection by Universal Works last year was one of the highlights of 2014 for this denim-head. (I’ve been breaking in their trucker jacket for just over a year now.)

So, I’m happy to report that the collection has grown with the introduction of a chambray worker shirt and Slub versions of their jeans and chore jacket.

Universal Works - Workshop Denim

The Jeans

The irregular slubby denim has a wonderfully soft feel to it and the work wear inspired regular jeans have a relaxed fit with a mid rise. Based on a pair of cotton suit pants from the UW collection, the results are a very classic British take on the 5-pocket jean.

As with the other jeans in the collection the slub jeans are made with a washed 13oz denim, woven in Portugal and made in England.

The Shirt

The worker shirt continues this relaxed approach, generously cut with long tails, this is a contemporary take on a traditional British shirt. 

Manufactured in London on restored Union Specials and Japanese Juk machines from Hong Kong (the type that made the infamous shirts of Ralph Lauren in the eighties) the workmanship is of high quality.

Universal Works - Workshop Denim

From the seam gussets to the natural cotton panels reinforcing the cuff yolks the detailing is understated yet absolutely spot on.

The 5oz Chambray fabric is thick and crisp, a durable fabric that will only look better with wear and washing. I’ve been wearing it now on and off for a couple of months and the shirt is developing well.

The Jacket

UW have also introduced a slub denim version of their Baker’s Chore jacket – a garment inspired by David Kyte’s father who was a baker by trade.

I love the relaxed silhouette and feel to this garment and, as should be clear by now the detailing almost spot on - the only minor quibble I have is the selvedge line on the split breast pocket as I'm not a fan of overt selvedge detailing, but that's just me.

Functional British Fashion

This is functional British fashion with a direct link to the place it was produced and people it was made for.

Universal Works - Workshop Denim

Another strength of this collection is founded on its minimal aesthetic – there is no extraneous labeling or fuss. The buttons and rivets are unbranded and the jeans patch is hidden on the inside of the waist-band.

There is no superfluous back-story to what Universal Works do – the company’s guiding principle is simply to produce good quality British clothing, as David asserted in an earlier interview, he has deliberately “kept our jeans humble, modest and honest – kinda like us.”

The jeans are £145 a pair and the shirt is £155, and the chore jacket £199 - all available here. Or better yet pop in to one of Universal Works’ two London stores.

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Breaking News! SJC Flash Sale! Selvedge Denim For £99

This week only - quality selvedge denim for a mere £99.

One for my favourite British brands, SJC, is doing a flash sale this week of their most popular jean - the Brakeman. I had the following missive from an excited Simon James Cathcart tonight:

"Yes you heard right. SJC is offering these amazing high rise wide leg 1930's jeans for silly money. Why? We want you to be the FIRST to get true period correct, hand crafted, raw denim for a steal. Why?? Because you've got the jacket, you've got the shirts, you've got the boots and now you will have the jeans to match. And we are even going down to a 26" waist for the girls to get in on the action! 
The jeans are a true 1930’s cinch-back jean from the golden age of workwear denim. With a high rise that clamps comfortably around the waist and a wide leg that drapes beautifully. Cut from 15oz raw denim means they'll shrink to fit. 2cm (1") in the waist and 4cm (2") in the leg. But fret not. This has been factored in so order your true finished size. Mmm raw. With raw you get the desirable twists and ropes. Threads bite into the seams as the denim beds down. It ages and forms around better and gives you the best fades."

Want to know more about SJC? Check out my previous review

Best hurry though, you have till the 4th to get your hands on a pair here.

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

The Perfect Hat For (British) Summer - A Silk Gatsby

Regular readers will know that I have something of an obsession for bakers boy caps.

I have them in both tweed and cotton weights, but have been after something lighter for the summer. What better to fend off the endless rain in England?

Popular from roughly 1890 to 1930 the Bakers Boy was worn not only by boys but working men across Europe and America.

In fact that were so popular they hurdled the class divide to be worn my wealthy motorists and sportsman as a casual alternative to the more formal headwear of the day.

Rightly these caps have seen something of a resurgence in popularity in recent years. A relative of the flat cap, what distinguishes the Bakers Boy is that, unlike its cousin, the cap is divided in to eight panels, with a button on the crown. In cut the cap is also much rounder and fuller.

Bates Herringbone Silk Baker's Boy / Gatsby

Enter one of my favourite gents hatters - Bates in Jermyn Street have been there since 1898. Sadly in 2009 it looked as if Bates would cease trading due to their historic  21A Jermyn Street premises facing redevelopment. Thankfully the famous shirt makers Hilditch & Key  stepped up to the rescue, giving Bates a part of their shop at No. 73.

So, it seemed the natural place to go for a new titfer. I was immediately taken with a light grey herringbone silk Baker's Boy or Gatsby.

I found one of the last caps from their old collection - cut much more generously than the newer versions, the cap has an authentic 1920's feel to it, but nearly 100 years later this type of cap is just as functional and stylish as it ever was. They do still have a few of the old pattern left.

If you're interested have a look here.

Wednesday, 29 April 2015


What happens when Austrias’ premier denim shop collaborate with Japan’s oldest label, Big John? Answer: something quite special - the "BIG JOHN X SUN/SET/STAR Japanther Collaboration Waistcoat."

SUN/SET/STAR BIG JOHN Japanther waistcoat

I caught up with Steve from SUN/SET/STAR to find out more.
It all started when Kiyo from Big John visited the guys to introduce the A/W 13 collection. The fit is taken from the herringbone waistcoat in this collection. As Steve says, 
It was love from the first sight: the fit, the workmanship, simply something we were searching for quite some time.”
 SUN/SET/STAR BIG JOHN Japanther waistcoat

And it proved popular with customers too, so much so that the guys asked if Big John were doing something similar for the next season, but alas not. Keen to produce something anyway they discussed collaboration; things went from there.

Surge Hunters

The fabric is called 'Grandrelle Navy Stripe Serge' based on 1920's work wear material 'Salt & Pepper', it's 100% cotton and woven in Japan. Serge was also used in military uniforms and is a particularly robust fabric, yet this waistcoat has a wonderfully soft feel to it. Worn over a henley in the coming warmer months it’ll look fantastic. As Steve puts it, the fabric is an “an all-season one, elegant but durable.”

As you’d expect the detailing is spot on. The buttons are made-in-japan silver plated brass. I love pocket flaps on a waistcoat, it just looks right and adds to the period feel, however the flaps can be hidden in the pockets for a cleaner appearance if that’s your thing. My favourite flourish is the extra slanted button hole for one’s watch chain – a period touch you don’t often see these days.

SUN/SET/STAR BIG JOHN Japanther waistcoat

Best of both worlds 

The grey inner lining is hand stamped with the "Japanther Collaboration" emblem representing the cross-town collaboration of Graz and Kurashiki; featuring the coat-of-arms of both cities: This explains the name of the collab: JAPAN (Made in Japan) + PANTHER (coat-of-arms of the guys' hometown) = JAPANTHER.
The woven label is also hand stamped with the emblem. So, are there plans for more collaborations in the future? “It might not be the last piece we create together…but there are no plans yet! We’ll keep you updated!”

SUN/SET/STAR BIG JOHN Japanther waistcoat

On to a Good Thing

In a previous interview with Denimhunters Steve and Gerry argued the long-term goal of SUN/SET/STAR is to become an institution for “good things” – well this waistcoat is certainly that. Strictly limited to run of 40 pieces – hand numbered – there are still a few sizes left, so get in there quick.

SUN/SET/STAR BIG JOHN Japanther waistcoat

A chap can never have too many waistcoats and something this special is certainly worth adding to the collection. If you’re tempted have a look here.

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Heller's Cafe Larry McKaughan Interview - Heritage Fashion Done Right.

Hellers Cafe

As if more proof were needed that there’s great denim coming out of Japan Warehouse label Heller’s Café have further cemented their reputation with the new collection.

I caught up Heller’s Café founder, the “King of Vintage” Larry McKaughan to find out more.
Heller’s Café have released four new fits – ranging from the cinch-back 1920’s cut of the Lot 1 to the skinny contemporary silhouette of the Lot 4. All fits are also available in washed form – on which more later.

Hellers Cafe
The full line up, from left to right Lots 1 to 4.
All 4 jeans are cut from sanforized 12oz denim. The fabric itself is alive with slubby character and has a wonderfully rough feel in the hand – something Warehouse have lovingly reproduced through tweaking the chatter on their looms.

A Question of Detailing 

As you’d expect from these guys this attention to detail extends to the fabrication – the standout thing for me is the single needle stitching throughout. A nice touch too is the felled outer leg seam, giving a single visible selvedge edge – a very period detail seen on vintage work-wear, the felled seam made for a much stronger garment.

 On Lots 1 & 2 there is also a riveted crotch panel. Across the range is the one-piece selvedge edge fly – again a period detail seen on many vintage trousers. The scalloped back pockets are a nice touch and they’re also lined with the same cotton used for the front pocket bags. The light yellow patch is deer skin and I’m sure it will age beautifully.

Hellers Cafe
Detailing done right! Selvedge one piece fly, crotch rivets and beautiful scalloped pockets.
The collection may wear its vintage detailing on it’s sleeve, but as a whole it still has a very modern feel. As Larry explains,
My inspiration behind Hellers Cafe collections has to do with what I sense is exciting for the marketnot only the vintage market, but new as well.  I look for what I find unusual and exciting in our collection and I temper that with what I think might be interesting or appealing for the new clothing market.”
So this translates in garments that have had the fits tweaked slightly to make them more modern, for example my favourites in the collection, the Lot 1’s, whilst sporting a slightly higher rise at the back and a cinch, have a much slimmer cut than the 1920’s period jeans that inspired them.

To Wash or Not?

Hellers Cafe
The washed version of the Lot 1 fit.
This idea also partly inspires the washed versions of the jeans. I normally like to keep things raw here at New Utility but this is very much Larry’s way of experimenting with the Heller’s Café range to replicate the details of some of the pieces in his vintage collection. 
As the man himself puts it, Larry wants to imbue “some of the feeling to the new pieces that the vintage pieces have and to add life to them.” The detailing on the washed fits even extends to heavily oxidizing the rivets and buttons. Whether you’re a fan of denim aging or not for me it is this dedication to perfecting the smallest detail that has always separated most Japanese labels like Warehouse from the others.

A Brand Apart 

Hellers Cafe
The Lot 3's in action. (Jacket courtesy of Universal Works. Cap by Hepville.)
With so many heritage brands focusing on work wear, what is it that sets Heller's Cafe apart? With Heller’s Café that’s easy to answer – Larry has dedicated his career to finding the best, most unusual and rare pieces in the world.  The HC collections are based on those samples and offer a line of clothing that is based entirely on authentic design from actual pieces in Larry’s collection.  As he argues “we commit ourselves to recreating that feeling.  No other line of clothing has the experience in vintage and know how with production to do what we have done.”

As you’d expect from the King of Vintage Larry has struck this balance perfectly with the new collection – giving us beautiful jeans with the all the period detail that vintage buffs like me love, without falling in to heritage fashion trap of just producing costume.

Hellers Cafe
Yours truly modelling my favourite pair in the new collection - the cinch-backed Lot 2's with a vintage '49 Pattern battledress blouse. 
So what’s next for Heller’s Café & Warehouse? Larry wanted to keep future projects under his hat but did say that his anticipation is Heller’s Cafe will become a permanent part of the Warehouse brand and that HC “will occupy a part of the brand that continues to offer the most unique and exclusive designs to the vintage lover and collector.” Excitingly Larry is also looking forward to opening more stand alone Heller’s Cafe stores as well as “continuing to offer our product through other venues and expand.”

As a European based denimhead Japanese denim in general can be hard to get hold of so this is good news.

Check out the collection here.

A big thank-you to Larry McKaughan, Masiki Fujiki & Keita Senzaki at Ebbets for all their help and time.
Denim cap by Hepville Custom Clothing. Denim jacket by Universal Works.

Words and photography ©Mark Larner.

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Resurrecting Old Metal - All For The Love Of Pancakes

....In this case an old frying pan.

My neighbour, Peniila, was having a bit of a clear out in the half-loft (a sort of hobbit height box room tucked off the staircase between the floors of our building.)

She emerged stooped over and brandishing a very rusty DeBuyer 22cm steel crepe pan, ready to chuck it in to a box destined for the dump.

DeBuyer are a French concern that have been producing quality cookware since 1830. Thrifty as we are here at New Utility it seemed a bit of a shame not to have a bash at restoring it.

One heavy duty scourer, a lot of elbow grease and twenty minutes later I'd worked off almost all the surface rust. The metal actually looked quite good, with only a little minor pitting.

I had some wet & dry sand paper to hand so I worked over the remaining spots of rust with that, dug out the Brasso and gave the thing a quick polish up and a wash. Done.

For the sake of approx 40 mins work it makes sense to try and save things like this, giving them a second life that will last for years to come.

It was Shrove Tuesday this week in the UK , so the perfect time to knock up some pancakes!