Men who Make

Yesterday I went to the Etsy UK event: Manmade: Celebrating men who make in East London.  The market provided an alternative to the female-dominated craft world and gave a physical platform to some of the male merchants of Etsy.

I was lucky enough to attend a talk given on The World of Manbroidery by Mr X Stitch, a gentleman cross stitcher. Mr Stitch (aka Jamie Chalmers) initially taught himself needlepoint as a joke when he bought a kit to take on holiday with him and his ex-wife 10 years ago.  Fast forward to today and he gives talks and lessons on needlepoint around the UK. His talk introduced us to the work of a number of male fibre artists and explored themes in craftivism; mental illness; and a good dose of male puerile humour.

IMG_085911337229_1578450032428935_1229077528_nIt was great to see such a passion and talent in these men who stitch.  I strongly believe that sewing should be reclaimed by men considering that they have a firm presence in other female-dominated domestic arts such as cooking. Hopefully events such as these will encourage more men to pick up a needle and thread.


Fashion on the Ration

IMG_7552The other day I visited the Fashion on The Ration exhibit at the Imperial War Museum.  It was my first time to the museum and I was expecting a dark, depressing, dingy place full of dusty artifacts and crumbling photos.  I could not have been more wrong.  Straight from the offset standing out front, the epic architecture complete with canons; garden of English roses and the Union Jack flying high and proud overhead, struck me with awe and I got goosebumps of pride.  I was welcomed at the main doors by the enthusiastic John from Loch Lomond who was only too helpful answering my questions and checked in at the end of my visit to see how I enjoyed it.

For those who may not know, rationing was the system the British Government used during World War Two to limit the amount of goods the general public could consume.  Families were allocated a certain amount of key groceries weekly such as butter, eggs, and sugar, and this system also extended to clothing and materials.  Individuals were assigned a ticket system for the year and could use only these for their entire wardrobe; you can imagine the steps they had to take to ensure their clothes stayed in good condition and didn’t wear out too soon. The number of tickets per item depended on the amount of time, labour and materials that made up that garment.

The government did this for a few reasons: first, they had to ensure there were enough raw materials such as wool for the soldiers’ uniforms.  Secondly, they had to also ensure that (wo)man power was being allocated in the most advantageous way for the country and that the factories weren’t busy humming with sewers making “I’m with Stupid” t-shirts rather than using those same machines to make parachutes.  At the time they didn’t know how long the war was going to last, so they had to take every precaution to ensure they would win the war in the long-term and not lose due to frippery in the first few years.

What struck me the most during my visit to this exhibit was that characteristics and nuances of 1940’s fashion that I thought were just due to preference and style were actually because of the war, and more precisely, the ration.  For example, braces/suspenders for both trousers and socks were commonplace because zippers and elastic were strictly controlled because of austerity measures.  Cuffs on trousers and double-breasted suits were seen as being a waste of fabric and were not allowed.  Fair Isle knit patterns became wide-spread as they were an attractive way to use up scraps of wool.  Shoes were banned from having rubber soles as they needed the rubber for other uses in the war.


I remember my dad showing me this school photo of him when he was 11 and at the time I thought it was strange that they were all wearing shorts, especially as he grew up in Newcastle which is not the warmest of cities.*  This was 1950 however, during the war boys under 13 years old were only allowed to wear shorts to save on fabric.  Mens trousers could be a maximum circumference of 48 cms at the hem, and socks a maximum height of 24 cms.
IMG_7560The photo that stayed with me the most was of this young man who is being deployed and given a sharp new outfit to go home wearing.  I know my maternal grandfather received a long leather jacket when he was deployed from the Royal Air Force during this time and it was the warmest thing he owned so slept with it on the bed.   You can only imagine how these men and woman must have felt returning to their families and homes, knowing that it was all over.  Being given a sharp new outfit- well, that must have been icing on the cake.

For anyone considering a visit to this exhibition, please go.  There has also been a book published on the topic. The exhibitions runs until August 31, 2015. Tell John I say hi.

*Side note- My father said they were too poor to own school uniforms and that what they were wearing were the only clothes they had. Pops is third from left in the second row.

Life on the Left Coast- Music & Surf Photographer Justin Jay

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It was great being in Vancouver this summer and reconnecting with some of my West Coast crew.  One of whom is my buddy music and surf photographer Justin Jay. Not many dudes would get access to Sean Combs (aka Puff Daddy, P Diddy, etc) in the hospital with his newborn daughters; shoot adds for Nike and Nixon; and also capture a moment between Kelly Slater and Eddie Vedder together at a house party.  Keep an eye out for his upcoming book on the social scene in Hawaii’s North Shore, and also an upcoming project with Outkast.  While you’re waiting, check out some of his pics below and on his website.

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Life on the Left Coast- Idea Rebel CEO Jamie Garratt

It’s been great being in Vancouver and reconnecting with my Vancity crew.  One of whom who I think epitomizes life on the West Coast is one of my best buds of 20 years-  Idea Rebel CEO Jamie Garratt.  He is founder and CEO of a digital media company with offices in three cities, has developed campaigns for Quiksilver, DC Shoes, & BMW, and has won about a million awards.  Other phrases that could describe him are surfer, wake boarding school owner, electric car driver, Top 40 guitarist, and oh, father of three toddlers. His office has a birds nest fort in it for freak’s sake.  I’ve never in my life seen someone who works so hard have such a dark tan. Read more about Jamie and Idea Rebel here.

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Hackett’s #10Men1CityCampaign

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I’ve been interested in Hackett‘s #10men1city social media campaign promoting their Autumn 2014 collection.  The menswear brand invited10 London-based stylists & bloggers to choose their favourite blazer from the new collection and then style it and photograph it in a London location that they feel best encapsulates life in the capital.

Since August 8th Hackett has been sharing the images across their social media channels and website and after four weeks will pick which image they feel best marries theirs and the stylists’ visions. My favourites so far are below.  The 10 stylists/bloggers are: Seb Law (@sebulous), Scott Fraser (@scottfrasersimpson), Derek Addo (@Derek_dash), Zak Velsvoir (@zakvelsvoir), David Evans (@greyfoxblog), Nas Abraham (@nas_abraham), Kenny Ho (@kennyhostylist), Dan Rhone (@mfminstagram) ,Talha Velsvoir (@ttvelsvoir) and Martell Campbell (@mrflyycampbell)

Scott Fraser Simpson with his chosen jacket and one of his images:

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David Evans with his chosen jacket and one of his images:


Whilst most brands would be loathe to give up the reigns of their imagery and styling, by (being perceived as) doing so, Hackett appears less corporate and more approachable.  Not to mention by working with these style influencers with an established audience, they have tapped into 10 new pools of people who are already interested in mens fashion, any clothing company’s dream.  Hopefully this will all translate in results for the brand.