A Hundred Years Ago – The World and Fashion in 1920

Elite Styles, February 1920

Postwar Europe was still unsettled in 1920. More treaties were signed to end hostilities and recognize new nations and borders between: Hungary, Romania, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Poland, Ukraine, Russia, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Georgia, Armenia, and Turkey. Britain accepted Irish Home Rule for the southern counties, was granted a Mandate for Palestine, and renamed East Africa as Kenya, declaring it a British colony. Wartime reparations were decimating the German economy, fueling the founding of the National Socialist German Worker’s Party (aka Nazi party).

Women’s Hockey Team – The Swastikas, from Fernie, British Columbia, Canada, c. 1920. The swastika was a popular motif before it was adopted by the Nazi party, forever ruining the design’s reputation by association.

It was clear that the Great War had diminished the former European powers and the United States was rising to become a world leader. The U.S. had granted women the right to vote in 1920 and the American economy was expanding rapidly. An American residential building boom was redeveloping neighbourhoods and creating suburbs, and American industries were opening branch plants in other countries, especially Canada, curtailing foreign competition. 

March 1920 fashions

However, the U.S. had its own share of problems too. The Ku Klux Klan was revitalized in 1920, expanding their policy of hatred towards anyone not having a protestant Northern European background. Prohibition was signed into law but failed to curtail alcohol consumption, in fact, drunk driving and other alcohol-related arrests actually increased with Prohibition. The new law also gave rise to the mafia who made fortunes through rum-running – mostly from Canada and Cuba.

Despite its new role as a leader, the U.S. did not join the League of Nations which was created in 1920 using a framework outlined by President Woodrow Wilson. Instead, the U.S. adopted a policy of isolationism and focussed on the domestic spread of communism – even outlawing the American communist party. With the help of a young lawyer by the name of J. Edgar Hoover, Attorney General Mitchell Palmer conducted raids against suspected radicals and deported thousands of communists and anarchists.

March 1920 fashions

On September 16, 1920, a horse-drawn cart carrying explosives was detonated on Wall Street in New York, killing thirty-eight people and injuring hundreds. It was the worst domestic terrorist attack in American history until the Oklahoma City Bombing in 1995. The perpetrators were likely Italian-American anarchists seeking retribution for deportations, but nobody was ever apprehended.

South of the American border, Mexico’s decade-long revolution came to an end with a change in presidents and Pancho Villa’s surrender.

Jeanne Lanvin dress, July 1920

Notable disasters of the year include: The sinking of the French ship Afrique off the coast of France that killed all but 34 of the 609 passengers and crew; Thirty-seven tornados in Ohio, Michigan and Illinois killed 380 people on Palm Sunday – a month later tornadoes in Alabama and Mississippi left 219 dead; The year’s worst disaster occurred in China when a magnitude 8.5 earthquake rocked the Gansu province leaving an estimated 200,000 dead.

1920 Firsts include: The first commercial radio station, WWJ Detroit, which began broadcasting on August 20 and aired the first news program on August 31; The founding of Dutch airlines KLM and Australian airlines Qantas; The inauguration of regular airmail service between New York and San Francisco, however, the U.S. postal service stopped allowing parents to ‘mail’ their children as parcel post (it was cheaper to send a child under 50 pounds by mail, than by train!); St. Paul, Minnesota introduced the first armored car, and in Detroit the first 4-way, 3-colour traffic light was installed; The hand-held hair dryer was invented in 1920, as was the band-aid and the cotton swab, although ‘Q-tips’ weren’t produced commercially until 1923, band-aids didn’t catch on until 1939, and the hand-held hair dryer did not become a common household appliance until the 1970s.

In sports, Babe Ruth was bought by the Yankees and set a 54 home run season record; Jack Dempsey won the heavyweight boxing title; and the race horse Man O’War won every race entered in 1920, setting records before being retired to stud. The Olympic games were held in Antwerp, Belgium where the Olympic Oath was recited for the first time and the Olympic flag, with its interlocking rings, was first flown. For those looking for less strenuous exercise, Pilates was introduced. 

1920 Olympic games participants

In the arts, the ‘Lost Generation’ of American writers who lived in Europe were becoming a force in literature. In 1920, Sinclair Lewis published Main Street, and F. Scott Fitzgerald debuted his novel This Side of Paradise. The best-selling author of 1920 was Zane Grey.

Top plays of the year included: Somerset Maugham’s East of Suez; Eugene O’Neill’s Emperor Jones; and Jerome Kern’s musical Sally. Enrico Caruso gave his last public performance, and Canada’s Group of Seven artists were formed.

The top box office comedy stars were Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd, but the top grossing and critically acclaimed films were not comedies. There were films about womanly wiles in SexPollyanna, and The Flapper. The horror genre was launched with The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, Der Golem, and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. HydeThe Mark of Zorro starring Douglas Fairbanks became the first superhero movie, but the top box office film was Something to Think About, starring Gloria Swanson. 

In popular music, the top dance bands were led by Art Hickman, Paul Whitman, and Ted Lewis, and the most popular singers were Al Jolson, Eddie Cantor, and Marion Harris. The year’s top songs included: Rose of Washington Square, Alice Blue Gown, Japanese Sandman, St. Louis Blues, Whispering, and Swanee.

In food there was a considerable increase in packaged and canned goods on grocery shelves. Marshmallow fluff was introduced, and guacamole became a new food outside of Mexico; the Daiquiri was a popular way to drink illegal rum, and the science of how vitamins were beneficial was becoming a health food fad. 

Paul Poiret coat, fall 1920

There was a new English language word for a nondescript manufactured item (widget) as well as words coined into: fashion (T-shirt, Strapless, Swimsuit); religion (Born Again, Fundamentalism); automobiles (Tow-truck, Parking lot); flying (Barrel Roll, Nose Dive, Air-mail); politics (Activism, Fascism); and sex (Petting, V.D.). 

There were also new slang words and phrases: take a powder (scram); heat (trouble from police); beat (avoid prosecution); moolah (money); hoofer (dancer); cookie (cute woman); bubbly (champagne); jugs (breasts); fanny (buttocks); ritzy (high class); razz (deride); gaga (foolish), as well as whee and yippee for expressions of joy.

Miss Mandeville, 21 February, 1920

The term ‘Ponzi Scheme’ was coined after Italian-born American Charles Ponzi. He realized that international postage reply coupons from war-torn Europe could be cashed at a profit in the U.S. He hired agents to bring in investors to fund his Security Exchange Company, and when large commissions were paid out, they brought in more investors, who brought in more investors, and so on. The investors were funding each other’s commissions until Ponzi’s scheme collapsed on August 12, 1920.

Probably the most notable word of the year was flapper. In a February 5, article in the New York Times, Dr. R. Murray-Leslie identified the flapper as: “the social butterfly type… the frivolous, scantily-clad, jazzing flapper, irresponsible and undisciplined, to whom a dance, a new hat, or a man with a car, were of more importance than the fate of nations”.

December 1920

Women’s fashions were gradually becoming shorter and more shapeless. Skirts were becoming more tubular although many retained wider hiplines from the previous year’s mode. Inspirations from the Far East (China and Japan), Russian peasants, and the 18th century were popular in details and motifs. Legs, from the bottom of the calf down, were exposed but clad in coloured opaque stockings, including various shades of beige. Shoes with hourglass shaped heels and pointed toes revived 18th century styles, and boots were beginning to lose favour for all occasions but walking. For dressier styles, lightweight taffetas and chiffon, often embellished in brocades, embroidery, or beadwork were popular. For day wear, woollen knits, wool serge suits and coats with fur collars and cuffs were preferred. Hats were slipping down the head to just above the eyebrow, and hair, if cut short, was usually permed into frizzy curls. If long, it was swept into low buns that would fit under a hat, although evening styles might feature high rolls or knots, ornamented with a comb.

For men, fashion continued on the same path it had been travelling since the end of the Great War. Youthful male styles in slim-cut wool suits, with high-buttoned jackets, and shirts with stiff or soft white collars, and short knitted or silk ties, all worn with homburgs or fedoras, or straw boaters in summer. For casual wear, men preferred flannels, sweaters, and jackets with caps.

Eaton’s catalogue, Fall/Winter 1920/21

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Hanger Games – The cardboard trouser protector 1952

You know those cardboard covers with the sticky strips to keep trousers from sliding off, that goes over the crossbars of wire hangers? Last week a donation of a suit came on an old wire hanger that had one of these covers, but this one also had writing on it. The ‘Grippo’ with the U.S. patent # 2590738, filed in 1948 and granted on March 25, 1952.

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Emanuel Ungaro 1933-2019

Emanuel Ungaro, c. 1973

Born to Italian immigrants in Aix-en-Provence in the south of France, Emanuel Ungaro learned tailoring from his father before moving to Paris in 1955. Emanuel first worked for the men’s tailor Christiani before moving over to Balenciaga in 1958, and then Courreges in 1961.

In 1965 he founded his own company and concentrated on ready-to-wear rather than couture. In 1973 he launched his first menswear collection and was also one of five designers representing France at the famous Versailles fashion show that year.

In 1996 Ungaro partnered with the Ferragamo group and continued to design under his own label until he retired in 2004. The company was sold in 2005 to Asum Abdullah, and the label soon became notorious for its revolving door of creative directors that bizarrely included Lindsay Lohan.

Ungaro, fall 1966
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2010-2019 – So What Was Fashion?

McQueen’s Plato’s Atlantis collection, spring/summer 2010

The decade got off to a glum start in February 2010 with the unexpected passing of fashion’s brightest star, Alexander McQueen (although his last collection would go on to influence women’s fashion well into the decade.) Most fashions at the beginning of the decade were restyled knock-offs of vintage looks, jersey dresses and cardigans that clung and draped about the body, or jackets worn over T-shirts and spandex leggings – a substitute for pants that is still popular at the end of the decade. Footwear had a new look with open-toed boots and hyper-styled shoes with towering platforms and skinny heels by designers like Nicholas Kirkwood.

Nicholas Kirkwood, 2010

Things got even more glum in 2011 when fashion’s next brightest star, John Galliano, had a public melt-down that ended his stint at Dior and put his career on hiatus while he went through rehab. Fashion moved towards drab colours like putty, nude, grey, and eggplant. McQueen’s legacy inspired short, mirror-print dresses that paired well with the new footwear styles and stood out from the animal prints, boho tops, and other trends that had been recycling through fashion since the turn of the century.

Luxury brands began to embrace their own vintage histories when companies like Chanel loaned dresses from past collections to stars walking the red carpet. Lagerfeld’s vision for Chanel would became increasingly similar from season to season as he perfected a look that really didn’t need to explore new directions to remain successful.  

Kate Middleton’s fascinator was the biggest fashion story of 2011

Fashion industry news in 2012 included Marc Jacobs leaving Louis Vuitton after 16 years, and Galliano picking up the needle again after his temporary banishment. It was becoming increasingly difficult to keep track of who was designing under what label. Sarah Burton was expertly maintaining Alexander McQueen, Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli took on Valentino, Hedi Slimane replaced Stefano Pilati at Yves St. Laurent, Alexander Wang took over Balenciaga from Nicholas Ghesquiere, and Raf Simons was named creative director at Dior. The revolving door of young creative directors at long-established ateliers got more confusing as the decade progressed. 

Tattooing remained popular but with concerns over tanning-bed induced skin cancer, spray tans (identifiable by their orange hue) became more common. For men, undercut hairstyles with shaved temples were matched up with moustaches for ‘Movember’ cancer awareness campaigns. 

The problems of fast fashion created by companies like Zara, H&M, TopShop, Primark, and Forever 21 began making news. The high cost of cheap clothing in a price-war race to the bottom came to light when the Savar factory collapsed in Bangladesh in 2013 killing over 1100 employees who made Benetton, Joe Fresh, Walmart, and other fast fashion clothing brands.  

Inclusive and diverse – real women model Rick Owens spring 2014 collection

Steampunk was fading when the Hipster lumbersexual arrived in 2014. Men with dad-bods and man-buns adopted full Ozark-style beards, plaid flannel shirts, 90s grunge-style ripped jeans and knitted toques. For women, black boots, catsuits, and biker jackets were popular, sometimes worn with seapunk pastel tinted hair, or long hair with swept-to-the-side bangs like Taylor Swift. The new buzzword for the year ‘normcore’ identified dressed-down looks like pyjamas worn by teenagers to school.

Lumbersexuals

For non hipsters a trend for dressing up became evident when Yahoo revealed their top searched question of 2015 ‘How do you tie a tie?’ While more businessmen were donning blue suits with brown shoes, the most controversial fashion news story of the year occurred when Barack Obama wore a tan suit for a press conference during an August heat wave. Across the Canadian border, Justin Trudeau’s novelty socks were the only faux pas commented on by the fashion press. 

For women, neutrals were making a strong comeback, and trouser suits gained momentum in every pant style from legging tight to palazzo wide. Fashion was finally moving away from retro vintage inspirations to conspicuously contemporary styles, using futuristic textiles and technology via designers like Iris van Herpen.

Iris van Herpen 2015 — too extreme for most, but influential in pushing fashion to look forward to the future

The Adidas collections by Stella McCartney brought rise to the new term ‘athleisure’ in 2015. Her upscale athletic clothing styles took yoga pants and hoodies into the luxury market and set off a trend that continues to grow. The word ‘athleisure’ was even officially added to the Merriam-Webster dictionary in 2016, just as flyknit sneakers by Nike were becoming popular. The most controversial athleisure outfit of the year was the burkini – a head to toe swimsuit designed for Muslim women that was as scandalous to some as the bare breasted monokini had been fifty years earlier. 

In a palette of black and white tailored shirts and ankle-length skinny pants, shapeless jackets, and soft, woolly coats, a non-gender-specific style gained popularity mid decade.

In 2016, fashion was becoming political. Trump, Brexit, Black Lives Matter, transgender bathrooms – these were the headlines of the year, and fashion was not immune to being a part of those headlines. Fashion politics continued into 2017, from pink pussy hats to President Trump’s inability to knot his tie to the right length.

The undercut hairstyle, fashionable in 2012, was dropped by all but the Alt right during 2016 who paired it with white polo shirts and chinos for a ‘faschic’ look

Rules of conduct came into question in 2017. Vogue declared in late November that “…the biggest rule is that there are no rules. You can wear a princess gown with sneakers! A bathrobe to an evening event! Even slippers to the office!” However, dress codes did still exist. This became apparent when two teenaged girls were not allowed to board a United Airlines plane for wearing leggings. A few months later, a brouhaha erupted over a ban on sleeveless frocks and open-toed shoes for female reporters at the U.S. Congress. More dress code stories hit the headlines ranging from whether restaurants could require their hostesses to wear high heels, to fashion dos and don’ts posted by American restaurants that were really thinly disguised racial profiles. 

Leggings, especially nude coloured, were THE worst fashion of the 2010s

The Hipster look began to wane as designers jumped on transgender chic for menswear. Many young designers avoided traditional fashion weeks and directly marketed to their fanbase via Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram. Some of the older, established labels, like Vivienne Westwood and Versace, profited from market interest in their vintage pieces by remaking favourites from past collections. At auctions and vintage boutiques, buyers were battling it out for museum-worthy couture. 

Other than Meghan Markle’s trend-setting preference for bateau necklines, politics made most of the fashion headlines in 2018. Fashion news always seemed to be about some sartorial gaff, from cultural appropriation to the “I Really Don’t Care, Do U?” green Zara jacket Melania Trump wore to fly to Texas to visit children separated from their families at the U.S. border. Other politically-charged fashion news in 2018 and 2019 included: the closure of Ivanka Trump’s off-shore fashion business due to the widespread boycott of the Trump brand; Hollywood actresses creating a fashion blackout at the Golden Globe awards; Nike catching flak for hiring Colin Kaepernick, the San Francisco 49er quarterback who started the ‘Take a Knee’ anti-racism protest; France’s gilets jaunes yellow vest protestors; Dolce and Gabbana’s promotional ads that offended the entire Chinese nation; London fashion week going fur free; a Gucci sweater resembling blackface; and Victoria’s Secret last fashion show due, in part, to pushback for their propagation of unrealistic body images.

Melania Trump on her way to visit children separated from their parents at the Texas border, 2018

Via cheap labour, massive investment, and luxury spending, the fashion industry underwent a ‘Chinafication’ over the past thirty years. However, as the decade came to a close, it became apparent that the fashion industry was no longer sustainable, either economically or environmentally. Textile production is the world’s second most polluting industry after oil and only remains profitable because of over-consumption. A growing trend to buy less, choose quality over quantity, wear what you already own, and recycle everything else is beginning to change the fashion industry and will have a larger impact in the 2020’s. 

Extinction Rebellion at London fashion week, 2019

Some companies like Levi Strauss and Prada are working towards zero carbon footprints in the near future, others like Eileen Fisher and Patagonia are buying back their own used clothes from customers for upcycling. Some designers create collections in a patchwork chic that uses up textile off-cuts otherwise destined for the garbage.

There has been a seismic shift in retailing in the 2010s as a third of all sales are now direct to consumer online purchases. Brick and mortar shops are becoming more like showrooms as streets and malls, previously crowded with retailers, empty out. 

Parisian couturiers and New York fashion editors are no longer the leading fashion influencers. Today’s fashions are influenced by computer-generated algorithms, duck-faced Instagram selfies, bloggers, Facebook ‘likes’, and YouTube instructional videos. Get ready for the 20’s because everything is changing… 

We lost a lot of fashion history in the 2010s: Vidal Sassoon, Nolan Miller, Gloria Vanderbilt, Terry de Havilland, Max Azria, Karl Lagereld, Isabel Toledo, Ottavio Missoni, Hubert Givenchy, Judith Leiber, Kate Spade, Alexander McQueen, Michael Vollbracht, Emmanuelle Khanh, Gina Fratini, Laura Biagiotti, Kenneth Jay Lane, Pierre Berge, Herve Leger, Azzedine Alaia, Andre Courreges, Sonia Rykiel, James Galanos, Bill Cunningham, Oscar de la Renta, Koos Van den Akker, Jean Louis Scherrer, Arnold Scaasi, Elio Fiorucci, Madame Carven, John Fairchild, Lilly Pulitzer, Emanuel Ungaro, and Glamour magazine.

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Canadian Fashion Connection – Gentry Inc. neckwear

Butterfly bow tie, c. early 1970s

Neckwear manufacturer Gentry Inc. began operations in Montreal in 1955. Two years later, Italian-born Rocco Polifroni joined the company, and in 1978 he purchased Gentry Inc. from the original owner. Polifroni’s children have since joined Gentry, keeping it a family-owned business that has grown into a 36,000 sq. ft. facility. 

In 1990, the new NAFTA agreement encouraged the company to branch into the U.S. By 1999 they were offering both their own established Polifroni brand, as well as higher-end Italian-made ties under the Serica brand. In the 2000s, the company expanded their product line to include shirts, sweaters and scarves. 

The company’s products are sold under the brands: Polifroni Milano, BLU by Polifroni, Domenico Franco, Nino Zotti, Serica, Serica Elite, Serica Elite NY, and Enrico Fiori, as well as various private labels for independent stores and chains, including Simon Chang Concepts.

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11th Annual Bulletin Board

It’s that time of year again for some of those weird things that struck my fancy over the past twelve months…:

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Fashion in Song – Air Force Ones (2002)

Air Force Ones was written and performed by American rap artist Nelly, and was released on his Nellyville album, November 7, 2002. It peaked at #3 on the U.S. Billboard top 100 chart. The song became popular with sneaker heads (sneaker collectors) who consider white Adidas Air Force Ones a ‘must have’ sneaker for the serious collector’s wardrobe.

Big boy – Big boy – Big boy

I said give me two pairs

(‘Cause) I need two pairs

So I can get to STOMPING in my Air Force Ones

(Big boy) STOMPING in my Air Force Ones

I like the all-white high-top strap with the gum bottom

(Big boy) there’s something ‘bout them that’s dirty why I got ’em

(Big boy) I leave um strapped and laced and come up out um

(Big Boy) the last person that touched ’em I been shot ’em (big boy)

Now if you looked, and seen lime green forces and kiwi

(Big boy) you couldn’t get this color if you had a personal genie

(Big boy) you now I keep it hip-hop, my niggas flip flop

(Big boy) yea my force ones and tip top

(Me) now form a flip flop, (big boy)

I like the limited edition to khaki and army green

(Big boy) patent leather pin stripe you should see how I do the strings

(Big boy) sistompinge twelve with the strap, red and white with a cardinal cap

(Big boy) all flavors well it just depends

On when and (don’t get me) where I am at (Big boy)

Don’t get me, don’t get me wrong man

And Murphy lee ain’t dumb man

(Big boy) ’cause if the shoe is on the shelf you should have some man

(Big boy) you cannot sit up and tell me that you have none man

(Big boy) you may not have three or four but you got one man (big boy)

I said give me two pairs

(‘Cause) I need two pairs

So I can get to STOMPING in my Air Force Ones

(Big boy) STOMPING in my Air Force Ones

I said give me two pairs

(‘Cause) I need two pairs

So I can get to STOMPING in my Air Force Ones

(Big boy) STOMPING in my Air Force Ones

We up in Footlocker I’m looking like I need those

(Big boy) ten in a half and if you got ’em give me two of those

(Big boy) I can tell she never seen Murphy Lee before

(Big boy) ’cause she’s just standing there as if I’m shooting free throws

(Big boy) I said excuse me miss I only wanna buy shoes

(Big boy) she said I love you Murph especially in the white in blue

(Big boy) I said the white in blue sound nice make it twice

(Big boy) and I signed an autograph “thanks for the advice” (big boy)

I keep it real dirty, dirty you know how I do

(Big boy) purple in gold with the Lakers the broncos the orange in blue

(Big boy) I like em floppy with ankle socks

Lows mids and high tops (Big boy) With the clear sole,

But this Tims and fat laces with it is cold

(Big boy) but when the winter goes and the hot summer flows

(Big boy) then it’s back to the all purpose with em and dots in the toe

(Big boy) then I’m stopping this dough that I’m spending fa sure

(Big boy) on them Nike Air Force “N” “E” behind the “O” (big boy)

Ok li, I treat my shoe like my ride

(Big boy) chrome on the fat laces at what wood on the inside

(Big boy) spray candy on the swoosh

With the electric poofs

(Big boy) since I put a kit on the sole now I got a wider shoe

(Big boy) you see that low misk with the purple coop I’m driving them

(Big boy), (Kyjuan, where you getting them colors, are you dying them)

(Big boy) ten is my sistompinge in them

No point in tiein’ them

(Big boy) ain’t no point in trying these on

You know I’m buying them (big boy)

Now don’t nothing get the hype on first site like, white on whites

(Big boy) them three quarters them lows they all tight

(Big boy) the only problem they only good for one night

(Big boy) ’cause once you scuff um you f*cked up your whole night

(Big boy) what’s my basis? The look up sto on his faces

(Big boy) this kids outrageous he buying them by the cases

(Big boy) ’cause once I cop um gut um and switch the laces

(Big boy) they all purpose ya heard me kinda like my Dayton’s (big boy)

I said give me two pairs

(‘Cause) I need two pairs

So I can get to STOMPING in my Air Force Ones

(Big boy) STOMPING in my Air Force Ones

I said give me two pairs

(‘Cause) I need two pairs

So I can get to STOMPING in my Air Force Ones

(Big boy) STOMPING in my Air Force Ones (big boys)

I wore spurs at first now there’s tape on them

(Big Boy) damn, when those come out so I write the date on them

(Big Boy) these Louis Vuitton ones, you gotta wait on them

(Big boy) I had to get em early so I spent more cake on them (big boy)

Look I’m trying to keep it up like a one-minute man

(Big boy) while Ali on the Kawasaki two head bands

(Big boy) jewellery and all, fish bowl in the mall

(Big Boy), (I got some fifteens) security buying shoes and all (big boy)

Now some time I get em free some time I gotta pay

(Big boy) walk in the mall and they know what I’m ‘bout to say

(Big boy) gimme the black and platinum, and leather gray

(Big boy) ones in the back and the pair you got on display (check), (big boy)

Now were the boxes where I keep mine (keep mine)

You should beep mine (big boy), (keep mine)

Maybe once or twice but never three times

(Big boy) I’m just a sneaker pro

I love pumas and shell toes

(Big boy) but can’t nothing compare to a fresh crispy white pair (big boy)

I said give me two pairs

(‘Cause) I need two pairs

So I can get to STOMPING in my Air Force Ones

(Big boy) STOMPING in my Air Force Ones

I said give me two pairs

(‘Cause) I need two pairs

So I can get to STOMPING in my Air Force Ones

(Big boy) STOMPING in my Air Force Ones

Big boy – Big boy – Big boy – Big boy

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Dressed up like a mid-century Christmas tree

Found these images online Vintage Everyday and had to share:

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Terry de Havilland 1938 – 2019

Born in 1938, Terry Higgins apprenticed at his father’s theatrical shoe making company. With plans to become an actor, Terry changed his last name to de Havilland while living in Italy in 1959. Upon his return to England, Terry went to work at his father’s business making pointed-toe ‘winkle-picker’ Beatle boot styles for men and women. They had just started to make wedge-soled shoes using his father’s old lasts from the 1940s when his father unexpectedly died in 1970, leaving Terry to take over the family business.

Terry soon began making platform wedge-soled shoes in patchwork snakeskin, selling them through a Kensington market boutique. Terry was selling his shoes as fast as he could make them to clients including Bianca Jagger, Britt Eckland, Cher, and Angie Bowie. He opened a boutique in 1972 called Cobblers to the World on King’s Road in London’s fashionable Chelsea district that became hugely popular with the glam rock crowd.

In 1974 he was commissioned to make Tim Curry a pair of platform shoes for the film Rocky Horror Picture Show. As the platform began to wane in popularity, Terry became instrumental in re-establishing the stiletto heel, first producing spike heeled shoes for a Zandra Rhodes collection. In 1979, changing tastes and the soft economy forced his store to close but de Havilland continued on, launching a new line called Kamikaze Shoes that featured extreme ‘winkle-picker’ stilettos for the New Wave scene.

When this venture closed in 1989, deHavilland began making shoes for the Magic Shoe Company in Camden, mostly for the Goth and fetish market as well ascollections for designers, including Alexander McQueen and Anna Sui.

After a heart attack in 2001, de Havilland closed his Camden shop in 2002 and returned to his roots, revisiting what he was famous for designing in the early 1970s in both a licensed ready made line and as custom work for clients. In 2007 de Havilland opened a London shop for men’s shoes called Archie Eyebrows.

In 2008 I was in touch with Terry de Havilland via email. I asked if he could proof my bio of him for my book as there was little written about him online at the time. He was teaching at the London College of Fashion and invited me to lecture on the history of shoes at the college, but it never happened. Unfortunately, I lost my emails in a computer crash years later – too bad as I would have liked to have read our conversations one more time.

Snakeskin platform shoe, c. 1974

Snakeskin platform shoes by de Havilland, c. 1973 – 1975

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English Shoe Manufacturer Lotus Ltd.

Green suede pumps, ‘Career Girl’ by Lotus Ltd., c. 1965

In 1814 Thomas Bostock (1777 – 1865), moved to Stafford to set up a shoemaking business. Thomas’ son Edwin (1807-1883) became a partner in his father’s firm that by 1833 was employing about 200 men, women and children. Thomas’ other sons Frederick (1812 – 1890) and Thomas Jr. (1816-1871) also each set up shoemaking businesses, Frederick in Northampton in 1835, and Thomas Jr. in Stone in 1842.  Edwin took over the Stafford factory upon Thomas Jr’s death in 1871. 

Despite strikes by workers in the 1850s, sewing machines and other technologically advanced shoemaking equipment were installed in the factories during the late 19th century that expanded the profitable production of footwear for these companies. Edwin Bostock & Co., became a limited liability company in 1898. In 1919, Edwin Bostock & Co. Ltd. amalgamated with Frederick Bostock Ltd. of Northampton to become Lotus Ltd., a brand name Edwin Bostock had been using for some time. 

After years of being one of England’s largest shoe manufacturers, Lotus Ltd. left family ownership in 1970 and went into decline. Sold and resold several times, by 1998, all but the Northampton factory had been shuttered. The company name survives as a subsidiary of D. Jacobson & Sons Ltd.

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