Crime and Punishment and Sneakers

22 year old Brit Isaiah Hanson-Frost, is about to have his 55 pairs of designer sneakers, valued at about $30,000 Canadian, sold by the police. Last April, Hanson-Frost was sentenced to six years in jail after admitting to firing a gun at a car in November, 2017 during a gang feud over drugs.  

“We are keen to put a stop to anyone who is living a lavish lifestyle which has been funded through crime” said Detective Inspector Dave Shore-Nye of the Gloucestershire police.

Items seized after a criminal trial are often sold, especially if money raised from the sale can be used to help victims of those crimes. Proceeds from the sale of Hanson-Frost’s sneaker auction will go to the High Sheriff’s Fund, which encourages activities that divert minors from a life of crime.

Canadian Fashion Connection – Applegath Hats (1885 – 1964)

Applegath Hats in the House of Hobberlin, 1913

Applegath Hats was, at one time, Toronto’s largest haberdasher. The business was begun by Llewellyn John Applegath as an adjunct business within the men’s clothier House of Hobberlin, at the corner of Richmond and Yonge streets, when Hobberlin was founded in 1885. By 1913 Applegath had become so large a second store opened further up on Yonge street, two more stores followed in later years. The company’s peak year of sales was 1946, but then a decline in sales set in as more men began going hatless. Stores were closed in 1954, 1960, and 1962. The final store was closed in July 1964 by Harold Applegath, grandson of the founder. (With thanks to Marianne Dow for finding an article about the closing of the store!)

Yonge street near Trinity square, showing the second location of Applegath hats, c. 1930

Canadian Fashion Connection – Williams, Greene & Rome

The Williams, Greene and Rome factory 1886 – 1912

Samuel James Williams was born March 13, 1853 in Madison, Indiana. In 1874 he went to New York and became a travelling salesman. He married Sarah Freeman in 1880, and continued working as a salesman until October 1881. He then moved to Toronto to establish his own company that made shirts, collars, and cuffs. In 1886 he moved the plant to Berlin, Ontario, and incorporated the business with two partners under the name of Williams, Greene & Rome with himself as president and general manager.

Twenty years later, in 1906, the company boasted it had 500 employees including fourteen travelling salesmen who sold their products across the country. The company also boasted their employees worked only 50 hours per week, with a 1 ½ day weekend (this was cutting edge for the time.)

In 1913 a new factory was constructed, but in 1920 Williams retired (he died in 1923) and the company was sold to Cluett, Peabody and Co., makers of Arrow brand collars and shirts, where they remained for 80 years. In 2011, the former factory was converted into loft condos.

The newer plant, built 1913, before being converted into loft condos, c. 1910

Canadian Fashion Connection – America’s First Hunk

Charles Beach was probably the model for both these men (the protruding bulbous chin with the slight cleft is a give away), but Leyendecker changed the hair colour.

Charles Beach was born in Ontario, Canada (exact town unknown), in 1886 (some sources say 1881). At the age of 16 he left home to go to New York to become an actor, but soon discovered he had no talent. Relying upon his tall, good looks and confident, charming disposition, he found work as an artist’s model, and soon became the most famous male model in America, thanks to Joseph Christian Leyendecker.

J. C. Leyendecker was born in 1874 in Germany and immigrated to Chicago with his family in 1882. He and his younger brother Frank studied art in Paris and upon their return to the U.S. in 1900, settled in New York to work as artists. They produced illustrations for magazines and books, although Joseph was clearly the more talented of the two brothers. In 1903 Charles Beach was hired to model, and although Joseph was short and shy, he was also cultured and the two became partners in love and business for the next 48 years.

Charles discovered he had a good business acumen and became Joseph’s manager, negotiating his work for higher prices, and convincing the publishers of Saturday Evening Post to create themed covers for national holidays (Leyendecker invented the New Year’s baby). But it was Beach’s chiseled jaw featured in Arrow shirt collar advertisements that became the most famous of Leyendecker’s work. Women sent love letters to the mystery Adonis – the first male sex symbol of American advertising.

By 1913, Saturday Evening Post was the best selling magazine in the U.S., which earned Leyendecker and Beach an annual salary of $50,000 per year (the equivalent of about a million dollars per year today.) Joseph built a house in New Rochelle, New York in 1914, and upon the death of Joseph’s father in 1916, Charles moved in. The two were famous hosts of extravagant parties during the 1920s but by the end of the 1930s, Leyendecker’s illustrations were falling from popularity. The new darling of American magazine illustration was Norman Rockwell.

In 1951, Joseph died at home of a heart attack at the age of 77, leaving Charles the house and $30,000, and a request that Charles destroy all written evidence of their relationship, which Charles did. Charles died in 1954 at the age of 72.

Beach was the model for the man on the right, but the darker features of the man on the left suggest Leyendecker may have used himself as a model.

The First Paper Clothing Fad: 1889 – 1893

The late 1960s fad for disposable paper clothing resulted in some mad, mod dresses in flower power prints, but this was the second time paper clothing was a fad. The first time was 80 years earlier, and it all began when there was a change in how paper was made.

Historically, paper had been made from recycled rags, usually cotton garments that were mechanically pulped into a slurry and dried into sheets. In 1843, wood pulp was used for the first time, and although the resulting paper was not as good quality as rag paper it was cheaper to produce because the raw material was abundant. By the 1870s, mechanical pulping was being displaced by chemical pulping that used sulphites to break down the wood pulp, resulting in a better quality paper.

The insulating qualities of paper were well known – it was a common practice to tuck newspapers inside a winter coat to keep the wind from cutting through the weave of the cloth. American entrepreneur R.C. Mudge and his business partner, Edgar Wasson thought the idea of using the new sulphite paper for making clothing for winter insulation had commercial possibilities. Mudge and Wasson applied for a patent for a paper vest in 1888, and in February 1889, the R. C. Mudge Paper Clothing Company began manufacturing paper vests in Detroit, Michigan. They hired John C. McLaughlin, who would go on to apply for Canadian and American patents for the process he developed to make sulphite wood pulp paper pliable by dampening it with a gelatin solution and rolling it between sets of corrugated rollers and then rubbing it by hand. This softening process allowed for the paper to be sewn, like a textile, but still retain its strength.

The new company displayed their goods at the Detroit International Exposition and Fair in 1889. A newspaper report in the Detroit Tribute extolled the virtues of Mudge’s products: “The men’s vest cost 50 cents, the ladies’ 75 cents and other goods come at corresponding prices.  These paper garments cannot be compared with inferior woolen garments.  Wind will blow through wool.  It simply can’t get through this paper, which, besides being warm is tough, standing a pull of 98 pounds to the inch without tearing.”

To promote his venture, Mudge commissioned J.E. Fancher to create a piece of music titled “The Paper Vest Gallop”, printed on the sulphite paper he used to make his paper garments. Mudge also promoted his goods by donating paper blankets to hospitals and paper vests to postmen.

Mudge didn’t have enough financial backing to support his fledgling business that he expanded too rapidly. Despite all the promotion and accolades, his venture failed. Mudge’s business and stock were sold under a mortgage to Henry McMorran and Wilbur Davidson of the Sulfite Fibre Works of Port Huron Michigan for $75,000. The new owners hired Mudge and McLaughlin to oversee the transition and continue to improve the manufacturing process. They also changed the name of their company to the Port Huron Fibre-Garment Manufacturing Company. In July 1890, McLaughlin made suggestions on how to improve the quality of the paper with the addition of spring-loaded pounding machines, but left the company shortly afterwards. In 1891 Mudge also left the company and moved to Brooklyn where he became a Vaudeville stage manager.

The Port Huron Fibre-Garment Manufacturing Company eventually failed sometime in 1893 and leased their property to the American Fibre-Chamois Company. By 1894, ladies’ dresses had taken on full balloon-shaped sleeves, and the American Fibre-Chamois Company found a new, viable market selling their paper as an interlining to give sleeves their desired fullness. In 1896, McLaughlin sued for patent infringement by the American Fibre-Chamois Company over their use of his process for making the paper pliable. The court found that McLaughlin had not been specific enough in his patent over details, like the strength of the gelatin solution used to dampen the paper, and his case was dismissed.

Concurrent with Mudge’s business was the New York Paper Clothing Manufacturing Company, founded by Charles G. Barrett at 290 Pearl Street in New York. Their ‘Zero’ vest for men and women was a paper interlined cloth vest that they advertised as being “…just the thing for cold weather. It is light, comfortable, soft and pliable and fits perfectly.” The Watertown Daily Times reported on October 27, 1890 that: “Anyone that is troubled with weak lungs can readily find relief by wearing a good chest protector. These goods… can be had at the W. H. Drug Store. We have… a line of paper vests, which are made by the New York Paper Clothing Company, which are used by many who are continually exposed to this cold climate and have given the greatest satisfaction.” However, like Mudge and the Port Huron Fibre-Garment Manufacturing Co., this company also failed and was dissolved in 1893.

With thanks to Lynne Ranieri and other members of the VFG who uncovered this story.

The Perfect Dent

Anyone with a mild case of OCD can drive themselves mad perfecting symmetrical dents and folds (without creases or kinks) in soft felt fedoras. I thought maybe I just didn’t have the right touch, but if you look at 1940s photos, and even film stills, most fedoras were imperfectly dented:

Canadian Fashion Connection – H. V. Cowie Company Ltd.

The H.V. Cowie Company Limited was founded by 45 year old Hedley Vicars Cowie on March 6, 1922. The company specialized in manufacturing and importing menswear (dress pants, blazers, dressing gowns, smoking jackets, neckwear, scarves…) Initially located at 22 Front Street in Toronto,  the company later moved to 43 Sheppard Avenue East.

One of H. V. Cowie’s more popular imports were Dunlop Slacks, made in England, and sold with the promise they were “Anatomically correct in the comfort zone”.

On June 13, 1945, a Canadian trademark was registered by H. V. Cowie for ‘Bonnington’ (Bonnington House, Lansing, Toronto). The Bonnington trademark was abandoned in 1990. Another trademark for ‘San Remo’ was registered June 10, 1966 but not renewed in 1981.

After Hedley Cowie’s death in 1965, the company went into decline. The Sheppard Avenue sewing plant was sold off in 1967, although the company remained in existence (perhaps just as an importer?) until dissolution on 1 July, 2008.

Canadian Fashion Connection – Lou Myles

Lou Myles in 2003, photo by Hans Deryk/ Toronto Star

Luigi Cocomile was born in 1928, a month after Joseph and Lucetta Cocomile (an itinerant shoemaker and his wife), immigrated from Calabria, Italy to Toronto, Canada. The family struggled financially and Luigi dropped out of school after grade 8, earning a living at a factory – or so his parents thought. Luigi’s first career was as a bookie and gambler, and he did well, until one night in 1956 when he lost every penny he had. Luigi turned to a more reputable career, which he found in the field of men’s fashion. He worked his way up at the Toronto men’s chain store Dunn’s, from salesman to assistant buyer to store manager. Then, on March 10, 1960, Luigi opened his own menswear shop on Yonge street under his new name Lou Myles.

In 1962 Myles moved to 363 Yonge Street, and bought the building in 1964. He remained at the same location until the 1980s when he relocated to Yorkville. In the 1990s he again relocated, this time to Vaughan, in north Toronto.

Myles success was based on his use of fine Italian cloth, and his ability to slenderize his clients by the cut of his trousers and jacket. In 1968, Myles opened his own factory on the edge of Toronto where he employed 80 tailors and seamsters who made 250 suits per week to supply his shop as well as for retailers who carried the Lou Myles brand of ready-made suits. By the 1970s he had opened shops from Vancouver to New York, although he never advertised.

Myles’ client list included an impressive number of celebrities: Muhammad Ali, Frank Sinatra, Bob Dylan, Pierre Trudeau, Tony Bennett, Laurence Olivier, Dick Van Dyke, Paul Anka, Yogi Berra, Tony Curtis, Kobe Bryant, The Four Tops, The Beatles, Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Boby Orr, Richard Harris, Telly Savalas (40 suits were made for his Kojak character), even the gangster John Gotti (who was reportedly buried in a Lou Myles suit.)

The company remains in business, although Luigi (Lou) passed away on July 9, 2015.

What fashion cost in 1926 – Men

From the same 1926 Motion Picture Classic magazine series as Clara Bow’s oufit, comes this article with the breakdown for how Ramon Novarro’s evening suit cost $430.00 (not including shirt studs and cuff links, which could range in price from $25.00 to thousands – if studded with diamonds…) Translating $430.00 into today’s money would be about $6,000.00. Take away the hat ($10.00), cane ($12.00) and evening gloves ($5.00) as they are no longer worn, as well as the topcoat ($75.00), which is not pictured but included in the price, the adjusted value of the 1926 outfit in terms of finding a modern equivalent is closer to $330.00, which is about $4,600.00 in today’s money.

Today, a ready-to-wear tuxedo ranges between about $1,000 and $3,000 (up to $10,000, if custom made). Men’s evening shoes range from about $400 to $2,000, tuxedo shirts range between $60 and $300, bow ties cost $40 to $150, a pair of black silk socks range from $50 to $100, and a white linen handkerchief costs about $15 to $50. The total ranges from a low end of about $1,600 to a high end of about $5,500 (more if the tuxedo is custom made, as Ramon Novarro’s was.) In the picture it suggests Navarro’s suit would cost about the same as a flivver coupe, which was the cheapest car on the market in 1926. Today’s cheapest cars range between $9,000 and $12,000, which about equals the value of a custom made tuxedo in today’s money. It seems nothing has changed since 1926!

Canadian Fashion Connection – The Golden Lion, 1847 – 1898

English-born Robert Walker moved to York (Toronto) in 1829 and by 1836 was operating a dry goods store on King street. By 1847 he had built a stone-fronted store and two years later adopted a golden lion as its symbol. The business was successful and became known for its men’s ready-to-wear. In 1866/67 the store underwent an expansion to open up floor space and bring in more natural light; a 12-foot-high stone lion was added to the top of the building prompting the business to become better known as The Golden Lion.  Robert Walker and Sons, (The Golden Lion) was considered the largest retail business in Ontario in the late 1860s. The store was remodelled and expanded again in 1892, but then went into decline, closing in 1898. In 1901 the lion was removed and the store demolished to make way for Victoria street and the King Edward Hotel. The image below was taken in late 1872 or early 1873.

For more information about the Golden Lion:

Vintage Toronto Ads: The Golden Lion