Friday, December 31, 2010

NutSac Disc Golf Bag

image from nutsac

I recently played my first disc golf game with a few friends at Pease Park a few days before the course was to be demolished. It was loads more fun that I imagined it could be, and I couldn't help noticing the hardcore players with their specialized carrying bags filled with 10+ discs. We all agreed that the nylon bags with their harnesses looked silly, and that lugging around so many discs is ridiculous. Apparently the people at NutSac bags felt the same way, so they made a compact canvas bag constructed with American materials and labor. The photo above is the single sac "Lance Armstrong version," and if you think it looks like a purse, it ain't for you.

Handmade? No
Made in: USA


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Tretorn Strala

1st 2 images from blackbird
last image from the tannery

So, I did not end up winning those Blunnies. Perhaps I should release my dream of owning Australian work boots, get practical and opt for an elastic-sided boot that is less rugged, less warm... and less boot. Enter the low-cut, rubber Tretorn Strala! With its modest good looks and an attractive price range, this would be a worthy addition to most anyone's wardrobe. Forget tall rain boots, most of us don't slosh around on the farm or live in Britain. The new Strala Vinter (Swedish for winter) version features furry lining for added warmth. I had seen the Sommar style floating around earlier this year, but the white striped outsole put me off. Definitely like the black stealth versions better. 3rd photo is of a special collaboration with The Wilderness Workshop. More details on the Tretorn Swedish Goodness blog.

Made in: ?
Handmade? No


Friday, December 17, 2010

Eddie Bauer Vintage Lace-up Chukka Boot for Women

The Red Wing Gentleman Traveler Boot, Alden Indy Boot, and Wolverine 1000 Mile Boot are damn solid vintage work boots for men. And at $200-300, they are costly. The mediocre "Vintage Shoe Company" line at Eddie Bauer doesn't seem like anything special at first glance. The only reason I bring it up is that there you can find a more affordable womens' version of the vintage work boot, the likes of which (devoid of annoying feminine frills) can be found nowhere else, save Wolverine ($$$) and maybe Frye. It's an extra 30% off today. I told myself over and over again that I would not covet heritage work boots, but the price is right!

I dug around more to see what "The Vintage Shoe Company" was all about. It does exist, and offers a $265 womens Lilly boot. Not in my price range though, sadly.

Made in: USA
Handmade? No

$139 today

Bear Feet Womens Desert Boots

images from meandmyfeet

You never see desert boots for women, because they are a mens or unisex style. Well here are some that are like the floppy version of the famous Clarks, complete with crepe soles. And they are constructed by a Texas company, Bear Feet. If you check out their site, you can find mostly baby shoes that are super flexible and easily shaped to the foot, as opposed to a stiff shoe shaping the foot. 2nd best to barefoot. Kinda along the miminalist lines of the Vibram Fingers, but even better because they are handmade with American supplies, and with buckles, thread, and special leathers from Germany and Italy.

Edit: Per Amanda's comment, I trekked over to Creatures Boutique on South Congress after a half day of last minute Xmas shopping. They had so many different pairs there! It is under the name Dimovi because the daughter of the Bear Feet family, who resides in Austin, branched off into her own line. I tried on a 39, a size smaller than I usually fit, and they slipped on like a sweetly worn leather sock. (Or as they jokingly called it there, a "foot condom"). The bronze leather was very pliable already, and the thin crepe sole allows you feel the ground underneath. A black crepe sole was available, as well as a mens's version. All the womens' models had a single set of rhinestone glued to side of the boots (on the tip of the flap), a pink/blue/purple strip of leather at the heel, and matching laces. Because I prefer unfeminized things in general, I decided to get a custom pair made with no rhinestones or girly colored accents. It'll be ready in 2-4 weeks! The only thing is that last night I bid on a pair of used Blundstone 500s on Ebay, and I'm still the highest bidder. So I might end up with two pairs of brown boots. I'm not complaining...

Made in: Brownwood and Austin Texas
Handmade? Yes

$179.95, or $140 at Creatures Boutique

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Bag'n'Noun Rucksack

image from oldfaithfulshop

1. Marveling at Japanese treatment of utility
2. Ignoring stuff that I can't buy in the States

Usually #2 rules, except when it no longer applies. What a handsome, yet humble pack- it's like premium Muji (plus the label). Google image search the brand for some more eye candy.

Handmade? No
Made in: Japan


Winter Boots, or Something

Not that I need them, but ever since I laid eyes the beautifully flecked knee socks at American Apparel today in the Drag store (not online!), I've been on the hunt for affordable cold weather boots to pair with it. Over here in Texas, winter wardrobes are dictated by style, not so much by necessity. It's also been about 6 months since I've gone shopping... which doesn't help things. OK let's go!

To the best of my knowledge, L.L. Bean was responsible for the original Maine hunting boot. I was vaguely aware of that, yet my main association with this style of boot is with Ralph Lauren and their faux rugged version's popularity in the hip hop culture. I found a kickass red rubber Eddie Bauer pair on Ebay, and although they are magically in my size, I've purchased ill-fitting shoes on Ebay too many times. And the New England look isn't really part of my style inclination, as much as I love Foster Huntington's blog. Somebody should buy these!!

What about rain boots? They're relatively cheap for a lot of boot. It's messed up that sellers can command $100+ for rain boots though, after they became a flowery fashion accessory. With the exception of legitimate European Wellington makers, such as Hunter (they offer cute socks!) and Aigle, of course. Baffin is a major Canadian producer of boots, and these industrial rubber boots are not only under $40, they are hiding a maple leaf stamped on the heel. Sneaky lads.
Engineer/harness boots. I've been intrigued by these motorcycle boots for a few years now, and never pulled the trigger because they are just too damn tough for me. With the light walking that I do, I simply would not be able to wear them out. As with any technical clothing, I believe that you should get something that fits your functions, and doesn't go way beyond into the land of needless excess. That way you don't look like a tool, haha. These Red Wing Boots in black are drop dead sexy, so that's why they are on this list.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Field Notebooks

image from fieldnotes

One thing I have pretty much stopped doing is writing- with a pen on paper. Even though in college, laptops were the notebooks of choice, I still preferred to handwrite all my notes. Fast forward a few years where the computer dominates my work life, free time, and the hubby is trying to ease the Kindle under my radar. I have 5 books of diaries, yet my latest one has sporadic entries, as Evernote replaced it for a period of months. So, why write things down anymore, when you can type, save, backup, manipulate, and edit stuff on a screen? I don't know the answer to that question. Yet I get to ask myself, as today, by virtue of creating a new Gowalla location, I randomly won a subscription to the Field Notes Colors limited edition notebooks. (Checking in or creating new places is sort of a pointless activity, but I was sitting in the waiting room at the doctor's and had nothing better to do.) And boy are these notebooks lovely, as the line "explores new papers, printing processes, and colors, sometimes adding special packaging and other fringe benefits." I await the first shipment with excitement and smidgen of anxiety over what to do with them! Not a proponent of accumulating pretty objects that just collect dust.

Made in: Various small letterpress and printing studios in the US
Handmade? Yes

$129 (yearly subscription)

image from amazon

Field Notes are inspired by the agricultural notebooks of the past century, yet they are more like a modern, immaculately designed, urban version of their grandparents. For memo books that can stand to be outside, check out Rite in the Rain. They are definitely not as sleek as Field Notes, but professionals use them (see Cool Tools). Also consider other military notebooks, such as the Department of Defense bound log books. ACL has a recent write-up on them, and a hearty discussion in the comments section on the military tactical equipment and clothing as fashion statements.

Made in: ?
Handmade? No


Outlier Merino Pullover

images from outlier

And speaking of fabrics you can never have enough of, how about merino wool, that fine animal product that magically keeps you dry when you perspire, breathes fabulously in warm weather, and keeps you toasty in cold weather. Introducing the $180 sweatshirt! As put off I am by the prices Outlier commands, I believe that their products are worth every penny, if the purpose of your wardrobe is quality over quantity. The value of each piece easily overtakes that of the designer crap found in high-end department stores, as Outlier sells directly to the customer with minimal mark up (see FAQ). Take a look at their Philosophy page; how amazing that a group of people with zero background in garment construction took their passion for well-made technical clothing and sustainability, did a bunch of research, and came back with some really good stuff.

Back to the pullover/ sweatshirt, I am not sold on the aesthetics of the ribbed fabric on the sides, but it apparently allows more movement. The black version is much more plain and stealth, as it the ribbed fabric is not as apparent. This wool style is intriguing to me, as I have not seen a similar product made by other technical wool clothing companies. Even Icebreaker, arguably the most modern and European of them all, does not have a sweatshirt or even sweater-like product. Their thicker knit tops are mostly body-hugging. Ibex, who makes wool cycling apparel, carries a somewhat similar fitted long-sleeve top. With its more classic cozy fit, the Outlier Merino Pullover has the best chance of becoming a winter lounge favorite, as well as performing double duty when you ride.

I fawn from a distance, but have no intentions of purchasing, as the XS in mens will still be too roomy. I am interested in what plans they have for extending their womens' line... might as well give them a holler!

Made in: NYC
Handmade? No


Zugster Waxed Canvas Tool Bag

images from zugster

I'm pretty sure that you can't have too many waxed canvas belongings. You know, as long as you are using all of them. It's a great vegan alternative to leather that ages in its own special way, gaining beausage. The man behind these thoughtfully designed and constructed bags at Zugster, Adam Alpern (Flickr), is man who values innovation. I used to follow him on Google Reader when I was still using that app, and he always posted sometimes technical, always informative reads. And really, how could you not admire a dude who has mastered the art of sewing?

Made in: California, USA
Handmade? Yes!


Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Mundane is the New Exciting

images from proper mag and oi polloi respectively

OK, what is with this: I'm seeing versions of clothing that I could get from Target and Dillards posted in the freshest fashion blogs and online shops. Like the Champion sweatshirt and the 90's ubiquitous Polo long-sleeved polo shirt above. It was only a matter of time before ordinary, easy to come by articles of clothing were co-opted by the industry tastemakers and praised as fashion forward. The maddening (or confusing) thing is that the 45 year old dads with their old Champions and geeks who have kept the same polo shirts for 10 years are exempt from turning into style icons overnight. Only if you possess the uber-specific, time-sensitive cultural capital (see NYT essay on the sociology behind hipsterdom) to distinguish between oblivious and deliberate association with certain products can you exploit this tiresome trend. I'll stop now because I don't want to get all theoretical or point any fingers here. As much as I admire good clothing, I believe that you should wear what you like with pride, not look down on people who don't give a shit, and refrain from placing people in categories. Don't get sucked into stealthy forms of style that are fueled by a belief that your ever evolving taste is superior.

i'm not even going to post these details because i am not proposing that you purchase these underwhelming items

Barbour Beacon Heritage Tartan Blouson

image from the esteemed proper mag

Hot out of the garment factories is the Spring 2011 Barbour Beacon Heritage by Japanese designer Tokohito Yoshida. The details aren't that important. It's just another example of the Japanese (nobody takes style more seriously) remaking a Western classic brand into something more modern, wearable, and with the propensity to be a future classic. I, for one, love the particular blouson (aka blouse jacket) above. You know it's fully functional and can stand up to the worst beating, while looking ever so refined doing it. I definitely recommend this line for consumers who like the style sensitivities of Nau products, but opt for a more traditional feel.

Made in: England (I think)
Handmade? No


Monday, November 29, 2010

Luna Sport Cycling Jersey

image from Sierra Trading Post

Cycling clothes are egregiously overpriced, as I soon discovered after performing a Google shopping search for a jersey. Expect to pay above $50 for a modern synthetic one and over $100 for a wool one. This is baffling to me, as you can get synthetic workout tops on sale for less than $20; is it the fancy stitched back pockets that you pay so dearly for? Who knows. Anyways, I found this tasteful plain jersey by Luna on sale at Sierra Trading Post. It doesn't make you out to be a moving advertisement, with just 3 small stitched yellow logo patches (2-front, 1-back). I like Clif Bars better than Luna Bars, but the latter company churns out some solid women's cycling clothing. The XS is a wee bit too tight on me, but less drag, right? The fabric is sturdy, medium weight, and made of recycled polyester. I hope to snag a black one before they sell out (after I find the perfect bike shorts).

Made in: USA
Handmade? No


Friday, November 19, 2010

Hansel from Basel Tights

images from Hansel from Basel

Here are some of the more quirky, yet refined tight patterns I have seen. Knee highs, anyone?

Made in: Korea
Handmade? No


Monday, November 15, 2010

Cool Weather Cycling

My only wool jersey, snacked on by moths. I gotta get some lavender. A one-of-a-kind Ebay find (Oregon Randonneurs)

As I may have mentioned before, I've been going on Monday Night Rides with whomever is available, going 25-30 miles in and around town. They've really been boosting my aerobic endurance, as I have given up my hatred for hills and and am coming to accept (if not enjoy) them. At 54 degrees, tonight marked the first chilly ride. It also offered some new lessons. I layered up with an Under Armour polyester base shirt, an American Apparel (55% cotton, 50% polyester), a jersey knit scarf, and my Marmot windshirt(100% polyester). Bottoms consisted of cheapo long black cotton leggings from Forever 21, AA poplin shorts on top for modesty, and SOS North Carolina cycling socks. No wool yet, as I am not too eager to provide more luxurious munchies for our resident moths. I might try wool blends first. The scarf was a lifesaver, as I flipped it over my mouth and nose because the cold air was reviving my cough. I ended up only unzipping my jacket a few inches after heart-pounding climbs, never overheating.

Here's the route Tyler, Stephen, and I took. 15 minutes in, I noticed that my handlebars were noticeably tilted to the left. My bike fell over while I was waiting for my ride partners at Quacks, and apparently the stem was not bolted on tight enough. It was folly to not bring my newly acquired (and effing awesome) Leyzne multi-tool, as I was running out of space in my bento box. Always pack the multi-tool! And I gotta get a handlebar bag or remember to wear my jersey. I wasn't able to bring a pair of gloves and my keys, phone, wallet and Clif bar in the bento box made a ruckus on bumpy surfaces. (And, yes, that is a Nitto Technomic protruding a whopping 14 cms above my headtube- it won't go down any lower! As the 50cm frame is a bit small for me, it works. Just don't wanna look like a tool.)

In hindsight, I am happy that I got rid of my large, wide English saddlebag. Only the smallest seat bag (the one I found off Craigslist is Banjo Brothers Mini) won't get in the way of my thighs. To me, the balance of carrying just enough stuff is a challenge to figure out in the beginning. I want to have a rear rack for strapping on a jacket or extra layers that I get rid of during the course of riding, but if I rarely use it, that's 1 or 2 lbs of extra weight I'm hauling up a hill.
Other additions that would have helped: seamless undies (!), not wearing the shorts on top (extra fabric and seams really rub after 10 miles), a warm cap to put under my helmet, plastic toe-clips that actually fit, bar-end shifters. Articles of clothing that did not reek afterwards: thermal shirt, leggings, jacket, scarf. Not bad at all. The Under Armour shirt was pretty cold on my skin when I stopped- it's definitely part of their "heat gear" collection.
It's pretty neat to put my setup to the test and figure out better ways of dressing. I'm trying to "deserve" my gear (aka use it frequently), which will help me decide what is truly useful and what is vanity. This excellent bike touring post reminded me that it's not all about the technical gear, it's about the experience and if you are having fun. Ah, I'm gonna be sore tomorrow for workout. Now that I have binged on chocolate foods (hot cocoa, fudge mint cookies), I feel an early bedtime coming on...

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Patagonia Catalog Photography

As I mentioned before, I adore and respect the photography in Patagonia catalogs. I feel that they represent some of the best of extreme adventure photography. In my newest Patagonia Holiday 2010 catalog, I noticed that some of the photos were from years past, some very apparently vintage. In the front cover in small print, it announces the new book, Unexpected: 30 Years of Patagonia Catalog Photography ("to order online, search classic photos at" - lol). Our coffee table is much to tiny to showcase books, but if it were more sizable, this would be a worthy contender.

image from Mister Crew

Monday, November 8, 2010

STP Finds of Today

Trust me, I usually do not plant myself in front of my computer and browse the ultimate clothing outlet Sierra Trading Post, but I am riding a wool kick. (I can't even begin fathom the decision making behind what goes in their mail catalog.) Some standout finds in the first 10 pages:

Wigwam Lite Hiker Socks. Merino Wool. Everyone needs a pair of eggplant purple hiking socks! This company has been churning out socks since 1905. Made in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, USA. $8.95
Smartwool Cuffed Beanie Hat. Merino Wool. Made in China (b00). $14.95
Smartwool Roundabout Scarf. Merino Wool. Made in Vietnam (boo). $24.95
J.G. Glover English Wool Sweater. 100% Wool. For you Anglophile trads out there. Made in England (where else?). $52.46

Sunday, November 7, 2010


playful life. images from yokoo's etsy shop

Super chunky knitted hats, scarves, and other head-neck accessories. I first found out about Yokoo via the NYT article on making a living via Etsy (conclusion- it's rewarding but hard). Although it's not exactly my style, I am tickled by her vibrant, avant garde flair. Last winter I remember seeing a listing for a plain winter hat that I loved. Hope she will bring it back soon! Edit: She brought it back today: The Circumpolar Hat. So cozy! Peruse and purchase her knitted accessories at her Etsy shop.

Made in: Atlanta, Georgia
Handmade? Yes!

$60 ($10 S&H)

On Functional American Brands

Been digging around other fashion history websites this weekend. Found some fascinating stuff. Note: I do not claim to be an expert in these areas. I am merely a casual visitor and observer. And I apologize for awkward phrases used to describe the trend, as I don't care to pay that much attention to the media's and bloggers' word choice.

showing off some muscled legs and a tight butt. image from nytimes from the book Take Ivy

Having grown up in Texas, I've never been bitten badly by the preppy/ Ivy League bug. For regional wear, like Wrangler jeans and Justin cowboy boot, you had to look in small, isolated towns. I owned the occasional Lacoste and Polo polo shirt, but even that was more determined by European tastes and the selection at Dillard's. I guess it's not something you really get into unless you are from New England. Even when watching The Social Network (great movie), I found myself fascinated by the almost severe ivy attire of the Winklevoss twins in each of their scenes. Their v-neck sweaters, letter jackets, striped ties, and jerseys were an immaculate blend of the proper, the timeless and the elite. Here's an illuminating read from Ivy Style about the man who brought (Ivy) fashion to the previously non-existent Japanese youth clothing market

these men are jolly! images from zabou

Speaking of the Japanese, they have always gotten the historical and aesthetic value of American classicwear. Perhaps because it is so foreign? Traditional American workwear and outdoor clothing establishments, such as Pendleton Woolen Mills, Johnson Woolen Mills (see article), Levis, Filson, Patagonia, Sierra Designs, Danner, Clarks, Dickies, Carhartt, Champion, and many others have all experienced relatively massive success and appreciation in Japan. Recent slideshow example: Best of Vest. Evidence of this is also shown by the fact that on the companies' Japanese website (linked above), they offer a wider range of specially designed premium pieces that can't be found in the Western hemisphere.

probably one of the saddest, most empty outlet malls in texas. image from thbnb

When I traveled to Osaka in the summer of 2006, I was struck by how some of the clothing seemed to more American than what Americans actually wear. And whenever my relatives from Hong Kong visit (Japan serves as sole style inspiration for all first-world Asian countries), they beg us to drive them to outlet malls and Ross/Marshall for them to stock up on what seems like boring, throwaway American-made basics. I am not old enough and have not had enough exposure to Japanese youth culture to make a statement on whether this mad obsession of theirs stick around for more than a handful of years. I hope it will, for the sake of small, family-owned American businesses. I also do not have an opinion about it, and I waver back and forth between apathy (materialism is bad!), admiration (they really know their stuff!) and disgust (those posers). Happily, existing stateside fans of these brands have been able to come out of the woodwork, mostly to discuss with new converts to the current heritage trend.

rad old labels. images from oregonphotos

One important site on the history of outdoor gear is Bruce Jonson's I can only compare it to Sheldon Brown's site in that it is equally as passionate about the subject matter, but much less extensive and organized. It hosts more information that you'll probably ever want to know about early outdoor brands and their evolution. For me, I was pleased to find out confirmation that my down Moonstone sleeping bag was manufactured by a solid company (albeit shut down without explanation), that Patagonia was founded on a love for surfing, and that Rivendell Mountain Works is a brand. Here is a lengthy interview of Mr. Jonson on Our Culture, as he discusses the origins of his low-budget site and his views of the trend, the DIY outdoor culture, and the environment.

modern day JanSport classic pack: the Right Pack. image from amazon

Vintage daypacks have been popular with the streetwear crowd (and of course, Japan) for a few years now, see Jake Davis' post for a summary on the current offerings. As someone who hauled most of her school books in a forest green, leather-bottomed JanSport Classic backpack, I couldn't bring myself to embrace this trend, as I felt too close to it. Granted, most of these models are from the 70's, a decade before my birth, and it seemed inevitable that a rejection of modern synthetic-made outdoor gear would lead to an examination and geeking out of its pioneering roots and first designs.

getting ready to go backpacking at Pedernales Falls!

I am backwards, as I love outdoor gear and only want to love being in the outdoors. I chalk it up to my safe, indoor-loving suburban upbringing and genes; that I have little appetite for adventure, only the desire for the appetite. Living in Austin, I've gone on a fair share of overnight camping trips and a single backpacking trip, and thanks to the other Rivendell, aim go bike camping with my Bridgestone RB-3 sometime. I have moderately few words to report about how much of this equipment performs (which means I probably could not snag a job at Patagonia even as a bottom-rung customer service rep). It's just beautiful and rugged and embodies the sort of lifestyle and attitude so glaringly absent from modern, technology-filled life.

images from RMW and edwinhimself (excellent post)

One specific bag I want to highlight is the Rivendell Mountain Works Mariposa Summit Pack. Nearly identical to the original design in 1977, it cost less than the average imported technical pack you can find in REI, yet is constructed in the US, literally in a remote cottage. Mind boggling!

Made in: Monroe, Washington
Handmade? Yes!