Thursday, September 23, 2010

Synthetics Are Coming! Synthetics Are Coming!

Esquire Magazine—October 1968. One month of this stuff has more substance, edginess and gravitas than a year’s worth of most magazines today—barring maybe some think-tank wonk journal…but that’s work stuff right? I’m a narrow niche content pseudo-expert at work but I don’t read that stuff for general instruction or fun. And you don’t either. If you did; my blog would be the last damned thing on your reading list. I’m gonna ask someone who worked at Esquire during the Arnold Gingrich reign about Gingrich’s vision for and influence on Esquire’s content. He was still on the masthead as Publisher in October of 1968 but I’m thinking that by then, only his standards were present in lieu of an in situ Gingrich. "Salvaging the 20th Century"
And let me share with you my reorientation to world edginess. Edginess has always existed. Every generation has it. I suppose that I hadn’t performed enough due diligence when I concluded that some of the earlier decades of the 20th century fronted a rather staid populous. People…packed tightly into a decade here and there but not really making much of a fuss. I’ll admit again, I hadn’t done my homework. Reading a twenty-six year old George Frazier in a 1936 issue of Downbeat Magazine was my first instruction. Delving in to this 1968 Esquire last night was my capstone. “But wait a minute ADG, the sixties in general and 1968 for certain are poster examples of edginess, protest, chaos and societal reordering. So your naiveté regarding edginess now escalates to full blown stupidity with the citation of a 1968 publication offering apogee. If you didn’t know about 1960’s edginess before…well…” Ok, I’ll give you half a point for that.
But what I guess I’m not conveying clearly is that the edgy ones in decades previous seemed to have gravitas in tandem with their edginess. Could there be erudite edginess? Frazier’s Downbeat rants (be patient—I’m gonna write some stories about them) seem to be written by someone who after losing an academic scholarship at Harvard, wrote in one night, a Bowdoin Prize winning essay to regain Harvard’s graces and a place in next year’s class. That someone would be George Frazier. Kevin Federline…K-Fed to those of us who follow him…seems to be the only contemporary guy with edgy-cred that I can channel right now. Shall I stop this overwrought ramble? Bottom line is that people don’t read or write anymore. So edginess shrouded in gravitas and erudition has gone the way of Dacron-Orlon-Banlon-Rayon-Corfam and...and...Aztran.
Look at the sampling of minds that one month’s Esquire offerings would provide you. One money gets you guys positing stuff on paper that if all were present in the same room... a collective ass whipping would commence that would scare Dog The Bounty Hunter. Buckley and Vidal in a headlock...Kenneth Tynan and William Styron playing the dozens while eye-gouging each other with Truman Capote and the ghost of F. Scott cowering under a desk cradling a martini shaker. Damn...all you'd need to assure that the aftermath looked like Jonestown Guyana was Norman Mailer. It’s official. I’m now living, at least with my thoughts, completely in decades past. I knew it would happen but I wasn’t counting on turning into my grandfather until I was old enough to be one.
Oh, right. This rant is titled something about synthetics. Get to it then. I tracked down this copy of Esquire to get George Frazier’s superbly written article "The Peacock Revolution". Mission accomplished there but what I discerned from the print ads was the festering carbuncle of man-made fibers, films and syntho-polymers. I still think that the seventies was the decade of synthetic absurdities but the prodrome was in the starting blocks in 1968. Aztran? The Corfam—Aztran arms race had to have been riveting. Promeric Imitation Leather? I'm calling in sick right now.
I hadn’t grown enough to port over to the men’s department or wear adult sized shoes until well into the 1970’s. By then, everything was a plastic/petroleum derivative. I don’t think you could buy a purely natural fibered concoction in my hometown circa 1975. I kid you not when I say that I let out an audible, alone, in my house this morning when I saw this Dexter Corfam print ad. This was my first pair of adult shoes. And Corfam is all plastic and all insular. I remember getting home from church and removing at once, my Sunday clothes…I don’t know what went down at your house but an ass-whipping would ensue where I lived if you sullied your Sundays. 
My Corfam-Dexter shod feet would be soaking wet. Complain? Nope. I wore what they bought me and synthetics they did buy. An extruded, rolled out bouillabaisse of unnatural concoctosity otherwise known as Corfam. These weren’t shoes. They were incubator hot houses. My tetter is flaring up just thinking about something similar touching my body. "The miracle of wipe and wear"...I think I could have made a living writing copy back then! But then again in 1968 if you could shoot par golf consistently you could feed your family via the golf industry.
"Like walking on easy street...the miracle material." I just threw up a little bit in the back of my throat.
Catalina Martin...didn't she used to dance at the Cheetah Three in Atlanta? Please, someone who dressed during this era tell me what the collective thinking was. You willfully walked away from shell cordovan, pebble grained cowhide Weejuns, oxford cloth and flannel for this? I gotta know. Tell me please. Remember, these are the kind of things I never got to talk to my daddy about. Were the Mad Men of Gotham really THAT good at telling you that if you didn’t jump on the syntho-polymer Banlon bandwagon you weren’t cool? Lie to me if you must.
Ok, I’ve gotta do work-work now. But I will leave you with a few of the more hopeful print ads from October 1968’s Esquire. 
Jaguar and Triumph…still purveying elegant lines before the U.S. Government ruined their aesthetics by demanding those big ass rubber-baby-buggy-bumpers…front and rear.
And an almost apologetic postage stamp sized ad in the back of the magazine…for L.L. Bean Bluchers. Probably still made in U.S.A. back in ’68… my last pair’s cobblegenesis was one of the Salvadors…either El or San.
Onward. Naturally. In 100% cotton, silver, gator and shell cordovan. But commando.


Patsy said...

Good ole Dexter! Mr. Alfond, the founder of Dexter, invented the factory outlet. The *real* factory outlet, not the made-for-the-outlet-stores of today's Outlet Malls.

Suburban Princess said...

It's interesting that both you and Unca Toad used the word 'peacock' in your posts today. There must be something in the air.

James said...

In 1968 I was 16. My "edgey" was wearing white Levis( ala the Beach Boys")with loafers and blue button down. I was raised mostly in Army towns. Not a lot of sideburns and Nehru jackets, so I really can't answer your question. I do remember Roberts Men's Shop was the only local place to buy anything decent. Everybody else had Leisure Suits in the windows!

Anonymous said...

The one ad says "no breaking in". Wasnt that the truth. I remember wearing such shoes as a kid on a field trip and they nearly severed my ankle by the end of the day walking around. Yes, even people of "good family" purchased such garbage.

Funny memories.

NCJack said...

Still have the 40th Anniversary in a cover. Sure it was a "best of" compilation, but I wonder who could've matched it...then or now.

Also have an "Esquire Etiquette for Men" from c. 1959, which I think is still timely

Richard M said...

What a sad comment to read the Esquire issue then-and I still have a copy-compared to the dreck that is esquire now. Gingrich, Frazier et. al.: Rest in peace.

Anonymous English Female said...

ADG- October 1968?! W-a-a-y before my time Grandpa. You lost me after the first two lines but maybe I'll get around to trying to read this post again. In about 25 years...

David V said...

In the summer 1968 I turned 17. The "Fencing Jacket". That's a name for it I had never heard. We knew it as the Nehru jacket. If you blinked in '68 you missed it. In my neighborhood in Chicago I was edgy in my wheat jeans and tan chukka boots. But by 1970 I had moved on to unbuttoning my button down collars! Whoa! Hide the woman-folk!

Laguna Beach Fogey said...

The writing may have been compelling, but I think it's best to ignore the ads. Pardon me while I put on my fleece sailing vest.

Female Admirer said...

I love a man who has cords to match his crocs.

Anonymous said...

They pushed Corfam hard but the public rejected it for the same reason you hated it. Any "convenience" was nullified by the steam bath effect and the wet socks. People realized that leather shoes looked and felt better. Corfam lost. We won.

Memphis88 said...

Those orange pants are beautiful.

Ian Gilmoure said...

Fantastic pants! I have a similar pair that I wear when accompanying my girlfriend to any sporting event with her beloved gators.

ADG said...

Looks like my Federline pun went over like a fart in church.

Ian...I'm thinking I can wear the orange togs for at least another month...Halloween maybe?

Memphis88...send me my damn elf shoes.

Anonymous...Corfam's lost...yep. But I think I had to wear mine till I outgrew them. The U.S. military still uses a Corfam "derivative".

Female Admirer...come over and I'll wear the ensemble for you.

LagunaFogey...fleece...for some reason, gets a synthetic pass regarding these man made materials. So does the nylon shell used for down coats-vests.

David V. ... Funny! The women folk were hid to assure your safety...or theirs? The guy who owned the clothing store that I worked in said that when the Neru jacket went "cold"...out of occurred in like fifteen minutes on a given day.He said that in all the years of his business, he'd never seen anything come in so hot and go ice cold so abruptly. He had to give the dozen or so hanging in the store to Goodwill.

AnonEng...don't bother. You won't get it .... even 25 years from now.

NCJack...yep. I've just netted out that we no longer live in a literate society.

Richard M. ... very, very well said. I'll be making photocopies of some of the latest stuff I've amassed...check your mail in a week or so.

AnonBreakinCorfamIn...I think those Dexters hobbled me.

James...white levis and a blue button down. That's the cool thing about trad clothes. You'd look fine in that getup today.

SuburbanPrincess...we planned the peacock usage. Today, we both plan on using .... mulva.

Patsy...I miss the "real" factory outlet. I wear the sample size that shoe manufacturers show. It was nirvana when I found out where Polo used to dump their samples.

Anonymous said...

From The Esquire Style Blog:

Anonymous said...

Interesting article, thanks.

Here in Seattle, all the eco-citizens wear "fleece" which is just polyester with a catchy marketing name. And the outfit is not complete with out some white sneakers from an Asian sweatshop.

Lisa said...

ADG, you may give us women lots of crotch shots (and thereby making us forgo our addiction to cigarettes - and I don't even smoke!) but Wasp101 is giving us this:

I fear there is nothing left with to compete - just LOOK at those eyes. Any woman’s heart would melt(!) and no amount of crotch shots can compete with those eyes.

ADG said...

Lisa...I've been outdone. What can I say? My crotch, trumped by those eyes, the drapes and the microblinds.

AnonSeattle...somehow, fleece seems an acceptable alternative to those late 60's insults like Corfam.

Flo...I'll have to check it out.

ilovelimegreen said...

I like the orange pants - but please don't pair them with the orange Crocs. The dog's eyes do nothing for me so don't replace crotch shots with dog shots.

Officer & Southern Gent said...

Ooooh, since I was born during said month, I def would love to read that issue. It was a tough year (MLK, RFK...'nuff said), but it is nice to think about the amazing writers darkening the pages of Esquire. I get the magazine now (there are so many deals out there to get it for $10 a month...don't scoff), and it isn't the same.

As for Corfam...they have put their imprint on the military with their plastic shoes (oddly, they are often called "Corframs"...dunno where the mistaken sobriquet came from). A pair of plastic oxfords for inspections is often de rigueur...picture an hour standing at attention on a hot summer day wearing Glad plastic bags over your feet. It is easy to lose 4lbs of sweat...3 of which is below the ankle.

initials CG said...

ADG, you survivied a tough period. My time was up in the Rockies.. Boulder in the 70's. Plastic wool...Captain n tenille or something... you sweat and feeze, go figure.