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.