Friday, April 30, 2010

The Vintager Actor

Martin le Maitre is a Zimbabwean-born South African actor best known for his leading television roles as Billy Dwyer in the sitcom Suburban Bliss (1996), and as the hard bitten journalist Ivan Ferris in the SABC3 drama series Hard Copy.

Much of his passion however is in theatre where he has performed as Hamlet, (Best Actor nomination), as Leontes in A Winter’s Tale, and as Lucius in the British National Theatre production of Titus Andronicus.

He has toured Europe, including London's West End, with Mooi Street Moves (Fringe First Award at the Edinburgh Festival), and received a Best Supporting Actor Award for his role as JJ in Smallholding.

Martin has owned his leather bag for over 12 years since his wife gave it to him as a present and he is not keen to let it go anytime soon. This bag has seen many rehearsals and tours alike and has no doubt held some of the best play and movie scripts in its leathery bosom. Its a serious bag for a serious actor.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Vintager Fortune Teller

This kind of story that this blog is all about. It is not just about leather and denim fanatics, its also about the everyday people and the stories their leather and denim's tell. In this case there is a fortune teller who sits next to Cafe Mozart in the Church Street walkway off Long Street in Cape Town. I have walked past him countless times watching while he gives readings to captive listeners bent over his rustic cards. I have always noticed this beautiful leather bag that sits next to him stuffed with thick frayed books. The bag itself looks wise with age; there is something almost magical about it and its contents.

I have been curious to speak to him for quite a while but never really found the opportunity or the courage, today however I decided to have a conversation with him.

His magic name is Babylon Don and he has been telling fortunes for over 20 years. He warmed up quickly to the conversation about his bag, although he found it a bit odd at first, actually ‘kinky’ was his adjective. I suppose that's the response you get for saying you have a passion for worn leather. His bag is 6 or 7 years and was given to him new by friend along with 'magic books'. It sounds like a true gift of providence for a fortune teller- a full grained hand-made leather bag containing books of magic.

Many people comment on the bag asking where they can get one or offering him money to acquire his. The bag was evidently crafted by a guy called Neville Momplain (He is not sure of the exact spelling) who was quite a prolific bag maker around Cape Town some years ago before leaving to go live in London. The bag is very basic, it has stretched over the years from being stuffed with books and often serves as a pillow too. It has developed a really rich patina that looks like a ancient treasure map with the leather grain, stains and scuff marks creating a symphony of textures and shades. Its an interesting bag for an interesting man.

Since I was talking to him I asked him what he charges to have ones fortune read. He doesn't have a fixed price, you give him what you like or what you think its worth. What’s the point, I thought, of talking to a fortune teller and not having your fortune read? For the next 45 minutes I was engrossed in his reading, most of it was broad but inspired, I found myself instinctively trying to fit what he said into the contexts of my life. Its easy to be skeptical about these things if you are looking for definitive answers. Once you let go of the idea that anyone knows the absolute truth you can see any perspective as an opportunity to look at the events and possibilities of your life with fresh eyes. He didn't tell me when I would become rich, famous, married or how many children I would have rather he said quite a few things said that were very useful. I would really recommend this as an experience if you are ever near Green Market Square, pop into Cafe Mozart and have a coffee then have your future told. It was a fun, engaging conversation with a really interesting person.

CafĂ© Mozart, surrounded by art galleries, antiquaries and clothing shops is situated just off Long Street, and offers the perfect place for regulars and tourists alike to relax and take in the sights and sounds of Cape Town. ...‎

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Vintager Postman

As luck would have it the postman in my area is what I consider to be a true Leather Vintager. I took these pics today as he was dropping off mail. His name is Mr A Jassiem, he has his original leather post bag and has been working for the Cape Town post office for over 30 years. Owning this leather mail bag is a source of pride for him as its a testament to his long service in the postal industry. These bags are really hard to find so this is a rare sight; the new generation of postmen all have canvas bags. As you can see this leather bag has done many years of hard labour and I am sure has interesting stories to tell. I will be sure to catch a further conversation with him on his next delivery.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Artelier LaDurance- French Passion for Denim

Artelier LaDurance- Cross Pocket

I discovered Artelier La Durance in Berlin where I bought my first pair. Most of the information I have about raw denim first is inspired through this brand which celebrates the die hard philosophy of the Denim Vintager.

‘Atelier LaDurance is a small scaled, independent French denim label that has the passionate drive to make top crafted products. Based upon stylistic durability, emotion and magic. Articulating a well considered choice: ‘capitalising on quality, instead of quantity’. Aterlier LaDurance offers only unwashed japanese denim in the classic tradition of how all utility wear used to be sold ion the past. Unwashed denim is a sturdy fabric that gets a natural weathered appearance over time. Rich variations and nuances of shading and roughness of texture are what gives it that well-worn-in garment its unique personality.

The individual character if yesteryear utility-wear garments, is mainly achieved by heavy treatment and permanent wear. Washed with an outstanding laundry recipe, a well worn in denim garment will usually far exceed it’s owners expectations of performance.’

The Art of Denim 101- According to the die-hards

Red Wings Shoes- Iconic Vintager footware

Red Wings Shoes- A Classic Amercian Brand

The ultimate shoe brand for the Leather Vintager is undoubtedly Red Wing Shoes. You really understand the fanaticism about these boots when you have actually worn a pair in and they become glued to your feet. They are incredibly comfortable yet rugged combining classic style with workman wear indestructibility. And the best thing about them is that they look better and better with wear and age.

The crap thing is that they are not sold here in South Africa at all. My first pair I bought in Frankfurt, Germany of all places at a stunning Red Wing store that has been selling these shoes since 1977. Red Wing is a lifestyle and a passion to these die hards vintagers and it seemed as if you could only be allowed into their exclusive club once your Red Wings had clocked some decent mileage. When they heard that I was buying my first pair I was taunted a bit like a virgin in red light district. I had to laugh as there is something very funny and yet stylish about Germans being fanatical about an American vintage brand.

If you are ever in Frankfurt visit their store and try on a Red Wing boot

More about the Red Wings

"Every man needs a fine pair of boots; a pair that might withstand the rigours of climbing up Mt. Kenya, traipsing over Dartmoor or even sloshing through the rain swept streets of Soho. Luckily Minnesota-based company, Red Wing Shoes, makes such an item. Founded by a Mr. Charles H. Beckman in the town of, well, Red Wing actually, for the last 104 years they have been constructing the most durable, most stylish, most essential utility footwear in the world. Indeed, such is their prowess that in 1915 the entire US army trudged to the trenches in Red Wing Number 16s. In World War Two the company produced a remarkable 239 different widths and sizes for America’s armed services. In fact, they are still such sticklers for fit today that they won’t sell their shoes online. (Which, by the way, is most annoying when trying toget those gems only released in other territories!)
Essentially a manufacturer of no nonsense work boots, Red Wing initially crossed over into the street when Marlon Brando sported their classic Engineer boot in the film The Wild One (1953), thus prompting millions of bikers (including a certain Steve McQueen) to follow suit. In fact, today the Engineer boot is so synonymous with the biker style it is hard to imagine they were originally made for American steam train drivers back in the ’30s. But the really big leap into civvy street occurred in 1975 when Jack Nicholson wore the classic wedge-soled Red Wing 177 (with the Moccasin front) underneath capital ‘E’ Levi’s, sweatshirt and vintage WW2 USAF leather bomber jacket in the movie, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Suddenly thousands of British soul boys adopted the boot, forging a whole new brigade for the bootmakers.
2005 marked Red Wing’s centenary and the launch of the quite superb Beckman Collection. Thus named after their glorious founder, it is hardly surprising to discover these shoes harking back to the original styles of the ’30s and ’40s. There can be no denying the durability of a Red Wings boot when it comes to construction, and, judging by their recent anniversary, the same can be said for their enduring popularity. Whatever fads and fashion come and go in the next 100 years, it’s hard to see these fantastic boots being stamped out."- Text by Chris Sullivan


Burg&Schild- Berlin inspiration for Red Wings and Denim

Burg & Schild- A concept for real guys, denim aficionados, idealists, all those of character, who seek clothes, not costumes.

This incredible shop Burg & Schild in Berlin is the place that really got me inspired in vintage styling of denim and leather. I was sold from the moment we walked in when we were met by the store owner who was dressed in a worn in pair of 1920 vintage levis, with old leather braces, a vintage style t-shirt and a pair of classic white Jack Purcells.

“The shop itself sell clothes that encompass an idea of a past America, with a product line that includes vintage Levis, Filson bags, Redwing boots and Stetson hats, Burg & Schild creates an image—via fashion—of rough-and-tumble, contemporary Urban Wild West. While the vision of America may be a bit romantic, their clothes are anything but. Vintage classics and new takes on jeans and work-wear translate into sturdy, inspired digs. The store is decorated accordingly, clad with an ancient race car, the smell of oil and tar and photographs of Steve McQueen.”

If you are ever in Berlin this is one shop you must visit.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Levis Denim 501

I enjoyed this article:

“I like the process- from a brand-new unwashed pair of jeans until they’re ready for burial. I really do wear them hard. I start off by doing a lot of squats to get the wrinkles in nicely. But the number one trick is wearing your jeans every single day and letting your sweat and oils start to morph the denim, so it becomes a very personal shape. I think the key difference with the 501 is that it fits around your body. I like the way that 501’s don’t follow your every curve; they evolve to fit your body. Also, as they move along, I repair them so I can get more wear out of them. They really do become a part of you. Once you break a pair in, there’s no alternative. You just can’t put on another pair of jeans.”

- Carl Chiara, design director LEVI’S CAPITAL E and RED COLLECTIONS

Friday, April 16, 2010

The Saddleback Leather Briefcase- Leather for Adventure

These images come from the Saddleback Leather website used with the kind permission of the Jonathan Munson on behalf of the Saddleback Leather Co.

A tribute to Saddleback Leather Co

There are certain companies who through their philosophy and their craftsmanship have defined the experience of the modern Leather Vintager; one such company for me is Saddleback Leather Co. Not only does their website sell some of the best classic leather pieces from briefcases to iphone covers, their service is efficient and friendly, and the site itself is an inspiring resource for a discerning leather aficionado.

They have a fun but apt, tongue-in-cheek tag line: ‘They’ll fight over it when you're dead’ where they guarantee their materials and workmanship for a 100 years; the owner Dave Munson clearly does not mess around.

After checking out their site a few hundred times over I decided to try them out and ordered myself a chestnut leather briefcase. Admittedly, together with postage and the hefty customs fee it was not cheap, but man was it worth it! It is truly one of the most beautiful yet absolutely functional leather bags I own and I have no doubt it will travel with me for my entire life.

I was in a glow of appreciation from the moment it first arrived in that box when I spent days admiring and smelling it and even though it was relatively new I already started receiving compliments when I used it.

Saddleback have managed to personalise and invigorate the process of buying and owning a leather bag. The information, the honest personal stories of Dave Munson, the funny answers to FAQ, the inspiring testimonials, their service and the quality creations made the whole process an experience that I would highly recommend.

But the thing that really stands out for me about Dave’s story and the customer photos that he chooses to post on his site is that they are all about the adventure of travelling and an enthusiasm for life. The photos show his leather bags travelling every part of the world, in many strange and wonderful countries and in some very interesting situations, too. Not only are his bags built to last, they are built to travel, explore and enjoy. This is what I find truly inspiring: superior leather craftsmanship with the spirit of adventure for life.

Rule 7 of the Leather Vintager is to have wonderful adventures and travel the world with your leather.

Check Dave and co out at

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Self Portrait with my Saddleback Leather Bag.

The combination of a vintage 70's Schott Perfecto Leather Jacket Ramones with a 1968 Merit Leather US Mail Bag looks way cool- that's a true Vintager look.

Bucheimer, Bona Alan and Merit Leather

I began researching and searching for mail bags online and found lots of really cool vintage US mail bags on ebay. They are highly sought after and there seems to be three main makers of these bags: Bucheimer, Bona Alan and Merit Leather. They can fetch anything between US $200 -$900 depending on the condition of the bag. Most of these bags date between 1940 and 1970.

I tried bidding for these bags on ebay, bidding was fierce and I decided that it was going a little beyond my budget. The thing was that I wanted to use the bag and not keep it on display. It just does not seem right making every day use of a 50 year old bag that is more a piece of history than a piece of personal luggage.

I decided in the end to have my own one custom made. That way it would be customised to my own needs. It would be my blank leather canvas for the experiences that I would have and the stories it would tell about me and my travels. It would be a Personal Vintage.

Vintager Leather and Denim

Searching for a Vintage Leather Mail Bag

I was inspired recently by this picture taken from a magazine posted on the Satorialist blog of an old 1950’s US leather postal/mail bag. I loved the its ruggedness and the way the leather had darkened in different places over the years. This was a real-deal Vintager leather bag, built to work under all conditions and last a lifetime. Its the kind of bag that one could carry everything in and take it with you absolutely everywhere you go.

Here in South Africa, postmen too used to have a these big dark brown indestructible leather bags to deliver mail. Isn't it interesting that at the time those bag were not really considered fashionable or even desirable, it was simply a work bag for what seemed to be back breaking job. I remember seeing postmen always walking bent over forwards to counter balance the weight of the mail they carried while at the same time looking out for unfriendly dogs. It did not seem like an enviable job even though we really appreciated getting our mail on time. I wonder what has happened to those bags. Are they lying in a storeroom somewhere? Have they been destroyed? I have never seen one come up in any of the vintage stores that I regularly visit; I would love to track one down.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

An Authentic Vintager Lesson

There are two types of pieces that can be found in a Leather Vintager’s collection.

1. Personal Vintage- These are well crafted, full grained leather pieces bought new and built to last. They start as the blank canvases of your own journey and, over time, as you carry them or wear them, where ever you go, they become your personalised treasure.
2. Secondhand or Historic Vintage- These are second hand bought or inherited leather pieces where someone else has done the job of aging or wearing it in for you. These pieces are filled with the stories and experiences of other people’s journeys, some of them historic which gives them a different kind of value especially if you are familiar with the details.

There is another category of vintage leather which I do not consider an authentic part of a Leather Vintager’s collection and that is artificially aged leather. This is a process where manufacturers inject chemicals and treat the leather to give it that ‘distressed’ look and making it seem ten or twenty years old when in the meantime it just came off the factory floor.

I bought myself one of these bags from a cool brand called Tough. Its a stunning looking bag that immediately got compliments from the time I walked out of the shop with it. I was a little perplexed at first and asked people why they liked the bag so much; I received the same answer: ‘because it looks like you’ve had that bag forever, it has such character!’ The compliments were not that gratifying to me, the bag was not old at all and it’s fake character was created by the manufacturers which to their credit had done an extremely good job, but it was still a lie.

After a year of use the leather on the bag has began to perish, the Vintager gods were clearly not impressed. I was not happy either that this Tough bag was not so tough after all. I took it in for repairs and now a year later it will need to be repaired again, straps are coming apart, the leather is turning to powder in spots and soon I will not be able to use the bag any longer; I am pissed to say the least. I was taken in by the instant gratification of having a beautiful ‘vintage’ bag off the shelf, not realizing that it would have a ridiculously short life span. Its really disappointing to watch something you really like disintegrate right in front of you. Of course I will never buy something like that again, it is not the way of the Vintager; lesson learnt.

The Adventure Begins- First Post

A few years ago I was introduced to the beauty of vintage leather by a close friend  who was buying herself a new leather briefcase. While looking at a particular item she commented on how nice the bag would look after a few years when it had developed character and patina; she seemed to specifically look at bags with an eye to how they would look after time as apposed to just how they looked now. It made the process of owning leather seem like a photograph that would slowly develope over many years of use to find its true beauty.  After buying my first leather bag I too became aware of all the old classic leather pieces around me, leather bags, briefcases, belts, shoes which woke me to a world of classic leather appreciation. 

There is something about well-crafted vintage full grained leather with its rich character, texture and colour acquired over time that makes it a living story book about those who own it.
This was the first time the concept really hit me; that a physical item could actually look better after many years of use, having more value aged than new. This was not only a testament to superior craftsmanship, which is extremely rare these days, but that there truly is an art to aging itself. By this I don’t mean the artificial aging in the way leather and denim is treated before you buy it, I mean the real aging that comes through years and years of use. This seemed like such an appropriate life metaphor that true beauty is revealed through aging and living.

In this day and age we put so much value on having the newest things that we so easily discard our possessions after only a few years or  months. Styles and creations nowadays have a built-in disposability and we seem to have lost the true appreciation for the quality and durability.

So this blog is a celebration of all these things that are classic, timeless and built to last, it is about the craftsmanship involved in making them and the interesting stories of the owners for whom they hold great personal value.

Note about this blog
1.It is a more of a masculine appreciation for classic full grained leather pieces and the stories behind them, in much the same way a good whiskey or a cigar is enjoyed. Ladies and gents are invited alike.
2. This blog is not about erotic leather S&M stories. Anyone with a fetish for black shiny genuine or fake leather is in the wrong place. It’s not that I don’t find black leather outfits sexy but I think there are enough sites about this. 
3.The stories will not all be about leather appreciation, it will include vintage denim and all other things that compliment the style and experience of classic goods that are built to age.

Have fun, I know I will.