Sunday, November 12, 2006
Sunday, November 05, 2006
WHAT’S IN A NAME-O-SONIC?
I look for old technology in the thrift store. It’s a wonderful place to see the decay of the once-loved. Televisions, radios, irons, hair-dryers, and other home essentials of 1950s, 60s, and 70s always have an endearing “the future is now!” vibe. Even in their declining state as thrift store fodder they still exude the optimism of progress and of more efficiently blended drinks. I am especially enamored of the names that American industry gave to its affordable workhorses. It was the name of the product that contained its promise of “better living through technology.” That sun has set. Sure, we’d all love a new car with a forward-looking-infra-red navigation display or a ultra thin cellular phone/ camera/ video game system/ heart monitor/ nose-hair groomer, but do any of us still believe in the power of that technology to make us better people. The more we rely on technology the less regard we have for its possibilities to transform society. We live in an era of cars named after algebraic formulas, of the endlessly abbreviate and acronym-ed, of LEDs, RFIDs and USBS on happy Meal toys. Wouldn’t it be nice to return to the era of the Electro-Dyna-Phono-Matic cheese-slicer, that helped us beat communism, reach for the stars, and cut mom’s time in the kitchen in half?
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
So I sell stuff on eBay. Stuff I find in thrift stores. It’s not like it’s a dirty secret, or anything. I have no qualms about making a buck or two (hopefully more) off of the these temples of disposable consumerism. If there’s someone out there who truly wants a Stoker Ace t-shirt or a vintage Radio Shack 9 volt battery, why can’t I be the one who culls these precious gems from the heaps of effluvium? I guess that kind of sounds like a crack dealer justifying his trade as a public service, but it’s not really that bad if I feed someone’s eBay addiction. Hell, I have my own ebay-related problems (ask me about safety posters sometime). It also gives me a reason to visit as many thrift stores as I can during the week.
I spend and inordinate amount of time in the clothing aisles of the Goodwills, Amvets, and myriad other incarnations of the secondhand shops. What I’m usually looking for is the unusual color, the funky cut, the thin and soft texture of vintage t-shirt, jacket, sweater, what have you that find there way from peoples closets and attics and boxes in the garage to the clothing racks of the Salvation Army. Unfortunately for us craphounds there is a work-related hazard nowadays: fake vintage clothes. There’s literally two tons of this stuff in every thrift store from here to Mexico City, stuff from Old Navy and other pop culture huckster leeches. Fakey “Eat at Joes,” “Dicks Auto Repair,” and “Kentucky is For Lovers” tees. Counterfeit vintage Adidas running jackets. Bogus “Led Zepplin 1977 Tour” concert duds. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wrestled a piece of clothing from one of the overstuffed racks believing it to be a true archaeological pop culture treasure only to discover it’s true carbon dating was Target, circa last month. I will tell you it’s the tags that give them away every time. Craphounds, go to the tags for your vintage verification. You can fake the Pac Man logo, you can fake the faded and cracking silk-screened graphic, you can fake the butterfly collars, you might even fake that 1960s shade of puke green, but you can’t fake the vintage tag, which is often a work of art all on its own.
And that’s what this post is about. Some tags are tiny Picassos, Van Goghs, ant its instant love a first sight. The stitching is sometimes simple, sometimes wonderfully complex. The designs can be intricate, or sparse and striking. Even if the garment has a limited eBay appeal, I’m often tempted to buy it just for that tag (of course, those inappropriate cravings are supposed to be alleviated by a quick application of digital camera snapshot). And doesn’t say something about the olden days that garment makers put so much effort, and attention to detail into 2 inch by one inch swath of fabric that was hidden on the inside.
So, some of these tags I sold (along with the garments around them). Some were momentary acquaintances. And some are hanging in my closet. I’ll let you try to guess which is which.