The JFK Library just put a wealth of info online for the 50th anniversary of the ’61 inauguration. The full tally includes over a thousand audio recordings and, most importantly for us, about 1500 photos. We could easily spend all day digging through the haul—but in case you can't, here are a few of our favorites.
As it happens, one of our New Year’s resolutions was to read more noir. And while we weren’t looking, the clever folks at Vintage Crime have obliged us.
Back in December, they let loose a crop of fourpreviouslyout-of-printRoss MacDonald novels that will be enough to keep us busy well into February. He’s not as literary as Chandler, but he casts the same eye towards an even stranger West Coast scene—roughly speaking, hippies and runaways instead of oil men and gangsters.
In other words, they’re the detective-novel equivalent of a Neil Young album, dressed up in a winding plot and a pulpy cover. Count us in.
Here’s your daily dose of Anglophilia: a coffee table-ready history of the sartorial wormhole known as Carnaby Street. The book is Boutique London by Richard Lester, and it profiles 30 different shops navigating one of the strangest cycles men’s style has ever seen.
Sadly, the author’s not that Richard Lester, but instead of hanging out with Beatles, he got his chops serving time with classic British marques like Liberty of London—so it’s safe to say he knows his stuff. If you were looking to check on the historical accuracy of your cravat (or possibly your Halloween costume), this would be the place.
By now, Paul Smith is big enough that we rely on him for our opinion of England overall. And based on his latest lookbook, it seems like things are getting a bit sleazy over there.
We don’t mind Smith trying out a pair of Nantucket reds—we knew he’d get around to them eventually—but these latest items seem more directed at early 60s-era beachgoers than his usual urban dandy demographic. They’re impeccably cut, of course, but it’s still a pretty big departure for our Mr. Smith. Did he get tired of the pastel Technicolor vibe so quickly?
As anyone familiar with New York’s recent cocktail revival can attest, drinks are subject to the same trends as tie width. Last year’s wine bar soon gives way to next year’s cocktail bar…which conveniently serves 1930s-style cocktails.
Of course, no one would be happier than us if the classic Rat Pack mixture made a revival, but at the moment it seems to be best known as the punchline of hilariously-outmoded-cocktail jokes. We may have to wait another decade before this is acceptable behavior again.
Unfortunately, they skip out on Mimosa in favor of seven more 60s-oriented color blends, but they’re richer choices than you usually see on footwear. It might be a bit hard to match, but this orange hue is our favorite. You’d better hurry if you like it, though: it’s a limited collection (as usual with Seavees), and only 1,963 are going on sale.
Our favorite TV show has been off the airwaves for a while, but that hasn’t stopped the furniture designers of the world from keeping the look alive.
It’s known as “mid-century modern” to stuffier design folks, but apparently cb2 is a bit more straightforward, dubbing it “The Draper Sofa.” It’s a little too vibrant to find a place at Sterling Cooper and ad men tend to prefer couches with arms on them, but the makers aren’t all wrong. Aside from the occasional orange stripe, it’s a pretty traditional couch.
Previously only available through the occasional PBS marathon, The Prisoner took the Cold War paranoia of the late 60s to psychedelic extremes. It takes place entirely in an isolated compound called The Village—a cross between a prison camp, an Italian villa, and a very bad trip. The following seventeen episodes aren’t all golden, but at its best the show revitalized tired spy tropes like the interrogation with an existential streak more interested in the nature of individuality than the usual guns and gadgets. Needless to say, TV hasn't seen anything like it since.
Of course, AMC is being generous to prepare audiences for its remake of the series...but we'll give them the benefit of the doubt so far.
Stickball—and street games in general—are relics of an earlier time and an earlier city. It’s hard to imagine street games taking hold in a place like Los Angeles the way they did in New York in the 50s and 60s. The street was the front yard for most kids, and it saw more action from tennis shoes than tires.
Since then, the virtual world has tempted kids back inside, but the old guard is putting up a fight. A documentary called New York Street Games is bringing together Old New Yorkers like Regis Philbin and Hector Elizando to reminisce about playing Johnny-on-the-Pony and mourn the loss of the good old days. It’s a little too backward-looking for our taste, but it’s good to know what a common space looks like.
But if they’re really serious about keeping the commons alive, maybe they should give the skateboarders a break.
Country music has had a rough time for the past twenty years or so, but once upon a time it was still raw, exciting, and entirely pure. Musicians came together at outdoor music parks, playing for whoever drove by. Regional sounds from Nashville, Tennessee; Bakersfield, California; and Lubbock, Texas mixed together to create a uniquely American sound that changed from state to state.
Some of it got recorded, but the vast majority of the acts were lost forever, aside from a few memories and a few old photographs.
Leon Kagarise recorded more than 4000 hours of it, but he also took more than a few pictures, and he’s put the snaps together into a photo-primer on the style of the time, called Pure Country. Anyone who’s ever looked up to Johnny Cash or George Jones could learn a thing or two from it. These were the original rock stars.
In honor of the new president-elect, we thought we’d take a look at one of the fresh faces from the past, from a time when politicians trafficked in hope instead of fear and horizontally patterned ties had not yet perished from the earth. Ladies and gentlemen: a trip to the past, courtesy of the JFK library.
The next four years may not look exactly like this…but you never know.
Red Hook modernists Standard41 whipped up six different models—including this one, aptly named “Big Boy”—to assuage their own 60s nostalgia. One of the other types includes a wine rack, but we’re happy just to have a few drawers, some sliding panels, and an alternative to buying something that was actually made in 1961.
Ladies and gentleman, your arduous credenza search is over.
Retro-appeal has been around for as long as there have been old clothes, but the version you find in *Mad Men* is definitely more obsessive than the *Happy Days* model. From the size of the xerox machine to the number of stripes in Draper’s tie, each frame is the product of obsessive research.
Of course, that means it attracts fans who are just as obsessive. The result is this post from graphic designer Mark Simonson, cataloging the anachronisms the show has racked up over its first 23 hours. Of course, he mostly focuses on the font-based transgressions—Arial in the credits? How dare they!—but we’re sure there are an equal number of fashion transgressions waiting to be dug up by an enterprising menswear designer. Better get cracking, kids.
For our part, we noticed Joan delivering Peggy’s promotion with the quip, “Medium is the Message,” a full three years before Mr. McLuhan coined the phrase. Let’s just say she’s ahead of her time.
While suit-makers look increasingly towards the accountants and ad men of the 50s and 60s, it’s amazing to think they’re overlooking one of the best subcultures of the era. Forget the twenties: the fifties and sixties were the real jazz age.
Miles Davis speaks for himself, but a whole generation of icons stood along with him, ditching the porkpie hats and traditional chord structures in favor of a new kind of music and a new kind of style. Taschen did us a favor rounding up 500 pages worth of album covers for their appropriately named *Jazz Covers*. We can’t think of a better window into the age…other than the albums, that is.
Speaking of the Kennedy era, the Great American Novel of the period is getting the film treatment. The book is *Revolutionary Road* by Richard Yates, and the movie is coming down the pike with Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet in the leads. Winslet's husband Sam Mendes is behind the camera to ensure impeccable production design, which should help if you’re more interested in lightweight jackets than suburban ennui.
The book came out in 1961 offering a criticism of middle-class conformity before most people had even given it a name. It’s no coincidence the story is being dug up now—it’s a hot era at the moment, and this is one of its best relics—but we wonder how well it will translate. Like *Mad Men*, *Revolutionary Road* is more interested in burying the past than praising it, but it may pack a lot more raw desperation than we’re used to in our period pieces. At any rate, you'll have to wait until December to find out.