Saturday, December 31, 2005
BUZZ IN BLACK
posted 10:10 PM
I happened to run across this old post on one of the fora here tonight:
Posted July 04, 2004 02:12 PM by Lloyd
"I like the idea that Gibson made the mistake deliberately and willed the black MA-1 into being -- but I still think it's more likely that he misremembered the color of the jacket.
Rickson's, which issued the new version with Gibson's cooperation, describes the black jacket in "Pattern Recognition" as a misrecollection on Gibson's part, and you'd think he would have corrected this if it was wrong.
I'd love to get Gibson's explanation of the whole episode."
I may be obsessive, but I'm definitely not all-knowing. The actual chain of events went like this: A Korean friend of mine told me about buying a Rickson's jacket in Tokyo. My friend is a multi-lateral otaku, and once had an office-mate in Seoul who collected nothing but the *zippers* from US military flight jackets. *That* impressed me. So my friend told me about the trouble he'd gone to to score a Buzz Rickson's repro of a WWII US Navy N-1 deck jacket. I Googled Rickson's, couldn't read the kanji, but saw these hyper-obsessive MA-1 repros.
The MA-1 is a very complexly iconic garment, having manifested in a number of subcultures since its initial military issue in the 50s. A tiny cult of proto-Mods favored it early-Sixties Soho, skinheads made it a part of their intensely narrow dress-code (often in burgundy, which the USAF never issued either), it was part of a certain gay uniform, goths wore it (always in black). And I had always liked it, particularly on girls. I had never been able to wear one, myself, because they tend to be cut very short in the back, and I have a very long back.
While Rickson's had never made a black one, countless black jackets in the MA-1 pattern have been made over the years. It's been a very popular, indeed classic pattern. These are not made to the specifications of the US military, but for sale to civilians. I gave Cayce one because I thought it worked for her, and I made it a Buzz, because that worked for me. I never stopped to think that Rickson's didn't actually make a black one, but if I had, that wouldn't have stopped me. Hubertus Bigend doesn't exist either, and I have my poetic license right here, laminated, in my wallet.
To my surprise, Cayce's jacket immediately felt to me like a *character*, rather than merely a garment, and I liked that.
Some time after the book was published, I recieved a very puzzled letter from the folks at Buzz Rickson's, who had been getting requests for black MA-1's. Once I had explained what was happening, they amazed and delighted me by asking my permission to make a repro of *Cayce's* jacket, to market as their Pattern Recognition model. Yes indeed, I said, and while you're at it, cut me one with an extra four inches in the back, please. Which they did, and it's over the back of a chair nearby as I write this. I love this jacket. It reminds me of the title of a Surrealist sculpture, "An Object From The Other Side Of The Bridge". It's real, but it emerged from a work of fiction. (I'm not positive, but I think they all may be a little longer than the USAF pattern.)
No money changed hands, by the way, but I'm well-supplied with various superbly obsessive Ricksoniana, including their amazing 1944 Waist Overalls jeans and indestructible WWII-repro US Army chinos. "I hate fashion," a Rickson's employee cheerfully declared, when they visited me in Vancouver. So does Cayce, I thought.
Recently we have been discussing an entire Pattern Recognition line, which would consist of all of their classic reproductions, but in black. People have been requesting other jackets that the USAF never issued, like a black version of the coyote-snorkel N3-B USAF parka. Ninety percent of their product sells within fifty miles of their Tokyo workrooms, they tell me, and they really aren't very interested in foreign sales. They are just, well, nuts. Divinely and magnificently nuts.
People who complain about the very high cost don't understand the degree of sheer lunatic obsession that goes into these things. You are very unlikely to ever wear another piece of clothing this well-made. I know I never have. (They are actually better than the 1950s USAF originals, which were only finished to military contract standards.) They spent a million dollars, when the company started up, on machinery to reproduce 1950s USAF-spec Crown zippers. Nobody outside of Japan is very interested in paying for that, they told me, smiling. They have found their niche-market, bigtime.
And that said, I see it's about forty minutes to midnight, Vancouver time, so I'd like to wish us all a *much* happier new year!
Friday, December 23, 2005
posted 5:15 PM
I ran into an old friend recently. He told me that he'd launched a new line in Japan, and was planning on bringing it to the United States soon, and that I should be sure to remember to wish all of you a very merry Christmas and all best wishes for the new year. So here I am, doing that, for the both of us.