Wednesday, December 19, 2007

A RARE SPECTACLE



On Dec 10th, The Barking Irons had the good fortune to attend the premier for P.T. Anderson’s latest film, 'There Will Be Blood'. I would like to offer up a brief impression of the film for those who are yet to see it.


'There Will Be Blood' takes place in the western United States during the 1890’s. It's inspirations were partially based on Upton Sinclair’s novel ‘Oil!’, which is now out of print and quite difficult to find. Anderson wrote the screenplay which sees the anti-hero Daniel Plainview go about his affairs in pursuit of oil, money, blood kin. However these elements are dipped in metaphors for an altogether vibrant comment on men, capitalism, religion and manifest destiny. The main study, I believe, is focused on a man who’s veins course with oil. A capitalist so fully consumed that he ceases to be human. You can see a desire in Plainview to find his blood or his kin or even someone he can trust, but instead he devours the people around him with his saw-toothed anger and his unforgiving standards.





That being said, the character study of Daniel Plainview is nothing short of a spectacle. It is a trance inducing warp that displaced me in such a way I felt genuinely frightened at times. This is also in part (quite largely) due to Daniel Day Lewis’ performance. To that, I’d have to say watching this almost sequel performance to Bill the Butcher, but obviously different and with better direction, should make other performances blush by comparison. It is stunning. The film's score is nothing to forget either. Composed by Jonny Greenwood of Radiohead, the music is at times out of frame and almost abstract. Period sounds of strings and percussion lead you into emotions. Instead of laying on top of the acting and cinematography, the compositions sometimes precede the impending sequence by minutes. This was a brilliant plan. Much of this film reminds me of Citizen Kane, heralded as one of the greatest films ever made. And even from a layman like myself, I can say that this film, this performance is so important that it should be talked about for decades.



Monday, December 10, 2007

HOME OF THE BEAR

Bear Mountain area, New York. As unlikely a place as ever to find landmark evidence of a big impact on menswear. But hark! This is no ordinary place. This is sacred ground of the Algonquin’s. Home of the Bear they called it after the great Sachem (chief) P’Tauk-Seet (the Bear) pronounced (Tuck-Seet). A village exists here that has held a legend in mens fashion for over a century.


But before this story unravels itself lets take a trip back to England in the 1880's. The Prince of Wales has commissioned Henry Poole & Co. to tailor a special smoking jacket hybrid for him that will allow him to attend semi-casual galas without going through the ritual ‘top & tails’ routine of high class dinner-wear. It is rumored that the then Prince (Edward VII) had his eye on a young Cora Potter from America. Cora was a beautiful southern girl born in New Orleans and married to one James Potter of New York (Cue J. K. Rowling fans). Although Potter was not a wizard, he was a successful coffee broker and a highly influential dinner club founder back in the states. Thus in 1886 he and his wife were invited to attend a ball at the Prince's Sandringham, Norfolk estate in the UK. When James Potter asked the Prince what would be appropriate to wear to such an event, the Prince referred him to his custom tailor to get fitted for his newly designed dinner-wear. A ploy to get time alone with Mrs. Potter?





Funnily enough, Cora did not return immediately to America. She stayed behind in England to pursue acting, while James returned to New York to continue his business and social presence. In New York, James Potter wore his new outfit from the UK all around town and at his private dinner club near Bear Mountain. Customers at the popular dinner spot Delmonico's were noted to constantly ask where the attractive new attire was from. Most of the time, Potter’s dinner club was sighted as the area of attraction for this mysterious and new garb. Consequently Potter’s dinner club which was located back northwest of New York City was given credit for the uprising of this trend. P'tauk-Seet-Tough (Tuck-Seet-Toe) or Home of the Bear by that time (1870's-1880's) was known as Tuxedo, New York. Rather by chance or by the winds of fate, Edward VII, Cora & James Potter, and Algonquin Sachem P'Tauk-Seet had all played a hand in inventing the American Tuxedo.

Barking Irons has pioneered what we call the Hester Polo combining elements of the American Tuxedo shirt with a fine jersey polo shirt for several seasons now.



Cora Potter died in 1936. Upon leaving England in the late 19th century Oscar Wilde is quoted to say "With regard to Mrs. Brown-Potter, as acting is no longer considered absolutely essential for success on the English stage, there is really no reason why the pretty bright-eyed lady who charmed us all last June by her merry laugh and her nonchalant ways, should not--to borrow an expression from her native language--make a big boom and paint the town red. We sincerely hope she will; for, on the whole, the American invasion has done English society a great deal of good. American women are bright, clever, and wonderfully cosmopolitan. "


Sunday, December 02, 2007

BARKING IRONS BLIND TIGER SAMPLE SALE

Last friday, the good old boys at Barking Irons kicked off an entire weekend of amazing deals & steals with an evening of jazz-age pomp at their hauntingly beautiful loft space at 161 Bowery. The news was spread by Thrillist, Urban Daddy, Time Out NY, Daily Candy, and a host of independent bloggers (thanks). Apple-tinged Dark & Stormy cocktails flowed throughout the affair while old time Dixieland jazz quartet brought down the house.

Shoppers were escorted to the 4th floor in a rickety old manuel elevator by a short, disheveled-looking operator called "Mr. Moy" who speaks nary a word of english, but is quite wise beyond his years.

Once safely landed on the fourth floor shoppers were drawn into the jumpy rhythms and flighty clarinet of the jazz players and a lively bunch of lower-east-siders picking through all manner of fine sportswear including copious t-shirt styles, classic hoodies & flannels, and dashing Fireman Pea coats, all laid out like a feast. The smell of rum & ginger hung in the air and the evening rollicked on in the tempo and grandeur of a speakeasy of the roaring twenties.




But there may be no need to speak-easy about this affair. With the resounding success of this sample sale, Barking Irons is considering keeping the retail set-up throughout the holiday season so folks from California to New York Island know exactly which pit on the Bowery to stumble into when in need of some fine threads & a grand ole'time!

visit http://www.barkingirons.com/

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

THE BOWERY NOUVEAU

First off, kudos to the Bowery Hotel and its creators Sean MacPherson & Eric Goode for creating a truly exquisite vision of the Bowery 'gone Continental. We have always believed the Bowery to be a distinct calling card of New York City appropriate for out-of-towners or visitors from abroad. Much like New York, it is an entity onto itself having a colored history that is commonly set apart from the development of the rest of the city. It has always been boldy unashamed of what it is, for better or for worse.

During the 19th century the Bowery was the shadowy low-brow theatre district; birthplace of the American minstrel shows (the first form of American popular music); tap-dancing, the New York dialect, and later epicenter to the vaudeville theatre era. The Bowery was a constant thoroughfare of the carnivalesque; it may have appeared dark & dismal but it was a place that was alive with deeply American inventions and cultural fermentation.


The creators of the Bowery Hotel have taken this "aesthetic idea" of the Bowery as dark & cozy, mysterious, cave-like, ragged and well-worn, and married it to a vision of almost European grandeur. Granted, the interior of the hotel is probably far more elegant than anything that ever lived on the Bowery, but we can appreciate a tasteful appropriation of style when we see it. All the tapestries are tattered like ancient Medieval art, the furniture shows bruises and homely dings & tears in non-obstrusive places, in one hallway there is a glass showcase of Barnum-esque oddities, and surrounding the lobby is a smoky, painted panorama of a river-scape opposing the dusty streets of the old Bowery. Everywhere this dude is speckled:





Bowery B'hoyo

He is their logo & leprechaun and he is friend to Barking Irons. We know the Bowery is in transition and that's all well and good, but first, a tip of our hat to the Bowery Hotel for honoring a legacy in pursuit of new riches.

In contrast to this tasteful homage to the history that is the Bowery Hotel there is the newly constructed New Museum on Bowery, which, along with the new Whole Foods ushers in a new era of Bowery development that breaks unabashedly with the shadowy past of our humble thoroughfare and its lowly fore-bearers.



The "New Museum" on Bowery

Now, I am not one of those who is staunchly opposed to the rising tide of development or one to lament the passing of old, decrepit buildings -this destruction/creation process is part of the life blood of New York, if it did not exist it would truly be something to lament- but these fancy pants architects need to call a spade a spade. This is an excerpt from a recent interview:

Question: How does your design address the context of the Bowery—the thoroughfare itself, the beginning of Prince Street at the site, the surrounding of smallish buildings of different styles and conditions?

Answer: We wanted to be as consistent as possible with the scale of the existing surroundings. However, our building has to accommodate a much bigger program than its neighbors do. By shifting the different levels of the structure in relation to one another, we are also diminishing the bulk and establishing a more effective, dynamic relationship with the buildings in the area. On the other hand, because this area is in transition, we believe the New Museum building should have a strong identity of its own in order to survive, especially on a street as tough as the Bowery.


If this isn't blowing theoretical smoke up our asses, I don't know what is. Your building is by no stretch of the imagination at harmony or in context with its surroundings, it sticks out like a sore thumb and that's exactly what you wanted it to do. And what does "diminishing the bulk" even supposed to mean?? Does it mean diminishing the crappiness?? If so, well done. But we're not so bitter, we know that its par for the course and thats how come your pants got so fancy, so welcome to the Bowery... I guess.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

BLUSHING DIAMOND REVIEW

. Burlesque is alive in Manhattan

If you've ever been to a burlesque show during the 1920's in Manhattan (don't deny it!) you would know what to expect when at Norman Gosney's latest spectacle. Tasteful undressing, vaudevillian chants and good humour are abound. The champagne is sold by the bottle only with its Halloween orange label and it's medicinal effects the whole night seems to blush red with memorable vignettes of classic burlesque.



A smile from Ms. Tickle, a wink from Ms. Amelia and one might forget that they had to show up to a back alley door and give a secret password to be let into a building and sent up to the 14th floor via freight elevator to a special thearter. Each time Mr. Gosney puts together one of his underground extravaganzas it is in a different location in a hidden part of town. And they are not frequent. I'm not entirely sure due to the secrecy of such nights, but I do believe years go by in between shows. Each show always has a theme. I've been to one years back that was a themed pirate showcase. All the ladies showing their individual talents. Spinning hoops, contorting their bodies, swallowing sausages. And its different acts from show to show.




. Ms. Tickle shows you how its done. Or rather undone.
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Some of the players do return from former shows however. A crowd favorite, Frank Bray, classes-up the night with several tunes from 'Old Blue Eyes' and the performance is so close to perfection that one might mistake this man for the reincarnation. But Frank always offers up more as his comic timing and charismatic swagger push beyond expectations.
In the end its all down to your gracious host as he hams up the most vaudevillian promotions. Norman (always the master of ceremonies) can command crowds of New York socialites, Bowery Bums (as myself) and Celebrities alike (hello Bjork). He gets better every show i see him in. Cheers to you Norman and to all the lovely ladies in your show!


. Ahoy!

Ladies and gentlemen, if you ever find yourself down a cold steam pipe alley, bouncer at and un assuming back door asking for the secret password its "stolen bracelet".


Friday, October 19, 2007

SUNSHINE & SHADOW

It is difficult for a gentleman to be discerning nowadays. Smaller independent brands are either destined to a shadowy existence or
or getting snuffed out after a few short seasons. With retail in a slump customers and retailers alike are reluctant to take chances on independent brands and instead gravitate towards bigger, more established labels. Only a few years back this wasn't so, there was an opening in the market for independent brands, people wanted original and subversive, something off-the-beaten-track and provocative.

Everybody knows the economy is in a spin. It is not at all surprising to learn that this opening has since slammed shut and the trend has swung back the other way in light of the circumstances. Everybody is being more cautious especially when it comes to fashion; but does this economic turn inevitably put the subversive consumer on hiatus? Does the falling dollar set the scene for a few years of sure-footed conformity in the fashion world?
Whatever be the outcome, The Good Ship Barking Irons along with a slew of other independents are sailing on in an ever-more brazen direction, through the shadows toward an eventual sunrise.

It is a classic business tale of David & Goliath: we have to rely on getting scrappy and staying lean in order to hold out in this fight. There are several factors working against us, but being a nimble brand is our greatest strength if we can hang in there long enough. The armchair economists predict that the economy will bounce back again, maybe so, but I glean from the experts that we may not have hit the bottom yet. Until then, we here on the Bowery are going to keep our candles burning...

New Fall Collection In Stores; available at Bloomingdales & Nordstroms as well as other specialty retailers


Friday, April 06, 2007

STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN


Running a business from the Bowery is somewhat of a task in itself it seems. Its not the occasional drooling Meth addict outside our door from the clinic a few blocks away. I actually like the reality of their company. Or the Bowery Mission and its perpetual crowd of loiterers outside its doors. Its the Bowery itself, with its many mysteries and omnimous presence that I think creates friction with the world around it. For instance, there is one phenomenon that I cannot rightly get passed in our days at the Barking Irons HQ. Quite often we get the innocent question about our address, “Bowery what?”. It baffles people that a street doesn’t have a surname. “Bowery Street?” they say? “No, just BOWERY” we counter. Time and time again it is a problem. We’ve even had couriers pause shipment because of this. Of course none of these people are from New York. However it brings up the question of why the Bowery is so mysterious to people. Better yet, what is the Bowery? and what does it mean today?

You may say that its the lack of the surname that excludes the Bowery from other streets. Then again, Broadway doesn’t have a surname. Or is it because it has the word “Way” in it that it may be excused from such trials? It is however true that the Bowery had a surname prior to 1807, where it was then called a Road and before that a Lane. But to know why Bowery is called simply Bowery is to know how this road to perdition became such a mark on Manhattan in the first place.

Bowery and Grand St. with the old 'L' tracks casting shadows for theives to hide.




Bowery or Bouwerij in the old Dutch spelling was, the little country road to Peter Stuyvesant’s farm established in the 17th century. Bouwerij literally meant farm or farmland. Peter Stuyvesant was the patriarch of New York. A peg legged dutchman who single handedly purified young New York from the sins of an unruly colony of farmers and feuding dutch traders.



Later on, in the 19th century, Bowery became the poor man’s Broadway. It was filled with Museums, Theaters and Flop Houses of the day. Song writer Stephen Foster died on the Bowery, George Washington drank on the Bowery and legend has it there has never been any Churches built on the Bowery. That fact can be claimed by no other main artery of Manhattan. Perhaps that is a clue to the Bowery's true identity. For Bowery was never a safe road (until Whole Foods opened).

The Bowery’s fall from grace began almost at the same time that it gained notoriety. Covered by a giant ‘L’ in the mid 19th century (which explains why the street is so wide today), it was cast in a dark shadow. This, no doubt, aided its mystique and its violence. Many gangs roamed the Bowery. From the Atlantic Guard to the Slaughterhousers to the Bowery B’hoys, each new decade brought more infamy. Then during 70’s and 80’s the Bowery was born again. It was the famed birthplace of punk, some might say. A baptism occurred, as the Ramones took the stage for the first time in 1974. Located at 315 Bowery, CBGB’s became a mecca for the new punk scene. But as worshipped as CBGB's was, it was not the church of the Bowery.



The secret church on the Bowery exists in the most obvious of places it turns out. Getting back to the origin of the Bowery I found that it doesnt necessarily have a church on it, but it actually leads to a church. The Second Dutch Reformed Church existed where St. Marks Church exists today. Right on the old Stuyvesant farm and rightfully at the top of the Bowery. Why is this so significant to New Yorkers? Well as a church it may or may not be, but as the final resting place of Peter Stuyvesant, it should be the holiest of grounds.

Friday, March 02, 2007

TELL'N STORIES


The Original Sin. . .
Ever heard of Pump Street in Manhattan?

Pump Street. Or what used to be Pump Street and is now Canal, existed around 1829. This name was adopted from the Teawater Garden which was a resort near Chatham Sq. that was built around the Teawater Pump. What is the Teawater Pump you might ask? Why it’s a relic of the good ol’ Collect Pond. The Collect existed before Europeans decided to perform surgery on the landscape of Manhattan Island. The freshwater spring was a sanctuary for Native Americans and Colonists alike until it became polluted and overrun with mosquitoes. This is most certainly a result of the destruction of an ecosystem.


It must suck to die in Jersey
Meanwhile, Alexander Hamilton was shot on the banks of the Hudson River in a duel with rival Aaron Burr over a comment made in a New York campaign statement. Burr goes on to found the Manhattan Company and wins the contract to fill in the old Collect Pond and build a canal to drain it. Reports of the day sight the filling of the Collect Pond as more like a garbage landfill.


Canal and Broadway 1805
Once the pond was filled in, the apple had been bitten. A stinking marsh arose and the buildings that were built above it sank. The Five Points were born. Cursed by the island this site remained one of the worlds worst neighborhoods for decades.
Oh and the Manhattan Company merged with a company called Chase and they are still draining Manhattan. Only now they drain your pockets every time you withdraw from a non-Chase ATM.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

PATRON SAINT OF AMERICA



Cheers to Anthony Kiedis and his girl for this shot. It’s a good look. I’m always glad to see girls who know how to wear a fucking tee-shirt. Most women complain that we only make mens tees primarily. But that’s the point. Women and men alike are supposed to wear the same style. If you’ve ever bought our size “Small” you’d know its not particularly suited for a man. That’s because we have tried to cultivate this ‘cross-gender’ product from the start. Look at it this way, girls want to wear guy threads so why not make the most basic of garments compatible for both?
The shirt that she is wearing is called “Tamanend” and can be found in the Bazaar section of our site.
Chief Tamanend, or St. Tamanend was said to have died around 1698. His reputation was that of a peaceful conduit between the Native tribes of the Lenni-Lenape and the English settlers around the Philadelphia area. Tamanend promoted the peace and love of the colonists to other native tribes, until the stars and moon cease to exist. The name of the great king was then carried from generation to generation and from colony to colony until he gained its most notable of churches “The Society of St. Tammany” or “Tammany Hall” in New York City during the 18th century. This political mecca was fixed with a giant marble statue of the chief atop its massive fa├žade.

The ‘Tammany Tiger’ came into play later in the society’s history as William “Boss” Tweed gained his seat as the “Sachem” of Tammany Hall. Tweed, who had owned and run the infamous “Big Six” engine co. adopted the Tiger as part of his symbol. He then brought it into Tammany Hall with him, thus giving birth to the iconic Tammany Tiger.

Monday, February 05, 2007

HAVE YOU SEEN THIS MAN?


To watch this guy in action is truly spectacular. But he was only the DJ. This was taken at the Gilded Age show on Friday. Eugene Hutz of Bulgaria Bar and Gogol Bordello fronted an early night of good ol’ fashion at Gilded Age’s huge loft showroom off East 4th. Amongst all our other peers and elders, I think Gilded Age does it right. There was an emphasis on fabrications and treatments and a de-emphasis on branding and over-the-top dandyism (if that’s a word). This can be expected from our kids at GA, but what’s most interesting is the execution of their convictions. They are both honest and without censorship.
It was a chill party afterwards, as the loft was none too crowded but had retained enough interesting people and free wine to stick around and chew the fat. The president of Converse was introduced to me as I slurred my way into an awkward conversation. Its not typical that I let the alcohol speak for me but Friday night was one of those moments. As he commented on the fact that I was wearing Chuck Taylors, I brilliantly quipped “Yeah, and they’re soaking wet”. One of my better moments I might add.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

GET DOWN, OLD HAGUE!

For our Fall 2007 season I was being dragged into this "ghostly" theme by my research. Originally it wasn’t a conscious idea, it was more a theme that I kept running into accidentally. I became aware of it after prints started looking diffused rather than sharp. This diffusion was more or less a defense against knock offs. With all the iconography cropping up in prints now-a-days, I was trying to get a distinct technique that would separate Barking Irons from the recent flare of antique prints. Most of it is done with my pencil, but some of it is a result of older print shop methods and halftones in some of our out of print books.


The Daniel Divver print is not an example of this diffusion, but it is an example of how the now conscious theme of ghosts has become a part of the Fall 2007 collection.

Daniel Divver was born in Ireland in 1839. Soon after he came to New York and lived in the city's 4th Ward (Lower East Side closest to the East River). Divver, like all youth, had a fascination with being a volunteer fireman. When he became of age he joined the Eagle Engine Company No. 13 and proved his worth as one of the ladder's best men. As soon as the Civil War broke out, Daniel Divver joined the First Fire Zouaves and was elected Second Lieutenant. In 1861 during the battle of Bull Run, Divver's company met with a rally of Rebels.



Outnumbered and too proud to turn tail, Divver is reported to have rolled up he sleeves and yelled his old engine company's familiar "Get Down, Old Hague!" before rushing forward to his death. The Zouaves eventually pushed the Rebel force back enough to find Divver's body before his final breath. They said their goodbyes but could not move him as the South made another sally and Daniel Divver was never seen again. Until now. . .