Presented in it’s entirety, Catalog #21 the 1984 Christmas edition. I posted a page a day with a few comments for every page. This catalog seems to me to have the last vestiges of the original BR catalog, the next few years would bring a huge expansion of BR with bigger and more ambitious catalogs and a growing number of stores. Please enjoy.
Pages 46&47: Gurkha shorts go way back in BR history. They had bought a ton of them in bulk. I’m curious if there was a point when they sold out of surplus stock and began to manufacture them.
Pages 44 & 45: Some cool and unusual items. Hand made bracelets from a tribe in Kenya and a bag made by Polish Solidarity workers. The Cold War seems so far away now, but it was referenced a lot in BR Catalogs. Notably their 1986 Soviet Safari.
Pages 42 & 43: The Save The Elephant bracelet is in the same category as the Save the Tiger Belt. And is this jumpsuit the same as the Flight Suit from earlier catalogs? I think so….I’m thinking “Flightsuit” flew off the racks while “Jumpsuit” didn’t really get off the ground…
Pages 40 & 41: Not much exciting here. What’s the difference between the White-Collar Workshirt and the Sierra Denim Shirt? I’m sure in person the difference between blue chambray and blue denim is quite clear, but based on the illustration I’d say….the work shirt has a pencil pocket.
Pages 38&39: Tropical Wool Pants-Because you may not get a chance to change clothes between the riot and the banquet. Seriously, though, they really are proud of these pants. The main point of the outback shirt seems to be that it’s collarless. The platonic shirt–I dunno, I’m having trouble telling all of these shirts apart. Expedition, Platonic, Safari, Chamois. I think there’s a point where the illustrated catalog fails in that sometimes it all starts to look the same.
Pages 36& 37: This page really is a festival of beige, but the plaid lining on these jackets is pretty sporty. I had seen this jacket on eBay before and was puzzled by the lining–but there it is, a bush jacket with a lining. There are a few pieces I need to get straight. There are so many little variations on this kind of jacket, it’d be good to do a post where they are all side by side. Meanwhile, the spot illustration on the West African Hat is really nice. Lovely touches in the watercolor background.
Pages 34 & 35: Inspired by Gen. MacArthur, the Goatskin Flight jacket pairs nicely with the Silk Aviator’s scarf. I didn’t realize they did that scarf in Khaki and Blue, I only remember the classic white. I’m a huge fan of the BR Army Air Forces. It takes panache to wear a white silk aviator’s scarf with your jacket. I wore it proudly, if self-conciously.
Pages 32 & 33: Lots of authentic surplus here. I wonder what they did with the airplane parts and K-rations! It’s unclear if the sweater vest actually dates back to the fifties or if that’s how old the design is.
Pages 30 & 31: Here’s a classic BR Surplus story. The only authentic RAF sweaters they could find were made for the tiniest British Airmen, so the women’s RAF sweater is born! I’d but the Swedish Bandolier in the Top Five coolest Banana Republic accessories ever. Cyra McFadden’s ode to the Safari Dress was a staple of the catalog for years. Her 1977 novel Serial satirized the Marin County lifestyle, I can only imagine she became friends with the Zieglers in some capacity, either through newspaper work or some Mill Valley cocktail party.
Check out the excellent blog Sighs and Whispers for a great rundown on Cyra McFadden’s The Serial.
Page 28-29: When the catalog goes out of it’s way to show you how a garment is made and to rave about the old-world craftsmanship and history of it’s maker, it really makes it special. You’d be proud to own this hat and drop the name of the maker in casual conversation. Akubra Hats are still going strong, though I don’t see this exact model. Meanwhile, would you wear the chamois shirt with the chamois jacket fromm page 12? Can you overdose on chamois? Would you just be opening yourself up to random molestations from strangers who want to caress you clothes?
Page 26-27: Quite a strong line-up on this spread: The very essence of the Safari style. The write up on the Safari jacket nicely details the history of the style and how it was modified and ripped off through the years before BR brought it back in it’s purest form….only to soon have it ripped off all over again! From what I have been told the watercolor sketches in the back would be from founder Patricia Ziegler’s own sketchbooks from safari, while the clothing illustrations are probably by Kevin Saarki and Rob Stein.
Pages 24 & 25: Quite the description of the handcrafted raincoat. Hard to believe such a thing could sell for only $129. Can’t find anything on the internet about “schmierers” or James Calder for that matter. I guess that art has passed on? The hooded Bush Vest is a classic, of course, and I like to think transforming a gamekeeper’s bag into a travel purse is something only the Zieglers could do.
This marked the middle of the catalog, where the order form is stapled. This one has an offer for collector’s posters of catalog covers #17-20, and apparently #21 as well. I have #19 and 20 in my collection, they are really high quality posters, but the cartooniness of #20 is a bit much for me. I’m not sure how I’d feel about a giant painting of the Zieglers on my wall, but it’s a cool image. I think #17 and 18 would be a no brainer. I’d love to add them to my collection.
Page 22-23: These English waxed cotton jackets are incredibly sturdy and rugged. With English plaid linings and well detailed, almost leather-like cotton shells, they are attractive to the eye and unusual to the touch. BR sold a tin of wax to keep the garment weatherproof.
Pages 16-21:I missed yesterday’s posting. To make it up here are 3 pages at once. They are all on the same theme, so it works for me. This is coming on the heels of Catalog #20, which was all about hunting for clothes in England. I don’t have a lot to say here. other than the clothes all look great, and who can’t relate to tweeding it up and trekking down to the pub? The most remarkable thing that jumps out at me is the Apprentice’s bag. Why no picture? It’s essentially a fancy way of saying it’s a knock-off of Mr Brady’s bag made by people he trained. How often do you see an original and a knock-off sold side by side in the same catalog?
Page 14 & 15: A great write up by Gary Trudeau, one of my favorite cartoonists, particularily in the 80s. He nicely summarizes the problem with being a BR fan sometimes: You look like you are in someone’s Army. “Ultimately, we must bear full accountability for the impression we create. Thus, for example, the confusion that would follow a man who strides into a business meeting dressed like a Sandanista would not be the responsibility of his clothier. Similarly, who could blame Banana Republic if passers by on the Upper West Side of Manhattan are concluding that I am an ex-Navy test pilot?”
Page 12&13: The Un-Alligator shirt would become to No-Polo shirt in time, a symbol of BR’s “anti-fashion” ideology. A battle they eventually lost, I’d say. The selling of a book within the catalog pages is a bit rare. It is a precursor to their Book Store catalog and a bit of foreshadowing of the End when disputes with Gap over their publishing ambitions would eventually force the Zieglers out of BR. I’m at a loss to explain the difference between the Artists and Writers Case and the Traveller’s case, but whatever. Ernest Thompson’s testimonial for the Chamois Jacket is hilarious, but I don’t think that jacket lasted long in the catalog. The Safari Rain hat is a classic of course. I think the word for the day is PUGGAREE.
Page 10 & 11: This early catalog is actually kind of light on women’s clothing, although all of the jackets and shirts are considered unisex I suppose. I dig the look of the skirt and sweater, I think that belt is really cool. The Document Bag is always cool, I would pick one up for carrying around a sketchbook or iPhone, I think that could be a fine man bag. Plaid flannel just seems out of place to me in a BR catalog. Too Eddie Bauer for my taste…
Page 8 & 9: The Australian Football Jerseys are a new one to me, I don’t remember them and I don’t think they were in many catalogs, I’ll have to look. The cowhide Outback jacket looks abut as durable as they come, I imagine you could wear that to hell and back and not lose a stitch. The real stars here are the bags. That Swedish Map case is so cool looking, they were smart to pick that up. The Photojournalist Bag is a classic, some photographer’s still swear by it. My own father still keeps all his lenses in it and dragged through the Alaskan bush for 25 years.
Yesterday (01/05/12) was quite exciting in the Abandoned Republic. Author and Daily Show Resident Expert John Hodgman blogged about the site, so we picked up a number of new fans. Thank you, sir!
Page 6 & 7: I love the Banana Republic Air Corps, we are big fans of bi-planes at my house. This catalog still has a lot of the illustrations from earlier catalogs, they have a different character from the tighter, more colorful illustrations that you might remember. The Army Air Corps jacket in particular will soon have a new illustration, possibly by Rob Stein, that will be used throughout the run of catalogs. They must have sold a ton of those jackets, they are widely available on eBay. I need to look closer when I get a chance, but I am not sure if here is any difference at all between the British Drill Trousers and the Ghurka Pants in later catalogs.
Page 4 & 5 : A great grouping of Banana Republic essentials. The descriptions are so effective–The Italian tailor from Pisa who designed the slant pocketed Bush jacket, the perfection of the Bush shirt and the demanding nature of the Naturalist’s shirt. The line in the Yukon shirt about a morning jog by the river in Kenya is perfect–it sells the entire lifestyle fantasy in a few words. Who doesn’t want to be that sporty, at ease world traveller?
This is so timely because I received a Bush jacket for Christmas this year! I had my eye on this extra-large specimen on eBay, but instead of pulling the trigger I shared the link with various family members who had been asking what I wanted. When the auction ended I did not know if someone I knew had picked it up for me or if I had lost it to another bidder. So it was a nice surprise to open it on Christmas day. The vintage extra large was just big enough for me, it fits comfortably but could use another half inch or so. It would qualify as a modern large I think. The New Year’s resolution to drop a few pounds has a little more motivation now!
Page 2 and 3: The British Artisan’s Nightshirt is such a classic. The yawning pose is adorable, and it’s so quaint and cozy looking you just want to curl up with a good book and a warm Liberal Arts major and hibernate for the winter. I’ll bet that Officer’s Wool Jacket is amazingly well made. I like the story about buying British government surplus garbardine to make an American style jacket. The ventilated shirt is a mainstay, of course.
The Aran sweater has all the history the catalog says it does, it’s as timeless as they say. Knitted by women how have never seen a skyscraper? Hopefully they’ve done some travelling by now. Missing your old ancestral homeland? Enjoy this lovely video. Apparently the patterns of the sweater helped identity the body when you were drowned at sea! Oh, and they cleaned the wool with sheep urine! Mel and Patricia neglected to mention that.
The cover of Catalog 21 is the second of three covers that feature the same scene.