Completed furniture auctions, a new shirt for sale, announcements
Snake America is a newsletter covering vintage clothing (for GQ) and furniture (here) and strength sports (Inverse). Today, completed auctions.
First — an announcement:
I designed (with Nat) this shirt for my friend Cara Piazza, a natural dyer in north Brooklyn (who is Italian).
I posted it on my Instagram (last week) and got a few questions I wanted to answer here.
First, it’s a Snake shirt, in the sense of early records Dischord didn’t release but also kind of did. In many ways they are Dischord releases, like this one:
Is Cara’s shirt Snake shirt number 7.5? R&M USA Corp 001? It’s an adjacency, really…
The back graphic on Cara’s tee is a big dyeing vat (in which she dyes things) whose design is in dialog with the other shirts I’ve made and some other shirts and things Nat has done too. The shirt can be dyed, which is why it’s white. Buy now as there will be no reprints, and support independent journalism. It looks like this when it’s dyed:
Which kind of looks like this, too:
Except it’s Italian. Doug Holland is Italian though he anglicized—dutchified?—his name. Here again is the link for the shirt:
Also, the Perrier koozies I mentioned a couple years ago are in from the printer. Here’s a preview:
They’ll be for sale very soon. Links to some of my projects and writing at the bottom of the letter. And now… back to Snake.
Two vintage ladies sweaters: I’ve been saying for years vintage is no good for sweaters… a good vintage sweater is nearly impossible to find and difficult to achieve. It’s confusing, since almost all clothing is better used. In fact, old clothing is better. Lately, clothes produced by publicly traded companies have been getting worse by the quarter, probably to cut costs. Also, the best fabrics are squirreled away by luxury companies. Prada hoards the good gabardine and Balenciaga’s oxford button-down cloth shirts are thicker and better than ones with more conservative cuts that you can buy at the mall.
These are not new developments, but since designer menswear varies in cut every year — or at least does more than a Brooks Brothers shirt — new clothing becomes a thin, fractured market for anyone who likes well-made things and has a slightly plain dress sense. This is why people wear those 1,000 mile boots still. Still, good old clothes show up regularly, if you know where to look.
It’s different with sweaters. Or so I thought. Wool, or whatever sweaters are made out of, doesn’t age well. It gets hung up on nails or becomes loosened from life, or run-ins with nails. Or whatever else happens to clothes after decades in the world. Mostly, old sweaters lose shape. Since sweaters are already formless — they’re the most formless men’s clothing there is — this is dangerous. What if a blob becomes even more abstract? It veers into the plasmatic, into the shadow realm of shapes, thoughts and ideas, drifting too far away from something that can be worn with jeans.
But lately I’ve been thinking I’m wrong. In the past couple of years, I’ve come across and have begun to collect a number of good, old, vintage sweaters — cardigans, pullovers, semi-cardigans, fishing sweaters, UK crap, all sorts of materials, price points — that seem to disprove to my previous ignorant characterizations. There are more T-shirts than sweaters, sure, but it’s really just about education: I didn’t know what to look for — besides labels, really — but I know a little bit more now. Or maybe it’s about casting a much wider net: finding vintage sweaters on Liveauctioneers.
These sweaters, I’m not so sure — they didn’t go for very much money. They aren’t from a good mill or from Scotland. But the one on the left looks exactly like this pullover that Takeshi Kitano, the director, wears in this photo:
Who I mention because his production company is named Office Kitano and these shirts I made for my friend Cara (shop link) are the first iteration of Office Snake. Maybe Kitano’s sweater is the same as the one in the auction? Or maybe sweaters with this idiotic design were as common as white jeans are now. Kitano’s looks like a Yohji Yamamoto — YY’s ties from that era, and earlier, are similar. All the flowers and everything. The lore on Kitano is that Yamamoto did the suits for his first couple of films, or it was, until the lore got corrected after a story came out that confirmed Yamamoto only began costuming Kitano’s film Brother, which was released in 2000, and then did a few films after that.
Kitano’s own pitch-perfect style preceded their working relationship, and his clothes were closer to Ring Jacket than designer. Yamamoto is fine… his Wenders documentary is somewhat dull. I don’t really love Wenders aside from Tokyo-Ga… But YY was just the subject of Notebook on Cities and Clothes; he had nothing to do with the quality of the film. Yamamoto said he said he became a “Kitano nut” in the mid 90s… he took cues from Kitano… I think that just about covers it.
Captured Isis battle flag: The attention economy for auctions is meager. Think about all the discrete online items that get shared: screenshots mostly, sure, but also specific tweet URLs, videos, articles, memes, Discord messages… all with that series of numbers at the end. But not really auctions. They get spoken of generally — people go on eBay, Steve is selling their jeans now on Depop…. but the functional auction unit URL never really goes through the rounds of the popular discourse(1). They don’t get written about very much either — the Grateful Dead auctions last month, sure, since those were pretty important. Occasionally auctions do get shared and discussed. They seem to deserve a kind of objective attention — owing to provenance, or that they’re very expensive to begin with, like David Bowie’s collection of Memphis furniture, sold off after he died. But not very much else, and not very widely either.
Mostly, though, auctions don’t get shared because there’s no incentive to share them. This is obvious, really. Anyone who comes up on an auction, and who has an interest in the thing that’s for sale, has an interest in buying it — either immediate or vague. In both cases, they don’t want the price to go up, because they want Steve’s jeans for as cheap as they can, or they are thinking about buying Steve’s jeans, but haven’t decided yet… so the auction doesn’t really get shared, except to maybe close friends, or someone who might need the jeans, or if someone in the group chat knows Steve. It’s also about respect for everyone else: wouldn’t one of our friends want Steve’s jeans? Should we get in their way, just for attention?
Which explains why this actual ISIS flag just came and went. Not that I understand. I thought this would be a thing that would cross over the line. The flag, captured from Isis, a terrorist group most associated with Toytas, if it’s real, and who cares if it is, is, honestly, is a more insane thing you can buy than just about anything else in America since they were selling a $1,000,000 kilogram of poison six or seven years ago. Why wasn’t this shared? Maybe it was and I didn’t notice it; maybe because people who collect insane paper goods play it close to the vest; maybe because the auction was a CIA plant and we all deeply know better. It’s the second option I think. Buying clothes and furniture is easy. Even home decor and accessories. But once you delve into actual marginalia and illicit mementos, bets start to come off. This Isis flag is so much better than the weird circus posters that always seem to pop up on this site. Recommended.
Thanks for reading.
(1)I guess items on Grailed, with those weird little numbers, do count.
Other work: I wrote this story with Mdou Moctar, the musician, about colonialism in Niger for the New York Times, as well as this look at Virgil Abloh’s product design, and ordered this Spotify playlist for my friend Fraser’s store.