Tag Archives: Abercrombie & Fitch

Compared: 1920s and 1970s Boots

One thing I probably don’t write enough about here is how fashion is constantly borrowing from its past. Someone once said to me that fashion ran out of ideas about 1967. I’m not sure that is true, but one does not have to look far to see borrowed ideas.

Above is a pair of hiking boots from Abercrombie & Fitch, from the late 1920s or early 30s. I don’t think that at the time these boots would have been considered to be “fashion” as they were a functional item worn for a specific purpose, and definitely not meant to be on the city streets. They were a style borrowed from the boys, so to speak, as men had been wearing this type boot in the woods for some time.

Today the lines between fashion and function is very blurred, with people wearing their workout clothing on the street and their jammies on airplanes, but in the 1920s, the rules were more rigid. It was a very big deal when in 1924 a brave woman in Italy first wore her pajamas on the Lido.

These boots are from the 1970s, and I’m sure that the similarity to the 20s ones is obvious. You see the same lacing with eyelet over the foot, and hooks up the leg. The below the knee length is the same. Both are made of leather.

But also striking are the differences. The 1920s boot has a low stacked leather heel. The 70s boot has a fashionable heel, covered with the same leather as the rest of the boot. The 20s boot has a ridge around the top of the foot to assist with the shaping of the leather, while the foot of the 70s boot is made from two pieces of leather. The toe shape is different.

What I find interesting is that the 1920s boot is obviously built for function and the 70s boots is obviously built for fashion. But at the same time there is no mistaking the fact that the 70s boot was inspired by the 20s one.

Even when mixed up, it’s easy to distinguish one boot from the other. It’s just one most thing to look for when trying to evaluate a piece of older clothing. Always look for the influences.

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Abercrombie & Fitch, Von Lengerke & Antoine, 1930s – 1950s

I recently acquired some Christmas catalogs from Von Lengerke & Antoine, the Chicago branch of Abercrombie and Fitch.  I already had some summer catalogs from the store, but these are full of gifts and woolens.  The covers are really nice, with winter scenes that spread across both sides.

The catalogs range from 1939 to 1954.   Because Abercrombie & Fitch was a sporting goods store, the clothing styles change very slowly, with many items being offered for up to five years before being updated.  This is especially true during the war years.

Click to enlarge

The offerings during WWII were geared more toward the servicemen and less toward the sportsman.   There were gifts for members of every branch of the service.

Abercrombie & Fitch not only had goods manufactured with their own label, they also sold other quality products.  This men’s Pendleton shirt is from the 1947 catalog, and cost $10.75.  That is about $110 in today’s dollar.  A new Pendleton wool shirt costs $115, so pretty much the same price.

The catalog offered carriage boots all through the war years.  Carriage boots actually date back to the days before the automobile, but this practical winter boot remained a favorite for many years.

Today red plaid thermos kits are quite easily found, but ones of this quality are rare.  Cocktails, coffee and sandwiches:  the necessities of vagabonds.

Scotch coolers are also common, but they are rarely in great condition.  People used them.  That is a bar case for someone with friends.

Sweaters were a big item in the catalogs, with many being made of cashmere in Scotland.  Note the “false eyelashes” on the Flirt.  Today if an item in a catalog is labeled “imported,” you can pretty much assume that means China.  There is no indication where the imported ski jacket and cap originate, but you can be sure that it was not China!

I love the Bottomless Bag.  It does not indicate the size, but if it weighs five pounds it must be pretty large.  I’ll take the tartan plaid.

A winter classic, it is hard to beat the sharpness of a Hudson’s Bay blanket jacket.  The $55 price tag translated to $465 in today’s dollar.  You can buy a new, very similar coat from the Hudson’s Bay Company for $695 Canadian, or $635 US.  Interestingly, their fabric is now made by Pendleton.

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Von Lengerke & Antoine, 1939 The Time of Your Life Begins Here

Von Lengerke & Antoine was the less famous branch of Abercrombie & Fitch.  Located in Chicago, it has a colorful history that includes Al Capone, but it was overshadowed by the company that acquired it in 1928, A&F.   Still, it was one of the great 20th century sporting goods stores and their catalogs are a delight for people (like me) who love vintage sportswear.

An interesting thing I found today:  comedian Bob Newhart worked briefly at Von Lengerke & Antoine in the late 1950s, and he tells about it as only he can.

The sunglasses made famous by General George MacArthur, the Ray-ban Aviator.  And yes, they really were new, having been introduced in 1937.

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1950s Play Hours

I was about to just give up on ever finding something I wanted on ebay and actually being able to buy it.  I don’t know if it is the influence of all the museum exhibitions of sportswear, but ephemera related to sportswear has gotten a bit crazy, pricewise.  Last week I was going to blow a whole $20 on a tiny little beat up and ratty 1919 Keds catalog.  Imagine my surprise when it went for $103!

To console myself, I went looking vintage Abercrombie & Fitch catalogs, being reminded by a recent blog comment that I probably do need to add a few of these overpriced gems to my library.  I was delighted to run across nine summer sportswear catalogs from Von Lengerke & Antoine, the Chicago Branch of A & F, at a very reasonable price.

Von Lengerke & Antoine was a longtime Chicago sporting store, and was actually a division of a New York store, Von Lengerke & Detmold.  This store was the competition of Abercrombie & Fitch, and in 1928,  A & F bought out the Von Lengerke stores.  That is why you will sometimes see the initials VL&A on Abercrombie & Fitch labels prior to 1960.

VL&A actually came with a bit of notorious baggage – the store was located in Al Capone’s territory, and it was the store in which two of the Colt Thompson machine guns used in the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre were purchased.

But there are no machine guns in my catalogs, which start 20 years later, in 1949, and run through 1958.  According to the catalogs, VL&A carried the same merchandise as A&F.   In 1960s the Von Lengerke & Antoine name was phased out, and the store became known as Abercrombie & Fitch.

The catalogs are a delight for a lover of vintage sportswear, full of men’s and women’s clothing, picnic and travel accessories, sporting goods and just all around fun stuff.

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1948 at a Winter Resort

I love this ad (For the Santa Fe RR line) for SO many reasons.   First of all the desert looks so warm, even at night.  We’ve been having a glorious warm snap here in the South, but our nights have still been pretty chilly.  Then there’s the setting; New Mexico and Arizona are high on my list of favorite places.  But most of all, I just love the idea of going on a winter vacation.  By looking at pre WWII fashion magazines, you get the idea that just everybody dropped everything on December 26th and headed to somewhere warm.  Entire resort wardrobes were planned in the middle of winter.

But if you were headed to a dude ranch in January, you didn’t shop at Hattie Carnegie or Bergdorf Goodman.  No, you went straight to Abercrombie & Fitch.  Back in those days A&F was an entirely different creature that the mass marketeer of today.  It was a true sportsman’s (And sportswoman’s, too, after 1913) paradise, a one-stop shopping place for adventurers, hunters, explorers, and dude ranchers.  And to get the intrepid travelers in the proper mood, the store itself was decorated to accentuate the merchandise – tents were set up in the store, complete with campfires and wilderness guides.  Now THAT was a shopping experience!

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Abercrombie & Fitch – Before the Mall

Before it was just another mall brand, Abercrombie & Fitch was one of the most famous sportsmen’s outfitters.  In 1910 they were located in Reade Street, in New York City, and from all accounts, the store was itself amazing.  There were tents set up in the store, along with all the necessary accessories for a proper camp (including a campfire).  And in 1910 they became the first store to offer sporting attire for women along with that for men.

This catalog is their second one, published in 1910.  In it they explain the A&F philosophy toward “outing clothes:”

The intelligent making of garments for sporting purposes is an art in itself, and necessitates a very exacting knowledge of the proper cut and making.

In late years there has been a tremendous increase in the number of women who have elected to share the sportman’s pleasures and hardships, and their especial needs, too, have received at our hands the most careful consideration.

Abercrombie & Fitch were known for their quality, and they were not cheap.  For example, the “Montreal” blanket suit with hood shown above was $40.  They not only kept the catalog items in stock, but also did special custom orders.

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