Dedicated Follower of Fashion

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They seek him here, they seek him there,
His clothes are loud, but never square.
It will make or break him so he’s got to buy the best,
‘Cause he’s a dedicated follower of fashion.

 

That is, of course, the Kinks there, with their 1966 hit Dedicated Follower of Fashion, that lampooned the contemporary London fashion scene of the so-called ‘Swinging Sixties’ – a song that could well have been tailor-made for Leroy Men’s Wear in downtown Seattle. Owner Leroy Shumate can often be seen posing outside of his shop in Pike Street, where he says his store “is the only place in town where pimps can buy their work clothes.

 

This is unashamedly a ‘Pimp’s Emporium’, there is just no other way to describe it – and the dandy in today’s photo is certainly no stranger to shopping there. If I were a pimp I would only shop here; if I was an aspiring pimp I would shop here; and if I was a bolder man than I am today I would shop here as well. If I ever need a purple silk-like suit with a matching fedora AND with matching purple patent leather shoes, Leroy Men’s Wear is the first place I would head to.

 

Since we started with the Kinks, it’s also fitting we end there. According to Ray Davies, the Kinks’ lead singer and songwriter, apparently the band members have resolved their legendary differences and could be reforming to release a new album and tour again – exactly 50 years after they first formed in 1964, going on to release a string of some of the best-loved hits in British musical history, including Waterloo Sunset, Sunny Afternoon, Lola, Days, Dead End Street, You Really Got Me and Dedicated Follower of Fashion.

 

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We’ve all done it. Last night was just a bit too good (as per usual) and your head is sinking ever closer to your desk – you need a nap, but where’s the nearest bed, bench or comfy patch of grass? Enter Google Naps, a parody of the venerable Google Maps, that lets users share the best places in towns and cities around the globe to grab a quick bit of shuteye. Think of it as Nappster.

 

The site, built on top of Google maps, started as a joke by a group of Dutch users, but data points already cover London and many other cities across the world including the US, China, Indonesia and Brazil. Curiously, here in Seattle, one main location missing is the downtown Seattle Library, where – if you can avoid the telling sharp nudge from the spoilsport security guards – many tend to nod off.

 

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…and do something else, so says the message on the very retro diner lampshade sticker at the Mecca Cafe & Bar in Lower Queen Anne, one of Seattle’s great dive bars that’s been going strong since 1929. I certainly agree with the shooting film part – never had so much fun since re-discovering how creatively rewarding – and not to mention therapeutic – this supposedly dying photography art form has become.

 

Along the way, I’ve discovered some interesting documentaries about film negatives, such as The Mexican Suitcase, the story of the mysterious whereabouts of 4,500 unique Spanish Civil War Black and White negatives of three war photographers, most prominently Robert Capa, thought lost until the 1990s when they were re-discovered in the belongings of a dead Mexican general. And then there was Chevolution (which can be viewed in full on YouTube), the story of Alberto Korda’s iconic photo of Marxist revolutionary Ernesto “Che” Guevara – wearing his black beret, bearded, with straggly hair and saintly eyes – that was subsequently turned into a poster, and seemed to appear on the walls of 1970s student bedsits more dependably than rising damp.

 

The latest recently to be released on Netflix streaming now is Men at Lunch, the backstory to arguably one of New York’s most iconic photos: Lunch atop a Skyscraper, the 1932 photo of eleven construction workers at the site of the Rockefeller Center, taking a very brave lunch break while sitting on a girder suspended 850 feet above New York City.

 

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Now celebrating its 40th Anniversary, Seattle International Film Festival creates experiences that bring people together to discover extraordinary films from around the world. Recognised as one of the top film festivals in North America, SIFF is the largest, most highly attended film festival in the United States.

 

The 25-day festival is renowned for its wide-ranging and eclectic programming, presenting over 250 feature films from over 70 countries each year. SIFF also helps promote local films and film-makers.  And in 2011, one of the big sleepers shown at SIFF turned out to be the local Bainbridge Island-based comedy, Old Goats – and this year, Taylor Guterson and his team have released a companion piece, Burkholder, for another quirky, life-affirming, low-key comedy about friendship and the joys of ageing.

 

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I’ve always wondered why people (young men in particular) wear baseball caps backward. I have even seen caps worn to the side. You might suggest that the wearing of caps in this manner is considered hip. So many are wearing caps this way that it has become the norm. It often makes me wonder if you wear hats the “right” way are you considered to be a geek?

 

Nobody really knows for sure how this practice of wearing baseball caps backwards actually began. It might have been observed originally on baseball catchers so as not to impinge their line of vision. Now it seems to be hip and is associated with urban “punk” type gangs – and it is most widely believed to have originated as a street craze through gang-related styling necessity in the US prison system. 

 

One theory is that prisoners wore the caps this way so that they could get closer to loved one’s when pressing themselves up against the glass divider on visiting days. It’s thought that kids visiting in prisons with their mothers, copied the fad onto the streets after seeing fathers or elder brothers wearing baseball caps with the skip backwards.  

 

The US prison system is also responsible for giving to the world the sartorial elegance of pants hanging down and untied shoes.  Massive, eh?

 

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We’ve all heard the rumours, print is all but dead; struggling to survive against digital media. But many magazine editors are resisting this notion, including some of the lesser known niche magazines. So niche publications may be an increasingly important part of journalism’s future, as long as the niche is of reasonable size.

 

A niche, of course, according to its dictionary definition, is a “shallow recess, especially in a wall to display a statue or other ornaments”; “a comfortable or suitable position in life or employment”; or “a specialised but profitable segment of a market”, such as magazines and publishing.

 

And the young girl in today’s photo looks to have literally found her niche in more ways than one, by being almost hidden from view in a recess in Barnes & Noble in downtown Seattle, and surrounded by all those niche magazines.

 

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We have a very rare dalliance with colour today, in honour of the start of the ‘Big Red Redo’, as Glazer’s Camera start phase one of their new development, with the main shop now gutted and relocated across the road to their old supplies shop (which re-opens today at noon), as the wrecking ball waits in the wings to demolish the old building.  And hopefully, in 2 years time or so, when its finished, Glazer’s – with company red livery and all – will once again return to its hallowed ground.

 

For those that don’t know the history, Glazer’s opened its door in 1935 on Seattle’s First Avenue, close to the historic Pioneer Square, which must make it one of the longest, continually running camera stores in the US. And it also has to be one of the best camera stores, period – and I don’t just say that because they allow me in. I’ve often compared Glazer’s to Cheers, that fabled TV bar where everyone knows your name; and the only thing that could make the experience at Glazer’s any better, is if they had bar stools installed and served drinks – and if they did, I think I’d get the part of barfly Norm!

 

The iconic big red wall of the main building has become something of a Seattle landmark – and I’ve suggested to the powers that be that, like the Berlin Wall, when it comes time for it to finally be torn down, they should allow all those photography aficionados to come take home a piece of the wall.

 

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Elliott Bay Book Co. in Pioneer Square: It was the heart of the hood for 30-plus years, until it moved to Capitol Hill in 2010. The new space is beautiful, but the iconic old EBB storefront embodied a time when Pioneer Square brimmed with art walks, print and promise.

 

But the move was forced, as Pioneer Square was slowly draining the lifeblood from the company. Over time, the historic neighbourhood started acquiring a somewhat questionable reputation — an edgy place for night clubs, street violence and homeless shelters. All of which meant the regulars and tourists started avoiding EBB, and there was a general fear it could well close its doors for good.

 

The move of thousands of books and staff though across town to a renovated space at 1521 10th Ave. on Capitol Hill has proved to be a wonderful fit; and despite being in a digital age of e-books, EBB is once again thriving.

 

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