Pockets, part four

Is everybody tired of pockets yet? I think I may be forcing the subject myself. On the other hand I’ve enjoyed all the rambles on which the basic topic has taken me off  into the ether—both visibly here in print and in the more ethereal realms of my mind. (I like that gliding of ether into ethereal, myself…).

And all my tightie-Rightie friends should note how superbly I have supported our American capitalists in my adult life, even to the extent of purchasing hugely overpriced items that I lusted to possess. But that’s getting ahead of myself somewhat…

We left off on Friday with my acquisition of a series of Banana Republic photojournalist’s vests. I even forced myself on topic sufficiently to describe the 22 pockets in a typical photojournalist’s vest.

the embarrassingly too-large (especially for a retired guy) collection of dress jackets—only some of which are TravelSmith or Orivs, some derive from second-hand stores for $5.00!, and some are thirty years old

I had bought some items that weren’t vests, including the shirts and shorts I had already mentioned. I even got a safari jacket and pocket pants (which look kind of Eighties nowadays), although I was disappointed that the safari jacket only featured the four exterior pockets. But the company got bought up, things changed, the sales weren’t very good any longer, and the company seemed to focus on women and fashion too much for me.

So Banana Republic began to suck. (Sorry, Gap, Inc., but it’s true: your high-end stores sell overpriced excessively fancy-dancy junk that I just don’t want. Besides, you stopped selling the photojournalist’s vest.) I had a stockpile of two or three of their vests by the mid-Nineties, but the quality wasn’t what it had been, and I knew they would wear out.

And then a new travel clothing catalog arrived in the mail. It was a new company (to me), TravelSmith, and they had all kinds of clothing with pockets! They were just as expensive as (Gap, Inc.’s) Banana Republic, but they also had great sales (not quite as good as some items I had gotten from BR). They sold cool travel dress suits with fifteen pockets, and I soon acquired two—one in blue and one in olive green, both great and both still going strong for me twenty years on, and their multitudinous pockets worked great (although Janet pointed out that I bulged frequently in odd places with the items I had crammed into my jacket). I gradually accumulated an embarrassingly large collection of TravelSmith suit jackets, which I wore regularly as my school clothes and which made dressing up on vacation nice for me. The company also featured some very nice shirts and pants with secret pockets, which I also liked. (I also own a TravelSmith safari jacket, fitted oddly, I admit, but with interior pockets!)

The exterior zip pocket and patch pocket from TravelSmith

I only learned who their real competition might be from some of TravelSmith’s own advertising, but when I checked on the company mentioned as a provider of travelgear—including vests (actually outdoorsy stuff and hunting gear for rich executives, like Janet’s boss), Orvis—I realized I was out of my league (although Orvis also features deep sales to clear backstock, especially their Tent Sales, and I have picked up a jacket, a couple of pairs of pants and some shirts from Orvis). Overall, although I was aging into their evident target audience, TravelSmith had a more elite and successful clientele than I qualified as (meaning the stuff was/is just too expensive). Still, I supported them, sometimes a bit beyond my means, but almost exclusively from their sale pages (both physical in the old days and on their website more recently).

TravelSmith jacket—three interior pockets on the left

TravelSmith’s “Patented Pocket System” is illustrated in these pictures from a single suit jacket. Often on the left is a large in-the-lining zippered pocket on the outside, just above the normal patch pocket. Several coats, like this one, also feature handwarmer pockets concealed behind the patch ones. Inside on the left are three pockets, with another two—high and low—on the right. The chest one on one side or the other zips closed to hold your wallet, while the other side buttons—making it easy to store pens on the button side (since the zipper makes clipping the pen awkward). Of course, some of their coats feature special little pen pockets inside, usually just wide enough to hold the black and blue Zebra F-301s that I carry. Pockets galore, and the company was proud to advertise these features. Thus I had been lured into a whole new world of travel dress clothes.

TravelSmith jacket—two pockets inside on the right

There was only one problem: no photojournalist vests. Perhaps BR held a trademark on the notion or as Janet noted, maybe TravelSmith had better taste in clothing, although she never wanted anything from either company, except TravelSmith’s famous Little Black Dress (or I lacked the insight to investigate elsewhere on my own), but except for a couple of lapses, TS clothing remains more in the realm of her boss’s purchases than mine (although I just now got tempted once again among their men’s sale items). Janet bought a Field & Stream vest that TS was reselling (if that is the right term) for an anniversary present once, and although I have worn it, the vest remains in fairly immaculate shape because it just isn’t quite right (my most-used pockets are shades too small for say, paperbacks and my notebook).

Thus, although I had some dressy stuff that could hold more items than Janet was comfortable realizing I had sneaked along for a visit to her family or a weekend away on our own (or than I actually needed during a day at school), as the new century dawned, I was going to need a new travel vest supply.

So I went on the ’Net. (Maybe someday I should write a post on my internet shopping experiences; I never realized it at the time, but I was almost an Early Adopter of the commercial internet lifestyle). Looking back today, it seems surprising that it should have taken me so long to make that adjustment, but I think, as I have tried to show in this little series of posts, that my enjoyment (okay, love) of the rugged travel gear I liked from first Banana Republic and then TravelSmith instilled a powerful brand loyalty in me (that I still must feel somehow, or I wouldn’t fulminate so strongly against the contemporary BR or even be telling you about TravelSmith). However, I broke the box some time around the turn of the millennium and tried to find photojournalist’s vests on the internet. And succeeded.

But that development should, I think, comprise one final post in this series. Enough for today. Tomorrow is another break from the pocket packet of posts, as I have gotten annoyed at the semi-literacy of some of my internet friends.

©2010 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

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