Don't get trapped in a "State of Shopping"
Plus weird logo-design catalogs, cool vests, rain jackets, and more
Welcome to Blackbird Spyplane.
The B.L.I.S.S. List — our comprehensive guide to Beautiful Life-Improving Spyplane Staples — is here.
The Global Intel Travel Chat Room is here, featuring earth-spanning GOAT-locale recommendations.
Peep our list of the world’s 35 slappiest shops, where Spyfriends have added a ton of gems in the comments.
Our Profound Essays, Mindsets and “Unbeatably Spicy Takes” are all here.
— Jonah & Erin
Ayyyy in today’s sletter we’ve got
cool cotton-canvas work vests
ill rain jackets
a rare GORPY vehicle alert
cool weird logo / design catalogs
and more fire s**t for you to contemplate and savor.
FIRST — THE SWAG-DEFICIENT HORRORS OF THE “S.O.S. VORTEX”:
Sometimes a very cool & incisive person drops a mindset on you the profundity of which rocks you off yr axis. Here at Blackbird Spyplane, Erin and I (Jonah) are usually the cool & incisive people doing the axis rocking — crafting trenchant sletters that keeping cerebellums bussin propitiously across the globe.
But I’ll never forget the moment a few years back, e.g., when the young swag legend Sam Hine told me that the first thing he looks at when determining the quality of an outfit — not the second, not the third — is the F.A.P. (Footwear Ankle Pant) Interface: the surprisingly vexing and surprisingly revealing way that the bottom of your pants interacts with your shoes.
Similarly, I’ll likely never forget a phrase that painter and musician Issy Wood dropped on me earlier this summer. We were slaloming around NYC, and at one point, in Tribeca, we passed an elegant Nordic-looking woman running some advanced color combos across a very expensive-looking outfit. Apropos of ma, I brought up something Erin had recently said to me about how The Row’s clothes are obviously beautiful, but the actual sickest thing about The Row is their inspired lookbook and runway styling — because, as we put it back in July, “any bozo with some bread can cop from them, but it takes Mach 3+ talent to rock the right s**t together with flair, ingenuity & panache.”
Issy agreed, and might have shuddered as she went on to invoke a swagless related condition: “Sometimes you see people wearing very nice clothes, but they look stuck in a State of Shopping.”
I knew exactly what she was talking about: Clothes-wearers who seem suspended in a cursed swag-vacuum limbo realm of copping a new jawn, unable to cross the threshold into weaving a jawn into your gestalt to the degree it registers, on a molecular level, as truly, effortlessly, naturally yours.
Obviously there’s something special about the feel of a brand-new garment — but that feeling should be regarded as the gateway to a long, ever-improving relationship with a piece of clothing, not as a goal in and of itself. We’ve written a bunch in the sletter about how one of the most compelling reasons to resist buying new clothes and wear pieces you already own has nothing to do with “financial prudence” or “sustainability” but with the simple fact that, ~9.3 times out of 10, good older clothes that you’ve worn a lot will make you look cooler — more like you actually have “personal style” — than brand-new clothes you’ve hardly ever worn.
I love Issy’s particular spin on this, though — the notion of a “State of Shopping” (S.O.S.) vortex — because it emphasizes the ghastly role of RANK COMMERCE in this dynamic. If you look like you relate to clothes primarily as a consumer — as a walking credit-card-information auto-fill, that is, as opposed to, e.g., an appreciator, self-expresser and exquisitely fitted life-liver — then what you’re broadcasting about yourself is not that you have taste, or a cool eye, or a sly sense of humor, or a meaningful connection to a piece, or a smolderingly hot aura, or anything else interesting. No!! What you are expressing, instead, is the boring non-message, “I bought new clothes.”
You are inscribing the fact that you purchased something new front and center in your self-presentation, when you could be saying so many other, more vital things. And it’s a simple mathematical fact that if you cop new s**t compulsively — letting the e-comm packages flood in, tearing them open, and flicking yourself up in a new jawn whose libidinal payoff quickly evanesces, at which point it’s on to the next one — you are spending too much time treadmilling unswaggily in the State of Shopping, and precious little time in the doper state of Mach 3+ clothes-rocking.
There’s no straightforward formula when it comes to escaping the State of Shopping Vortex, because the vortex takes both physical and metaphysical forms. An extreme physical example could be a shirt so fresh-out-the-box it still has sharp horizontal creases running across it from being folded up and shipped to you. But even after those creases disappear, invisible yet perceptible metaphysical “fold lines” can continue to haunt a garment — until you’ve worn it, washed it, warped the placket a bit, figured out what other colors and fabrics it likes to be next to, what shapes it harmonizes with, woven some memories into the threads, exposed it to sunlight and restaurants and the general enswaggening grit of LIFE.
We don’t take money from anyone but subscribers, so we keep some of our best material behind the Recon Curtain. Join our Classified Tier today if you haven’t yet — Jonah & Erin
A lot of the new clothes I’ve gravitated toward over the past couple years, like, e.g., Casey Casey’s rumpled washed-cotton slappers, tend to look pretty relaxed and un-precious off the rack — which is not to say “pre-distressed” 🤢. But even pieces like this want to be actually worn, and not just shopped for.
I thought about this last week, when I got coffee with Larz Harry and Aida Kim of the excellent Australian line Man-tle as they swung through the Bay during a whirlwind North American tour. (They’re doing an event at C’H’C’M’ on October 5, if you’re in New York, FYI.)
Man-tle’s specialty is hard-wearing, highly considered men’s & women’s garments cut from inventive, frequently brolic fabrics. They’re clothes that demand to be beaten the f**k up, and look better for it. Despite this, Larz told me he often hears from customers who are extremely nervous about sullying their Man-tle jawns, and request precise care instructions. Larz said he understood this impulse — when you spend a lot of dough on a beautiful piece, you want to protect it — but, when it comes to most of the clothes Man-tle makes, it was unnecessary. “Aida just tosses her pieces in the wash, over and over,” he said, and Aida, who was rocking a bunch of past-season Man-tle, including this silky-crinkly nylon coat, looked cool as h*ll. For his part, Larz was wearing a new waxed-cotton FW23 Man-tle zip jacket that looked great, but when I told him about Issy’s S.O.S. concept he confessed to feeling a bit self-conscious about how relatively unworn it was.
(One great way to get past feeling overly precious about a nice garment is of course to cop it secondhand — this black Man-tle zip-up track jacket is a slapper, ditto this older grey version of the swoop-pocket joint Larz was rocking).
To be clear, shopping itself can be a more or less enchanted ritual. But the enchanted cases are under threat in our deeply disenchanted e-comm era. I was out for drinks the other night with Spyfriend Allen Danze, a photographer who’s better than anyone else I’ve seen at rocking head-to-toe Evan Kinori fits in ways that look entirely and idiosyncratically his own. This separates him from the type of by-the-numbers broski who unimaginatively “shops the lookbook” — a classic S.O.S. trap, where you outsource your entire swag to a designer’s vision. In part Allen looks sick because he has a great eye for color- and proportion-combos, and in part he looks sick because he wears his clothes on long bike rides through Marin trails, then tosses (some of) them unceremoniously into the wash afterward.
I bounced the S.O.S. concept off him, and he raised the C.I.R.L.O.C.-style point that not all shopping is created equal: Copping I.R.L., at a cool store, he said, can accelerate a jawn’s exit from the S.O.S. Vortex, because you encountered it in a living, breathing, physical space, purchased it from a human being whom you spoke with, who maybe selected it for the store themselves, and maybe you did this one beautiful afternoon during a memorable trip abroad, etc., etc.
And so you built a sense of “provenance” into the garment from the jump — something that’s much harder to generate when you simply double-smash the ApplePay online having looked at a product slideshow, relating to a garment first and foremost as an e-commerce image of itself.
The fundamental problem with this is that you are not an e-commerce image — and emulating one is going to make you look and feel FF!
It’s time for a signature Spyplane Slapper Swarm — including some sick garments that will help you soar over the S.O.S. Vortex in no time ; )