Welcome to the Men’s File Archive blog pages. The Men’s File Archive is a series of books edited by the photographer and founder of Men’s File magazine Nick Clements that offer the reader an insight into the highly secretive but vibrant revival scene through the production of complex tableau vivant (staged scenes depicting an event or moment in time). These re-enactments are manned by Clements’ own troop of players, most of whom are subculture members and participants in the revival scene. The featured actors are either dressed from Clements’ own collection of vintage and replica clothing or wear their own period apparel. Up until today all featured photographic images on this blog are by Nick Clements (who writes the blog) although he will be embarking on a collaborative book with fellow Men’s File magazine contributor and publisher Matt Hind entitled Vintage Girls. It is envisaged that this will be released towards the middle of 2013. To see a preview of existing and forthcoming publications just click on the headings above where you will also find information on purchasing and release dates. This Home Page will keep you updated with all developments associated with Men’s File Archive and all that surrounds it.
The Revivalists: Key Stylists in Revival Subcultures
Due For Official Release on May 30.2013
The second Men’s File Archive book in the Style Chronicles Series: The Revivalists is set for release on May 30.2013. The book will be available from www.thecurator.co.uk and from www.lewisleathers.com. more details in our news section. The book comes in a box with an exclusive Lewis Leathers printed banner.
A New Book in the Making: The Editor’s Collection
I’ve been collecting mid-centrury cars, motorcycles, objects and clothing since the late 1970s. In recent years that has become a fashionable thing to do and many great companies today are making amazing replicas of previously impossible to find items, especially in the area of apparel. In the late 1980s I stared recording my collections by photographing them as objects and by placing them in the re-enactments on which my photographic style is based. Below I show a mid-1990s, Japanese made satin jacket that replicates those from the 1950s and record it in the studio and at my own re-enactment of dry-lake racing of the same era. Please go to the News section of this blog to find out more about the book.
(Above) The introduction to a feature in issue 01 of Men’s File magazine on the house and its designer, the Egg House would be the setting for an imagined 1970s exploitation movie.
Back in the early 1970s during the terrible days of South Africa’s apartheid regime parts of Cape Town were desperately trying to pretend it wasn’t going on and acting like they were in Santa Barbara, Carmel or some such Californian idyll. Travelling to the Cape a couple of years after Mr Mandela came to power to work on commercial photo-shoots I was unimpressed and slightly disturbed by the great wealth and opulence of the jewel of Africa, but fascinated by what had been abandoned and discarded. Today little has changed except the rich are getting richer and the glitz getting glitzier. The most southerly tip of what the colonial’s called the Dark Continent only acknowledges the new. Great cast-concrete, marble-clad palaces sit high on the mountainside like stone eagles, each in their own luxury, landscaped eyre. It was only when I stumbled across the Egg House, a few weeks before it was to be demolished, did things get interesting.
The Egg House was the first professional project by a local architect constructed in the early 1970s and consisted of three overlapping egg shaped domes. The land it was built on was worth more with the house demolished and the shoot happened just before the bulldozers went in. I wanted to create a series of tableau featuring the occupants of the structure as I imagined they might have been when the house was new. it was important for me to depict the style of South Africa during the ‘white’s only’ golden era, but to dramatically subvert it at the same time. Great style can come from any class or social group but in this shoot the voice of the township had to be heard loud and clear. Something that could never have happen in those days. Our African participant was styled around an African-American model of the late 1960s and early 1970s called Arlene Hawkins and I find it plausible that any fashionable African woman could have seen Ms Hawkins in a magazine and created this look for herself – if she had the money.
The clothing in the shoot is original and owned by a Cape Town resident at the time the wet concrete was being sprayed over the giant dome formers that were used during the construction process. The car is a 1967 Buick Riviera.
Like a nordic Pam Grier in a still from any one of a hundred exploitation movies of the 1970s the leitmotif of the work emerges again. The tableau vivant is my chosen genre which harnesses the perspective of the film-still, fashion photography and makes historical comment all in one image.
This story and more like it will be featuring in Vintage Girls by Nick Clements and Matt Hind.
We Are the Lambeth Boys
Inspired by the photography (and pathos) of the 1959 film documentary I revisited some of the original locations and created my own homage to the work. In this extract I asked James – already inspired himself by the style of the late 1940s – to become one of the Lambeth Boys for a few hours.At the time of shooting James had just left London’s Royal College of Art and graduated from the department of shoe design. The shoes in the picture are his own dead-stock mid-1950s originals from Freeman Hardy and Willis.
The drape is from Colin Taub, still making Teddy boy attire and tailoring for New Edwardians in London’s East End.
We Built a Timing Tower
After hundreds of millions of years of saline sediment being deposited on wetlands, then being evaporated by searing sun, a salt-pan forms and if it’s big and horizontal enough you can take home-built cars to their limit there. Initiated in the United States a complex structure of subcultures have formed around dry lake racing since the 1930s. Apart from the cars the most iconic object in these traditionally covert and arcane racing events is the makeshift timing tower from where judges and time-keepers observe the progress of the competitors.
The timing tower was completed and used as an axis point around which tableaux formed organically. Re-enatctors and rodders brought their own cars, clothes and friends and mixed freely.
Working from sources such as biker exploitation cinema, tableau are styled to represent minor subcultures like the late 1960s Oakland hot rod and chopper scene.
Some pictures clearly referenced the immediate post-war dry-lake racing culture that was so well represented by the Southern California Timing Association events held at places like El Mirage and at another salty, flat area just outside Wendover. Some friends were better-looking than others.
Revival style is not only about hot rods and pin-up girls. In fact it’s seldom about either of those worthy subjects. Many true and dedicated revivalists have chosen a very specific period (or an amalgam of several connected epochs) around which to construct their personal theatre without walls. Focusing on Russia in the inter-war years and specifically the time of the anti-Bolshevik, White-Russian resistance, Maloviere is such an individual.
Notice the attention to every minute detail of Maloviere’s dress and style. This is the result of perhaps 30 years of collecting and honing a collection. Maloviere (with Katja his trusty hound) is not rich (not in monetary terms at least) but finds joy in the dedication and discipline of his chosen path.
Wherever the pair roam they touch each location with elegance – that is clear – however the revivalist does not seek to entertain or impress the outside world.
He or she does what they have to do. Whether the rest of the world like or understand it makes no difference to them. To paraphrase Sherlock Holmes in The Adventure of the Copper Beeches, Maloviere enjoys his art for the sake of itself and for no other reason.
Bona-fide Ivy brand Gant has developed two interesting labels that pay homage to the company’s heritage as a purveyor of elegant apparel to Ivy schools during the 1950s and 60s. One is called the Yale Co-op and celebrates the return of Gant to the Newhaven campus and the other is called Rugger (all shirts above are by Rugger and all other items original). In the forthcoming Men’s File Archive book CAMPUS, the new Ivy brands that either replicate or pay strict attention to original elements of make and design will be featured in several visual investigations.
Moving away from my organised tableaux photo-shoots I also record revival events and the exploits of individuals active in various branches of the scene. Belgium based Rob and Keith are both the proprietors and designers of a denim brand called Eat Dust. As far as I can see the output of this imaginative company is not about replicating original denim items but taking the components of style, durability and quality (all there in vintage denims) and making something new.
Eat Dust is not a company in the normal sense of the meaning. This is a vehicle of enjoyment and discovery for the two bike riders who criss-cross Europe on their customised Shovel-powered, One-Road, dream-machines, promoting the brand with plenty of action and few words.