Two New Yorkers in the City of Brotherly Love on the Hunt for Western Shirts

January 30, 2011 § 1 Comment

Dan and I just got back from our successful road trip to Philadelphia to visit Sazz Vintage Wholesale.  We were doing reconnaissance in preparation for my initial purchase of vintage cowboy shirts to open my online store, Vintrowear, debuting this spring at Internets everywhere.  As advertised, Sazz’s warehouse, which goes by the name Bulk Vintage, has an amazing selection of western shirts from the 70’s, and 80’s.

There were shirts of all stripes, including, well, stripes.  And also plaids, solids, flower prints, metallic thread pinstriped, and Navajo.  And of course there was a small selection of embroidered and two-toned.  Every brand I’d heard of (H Bar C, Rockmount, Ely Cattleman, Roper, Panhandle Slim) and many I hadn’t (Gold Collection by Karman, Ruddock, Youngblood.)  I got to dig through approximately 350 western shirts!  It ranks up there as one of the greatest days of my life.  I didn’t even get a chance to go through the boxes of short-sleeve westerns, denim westerns, and winter westerns.  I think I’d need to schedule at least one more day to get to all of those.  I did sift through an entire box of 1950’s and 1960’s shirts, which included some incredible gems such as these two bad-ass fringed shirts:

The fringes were a little raggedy, but otherwise looked in good shape.  I couldn’t quite read the tag on the black one, but I think it said “Squires of California.”  The yellow/mustard shirt didn’t have a tag so it might be handmade.  I think I will consider these specimens in the “collector’s item” category.  I’m hoping to sell my shirts to hipsters in Williamsburg and indie rockers.  I can’t see any indie rockers I know in either of these, but they were unique nonetheless.  In that same box I also stumbled across these two, which I thought were pretty stunning.  I especially love this H Bar C because of the cowboy boots embroidered on the cuffs and the arrow slit pockets:

This one also looked interesting (“Trail Ridge Westerns”), although it had a stain on the shoulder and the embroidery didn’t have as much to say:

I was all set to buy them until I learned that while the shirts in the Western boxes were $8.50 each, these babies were in the $18-25 range because of their age and rarity.  Too rich for my blood, so I settled for some “fancy” westerns from the 70’s and 80’s bins.  They’re currently bagged up to go to the cleaners, so I will treat you to them in the coming weeks once they’re shined up.

But never fear, I wouldn’t leave you shirtless.  Here are the ones I didn’t buy.  And they are awesome, so just wait til you see the ones that made the cut.

Afterwards we met up with our dear friend (and daughter of dear friends) illustrator Avalon Clare.

Now I don’t know why I didn’t put it together that Avalon is also a western enthusiast, since I’ve known her since she was knee-high to a grasshopper and she’s always been horse-crazy.  Avalon just happens to be reading a book that’s on my Paperbackswap list, How the West Was Worn.  I can’t wait to read it!  And coincidentally enough she showed up at brunch wearing an awesome western shirt, a flannel print she said she got at Target, complete with snap buttons.  Go figure!

Thanks, Avalon, for modeling, and for showing us around Philadelphia since we managed to get hopelessly lost in Sazz Vintage’s somewhat suspect neighborhood.

Note to any future travelers to the Sazz warehouse.  No heat!  If you go in the winter, wear a coat.  But the owner and employees  were super-nice and I learned more in one afternoon about the vintage clothing biz than I have in months of research.

On our way out of town we stopped off at the Barnes Collection.

It was a weekend tailor-made for superlatives, because I have never seen so many naked lady paintings in one mansion!  (In all the mansions I’ve been in!)  Seriously, there were over a hundred Renoirs.  So when we passed by a Van Gogh or Degas, it was even more amazing.  They were strangely cult-like there and seem to have all drunk the Barnes cool-aid.  If you go, be sure not to pack your purse with your collection of $100 bills and priceless jewels, because they won’t let you bring your purse inside.  You have to lock it up in a locker downstairs.  For a New Yorker used to having her purse surgically attached to her body, this felt strange.  But the collection was amazing to see, and definitely worth the experience.  Apparently there’s a really great documentary out about the controversy surrounding the collection.

Glad to back safe and sound in snowy New York, although it was just as snowy in Philly.  The Big L seemed happy to see us.

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