Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Icons of Men's Style

How did the Pea Coat get its name? Who designed “Chuck Taylors”? Why do surfers wear shirts designed for lumberjacks? The answers to all of these questions can be found in Icons of Men’s Style by Josh Sims.

Icons of Men’s Style examines how these and many of the other items found in a man’s closet came to be there. While women’s wardrobes tend to chase the whims of fashion, men’s clothing is likely to evolve from functional uses. Details and fabrics from clothing specifically designed for sport, work or the military have become so ubiquitous that the original uses have been long forgotten.

The pea coat’s history explains many of its distinctive features. First of all, the name has nothing to do with farming or vegetables. The original version of the pea coat was designed in 1857 by the British Royal Navy and was adopted with modifications by the United States Navy in about 1881. There are two theories about how the coat got its name. Some historians say that it’s a misspelling of P-jacket, or “pilot’s jacket”, although it was used by all ranks in the military. Alternatively, the name may come from pij “a coarse wool cloth woven in the Netherlands … and used for a typical worker’s jacket called a pijakker.”

Since the pea coat originated in the days of the schooner the details that give it such a stylish design were built into the coat for purely functional purposes. The extra thick wool, double breasted closure and the extra tall collar were made to protect sailors from icy cold winds at sea. By moving the buttons to the side, they were less likely to get caught in the rigging ropes. The length of the coat was carefully calculated. It is long enough to protect against cold and short enough to provide ease of movement. The dark indigo color, now known as navy blue, was chosen for entirely pragmatic reasons. It doesn’t show dirt, and at the time the coat was designed there were no colorfast dyes. Indigo "was the shade most resistant to being faded by sunlight and repeated drenching by rain and by seawater."

Converse Chuck Taylor All Star athletic shoes were named for the famous basketball player Charles “Chuck” Taylor, but any resemblance to Michael Jordan’s endorsement deals ends there. Chuck Taylor approached the Converse Rubber Shoe Company in 1921 looking for a job. He was hired as a salesman. He brought with him suggestions for how to improve their existing All Star basketball shoe. One suggestion was a round patch on the side of the high top to protect a player’s ankles. He sold All Stars for nearly 10 years before his name was added to the shoe. Through his efforts, his namesake shoe became the official physical training shoe for the United States Army. The forerunner of the NBA, the National Basketball League, also adopted Chuck Taylors as their official shoe. The shoes were only offered in black until 1947 when the company added white. It wasn’t until 1966 that seven new colors were added. Taylor sold shoes for Converse until his death in 1969, never receiving any commission for the shoe that bears his name.

The original lumberjack shirt was made in a heavyweight, scratchy wool in plain neutral colors. It wasn’t until 1924 when a family-owned business in Pendleton Oregon made a few key design changes that the lumberjack shirt became popular with non-lumberjacks. The Pendleton shirt was made in a lighter weight, softer virgin wool in colorful plaids. With very few changes it is the same shirt worn today. Surfers in Southern California adopted it in the early 1960s as a warm cover-up at the beach. Later in the 1960s a group called The Pendletones adopted their name in honor of this surf icon. They later changed their name to The Beach Boys.

Other fascinating and sometimes surprising information can be found in the stories of the necktie, the driving shoe, Y-fronts and many other icons of menswear that are defined in Icons of Men’s Style.

Icons of Men's Style by Josh Sims (Laurence King Pub., 2011).

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Faith Petric (1915-2013)

I was born in a log cabin on the Clearwater River near Orofino, in northern Idaho, September 13, 1915.  My father, an itinerant preacher, school teacher, farmer, carpenter, and inventor was "musical" -- he played piano organ, harmonica, a variety of wind instruments and a bit of fiddle, and sang in a fine tenor.  My first singing was in church, in one-room schools, and with my father.  About 1925 I discovered cowboy and country songs, followed by the great protest songs of the 1930s.  And I'm still addicted to all of them. (source: Art, Music and Recreation Center Musicians and Performing Artists file).
We sadly note the loss of a woman who was a San Francisco institution.  Faith Petric, who lived to be 98, passed away on October 24, 2013.  In his book, Which Side Are You On, Dick Weissman accurately described her as "a sparkplug of traditional music in the Bay Area."

We knew her as someone who used the library for her research -- she was someone who knew what she was looking for and quietly went about her business of search for folk tunes and their origins.  Over the years she also performed at the library.

Flyer for a Faith Petric performance, Thursday, January 26, 1984, Folk Music in the Lurie Room, Main Library

Since her father was a union carpenter, she became interested at a young age in the songs of the labor movement.  She was later inspired by a concert given by Carl Sandburg at Whitman College in the 1930s where she bought his seminal song collection, An American Songbag.

Faith Petric first came to San Francisco in 1938.  She recalled first arriving into the city aboard a freighter from Seattle passing beneath the recently completed Golden Gate Bridge on the 4th of July.  "Coming here seemed like a homecoming -- the place where I belonged."  She spent her first "three months walking around San Francisco and frequenting such bars as Jacopetti's #1 Columbus, the old Black Cat and the Green Lantern."  Having played music from childhood, she maintained an active interest and joined the San Francisco Folk Music Club in the 1950s.

Faith Petric, social worker, listed in the 1963 Polk's San Francisco City Directory

She earned an M.A. in rehabilitative counseling that qualified her for a stable government job.  After retiring from the California Department of Rehabilitation in 1970, she launched her career as a full-time folksinger, touring all over the United States and the world.

One of her projects was folknik, a bi-monthly newsletter of the San Francisco Folk Music Club that first appeared in 1964 and is published to this day.  In an early issue she reacted to criticism of the newsletter's name and its similarity to "beatnik":
I'll admit the name was my idea and at the time no one objected or came up with anything else. ... In the mean time, I'd like to explain that (in my innocence) I tho't Nik was NICE.  I first heard it when the R_ _ _ _ _ S put up their Sputnik and newspapers explained that this meant 'little friend who travels with us' or something like that... When I saw nik on the end of a word I still thought it meant it was something to love and take care of, like a friend.
And indeed she did love and take care of folk music and folk musicians.  Her home at 885 Clayton Street became the headquarters and meeting place for the San Francisco Folk Music Club and she became the "godmother" of the local folk music scene (as her obituary in Sing Out called her).  "I get credit for what a lot of other people in the club do now, but early on I was indeed the glue that held it together.  All of us do this out of a love for the music."

Home-made mailing information from the folknik newsletter of March / April 1972

Progressive political and social causes were central to her music.  She stated that her goal was to "nudge the world the direction I want it to go, and music is one way to do this."  She remarked at the age of 95 "When I sing a particular song, I'm in that song.  I plan to sing until I can't sing anymore."

For those who want to hear Faith Petric sing, the library has copies of her eponymous L.P. record from 1979 to borrow or to listen to in the San Francisco History Center.  For many years she wrote a column for Sing Out magazine which can be read online through our Music Index online database. (Go to the "Advanced search" page and search for "petric" in author search).

"A.G. Letter from San Francisco," by Hal Glatzer, Acoustic Guitar (October 1997), 32-34.

Aging Artfully: 12 Profiles: Visual & Performing Women Artists Aged 85-105 by Amy Gorman (PAL Pub., 2006).

The American Songbag, compiled by Carl Sandburg (Harcourt, Brace, 1927).

"Around the World in 25 Years or What I Did In My Vacation," Faith [Petric], folknik vol. 9, no. 6 (November-December 1973).

Faith Petric [vinyl LP], by Faith Petric (Bay Records, 1979).

"Faith Petric Passes at 98," by Mark D. Moss, Sing Out (October 25, 2013) [website].

"Folknik is a Bad Word?," by Faith [Petric], folknik vol. 1, no. 3 (March 1965), 3.

"S. F. Folk's Enduring Voice," by Meredith May, San Francisco Chronicle (September 28, 2010), E1; E3.

Which Side Are You On?: An Inside Story of the Folk Music Revival in America  by Dick Weissman (Continuum, 2005).

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Ayeshi Nadir Ali Sings Classical Punjabi Poetry

Pakistani singer Ayesha Nadir Ali will present a talk about the tradition of the Punjabi classical poetry and its relationship to Hindustani classical music. Ayesha is a Dhrupad singer connected to the Talwandi Gharana and has learnt khayal and dhrupad singing from Maestro Hafeez Khan Talwandi. She has traveled widely across her native state of Punjab to perform and speak about the poetry.

This program takes place on Sunday, November 10, 2013 at 1:30 PM in the Koret Auditorium at the Main Library.  All Library programs are free and open to the public.

San Francisco Public Library has many recordings of Indian and Pakistani classical and semi-classical music. Those who are interested in listening to recordings of this music should search for titles using subject searches such as:

Hindustani Music.
Music -- India.
Vocal Music -- India.
Vocal Music -- Pakistan.

Some related book and AV titles:

Filigree in Sound: Form and Content in Indian Music by Gopal Sharman (Deutsch, 1970).

Hidden Faces of Ancient Indian Song by Solveig McIntosh (Ashgate, 2005).

The Life of Music in North India: The Organization of An Artistic Tradition by Daniel M. Neuman (Wayne State University Press, 1980).

Music in North India: Experiencing Music, Expressing Culture by George E. Ruckert (Oxford University Press, 2004).

Nazir Jairazbhoy Explains the Theory of Classical Hindustani Instrumental Music (Folkways Records, 1955) [streaming audio available through the Smithsonian Global Sound for Libraries database].

Raga Unveiled: India's Voice, The History and Essence of North Indian Classical Music; writer/director, Gita Desai (Gita Desai, 2009). [DVD].

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Aurora Mandolin Orchestra

The Aurora Mandolin Orchestra returns to the Koret Auditorium on Saturday, November 9th at 2pm.

This is the sixth consective year they will be performing in the Koret. They will play from their varied repertoire, including traditional and semi-classical Italian, Spanish, Russian, specialty ethnic and contemporary orchestral compositions. Both professional and amateur musicians play mandolin, mandola, mandocello, guitar, string bass, accordion, flute and percussion to create their distinctive sound. In addition, award winning soprano Susanna Uher Jimenez will join the Orchestra for several numbers.

All Library programs are free and open to the public.