Some people get it, others don’t. Example: The difference in denim quality. For some, finding the perfect pair of dungarees is a never-ending mission in life, while for others it’s a trip to the sale rack at the nearest outlet store. Some people find a fascinating bridge in musical and cultural generations after learning that both Elvis Presley (in the ‘50s) and Gram Parson (in the ‘70′s) were dressed by famed suit maker, Nudie Cohn. Others don’t care that they both shared the same tailor – and “who is Gram Parson?” What does any of this have to do with Andre The Giant? Furthermore how do Robert Redford and Paul Newman fit in to the equation? Were they more than just a “legal eagle” and a salad dressing maker?
Motorcycles, music, art, film, clothing, cars, style: “Counterculture-icons” from the past that influence who many of us are today. This is what The Selvedge Yard is all about. Writer/curator of TSY’s online exhibit, Jon Patrick (JP for short) met up with me recently for dinner and a tour of my cycle shop where we talked about the past, present and future of his “Natural Born World Shakers” website.
Throughout the three-year history of the blog, readers have had a sneak peak inside the perpetually teenage mind of JP. “Everything I write about is stuff I grew up liking,” JP mused as we feasted on a mountain of nacho’s at a small lounge in West Chester, PA, “the focus, at first, was on denim (hence selvedge yard – playing off of salvage) but I grew so damn bored right away with that idea that it became about all the things that have influenced [and inspired] me along the way.”
The site was born when JP found himself suddenly unemployed. With lots of time on his hands JP began looking at sites like “A Continuous Lean” and the gears in his head started moving. “The fact that I no longer had a creative outlet was a real kick in the pants – one I truly underestimated. I’d seen a few blogs and thought ‘Hell I could do this.’” TSY garnered attention right off the bat, but not without a few stumbles and some unlikely help in the beginning. “I’ll never forget when I was first starting out, I left a comment on A Continuous Lean, and I committed the unforgivable blogger sin – I left a link to TSY in the comments section. Oh, shit! I had no idea really that it was such a no-no. Michael politely corrected me offline, and I apologized profusely. I felt like a world-class ass. He was so cool about it, and we’d email each other once in a while. He gave me some great formatting tips as well. I can’t say enough about what a genuinely nice guy Michael is. He keeps it real. Jake Davis was also very cool to me in the beginning, and I owe him thanks as well. Nick Maggio over at ATG (A Time To Get) is a great guy that I’m proud to call a friend. He’s truly an amazing photographer too. He was instrumental in helping me put together an event at Secret Service in Los Angeles to promote Shutter Speed (a TSY shoot featuring Stacie B. London from East Side Moto Babes that my buddy Scott Pommier shot).” Within that year, The Selvedge Yard was off and running, quickly rising to the top of the ranks.
With a coif of semi slicked curly hair, stark white beard accentuated by black, heavy-rimmed glasses, rigid denim jeans and a worn-in pair of Jack-Boots, JP’s a mans man when it comes to appearance. “These days a lot of the best denim comes from Japan.” JP explained, “All the original American denim looms were sold off to make room for bigger, wider machines for mass production – which affected the quality. Japan bought a ton of these looms long ago, and continue to make low batch runs of the world’s best denim available today.” I too, am perpetually on the prowl for the perfect denim pant, so JP elaborated on his personal preference: “I love RRL, Prps, vintage Levi’s and LVC. I’m lucky enough to know Maurizio Donadi who’s at the helm of LVC, and he’s doing some really great things there. My favorite LVC jean is the 1947 501 deadstock. The fit (or anti-fit) is perfect for me – traditional rise, and straight leg – and I definitely prefer raw, and letting the denim patina naturally from wearing the shit out of them.”
Coming of age in the ‘70s and ‘80s- a Woodstock attendee with a strong passion for music as a mother, and a biker with a Harley Low Rider for a father, it’s easy to see how the seeds of JP’s interests were planted. “There were stacks of records lying around the house – the usual fair – Stones, Hendrix, Humble Pie… My knowledge and interest in music far exceeded most kids my age,” but it was Van Halen that JP claimed as his first “favorite” band. “I remember like it was yesterday when Van Halen blew up on the scene. They were young, loud, sexy, and aggressive. They didn’t sound like anyone else, and they were incredible musicians. Eddie Van Halen was an effin’ God. When all that happened, they felt like my band – different than the bands I’d experienced through my mom, Van Halen was mine. AC/DC too, but more so Van Halen because they had such a charismatic and electric stage presence, and they were American, so I related more to them.” An underlying Americana theme is present throughout The Selvedge Yard, though not everyone/everything featured on the site is American, they all share an important impact on U.S. popular culture – the one in which JP was raised in. Throughout the remainder of the ‘70s and ‘80s, his musical interests broadened to include everyone from the Sex Pistols to Kris Kristofferson.
Read a few articles on The Selvedge Yard and it’s clear what fascinates JP the most – it’s the little back-stories that made the subjects who and what they were. Heavily steeped in rare found images, and often-offbeat angles on story telling, JP is a well-researched raconteur -almost as though he was the fly on the wall when all of the photographs were taken. His ever-present passion has resonated with large cult-like following – hitting monthly views in the high 6 digits. This has sparked a lot of interest from other companies to get involved. Harley Davidson had JP curate “The H-D Archives – By The Selvedge Yard” for their Ridebook campaign. Details and I-D Magazines have given the blog high accolades, and have featured TSY in their publications. “I have been approached by some bigger companies to buy or sponsor The Selvedge Yard, but it just wouldn’t be the same if there was an agenda behind it,” he explains “this is a labor of love.” If he were to sell part or the entire site, the circumstances would have to be just right: “Say an organization like Falcon Motorcycles or LVC were interested in getting involved, a business that resonants with TSY, we might talk. Those are companies I believe in.” He is open to collaborating on the site and other projects such as events featuring other “world shakers.” There’s always the possibility of creating a TSY line, given his background in menswear. Denim is a very logical next step. Bringing like-minded people together to join forces is much more interesting to JP than getting a one time payout for all the work he’s put into it – this isn’t just a blog, it’s his soul out on display.
While Harley Davidson is in his blood (his father rode a Harley) JP actually rides a ‘76 BMW R80, “Though I’d really like a Triumph” he confessed. I noticed JP ogling my 51 Triumph Speed Twin as we entered my shop. “Something like this [old rigid framed triumph], or at least something made to look ‘old’ like this.” I felt a “world shaking” collaboration being fermented.
Motorcycles are a continuous theme on TSY; it certainly has a die hard two wheeled fan base – but the blog far from exclusive to motorcycles. It’s about iconic movie roles, influential cars, and classic women of beauty and power, looking through the eyes of various photographers who captured snippets of history often overlooked. It’s an eclectic mix of everything cool and the people/creations that helped shape the world in which we live. While this is what many blogs tend to strive for, it’s JP’s selections and smart, witty writing that pulls it all together and makes it stand above the rest. I’ve never before seen an article on (and I’m paraphrasing here) provocative ‘70s pin-up poster-wars between pubescent boys – until it appeared on TSY. It’s an interesting look at the awkward years of a male’s life, and the women who guided so many from boyhood to manhood (whether the pin-ups knew it or not.) JP somehow managed to take this taboo subject, make it light-hearted, wholesome and very relatable – even if you didn’t come of age in the early-mid ‘70s.
The Selvedge Yard is definitely a guys’ guy type of site. Not in a machismo manner, but the content I certainly slanted towards men. There are multiple features on Steve McQueen and his various cars. There are stories on the ‘70s custom van craze and the parallel chopper scene, but not all the content is so gritty. “The Mad Men of Modern Design” looks at the famous mid-century furniture designers like Betoia, Saarinen and Nelson. These names might not be familiar to all, but their furniture certainly is. There’s also a story on Ralph Lauren “American Menswear” a look at the designer’s heyday. Other post titles: “Miles Davis: Miles of Style”, “Truman Capotes Black and White Ball” and “John Delorean’s Nerves of Steel”. Starting to see the big picture?
The future of TSY looks bright. More artist and even product collaborations are on the horizon. Increasing the frequency of new content to the site is a major goal. Above all, the websites has gone from presenting the people who “shook the world,” to a blog that’s influencing it’s readers to do some “world-shaking” themselves. People are stepping forward to get involved with The Selvedge Yards unwritten manifesto: The preservation of all things cool.
Undoubtedly, larger lifestyle-companies can see the influence TSY has and are following the blog closely as part of their marketing research. More offers are surely to be made for the site, as big business desperately wants to stay ahead of the pack and try to buy their way to being “cool”; but the truth is, you simply cannot buy “cool”: You either are or you aren’t. JP knows this, Certain companies know this, but most just don’t get it. Meanwhile JP and TSY will continue to crank out interesting stories and plan even more events around the country – with one goal in mind: to bring together the movers and shakers who “get it”.
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