My friend Allan is the owner of Steelhead Fine Goods, a quality, bespoke leathergoods company based in Santa Barbara, California. So it’s fitting that he’s named his company after the ocean-going form of rainbow trout. Steelhead.
Once upon a time, you could name any river or stream in Southern California, and these beautiful fish were probably known to swim up it from the Pacific Ocean and spawn in their place of birth. But the damming of rivers, pollution, and over-fishing have left the steelhead a rare sight in the past few decades.
Steelhead Fine Goods, like its namesake, is rare breed.
I had the chance to visit his shop recently during Allan’s downtime, chat, and take some photos. Check out the photos here:
I don’t know how the beefsteak banquet fell out of fashion but it sure as hell needs to make a comeback. After all, how could a menu of steak and beer be wrong? So, on a not-so-warm Saturday evening a handful of friends gathered to make an honest attempt to bring it back.
|An early 1900s beefsteak. Note the simple menu.|
I’m not going to lie, though, at the onset of this event, I’d been thinking about throwing sides in, maybe even a salad or other chlorophyll-based sustenance. But a cooler head prevailed and a friend convinced us to throw a genuine beefsteak. Thank you, Scott.
This story about Bing Crosby’s bespoke Levi’s tuxedo comes by way of One Trip Pass, a great blog on all manner of Americana, and was far too good to pass up. So I asked and was graciously granted permission to re-post the story in full. (Thanks, Jay!) Here goes…
Lynn Downey has a pretty killer job as Levi’s archivist. I visit her and the vault any time I can think up an excuse. Recently I was chewing the fat with her about my visit and subsequent fascination with Elko and North East Nevada. She told me all about the history there with Bing Crosby and the Levi’s denim tuxedo. I asked if she would write a piece on the subject for One Trip Pass and she agreed. The following is her story on the subject. Thank you, Lynn!
“Quick. What comes to mind when you hear the name Bing Crosby?
“White Christmas.” Goofy movies with Bob Hope, like “Road to Morocco” and “Road to Zanzibar.” Golf. Levi’s® jeans.
That’s right. Bing was a huge fan of the Levi’s® brand, and in 1951 the company went above and beyond the call of duty for Bing when he and his favorite jeans were insulted by a hotel clerk in Canada.
First of all, Bing had always been a Levi’s® jeans and jacket wearer. He owned a working ranch near Elko, Nevada and was also its honorary mayor for years. He posed for the covers of albums and sheet music in the clothing. Get it? He loved the brand.
So when he went hunting in Canada with a friend in 1951 he naturally wore his favorite jeans and jacket. One evening, the pair decided they wanted to stay in a hotel in Vancouver, and when they got to the registration desk they were politely but firmly told by the clerk that they would not be admitted to the hotel.
Because they were wearing denim.
You see, in the 1950s, denim had a very bad reputation, thanks to Marlon Brando, James Dean and all those other malcontents who were upsetting the social order by not conforming to America’s postwar obsession with suburbs, picket fences and men in grey flannel suits. Not only that, denim still retained its work wear, laborer origins.
In other words, not at all the appropriate clothing that this particular hotel allowed beyond the lobby.
Luckily for Bing the bellhop recognized him, and the men were given a room. And when he got back to Elko he told his neighbors what had happened. They in turn contacted Levi Strauss & Co., which immediately went to work on a special garment made just for Bing, and which would not likely be duplicated by anyone.
They made him a denim tuxedo jacket.
It was made of the same denim used for the 501® jeans, had a lovely cluster of red Tabs in the lapel, fastened by another cluster of copper rivets, and a huge leather label on the inside. This stated that denim was appropriate attire for any occasion, and that stuck-up hotel clerks should just get over it.
The company presented the tux to Bing at the 1951 Silver State Stampede rodeo in Elko. Dressed in 501® jeans and a cowboy shirt, Bing happily donned the jacket and posed for the cameras. He was so taken with the tux that he wore it to many of the press appearances for his next movie, “Here Comes the Groom.”
The company made replicas of the tuxedo jacket as display items for salesmen to loan to favored retailers. And a few of the replicas reside today in the LS&Co. Archives. Under lock and key.”
|photo: The Geriatric Aesthetic|
First by a Prius who was ecstatic that I gave him enough room to make a right turn. Only he rolled into the crosswalk and blocked the path of a visibly (and rightly) pissed pedestrian. Then by the In-N-Out that smelled of grilled onions only after I passed it.
Next was a car that had no time to wait for me, a lowly and solitary cyclist, at the four-way stop. It seems modulating the brake or gas is too much effort; friction shifters and moustache bars, I’m led to believe, are easy.
The last bit is where I keep a steady cadence up a hill with a few drops of rain hitting my jacket. But in the end I’ve earned a view of the city.
|photo: The Geriatric Aesthetic|
|photo: Cristina Gutierrez of Omoir Photography|
I flew to Salt Lake City, rented a red Nissan Versa and headed up to West Yellowstone for the Tenkara Summit (which was mentioned in a previous post). It was the first time in my life that I’d seen that much sustained and rolling beauty in one drive. Never in my life had I ever see this much of the “West,” despite the fact that I come from a place so far west that if you travel any further in that direction you end up in sea water; Long Beach is not the kind of place that conjures up the Old West.
Then it began. The music in my head. Most of it was twangy and a little country. It just seemed to fit as I drove by bales of alfalfa hay and beat up pick-up trucks. At the next stop I cobbled together a playlist of songs to compliment the trip.
(An astute ear might be able to hear that none of these songs are particularly new and that’s because I haven’t updated my iPod in about a year.)
I also compiled a YouTube playlist for those of you that don’t want to hunt for yourself.