This weekend, I went to check out this year’s edition of the AIPAD (Association of International Photography Art Dealers) show at the Park Avenue Armory, and like any event in this city that includes the word “art,” the characters in the booths ended up being almost more interesting than the art hanging on their walls. Of course, that’s not to say the show wasn’t great, (I actually wish I’d been able to get there sooner so I could recommend it to you all, but unfortunately it’s now over) it’s just that aside from the sepia-toned coma that I had slipped into by the last row, the show also left me with a bizarre desire to run out and buy a backpack.
Since sometime around the seventies or eighties, the conversation on “the best of” American menswear always seems to include the same, undoubtedly deserving, but all too familiar cast of characters. Ralph Lauren, Jacobi Press, Henry Sands Brooks, Cliff Grodd, Ralph Ostrove, these are the names that pop up time and time again, riding an infinite echo that drowns out any mention of other possibile contenders. While these men were (and still are) responsible for the guiding the ever-changing look of American sportswear and it’s modern white-meets-blue collared audience, they still do only make up a fraction of the story on continental menswear over the past century or so. The rest of the tale is full of designers and figures, most of whom have fizzled out over the years, or never really made a mainstream mark, but there is one man in particular that certainly deserves consideration as one of the greats: Yvon Chouinard, the founder of Patagonia.