Sunday, October 14, 2012

Abercrombie & Fitch Corduroy Safari Jacket

For those familiar with my epic want list, I have been trying to buy one of these jackets for ten years.

I have a deep interest in Abercrombie & Fitch - not the teen retailer - but the storied outfitter from New York. If you needed a pewter shaving mug or a .300 Weatherby rifle for your Safari, you would find yourself at Abercrombie & Fitch.

In the Ernest Hemingway New Yorker profile, Mr. Hemingway spent most of the article seemingly intoxicated and bumbling around New York. He stopped in Abercrombie on his way to see Marlene Dietrich. Charles Lindburgh bought provisions for his transatlantic flight at A&F. Teddy Roosevelt provisioned for his safaris there. Ernest Shackleton and John Steinbeck. JFK. Abercrombie introduced mahjong to the US market.

Above the door on Madison Avenue read, "Where the blazed trail crosses the boulevard." There was a shooting range in the store. A pool on the roof to learn fly fishing. There was a guy 'camping' on the showroom floor to explain equipment and answer questions. They had a publishing arm. Rebranded Tag Heuer watches. If you were a wealthy New Yorker and needed a crow decoy or croquet set, Abercrombie was the place.

A&F was an epic retailer.

As ridiculous as it sounds, Abecrombie is a model for my modest 600 square foot bike store, Coco's Variety. In a city with 15,000 square foot bike stores, how can we possibly be an epic retailer when we are so overwhelmingly outgunned?

We very consciously try to meditate on what he city cyclist needs. Though we are tiny store, we have room for tools, so we invest heavily in the best modern and vintage tools from a Phil Wood spoke machine to a VAR fender punch. I hire the best that I can and pay better than bike store pay to attract the finest mechanics. We very carefully evaluate our products as we don't have the space for a broad selection. We can't carry 20 different panniers, so we must select a very narrow range of products that are honorable in construction and meet our customers needs at a fair price. I trust in the principle, that if we strive to be the very best, the most patient, the most thorough, that the money will figure itself out. That last bit has doomed every retailer from Winchester Hardware Stores to A&F themselves.

The patchwork jacket epitomizes the Abercrombie & Fitch zeitgeist. Outrageous, expensive, high quality, best of the best for deep pocketed adventurers. Like Hunter Thompson.

Over the years I have come into (internet) contact with 4 jackets:

  • On eBay, bid high but was bested by Heller's Cafe, the legendary vintage clothing retailer in Seattle. Most of their stuff goes to Japan, collectors and companies buying 'inspiration' pieces for contemporary lines. About a year after Heller's won the auction, I wrote Larry to inquire if it was still available. It had been sold to a Japanese store and Larry explained that it would probably be impossible to get it back. Sure enough, soon after that the exact same jacket showed up in a Japanese mag (above.)
  •  A few years later, my man Andy at Reference Library sent me an eBay listing to the LL Bean version. It was not my size, was not Abercrombie and was not in great condition. I let it go. 

  • About 2 years ago, V. sent me an email that they had one for sale (above.) She had seen it on my epic want list. It was my size-ish. Looked amazing. We had a 19 email exchange of my trying to purchase the jacket. Slow communication dropped to a trickle and then culminated in bounced emails. I just tried again, same bounce.
  • This morning, a size 14 women's jacket came up on eBay. I ran for a sport coat and my measuring tape to determine that it was way too small for me. Inches short in the sleeve and overall length. I decided to pass. Then, I measured again. Decided to pass. Then, I measured one more time and studied the photos of the construction. Even though it was way too small, perhaps I could get additional patchwork sections added. I decided to Buy-It-Now and worry about how to get it fit once it was here. If nothing else, I could hold it as I have never seen one in person. I clicked Buy-It-Now and it had already sold. The time elapsed between my first glimpse to my clicking to buy was about 15 minutes. 
I am still looking. Email me

UPDATE: Our man Jesse Thorn of Put This On, points us to TWO of the LL Bean version that have recently sold for otherworldly money. Here and here.

Sweet turnips that is a lot of money!