Image: Dennis Wise

Not that the Hunter S. Thompson memorial costume parties or Neil Young tribute nights were getting old, but Gabe Johnson had been creating underground community at Horses Cut Shop in Fremont for three years when inquiries from a certain guest (okay, it was Pete Nordstrom) prompted a new direction. Johnson, a former dot-com outlaw, made good on an itchy impulse to preserve the iconography of American small businesses—what he calls “cathedrals of our shared past.” He started chasing down generations-old motorcycle shop logos and small-town centennial tavern signs and preserving them on T-shirts, first for Nordstrom’s Treasure and Bond in New York City and now the world. The online shop and popup-for-hire currently sells 34 designs from seven states; Johnson and his partner Anne Vande Creek share profits with the businesses they honor. 


Wearing 
Denim is to America what pashmina is to Nepal and latex is to Germany. These are true old-stock Levi’s 646 from 1978. I found them in a department store in Aberdeen, where I’m from, with the original price tag still on them. The guy assumed the price, $19, was still valid. The trick to breaking in new denim and new boots: submerge in water for 24 hours, put on, walk until they’re dry.

 

Faded Glory 
The aesthetic of found objects and the 1970s is a direct result of seeing my hometown fall from grace and the venerable institutions of my youth crumble: the bar my grandparents would frequent, the bowling alley where I had my sixth birthday, the record store where I bought my first album. The slow death of my hometown has been the greatest influence shaping my values as an adult.

 

That ’70s Show 
Whoever was responsible for styling the sitcom Three’s Company should have their DNA shot into space and their face on Rushmore. Everything from that era still resonates with me; they’ll most likely bury me in bell-bottoms.

 

Playing Dress Up
A guy can do himself much service simply with items that fit well. A hat, a vest, and a boot with a good heel is a forgiving combination. Queen Anne Avenue’s Cinderella Tailors, ironically, reheel mine. When we hit the town, my friends and I go top shelf. The Canlis family has hosted us numerous times by providing valet services for our vintage bikes. 

 

 

Published: May 2013