My Words

Understanding the World through words

American Workware—Denim Overalls

I’ve been a mild collector of denim jeans for some years. Most of my “shopping” time is going to thrift stores and combing with patience the endless racks of mens trousers. I particularly look for name brand denim jeans like Levi’s, True Religion, or Ralph Lauren, because I know these jean makers are quality and timeless. Once in a while, I will find a hidden treasure, and if the price is right, I will snatch it up.

Recently, I’ve shifted my aesthetics towards vintage denim overalls. Denim overalls have a flare of their own and I have grown to appreciate their history. Vintage American workware is making a comeback. Most notably this comeback is highlighted on Social Media sites like Instagram and certain Facebook pages. I’ve noticed that the appreciation for vintage American workware is centered in Japan and trickling down to American fringe groups who either collect or reproduce from “deadstock” true to form replicas for the growing niche market. Either way, I’ve become fascinated with the aesthetics of vintage denim overalls. They are an acquired taste, I agree; but, in terms of recycling and sustainable ideas, and when it comes to contemporary clothes, buying vintage can’t be beat. Mostly because in todays market there’s been an unhealthy influx of disposable clothing with a shelf life of a wash or two. These disposable clothes are not only a menace to our earth’s environment, they are terribly made, and a waste of resources. Buying vintage is the opposite, it’s recycling and saves valuable resources. Lets face it, farm equipment made in the USA in the past, was made to last. Vintage denim overalls are tough built for the hard working American.

Compared to Denim Jeans, finding vintage denim overalls is next to impossible here in Northern California. So, the next best place is browsing eBay. The difficulty with shopping on eBay, as many know, is seeing the quality up close and sizing; so its often, hit-or-miss.

At one time, there were many manufactures of denim overalls. You can see examples of this in the photography of the time circa 1920’s-1950’s. Most notably, we see images of men, women and children wearing denim overalls during the the Great Depression. Thanks to photographers like; Dorothea Lang, Theodor Jung, Ben Shahn, Walker Evens and Carl Mydans we’re able to see men, women, and children in their everyday existence during that epoch. Of course, not everyone wore denim overalls at the time, but it was certainly more prevalent and I suppose less of a stigma than what exists today. Outside of hip Japanese admirers of vintage American workware, and limited current day farmers, overalls are seldom seen on people.

That being said, I’ve learned about certain manufactures of quality Denim overalls by investigation and at times, sheer happenstance. For example I bought two recent pairs of vintage denim overalls, one manufactured by Sears, and another manufactured by Roebucks. I assumed prior that Sears and Roebucks was one corporate entity; but now, I know that they were in fact two separate manufactures and sellers of goods to the public.

In my humble opinion, Roebucks denim and surging is a step above the Sears in overall quality. Another brand I was unaware of is the company Five Brothers who have been in the workware industry for 122 years and still running strong. To date, I love the quality and look of most of my vintage denim overall collection. Exceptions in quality are Osh Kosh and Roebucks as I mentioned earlier, quality is visible in terms of surging, material used, and the beauty of the button design, as well as overall fit and comfort.

I’m not the only person with a growing obsession for collecting vintage American workware. I’ve met others in my journey, in particular a retired professor who now lives in northern Europe. He strictly wears denim overalls and blogs incessantly about the love of wearing them. The professor in question wears his overalls so much that he’s now learning the art of stitching so that he can continue wearing his well worn-in denim overalls.

I have to admit that vintage, well worn-in denim overalls are exquisitely comfortable and I have found myself wearing them more often— much to the chagrin of my wife. As a sophisticated Californian suburbanite, she finds my recent style contemptible. As I mentioned earlier, denim overalls carry a stigma associated with farming and agriculture, one that is hard to overcome in California. Perhaps due to the heavy influx of destitute depression era farmers, “Okies” as Californians pejoratively labeled them. They were the recently destitute who came here in droves during the 30’s and 40’s dust bowl crisis—looking for a second chance at life. Men, women, and children with thick Midwestern accents, beat up jalopies and their quintessential overalls. These spirited midwesterners were willing to work for pennies-on-the-dollar to get back at the American dream.

The midwest exodus, an American cultural phenomena, was wonderfully captured in John Ford’s adaptation of John Steinbeck’s opus, Grapes of Wrath. At times, with tongue-in-my-cheek, I refer to my style as the “Grapes of Wrath look.” People who know the book or have seen the movie, grin when I say this. Surprisingly, I have even had some of my colleagues say that I look like a hipster. Students once in a while, will ask me, “Mr. D, where did you get your overalls, I want a pair” or they will complement me about my overalls with words like, “they’re nice, or cool.”

Fashionistas shun overalls as “farm wear or outdated”, but In the past, this wasn’t the case, everyone more-or-less wore a nice pair of overalls. In America today, fashion wise, its still looked at with raised eyebrows by sophisticates. They tell us that its, “a faux pas” and to “avoid them with a passion,” but I disagree. In the study of design, beauty follows function, and the functionality of of overalls are understated. They have multiple pockets, they’re made with tough reinforced blue denim, and and the top bib section keeps your shirts clean while having a perfect place to store your pencil. I find vintage denim overalls to be more proletariate than bourgeoisie, more blue collar than white. Even though I’m considered a white collar worker, I find myself leaning towards loving blue colored vintage overalls. I mix them with a nice white button down shirt or a blue chambray button down shirt, Red Wing Iron Ranger boots, topped off by a wool or leather cap. If the weather is cold, then I’ll throw on a denim jacket or a cardigan sweater. Either way, you cannot beat the comfort and functionality of a good pair of vintage denim overalls.














Aloha Shirt—fashion with a Utiliatarian disposition.

Nothing says, “free spirited, rest easy, and relaxation like a 100% RAYON aloha shirt.”
Yea, we all know that Aloha Shirts get a bad rap from millennial ran rant fashion bloggers. They wouldn’t know a good time or a classy shirt, if it bit them in the ass!
Aloha Shirts are not just for that 50’s guy having existential youth problems, though it’s ok if you are. Do a Google search “Aloha Shirt Fashion” and you’ll see that the quintessential feel good shirt is making a serious fashion comeback.

Listen, Montgomery Cliff, Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, and Al Pacino all rocked an Aloha Shirt; and if these American icons of manhood wore them, then why shouldn’t I?

Here’s a little Aloha shirt history taken from

“After World War II, many servicemen returned to the United States from Asia and the Pacific islands with aloha shirts that had been made in Hawaii since the 1930s. Tourists began flocking to Hawaii in the 1950s as faster airplanes allowed for easier travel and the former U.S. territory became a state in 1959. Alfred Shaheen, a textile manufacturer, revolutionized the garment industry in postwar Hawaii by designing, printing and producing aloha shirts and other ready-to-wear items under one roof. The tropical-print shirts for men and sundresses for women became standard and sometimes tacky souvenirs for travelers, but Shaheen raised the garments to the level of high fashion with artistic prints, high-grade materials and quality construction. Elvis Presley wore a Shaheen-designed red aloha shirt featured on the album cover for the Blue Hawaii film soundtrack in 1961.”

Back to the Aloha shirt:
The colors speak of sandy white beaches.
Mai Tai’s and Rum and coke with a lime twist.
Soft warm tropical wind blowing through palm trees.
A relaxing night out with your significant other.

If you’re a millennial, don’t listen to your peers, a Hawaiian shirt will make you look good and feel classy!
When I was stationed in Okinawa, we Marines would rock bright Hawaiian shirts,
Gel our high and tights, put on some nice slacks or shorts and hit the town, looking for a little adventure. On paydays we’d go to a little joint in Naha that served tropical drinks and had that South Pacific TIKI feel. I’d have a couple of Fog Cutters and a nice dinner with my pals and then hit the road, pretending to be tourist. Those were the good ole days, when deployment overseas was relaxing. Some of us even got dates, which made our little outings that much more enjoyable.

Today, I was thinking about it being Fall, but as soon as I stepped into my car, all thoughts of Fall weather; chilled blowing winds and colorful leaves left my mind. It was 93 degrees and no clouds in sight! We are experiencing a second summer. So I ran upstairs, tore off my Fall clothes, put on my flip-flops and tank top; searched desperately for my sunglasses and threw on my Tiki shirt. In California there’s no excuse to not look and feel relaxed. We live in a perpetual ‘Friday is Hawaiian shirt’ climate. Yes, sadly enough, I sometimes feel that my sweaters are hanging in my closet collecting dust; but, that only lasts a moment, when I realize that the sun is out and I can go to the beach! There’s so much more that can be accomplished with a sunny day and sunglasses.

My quest, the reason why I was stepping outdoors in the first place, was so that I could get last minute ingredients for supper. I went straight to the poultry section to cool off, the air conditioning in the meat section of the grocery store felt amazing. That’s when I saw a rather large man wearing a Hawaiian shirt too. I thought to myself, Hawaiian shirts are the moo-moos for men. You can hide a lot of extra weight under a loose fitting floral print tropical shirt. Remember, Frank Sinatra in, From Here To Eternity hiding a fifth of Whiskey under his Hawaiian shirt? It was remarkable, you couldn’t see it. I felt euphoric, I light went on in my head, what better piece of fashion to hide extra weight, Liquor, or a 9mm hand gun than a lovely 100 % rayon tropical shirt? Its fashion with a utilitarian disposition, a true BauHaus moment went off in my noggin—Beauty follows function! The Aloha shirt is not only beautiful but it’s functional. If there’s anything praise worthy coming from our 50th State it’s the Aloha Shirt, well, also the little hula dolls that sway on our dashboards too.

Morning Coffee-Poem

I wake up,
stretch and yawn.
It’s dark outside.
I can hear distant
cars already whizzing by.
I force myself to get out of bed
like Lazarus’
suddenly interrupted
eternal sleep.

I fumble downstairs,
steadied by the
smooth banister.
I fill the tea kettle
with cold tap water
click the gas burner
on high
and patiently wait.

The whistle startles my
morning thoughts
I turn them both off
counter clockwise.
The dry coffee grounds
anticipate their
steaming hot libation.

The aroma of morning pierces
the shroud of dawn’s darkness
As I pour the ancient concoction
into my mug.

The hot liquid
rises to the top.
It’s mesmerizing.
An aesthetic contrast
between two opposing colors
Black coffee and white cup.
I add milk,
and stir
the liquid turns
to caramel—its
ready to partake, so
I raise it to my lips
close my eyes
and swallow.

Like Glue—Poem

My wife is a rock
She works so hard to make ends meet.

Her concern is for our safety
to make sure we’re not faltering,
emotionally, financially, morally.
When she’s troubled she calls me
on the phone;
If there’s good news,
I’m the first one she shares it with.
I reciprocate her affection,
with flowers, poems, and tender touches.

We’re best friends.
Our most important trait is
Let me clarify:
No marriage is without bumps.
It’s not always love, love, love.
We bicker over many things.
Sometimes it’s trivial, even though
It always seems “important” at the time.

Yet, we never give up on each other,
instead we compromise:
we say, “I’m sorry.”
and try to rectify our behavior.
It’s a marital dance—
a passionate tango
at times its jolting,
often times its smooth.
a relationship between
two strong-willed humans,
works only
if there’s commitment:
love and sacrifice,
and plenty of laughter
which acts like glue.

What Is Youth? Poem

What is youth?

Life moves quickly.
Moments elapse into
songs that helps me reminisce;
but, it’s fleeting—
like clouds on a sunny day,
the ones that disappear
into the blue infinite
That same depth that
circumnavigates our
magnificent earth.
I hold onto my thoughts like picture albums,
as I stand with skinned knees
and a happy smile.
Little did I know
like the cumulus shade that
skips through the pregnant sky.
That the sun I love would not stop counting my days.
Where did my youth go?
It’s the same sky, sun, and Earth;
but now my joints ache
and my smile is etched
by a life filled with plenty of
happiness and
twice the hardships;
a little older,
a bit wiser.
I’m toughened by tragic loss.
I wish I could be young again.
I wish I could go out and play;
to be back by dusk without care
as I sit down with my family,
while laughingly
recounting my escapades.

Youth is a warm familiar blanket I rest under.
Youth is the memory of days gone by that I cherish
like a baby Lark cherishes its mother’s cozy nest.