PATENTS ARE A VIRTUE…

In recent months, Google’s LIFE image archive has been e-manna from e-heaven for lazy bloggers like myself enjoying a spot of search engine research. Given its prolific amount of images from throughout the decades, just picking at the bones of any assignment prior to 1969 in Europe or the States exposes some sharp looks and iconic images. It’s like shooting fish in a barrel. The same applies to Google’s Google patents service – recently upgraded for easier retrival of imagery and a simpler summary of the filed, and ultimately issued, innovations incorporated.

For us nerds looking into the design process that led to the products you’re fetishising over in the current ‘Free & Easy’ fuelled nostalgia love-in and the spate of old world clobber themed blogs springing up each millisecond, it’s easy to get lost in this new search subdivision. Not everyone seems to be involved as of yet, but there’s plenty to gnaw on for the time being. Personally, a quest to explore the origins of the humble sweatshirt, more specifically, to see how prominent Russell Athetic’s input was in the development of the ‘athletic shirt’ led me to some interesting hand drawn and elegantly handwritten eye candy. At time-of-writing, I was luckless in seeing the Russell brand’s submissions, but the Champion Knitwear Company of Rochester came through for some great finds.

Pictured above, filed on Jan 20th 1938, and issued in August 1938, Mr. Samuel N. Friedland breaks down a mode of sweatshirt manufacture that minimizes the amount of components, with ‘tubular’ elements. Comfort and flexibility are paramount here. The bottom of page 4, explains that, “By reason of the said horizontal disposition of the wales throughout in the completed form of the shirt…” the problem of vertical shrinkage is minimised. Is this the birth of the whole Reverse Weave concept for the brand?

Submitted later, with Samuel as the inventor again, filed on February 10th 1938, but issued on April 19th of that same year, this athletic shirt has a v-neck and look that’s predominantly decorative.

Filed on August 13th, 1951 and issued in October 1952, this collection of athletic garments has Samuel as the inventor again, but this time he shares credits with a Mr. William F. Feinbloom for a sweatshirt and track pant with ribbing implemented, again, focused on longevity and comfort by minimising the dreaded vertical shrink. In addition, Mr. Strauss and the Levi’s empire don’t figure too highly…yet. Hopefully as this resource grows, we’ll get even more insight into the DNA of more design classics. It’d be churlish to stop at grey cotton athletic work though wouldn’t it? So here’s a few more archive pieces. Here’s to more nerdery over the coming months…

Leopold A. Guiterman, who seemed to make a good living from the rag trade submits a more comfortable denim overall, filed on June 19th 1884 and issued on Oct 13th 1885, using elastic braces for comfort. “Denim working-clothing us used by men of these classes…”

Michigan-based Hamilton Carhartt (his signature is on the bottom right), submits a bib overall design filed on November 20th 1914 and issued on August 31st 1915.

Split backstay for a ‘duck’ boot filed on June 11th 1920 and issued in January 1921. The inventor is one Leon L. Bean.

Eddie Bauer patents the down-filled jacket. Filed on December 26th 1939 and issued in February 1940.

A lot more recently, check the Vancouver-based Arc’Teryx brand submitting a hood technology, filed on July 10th 2001 and issued on December 2nd 2003. Like any good informative internet timewaster, Google patents link to even more cerebral landfill – in this case, follow the citations to see what went before. Arc’Teryx reference Joseph De Grazia’s beautifully illustrated hood gathering means, filed on July 17th 1947 and issued almost 5 years later, in January 1952.

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