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Killer Threads

March 24th, 2011 by Rich Szabo

This is an on going email thread between myself and three very good friends. I asked permission to post this and all agreed. I think you will find it amusing:

While sorting my laundry I did ponder the differences and mentally reviewed the clothing in my favorite WWII movies. The Axis attire was far more stylish than our own doughboy duds. Nothing puts a high gloss on a staff meeting better than the German long leather coats, gloves and boots. Great collar insignia, iron crosses and peaked caps put the “can do” in the “who’s who”. One of my personal favorites is the panzer commander’s black outfit. I’m sure the ladies could not resist those killer threads along with headphones and binoculars for that “man of action” look. Whether cruising with your turret hatch open or relaxing and eating lunch on your track skirts, it’s always a crowd pleaser. I always looked for the good in the Africa corps uniforms but never really liked them (especially the hats). I did however like the little palm trees painted on the equipment. The British always looked too dated and the embellishments were not practical. The only thing that the US really idolized was the bomber/pilot jacket. It is obvious that our uniforms were form-follows-function. My feelings toward camo colors and patterns (of which there are many) are mixed. It’s hard to be stealthy when you let loose on a 50cal. machine gun. If you are raising dust in a convoy or smashing through the woods in a tank or advancing across the desert with attack copters overhead you might as well wear a clown costume for all the good it will do. I often look at things a little differently.

The Axis looked much more stylish than the Allies. There’s a reason that even today the Fashion Leaders (Hollywood and bondage dungeons) (I repeat myself) go for that black leather and stainless steel SS look. Even the Darth himself took his style cue from the Germans. The Italians could cut a sharp figure, no surprise considering that Milan still teaches the rest of us how to look good. Very underrated, in my opinion. The Japanese weren’t too overly good or bad on uniforms, but for an interesting contrast look at the photos of the surrender ceremony on the deck of the Missouri. The Japanese were starving, bombed back into the Stone Age and literally glowing in the dark, yet they show up in full-dress morning coat outfits. Classy, even in abject defeat. MacArthur standing in his baggy khakis looked like he took a break from cleaning the basement to sign the damn document. I still feel a twinge of embarrassment when I see the photos. Gee Dougie, could you stop flogging the Filipino butt-boy long enough for him to iron your Class A’s?

As for the Allies, the Russians never stood out much with their uniforms. Not terrible but nothing you’d want to copy. To my knowledge, no one ever actually witnessed a Frenchman in uniform long enough to form a judgement one way or the other. More likely, you see them in a ratty shirt, sucking on a Gauloise with a bottle of cheap vin rouge and a collaborating tart on the other arm, cheering on whoever seems to be winning at the moment. The Brits were a little odd, as they tend to be. That whole idea of wearing shorts as a battle uniform just looks bizarre, like a troop of Boy Scouts playing army. On the other hand, for sheer dignity it’s hard to match a couple RN senior officers in full overcoats, standing on an open bridge in a North Atlantic gale debating the finer points of grouse hunting while German 14 inch shells splash all around. I think the attitude is just as critical as the outfit, but God knows they have the attitude in spades.
The best take I’ve seen on US uniforms mentioned something about how you don’t need to know how they’re dressed, when all you can see is a flash of polished aluminum five miles overhead. Not exactly on point, but it makes me laugh.

Glad to see we Concur on Couture with regard to military garb past and present. I would like to add another salvo to your observations about MacArthur’s constant fashion faux pas. The pictures and newsreels also make my skin crawl because I have also remarked about the sloppy fit and wrinkles. Here we have the final surrender of the enemy in the largest conflict in human history dressed to stunning perfection complete with top hat, and who do we send to represent our country? Emmet Kelly, from Ringling Brothers. Let’s face it, he looked like he was on an all night bender, pissed himself and passed out and slept in his uniform. I’m sure the reason he said “I shall return” is because he got thrown out for looking like that. Any bouncer at any hot spot will back me up on this.

Let’s move on to Darth……yes, the German SS did influence many things like his helmet. We older gummers new this from the first episode. You will notice that our troops use a copy of the Jerry helmet today only it has a cloth cover. You will also be pleased to know that kinky Nazi bondage outfits are now available in washable leather (what? cum again?) . Latex outfits will always be available for the thrifty budget. As for the Brits fighting in the desert with shorts and knee socks…..don’t get me started. These are the same people that came up with the pith helmet and also wore berets. Who the Hell wants to wear a three pound hard hat and shorts in blistering conditions?

Watch the movies “Hatari” with John Wayne or “Magambo” with Clark Gable and you will see the proper attire for tropic/desert adventure. I have a closet full of hot weather threads just like in the movies and they serve me well along with looking spectacular and could give John or Clark a real run for the money. Understand of course that I would spend less time hunting animals and more time banging the brains out of Eva Gardner. As for our Dudes in Drab…I think our “green army men” uniforms have served us well over the long haul and I would be proud to wear them as surplus.

The very thought of guys like Vic Marrow in tv’s “Combat” standing there wearing a steel pot, battle jacket, grenades, tommygun and a few days stubble complete with an unfiltered cigarette is enough to make the enemy wish they died at birth. Priceless.

One of my all time favorites is of course…Rat Patrol! Nothing says “action packed” like the outfit worn by Christopher George! That is the ultimate outfit for a day of 50cal. Gun play and then take the jeep for a cruise to the oasis for cool drinks and hot babes with big boobs. The lap dances would be non- stop since they can’t resist the cool khaki cotton, Aussie hat and brown jackboots. To complete this thrill package requires two packs of Lucky Strikes, the trusty Zippo lighter, a roll of US greenbacks and a well worn .45 for dishing out lead poisoning. Combine this with a buxom babe with high heels and low morals and it’s V for Victory!

The website where I bought my pith helmet explains the difference pretty well – villagehatshop.com. The Gunga Din hat is the Brit military version, never did see the point in them as it has no brim at all. Unless you’re a re-enactor doing the Boer War for some reason, there’s no purpose in wearing one of those that I can tell. The classic police “bobby” helmet is actually a version of that style of pith helmet.

Mine is the safari style, canvas covered but with a wide brim. I believe they call it the Indian helmet, but I might have gotten the French helmet. Pretty much identical, anyway. The internal band makes it “float” over your head so there’s plenty of air to cool you down, and if you dunk it in water the evaporation will provide air conditioning. It’s really just ingenious.

I used to have a campaign hat (bought it at Sam’s) but don’t recall whatever happened to it. That’s another great style, it’s obvious that they get used because they work so well.

I will tell you what just struck a nerve. I was just getting some clothes out of my closet for an interview tomorrow and came across my vintage blue ESSO service station Ike style jacket. (pre-1972,Exxon was ’73 on). I stared at it and memories came back like a firestorm. My parents would enter Bernie’s Esso Station at Northfield and Hillside(Bernies has been boarded-up for a long while now) and a moment after you heard the DING-DING, Bernie or a mechanic would appear wearing their Esso uniform and say hello,what fuel and how much you would like. After you heard the slap of the spring loaded license plate hit the nozzle and the pump dials start to spin….the man would pull one or two blue paper towels from the dispenser that also held the flat squirt bottle and then cleaned the windscreen, lifted the wipers and ran the towel on the rubber edge for a final touch.

Part of our growing up was walking a bike across the station (past the promotional Esso Tiger sitting on the pumps) over to the Enco TY-R-FLATOR air pump for that heartwarming GA-DING-ssss, GA-DING-ssss sound. If that didn’t work you just went inside and the man would sell you a quality ATLAS patch kit. My question to you guys is this….have we (society) lost all style and respect for common and mundane services? Is it to much to ask for a little style and polish and respect so people know that they are honestly welcome and their patronage is appreciated? Years ago every skill and service had a distinct look (barber,bartender,driver etc.). What happened? I think in these hard times we should take a hard look and maybe reconsider what is really important. To continue on the subject of uniforms… I would love to see the reaction of people pulling into a little filling station and being attended to by a man in a classic outfit complete with 5 point cap,bow tie,crisp Ike jacket with pressure gauge in the pocket and chunky black oxfords. A white shirt and wiping rag in the rear pocket says “Fill’er Up!” to any sporty blonde or rubber-burnin’ brunette. Many of the things that made this country great have withered on the vine. Please tell me I’m wrong. Are we the last guys on earth to understand what is really important? People often laugh at my Dean Martin-scotch & soda-stacked bombshell way of thinking. I don’t know about anyone else, but I would like to fill up at that station with the vintage attendant in a monster tail-finned convertible while wearing a full tux and a girl that’s built like a brick shit-house by my side. The world doesn’t know what it’s missing…… Sighhhh.
Anyway, thank you-drive safely-here are your S&H green stamps and “Please come again”.

Fossils — yup, by the standards of today, I’m afraid we’d all fall into that category! Just thinking about Bernie’s Esso takes me way back. I can still hear the DING-DING of the service island bell coming through the open windows of our house in warmer weather. Considering how clearly we could hear that bell from about 100 yards away, I’m sure that by now OSHA has probably declared such bells an “occupational safety hazard” that require either removal or handing out OSHA-approved hearing protection to the employees.

On the opposite hand, I also remember good ol’ Esso/Exxon leaded regular; the gasoline in and of itself was probably okay, but that goddamn red dye they put in the fuel for visual identification — I swear that it could pug up the Holland Tunnel, never mind the tiny passages in the idle circuit of a carburetor. Damn, I hated that sh!t. After the third carb rebuild — or was it the fourth? — in less than two years, I told Grandma, who you KNOW that I would literally do ANYTHING for, if she didn’t stop putting that crap in her tank, she could start paying a mechanic to de-gunk that carb. I made her switch to Amoco, and after that she never had another fuel problem.
The comment about the TY-ER-FLATOR immediately dug out the memory bank an incident I hadn’t thought of for decades. My Mother, who never drove a car, used to ride all over town on a bicycle. In the summer, the three of us — Mom, my sister and me — would cycle over to the town pool at Memorial Park. One day, as we reached the end of the street, I noticed that the front tire on Mom’s bike was a bit low so, naturally, we made a quick stop at Bernie’s to use the air hose. Just as we pulled up to the old Enco, one of my stepfather’s Board of Ed co-workers, Ray Ambio, who was filling up the BoE’s green mason dump, saw us by the air pump and gallantly walked over to “assist.” He had no air gauge, and he didn’t reset the automatic pressure cut-off — he claimed both were unnecessary, since he could “feel” when the pressure was right while filling the tire. Well, he was “feeling” the tire when the damned thing exploded like a blockbuster right beneath his hand. I think my ears rang for an hour after that, as I’m sure his did, too. I’m equally certain that fire engine red welt that covered most of Mr. Ambio’s palm continued to sting for days after the ear-ringing subsided!

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This entry was posted on Thursday, March 24th, 2011 at 4:18 pm and is filed under General Buzz. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

3 responses about “Killer Threads”

  1. Ted Silberstein said:

    If you could see now you would see me down on my knees lifting my arms above head and bowing down forward touching my outstretched arms to the ground, and repeating this motion over and over in full “I am not worthy” tradition. This is bar none the greatest thing I have ever read in my entire life. BAR NONE!

  2. Killer Threads Part Deux - Buzz Paths - Common Sense For Common People said:

    [...] « Killer Threads [...]

  3. A Knight In Rusty Armour - Buzz Paths - Common Sense For Common People said:

    [...] It is Saturday morning and my responses to our E-Diner yarns were delayed due to the fact that it’s busier than a Kansas City stockyard next door. We have been assisting any way we can the last few days to make the blushing bride’s (“Dana”) big day go as smooth as a peeled egg. The wedding starts in a few hours and will be filled with twenty-somethings probably texting each other inside the church. I can smell the aroma of my Cauldron of Comments that is already starting to boil and bubble. I will call “em as I see ‘em. I got myself caught up in an interesting situation on Thursday evening and along with your misc. comments about young people versus adults, I will unleash a story that has all the elements of a classic fable that I will call “A Knight in Rusty Armour”. It will be descriptive, heartwarming, very wordy and contain dragons and an unlikely hero. The preparation of this wedding also helps to heat the cauldron. A woman would consider the fable more seriously. Chivalry is not dead and I can prove it. By the way, the cat’s stool sample was negative. Here comes the bride so I must get dressed, in Killer Threads… [...]

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