ghurkas

In Burma on 23 June 1944, a Battalion of the 6th Gurkha Rifles was ordered to attack the Railway Bridge at Mogaung. Immediately the attack developed the enemy opened concentrated and sustained cross fire at close range from a position known as the Red House and from a strong bunker position two hundred yards to the left of it.

The cross fire was so intense that both the leading platoons of ‘B’ Company, one of which was Rifleman Tulbahadur Pun’s, were pinned to the ground and the whole of his Section was wiped out with the exception of himself, the Section commander and one other man. The Section commander immediately led the remaining two men in a charge on the Red House but was at once badly wounded. Rifleman Tulbahadur (sic) Pun and his remaining companion continued the charge, but the latter too was immediately wounded.

Rifleman Tulbahadur Pun then seized the Bren Gun, and firing from the hip as he went, continued the charge on this heavily bunkered position alone, in the face of the most shattering concentration of automatic fire, directed straight at him. With the dawn coming up behind him, he presented a perfect target to the Japanese. He had to move for thirty yards over open ground, ankle deep in mud, through shell holes and over fallen trees.

Despite these overwhelming odds, he reached the Red House and closed with the Japanese occupants. He killed three with his rifle and further five with his kukri knife.

— 

Victoria Cross citation for Ghurka Tul Bahadur Pun, issued in 1944

The citation did not mention that after clearing the house he grabbed a flamethrower and killed a further thirty Japanese troops who were in a locked bunker. He described it as “appropriate reparations”

Ebbets Field Flannels - “Independence” Hat

Apolis - Matteo Linen Bandana

Engineered Garments - Ghurka Shorts

Oak Street Bootmakers - Penny Loafer

Post O’alls - Short Sleeve Post-R Shirt

American Optical - Deadstock Safety Glases

3

The Great PTO Briefcase Roundup

Whether because you need something to go with a suit and tie, or perhaps just want to look a little more professional at the office, a leather briefcase can be a great way to sharpen up a work wardrobe. Unfortunately, most briefcases are expensive, and some with fancy designer names aren’t even all that well-made. So, to answer a question we often get in our inboxes, here’s a list of places where one can get a good, quality bag – with options spread across a range of price points. 

Under $500

  • Henry Tomkins: One of the most affordable companies on the market. They have ready-to-use bags, but can also make small modifications to their designs for a modest fee.
  • Chapman: Chapman mainly specializes in canvas bags, but this leather piece looks exceptionally good for the price. Made in England from pull-up leather
  • Saddleback Leather: Rustic looking bags in a variety of styles. Perhaps not ideal with a suit, but possibly great if you wear more rugged clothing. Their lifetime warranty is also nice.
  • Yoshida Porter: A very popular company in Japan. Their black, soft-sided briefcase looks professional, but has a casual feel.
  • Hrothgar Stibbon: Handsome bridle leather bags offered at a much more affordable price than the options below. Bridle leather, for those unfamiliar, is a thick and sturdy hide that requires no internal stiffener. It’s beautiful material that’s made to last. 
  • Custom Hide: Made-in-the-USA bags backed with a lifetime warranty. The designs are handsome and the prices are very attractive. What more can one ask for?
  • Linjer: A new company with a direct-to-customer business model. Based on the sample they loaned me, I’m skeptical that these can be rightly compared to bags retailing for $1,200 (like they claim), but they seem like a nice value at $399. Lightweight and modern looking, these can be good for anyone who thinks the above brands seem too stuffy.

$500 to $1000

  • Glaser: Beautiful cowhide bags made in San Francisco. They can also do custom orders if you ask.
  • Filson: Handsome leather satchel-style briefcase made from bridle leather. 
  • Tusting: Great British-made briefcases in a variety of styles. The Clipper model is their most popular. 
  • JW Hulme: Well regarded bag maker with a slightly outdoorsy feel.
  • Frank Clegg Leathergoods: Beautifully designed and well-made pieces that offer (I think) a bit more value than bags with fashion brand names. (A past advertiser here, incidentally.)
  • Chester Mox: Bellanie, who co-owns this shop with her husband, just graduated from an apprenticeship with a master leathergoods maker. All her stuff is now fully handstitched, and her work is excellent. Briefcases are made-on-order and fully customizable, and like Frank Clegg’s bags, offer great value. 
  • Small Bridle Leather Shops: If you like the those British bridle leather bags in the $1000+ category, but don’t want to pay the price, know that you can get just as excellent bags from any number of smaller labels. They won’t have the same heritage, but you can often get things custom made (and, more importantly, at a much more affordable price). Check out St. Day Leather, Simon Baker, Joseph P Marcellino, Worcestershire Leather Company.
  • Brooks Brothers: Lots of options at a wide range of price points. As with most things at Brooks Brothers, you’ll want to wait for their mid-season sales, when things will be offered at 25% off. 

Above $1000

  • Hermes: This famous French luxury house’s Sac a Depeche is one of the most chic and sophisticated looking of options. Just be prepared to pay out the nose (and then some), even if you’re buying second hand.
  • British Bridle Leather Heritage Bags: There are a number of old, British heritage companies who offer a range of classic men’s bags made out of bridle leather. Check Swaine Adeney Brigg, Ettinger, and Glenroyal.
  • Smythson: A high-end British company with briefcases made from soft calfskin leathers. 
  • Ghurka: Bags designed with an old, British correspondent feel. Their new line has two tiers of quality. I like the stuff made from their “vintage” leathers, which aren’t actually vintage, but just made to a higher spec. Very expensive at full retail, but they go on sale.

Honorable mention (a $175 option)

  • Filson’s canvas briefcases: Not made from leather, and perhaps not suitable for some offices, but these should work for most guys. I use the #70256 model all the time with a sport coat. On sale or on eBay, you can sometimes find these for as little as $175.

(pictured above: briefcases by Simon BakerChester Mox, and Frank Clegg Leathergoods)

Around town - 

• A new Sonic Editons collection has launched this week with findings from our visit to Corbis.

• Gearing up in March to hit the road with Ghurka for a 3 month photo/film project titled Rangefinder. More to come on that very soon. 

• Happy to be working with Macy’s on their Bariii #MyReality campaign. Follow us all through their Twitter and Pinterest

Glorybound - My personal photo Tumblr.

• As always, give a follow if you like on TwitterInstagram and Facebook.

photo above by Dorothea Lange.

The first time we encountered American NCOs, I remember they used very rude words with us. We Ghurka NCOs were confused, and asked why they were speaking this way to us. They said to motivate us, and I responded with ‘we are Ghurkas, we do not need to be motivated and we do not tolerate rudeness’. It was the Americans who were then confused.
—  Ghurka NCO interviewed about combined training with US forces
10

Ghurka opened their beautiful new store at 245 Post Street in San Francisco just in time for the Holidays. The 1,000 square foot space features attractive displays of their fine leather bags and accessories. 

Marley Hodgson founded Ghurka in 1975. Soon his bags and accessories became popular for offering a distinctive masculine look and could be found at the finest men’s specialty stores across the country.

In the late 90’s the traditional Ghurka look fell a bit out of fashion when black ballistic nylon became all the rage. The company was sold in 2003 and it’s then new owners moved it in the direction of a fashion accessory company with production offshore. That strategy didn’t work but fortunately Ghurka now has all-new owners who have brought manufacturing back to the USA and are building on the brands traditional designs and legacy.

Many new designs are now available and a furniture line will debut sometime next year. For more information on Ghurka and it’s history visit their website and especially the new San Francisco location. 

6

Banana Republic When It Was Banana Republic

An anonymous reader in Yucca Valley, California sent me a cool gift in the mail today - a group of Banana Republic catalogs from 1987 and 1988.

The company was founded by a pair of journalists in 1978, and purchased five years later by the Gap. Initially, they sold vintage international military surplus, then started reproducing their most popular items. In 1987 and 1988, the founders were still traveling the world, looking for unique and classic clothes to reproduce. The company didn’t become the vaguely Eurotrashy upscale cousin to the Gap until the 1990s.

Above I’ve photographed a few of the coolest items from the catalog - from Ghurka shorts (a passion of mine, I must admit) to reproduction flight jackets. There’s even a cameo from Bloom County artist Berkeley Breathed. If the catalogs pique your interest, the blog Abandoned Republic is dedicated to the early days of Banana, and features tons of photos of clothes and scans of catalogs. Just be careful: once you get yourself down the rabbit hole, it can be tough to get back out. You’ll be saving eBay searches soon enough.

3

Ghurka Trousers

The older I get, the more I’ve come to accept that I have a fairly boring sense of personal style. Shetland sweaters with button down shirts and chinos; soft shouldered sport coats with flat fronted wool trousers and blue dress shirts; and more recently, white t-shirts, dark leather jackets, and a pair of really worn jeans. Every once in a while, however, I get the urge to experiment more. This past week, I’ve been thinking about Ghurka trousers for summer.

Ghurka trousers come from that period of history when the British occupied North Africa and India - a time that left a very uncomfortable political legacy, but seems to be a continual source of style inspiration for books, movies, and clothing. They’re typically high waisted, made from a heavy cotton drill, and characterized by a unique self-belting design. That belted rigging allowed British officers to easily cinch their trousers as they lost weight — an issue I definitely haven’t experienced as I’ve entered my 30s. Still, I find their unique style very appealing. They draw to mind all those beautiful safari images in old Banana Republic catalogs, before Banana Republic was bought out by The Gap.

A couple of weeks ago, StyleForum member TTO posted a photo of himself in some Ghurka trousers, which reminded me of a very military-inspired look Five once posted at Superfuture, which in turn reminded me of a photo of Ralph Fiennes in Anderson & Sheppard’s vanity book. Granted, none of these are looks I could see myself wearing, but these photos do inspire. 

Ghurka pants have been offered in the past by Japanese workwear brands such as Engineered Garments and Haversack, as well as American “dad outfitters” such as J. Peterman and JL Powell. Pete also wrote about them when he covered Whillas and Gunn for StyleForum, and I’ve seen old Ralph Lauren versions on eBay. Some of these are still being offered; some not. I noticed that J. Peterman, for example, still sells theirs.

TTO tells me he’s tried the ones from Silverman’s and What Price Glory. The Silvermans are simpler and less cluttered, as they have no extra pockets or button-down belt loops. They’re also sturdier in their fabric and stitching. The downside is that they’re rather short (measuring a ~29.5” inseam on a pair of 36” waisted trousers). This is probably historically correct, as British officers most likely wore these with gaiters and boots, but they might be too short for the modern style enthusiast. What Price Glory’s pants are longer, but they come with a bit more detailing, which may or may not be to people’s taste.

The other option are Ghurka shorts, which Jesse has written extensively about. Engineered Garments and Go Fujito have made versions of them in the past, and styled them in ways I wish I was cool enough to pull off.

(Photos via Giant Beard, Five, and To the Manner Born)