Rin Tanaka's love for vintage Americana is one that's hard to find even here—in America.
You can call him an American vintage-fashion historian, but with 12 books—and that's just counting the ones in English—on the topic under his (obviously also vintage) belt, Tanaka has easily secured his place as a major cult favorite among the sartorial sect.
Tanaka, 41, hails from San Clemente by way of Yokohama, Japan, and says his love for all things vintage began in the early '80s at the age of 12 . . . when searching for that perfect pair of vintage Levi's 501XX. As a child, he had noticed sailors in their 501s on Yokohama's U.S. Naval base.
His love for motorcycles is a common thread throughout his sought-after bibliography: Painstakingly chronicling motorcycle jackets, helmets, Harley-Davidson fashions of the 1900s, "I've preferred motorcycles to automobiles since my teenage years," Tanaka explains. "Motorcycle jackets are also connected to my rock fashion life, too!"
Tanaka's latest book, King of Vintage Vol. 3: Heller's Cafe Featuring Americana Clothing From Larry's Collection Part 2, was recently released in Japan and stateside. His final installment of the My Freedamn! series (part 10 for anyone keeping track) will be released next summer.
Tanaka is also keeping busy by organizing the third-annual Inspiration, a vintage event aboard the Queen Mary that's described by Kathleen Schaaf, owner of Meow Vintage on Long Beach's Fourth Street Retro Row, as unlike any vintage-industry trade show. "It's as if you were invited to do some secret indie-business trade show that you hear about but you're never able to go as a consumer," she says.
In the meantime, Tanaka's still—always—searching for his next big discovery, having just returned from a trip to Michigan on an excavation for some Herman Miller. "It was once easy to find vintage items in old towns in the OC area," he says, "but it has been harder since 1998 thanks to eBay!"
HIS HIGH SCORES
• San Onofre Beach. "Whenever I find some free time in the evenings, I always head down to San Onofre Beach with my surf boards—relaxing with local surfers at sunset is always fantastic!" Interstate 5 and Basilone Road, San Clemente, (949) 492-4872.
• Soest Guitars. "Owner Steve Soest is my 'vintage guitar' teacher—during my conversations with him at his shop, many local guitar freaks stop in." 760 N. Main St., Ste. D, Orange, (714) 538-0272; www.soestguitar.com.
• Fourth Street/Retro Row. "Fourth Street is the best vintage fashion and antiques shopping area—especially Meow, which has been the top vintage store in the OC/Long Beach area for the past 25 years!" Fourth Street between Cherry and Junipero avenues, Long Beach; www.4thstreetlongbeach.com.
• Thalia Surf Shop. "This shop has been the coolest and on the cutting edge of the California surf scene for the past decade!" 915 S. Coast Hwy., Laguna Beach, (949) 497-3292; www.thaliasurf.com.
• Pro Photo Connection. "Local professional photographers always gather at this place to find new or used equipment or for rental. I'm here every week." 17671 Fitch, Irvine, (949) 250-7073; www.prophotoconnection.com.
• Ocean Boulevard in Long Beach. "There are many midcentury homes on this street. Driving down Long Beach's Ocean Boulevard makes for an amazing SoCal Modernism house tour."
• Beachcomber Motel. "Underneath a sky of countless stars, it's easy to sleep well with the beautiful sound of waves beside the San Clemente Pier." 533 Avenida Victoria, San Clemente, (949) 492-5457; beachcombermotel.com.
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• Manpuku. "Manpuku is a very busy barbecue restaurant straight out of Tokyo! When I miss real Japanese barbecue, I go to this place with a hungry heart." 891 Baker St., Ste. A-2, Costa Mesa, (714) 708-3290; www.manpuku.us.
• Long Beach Antique Market. "Second Sunday is the Rose Bowl, third is Long Beach—this is the monthly schedule for SoCal swapmeeters. Long Beach is especially good for finding vintage furniture and home decorations." Long Beach Veterans Stadium, 4901 E. Conant St., Long Beach, (323) 655-5703; www.longbeachantiquemarket.com.
• Ortega Highway in San Juan Capistrano. "If I want to escape daily beach life, riding my Harley-Davidson on Ortega Highway is very thrilling! Beyond the mountains, you can reach another world: Lake Elsinore, home of motocross freaks."
• Favorite video game: "I have never played a video game since Pac-Man."