'We'll Start a Car Club . . .'

Courtesy Rin TanakaBy now, you know what to expect from a Rin Tanaka book: rare, well-lit examples of vintage clothing photographed at close range with holes, wrinkles, pleats, seams, graphics and tags in glorious detail. Or else you're totally oblivious to the fact that a Japanese-born San Clemente man in his mid-30s has churned out a half-dozen encyclopedic compilations of the best 20th-century sportswear had to offer—all but doubling the amount of available literature on the subject.

Either way, Tanaka's MyFreedamn!3,VintageJackets&T-ShirtsIssue, on his own imprint, Cycleman Books, is every bit as necessary and absorbing as MyFreedamn1and 2;as his earlier explorations of 20th-century motorcycle helmets and jackets; as the work he co-authored last year on the actor Steve McQueen. It is fuel to your fire, if you've the slightest interest in your wardrobe, or the merest suspicion that you wear whatyou wear because of something someone else designed many, many years ago.

You do, of course, and Tanaka has the proof: this time, pages of gorgeous car club jackets from the Coachmen of Berdoo; the 13 Gents of Gardena; the Tappet Twisters of Vallejo; the Chancellors of Van Nuys; the Vincents of El Monte; the East Bay Aromas.

“Please don't copy their designs,” Tanaka asks plaintively in the chapter intro—but how could you not? These are the original clothes that defined America: motorcycle jackets resplendent in their torn, woolen, leathery grime; worn and faded surf and skateboard T-shirts from Dogtown, Powell Peralta and others; puffy, vibrant '70s and '80s nylon-and-corduroy Ocean Pacific jackets. Pulled from the vaults and cardboard boxes of vintage clothing collectors across the world, they say more than his words, which Tanaka wisely keeps to a minimum.

Penned in his trademark stilted English and presented in a familiar format, Freedamn!3may not be Tanaka's masterwork (though it's certainly close). But it witnesses him rise to the daunting task of continuing what may one day be the best—or only—encyclopedia of vintage streetwear ever. “I have to take as many photos as possible in order to make better books, which connect with our past and present,” he writes in the introduction. “That is my minimum responsibility, and my freedom!”

And again, as you might with an old Pendleton, he hands it down.


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