OD Bleus

Introducing our first blue denim: The OD Bleu
OD Bleu’s are selvedge & more importantly woven on old, narrow Toyoda looms by Kuroki in Ibara, Okayama prefecture, Japan. The optimistic woad blue hue recalls shutters in the South of France, 70s Wranglers, sun soaked days in Malibu, Kodachrome SEALs patrolling elephant grass in mama-san custom jeans. At 11oz they match the weight & 4-season appeal of the original OD fabric. OD Bleu’s start crisp rigid & clean, but begin to break in across just a few days of hard wear. The first wash (or in my case, Napoli rainstorm) will render them as soft as your favorite flannel, with drape to match. Fades set in after just a few weeks, bleeding is minimal & Bleu’s have been both Sanforized & skewed to prevent leg twists & dramatic shrinking.
OD Bleu’s also bring several other design updates: a full length internal self belt, & bias-cut yolk. The Internal adjustable self belt for greater comfort, fit & minimizes both break-out & shrinkage. The bias cut yolk is based off of prototypes created with Roman Kurmaz & tested in Ukraine. This new first-in-class feature gives the observer in the field greater range of motion in both hips & waist with 4x way natural stretch. Adapting to Selvege fabric our new OD fit has a slightly wider leg & upper thigh for a straight cut silhouette, as well as a slightly higher initial rise to adjust for shrinkage. Best yet waistband & sizing are not effected, so take your regular OD size
This pre-order concludes Feb 12 & you can expect orders to ship march 27

The STRO SUIT system

The Sartorial Tactical Reconnaissance Operations system has been 4 years, and 11 prototypes in the making.
11 years ago I fell in love with the singular uncompromising beauty of tailoring: The codified, idealized masculine form. But just as quickly I realized the suit, essentially unchanged in over 100 years, was doomed for the dustbin, service uniform, and fancy dress party if it was not radically re-drafted for the way we live, travel and work today. 
It took 5 years before I had the beginning of an answer.
There is a solid 72% chance you are reading this on the phone you manipulate 300 times a day ( If you are under 25 you can add 700 to that number. ) The STRO SUIT is designed around this modern tool, which now carries inside the waistband, between hip and abdomen, where it can be accessed reflexively without unbuttoning, all with its weight distributed comfortably. 
Your phone, keys, or wallet can all be stored in the two front vent pockets. If you leave home without them I’d suggest you turn around and pack your pockets full: these weighty objects now improve the drape of the suit, falling perfectly on the front button position and center balance of the suit.
We live in dramatically hotter, colder, and all around more un-predictable times than those the suit was first designed for 100 years ago. In motion, in transit, on the go the STRO SUIT system of front vents, and back pleated vents offers dramatically improved ventilation and circulation. In static positions ( the office or at home) under air conditioning the STRO SUIT performs just as well as any other hand made suit. 
This dynamic adaptability means traditional, quality heavy weight fabric can again be used for tailoring, and this is one of the primary reason the STRO SUIT is available exclusively with fabric from Dugdale Bros. No more flimsy, precious, short lived ultra fine fabric, the sturdy, elegant, draped fabric of tailorings founding are now a breeze to wear.
We are now ready to offer this tailoring system in both Double Breasted and Safari format to a few select customers, in a format that will provide for the greatest success, and drive our own refinements: Bespoke, and on a person to person basis, Made-to-Measure. During the “Beta” period our bespoke service is available at our Made-To-Measure price, and our Made-to-measure service available at our ready-wear price. This service includes select fabric from Dugdale Bros, with no substitutions. Dugdale fabric from the Fearnaught, Travel-Air, Travel-Flannel and Lagan Valley bunches have proven themself again and again, everywhere from the Provence to Kabul.
If your interest in visiting our LA Headquarters and starting the bespoke or Made-to-Measure process please reach out to Junn or myself
Stay Sharp,
-Rob
 

A Year at Seebag: Afghanistan

Arifkhans village sprung from a single house, of a single room, 120 years ago in central Afghanistan. Then, as now his family where  masons. The year 1890 is molded in white plaster on the far wall of the founding toom, a contrast in negative to the ornate colored moldings making up the wall, & the carved wood lattice work of the ceiling. Carpets run inches deep wall to wall, the inset arches are occupied with tea service sets & a m16-A4.
The founding room of Arifkhan’s village
Arifkhan explains: the village grew from his lone family, from this single room, to a population of more than 3,000. His daughters run around, run themselves tired, & collapse onto his crossed legs. Tea is punctuated by trays of flat bread, rice, then goat, & finally long thin Chinese cigarettes.
A Tessar Lungheei, Afghan Style Special Edition Print #2
The next day the Land Cruiser follows winding horse paths. Horses still outnumber cars, & the Horsemen still wear the Tessar Lungheei, a golden 3 meter long turban. On great mounted raids, in the not so distant past, the meters long tail of this turban served as battle banner. Seeing one unfurled at speed today, the only word for it is: elan. That word died in 1914 in France, but here during a Neza-Bazi match it is alive, & galloping.
The Seebag and Tango on the road in Afghanistan
The winding horse paths follow a wadi, into the vernacular mesh of Afghan architecture: the squat mudbrick rectangle. We drive along the path until it breaks into a village, through its very walls. We’ve taken the Cruiser through someone’s living room, the road driving through the very walls, it’s moldings, interior arches, motifs & paint dusted by what could have been a few weeks or a century.
Arifkhans familly Mosque, Afghan Style Special Edition print #1
The maze of mudbrick yields to grazing land & a pastel hued building crests a far hill. Arifkhan tell us to stop, he motions to the pastel building ahead, the Mosque his family built. he asks one of the old men leaving about the bridge ahead & yesterday’s rains.
-Robert
If you would like to hit the road with your own Seebag, the pre-order ends today. Two of the images from this story are included in Afghan Style, both in the book itself & as prints included with the special edition  

Subscribe to Observer Dispatches below

The Proraso

The Proraso: One of my favorite aspects of travel are the words learned which encompass ideas with no succinct expression in English. 
Galère is one of them. (Gah-lerh for us anglophones)
French slang, derived from Galleon, & used to express an arduous, unexpected & challenging journey.
It’s a fitting description for the process not just of creating the work for Afghan Style, but finding a publisher, creating the book, & bringing it to print. Months of daily meetings, paper shortages, national protests & every other form of delay, slowed but never stalled the process.
The past several weeks have been both a time of heady preparation, & reflection, on the now 3 year long project. Junn cooked up an incredible drink to take the edge off the warmer afternoons & power us through the late nights. Smooth, effervescent, & refreshing it sits somewhere between kyoto cold brew, & velvet coke, all while resting on the lips of a Camel Crush.
The Proraso:
6oz Iced Coffee (I prefer my own 17h slow cold brew)
1.5 oz Fernet Branca (you can be a bit more generous with this)
.75 oz Creme De Menthe 
top off a Tumbler glass with a generous amount of Indian Tonic Water 
+ a slice of lime, or mint, as garnish 
feel free to share your results, tweaks etc with @thousandyardstyle

Care & Maintenance: The Whisky & Papa Wallets

  Observer Collection’s two wallets, the Papa Passport & Whisky wallet have proven to be the hardest-wearing designs of the entire collection, & the ones that show the greatest variety in patina. 
  Wallets receive more constant use than any other EDC item, & frequently less maintenance & care than they deserve. let’s fix that…
  Unlike the larger Observer bags I recommend only using Saphir Mink Oil when cleaning & treating either the Whisky or Papa. Anything heavier is going to gum up leather & negatively affect the leather’s natural ability to shed moisture, a concern with anything worn so close to the body. I recommend a light coat & cleaning every 6 months.
 
My whisky wallet going on more than 2 years of use
  More so than bags, wallets also need a thorough cleaning, it’s worth emptying out card slots & pockets, & paying extra attention to cleaning the suede portions of each wallet, as well as the seam & sew lines. Dirt and debris accumulated in pockets collect in the folds & seams of a wallet & can break down both stitching & leather with time. For cleaning suede I recommend Saphir’s suede cleaner.
 
  The Papa & Whisky wallets each have hand-painted edges. With time & use these can peel, but they can also just as easily be re-painted. If you notice the edge painting starting to peel it’s worth trimming it back gently to prevent further peeling. 
  The Whisky wallet has a unique, first-of-its-kind adjustable shock cord closure. With time the elasticity can diminish in the shock cord, so it’s worth adjusting the knot to increase tension periodically.
 
Papa wallet 3+ years down the line, with a souvenir matchbox from Kherson
  lastly, how you use either wallet is probably the most important aspect of care & maintenance. The Whisky wallet’s arched central card pocket is angled to fit comfortably in your front pant pocket (facing card end down), in a jacket pocket, bag or around your neck using the included lanyard. The Papa wallet is sized for a jacket pocket or bag. From a longevity & style standpoint, I would never recommend having either in your back pocket, though both are more than tough enough for it.
  Feel free to share any of your patinas or care tips with the Observer instagram page over at @observercollection
  looking forward,
  Robert  
Papa, Whisky & my trusty MKII 300

The Hulett Rodeo & Damn Cowboy Belt

To inaugurate the opening of the Damn Cowboy Belt Pre-order I am sharing a rodeo dispatch Junn Bollman photographed & penned, enjoy. 
  Hulett, Wyoming:   The Doc ducked below the entrance and sauntered out of his office. A white pup tent with the primordial Cheyenne prairie for a floor, an old massage table acting as a lame man’s plinth, and the words “Crash Unit” blazing boldly from the side of this triage unit. 
    He exuded the type of sobriety and solemn nature that can force a man to come to terms with himself, not in a mirror but in the respectable gaze of another. I tried to force a smile from beyond the high brim of his cowboy hat but there was no avail. 
   
    The air horn behind us meant the bareback bronc riders had just ceased their buckin’, thinking myself clever, I asked what the most common injury he treated tended to be….
    “I never see guys on the first day of an injury, it’s always the next day, a week later. You got bucked from your time ( 8 seconds) you’ve been kicked something good, you’re sleeping in the back of your car every 500 miles to make it to the next rodeo. A man’s pride hurts him more than anything. Na, I don’t really see all that gory stuff “ 
   
    The stale truck stop coffee on my breath haunted that small space between us under the Wyoming sky as we stood there brim to brim. The Doc’s lip never curled for the smirk but the deep indigo in his eyes delivered the prognosis.
    –Junn
    & If you aren’t hitting the dusty trail anytime soon I’d suggest these two Asian takes on the Western film genre: “Life is cheap, but toilet paper is expensive”  & “Tompopo”. More traditional but little know, the ensemble-cast guilty pleasure “Red Sun”, and the delirious Australian film “The Proposition” round out my cowboy rec’s.
    However you might want to place your pre-order for the Damn Cowboy Belt first, we are only making 20 of each!
    See you, Space Cowboys
    -Robert

Care & Maintenance: Observer Denim

  Observer Denim Maintenance:
Since many of you Observers now have fresh Observer Denim Noirets in hand I wanted to dispense some lessons in the care & maintenance of them.
O.D Noirets are crafted from a unique 13.5 oz Cone Mills over-dyed black denim. The over-dyed denim keeps hard worn pairs of Noirets black despite heavy wear & washing, the light resin finish on both sides of the fabric creates fades in matte & gloss contrast, & until worn down, a little protection against the elements.
If you are inclined to wash jeans before wearing them you should wash your O.D Noirets inside out, with hot water on the delicate/ gentle setting of your washing machine, followed by a hang dry.
If you find yourself in the field without access to a washing machine, an extremely hot soak will do. In both cases, detergent is not recommended for an initial wash.
If you wash your jeans regularly & plan to first wash your O.D’s after only a few wears, you should repeat the above steps for the first wash only. You may add detergent to this & subsequent washes, I recommend Woolite dark.
For those of you who prefer a long, hard break in before a first wash (and this is favorable in the cold winter months) feel free to follow the hang tag instructions & wash cold, on gentle & line dry. If you want to shrink your jeans I would recommend an initial hot wash.
O.D Noiret 9 month Patina
Regardless of your choice, after your first wash, I would recommend washing your O.Ds cold, on the gentle cycle with your O.Ds turned inside-out followed by a hang-dry.
Some of you are new to the O.D “Self-Hem” System, and it should be understood before an initial hemming or wash. Each pair of O.D’s features 3x single needle stitch lines on the hem of each leg. These are set at pre-determined lengths for popular inseams, cutting straight across the hem line of your O.D’s & BELOW one of the sew lines will allow you to hem your O.D’s without excessive fraying or a trip to the tailor. If you decide to hem them before an initial hot wash, add & an extra 1.25” to your desired length to accommodate for shrinkage.
Now that you know how to care for your O.D Noirets, perhaps you would like to know where they came from?
O.D Noirets where born at a house party in Kabul in 2021. Back against a wall, a series of German journalists interrogated me about my imperialist white denim & asked why OD’s weren’t available in the de-facto uniform of the conflict journalist, fashion-assistant or posing tortured artist: black.
The first pair of O.D Noiret’s went out for testing with me in January of 2022, the 12.5 oz Cone Mills over-dyed denim performed well across Italy, France & the slopes of St. Moritz.
With the Russian Invasion of Ukraine in February of 2022 the OD Noiret prototypes were pressed into 3 months of grueling service covering the war for Esquire. They were one of only 2 pants I packed, & after 5 months of testing, they received their first wash back stateside.
You can order your own pair here.
Myself & a fellow Observer. Ukraine 05 – 22

Subscribe to Observer Dispatches below

Audio Observations: Caravan to Kafiristan

Caravan to Kafiristan – Cataloguing my latest trip to Afghanistan through overheard audio was more challenging this time around, namely because music, played, or listened to is banned under Taliban rule.

Interestingly enough they do allow their own religious music (called Tehranas) which push themes of holly war backed by beats influenced by dub, & modern trap music.

Rules regardless, driving 8, 12, even 14 hours overland into remote regions of Nuristan good road music is a necessity to keep spirits high & eyes sharp.

The Nuristan province was historically referred to as Kafiristan (Kafirs being “infidels”) up until the last of the locals where converted to Islam by force a century ago. As in the past Nuristan remains exceedingly remote, requiring many treacherous hours of off road driving, & steep gains in altitude to reach. Even then each district of the province is isolated from the next by impassible terrain.

Nuristan’s  isolation has kept it largely peaceful during the last 20 years of war, locals will tell you, again & again, they haven’t heard a gunshot in 20 years. The arduous journey was well worth it, yielding some of the most riveting landscapes I have ever seen, & allowing me to finish “Afghan Style”, my first photo book.

More on that later, for now enjoy some road music:

Subscribe to Observer Dispatches below

 

Audio Observations: Kyiv Bathtub Club

Kyiv Bathtub Club the first in a series of playlists comprised of music collected across my travels. This playlist comes from the last few months spent in Ukraine, with music  stolen exclusively from my friends & teammates there.

  This is my semi-analogue, geographic approach to create audio experiences as documents: collecting music to gain insight, catalogue emotions, & organize memories.

Experience can often change the way I perceive & enjoy music.

Rap makes allot more sense after driving around with some heavily armed fighters in a new Mercedes, marred by bullet holes, while subsiding on gas station hotdogs. Nostalgia for late 90s / early 2000s rock of my childhood has a more natural place in a world gone so violently wrong. In contemporary music the Russian Invasion of Ukraine has been the first war where musical propaganda has been produced, distributed & listened to both ad-hoc & in real time. I wonder if you will get goosebumps from those tracks too?

Lastly, & again, this is a record of my friends & teammates, all veterans in their own way: some of different wars, some of constant war, some of the refugee experience. Music was a way to prepare, to accept the worst, & to forget afterword.

looking forward,

Robert

Subscribe to Observer Dispatches below

 

Observations: The War in Ukraine

Observations: The War in Ukraine

You can view my photo report on Ukraine’s Territorial Defense Force for Esquire here, but I have also written a more detailed companion piece below for Observers:  

24 days after Russia’s Invasion Of Ukraine it’s armies have failed the sweeping conquest Russia and much of the world expected. Russia’s armies lay mired in conflict, confined largely to the East and South of the country, having captured only one large city thus far. In the North the capital of Kyiv has yet to be encircled. The Russian Military has encountered un-forecasted resistance in all majors cities, it’s supply lines have broken under constant attack, and the Ukrainian military has displayed a surprising, deadly mobility.  All of these factors can be contributed in part to the work of the Territorial Defense Forces, an all volunteer force that’s had less than a month to train and mobilize before the invasion began.

 To better understand these volunteers and the role they play I spent two weeks photographing Territorial Defense units in and around Kyiv. I met men as old as 68 , as young as 18, and saw a few  of 16 turned away. Many where veterans, some had no experience at. They included Foreign Legionaires, flight attendants, native Russians, Russian jailed journalists, actors and newly wed couples. What they had in common was a fierce love of country. There role is a combination of army engineer, paramilitary and police: they build the fortifications on the streets they patrol and will soon defend by force.  

Above: Men returning by train to Kyiv

The first Territorial Defense Volunteers I met during my transit from Poland to Kyiv. Men of different ages, all with the same stony eyes fixed east against the stream of refugees that ran more torrential with each train station passed towards Kyiv.   The first Territorial Defense group I met was filling sandbags from the sand of a children’s playground. The next had in 24 hours survived a Russian rocket attack and aided a Ukrainian Army unit in a complex ambush of artillery, javelins missiles and Molotov cocktails. The shells of Destroyed Russian BRDM-2s became fortifications for their position.   At a nearby patrol base a man in his 60’s crouches in the dark jamming magazines full with bullets, then unloading them, and jamming them again full. I turned on a flashlight and he waved me away “I have to be able to do this in the dark”  

Above: loading magazines in low light

In the West heavy fighting in Irpin has closed the area to Journalists. A Territorial Defense volunteer bars our entry. Ducking down at the sound of a rocket barrage another volunteer explains it’s a Ukrainian battery attempting to pummel Russian forces before they can establish themselves in Irpin. He says all this without looking up, inserting bullet after bullet into a belt of machine gun ammunition.   A majority of my time was spent with a Territorial defense company on the outskirts of Kyiv, commanded by “Anatoly”  a 20 year veteran of Ukraine’s Counter Terrorism forces.  The days are spent re-enforcing positions, the nights enforcing Kyiv’s wartime curfew and searching for Russian Saboteurs or their work.   The first Patrol of the night is anything but routine. After a short pursuit a man is caught after curfew, he can’t answer simple questions about the surrounding area and is without identity papers. A search of the area yields a forced lock. The Territorial Defense squad clears the attached building. An aged local invites the squad into her atrium of plants and animals left behind by fleeing families.   Promises that the 3 am patrol will be less exciting prove false. The slightly younger squad patrols aggressively, more than even the -10 cold necessitates. Entering a low laying parking lot the night sky suddenly glows near white as tracers struggle to intercept cruise missiles. The patrol moves to cover wordlessly as air raid sirens blair. The nights bombardment has started and wont let up till the sun has risen. Returning to base the patrol breaks out cigarettes “the best breakfast” says one, “sunrise is the best breakfast” says another.  

Above: a late night patrol

The sun has risen just as the nights last patrol crawls into sleeping bags. Crackling radios signal an alert of an imminent Russian ground incursion. The entire company makes ready, rushing to the defensive positions. A tense hour is passed listening to the radio and peering over rifle sights through firing loopholes. The alarm is called off, the Territorial Defense unit returns to base; some to bed, some to the next patrol. Over morning tea soldiers smoke with one hand and break loose bullets to be loaded with the other.  

Above: The Seebag used during an embed as a 24h bag

 

Subscribe to Observer Dispatches below