The Continental, OD, ERDL popeline, blue chambray. “Saigon Cowboy” collection mfsc spring 2015

Mister Freedom Continental Saigon Cowboy Spring 2015

The Continental: “Bush” Model

Mister Freedom Continental Saigon Cowboy Spring 2015

The Continental: “Cholon” Model

Mister Freedom Continental Saigon Cowboy Spring 2015Mister Freedom Continental Saigon Cowboy Spring 2015

Continental-Cowboy-(1)

 

Mister Freedom Continental Saigon Cowboy Spring 2015

The Continental: “Cowboy” Model

 

 

The ‘Continental’
Mister Freedom® “Saigon Cowboy” mfsc Spring 2015

 Cho Lon, a long time ago…

Piasters changing hands Rue des Marins, Triad run parlors, the infamous Bay Vien, ‘Maitre de Cholon‘ and the feared Bình Xuyên gangs, White Mice patrols, the yellow walls of the World’s largest gambling hall rivaling in decibel with Macao’s roaring finest, hazy opium dens, snake wine and fine Cognac, white nón lá and garrison caps, local taxi girls and international high society, áo dài and white linen suits, stalled Citroën 2CV and frantic cyclo-pousses, Bastos cigarettes smoke-filled cabarets… while thousands of sampans rest on the Arroyo.
And a stone’s throw to the East, the ‘Pearl of the Orient’: Saigon.

It is not out of nostalgia for its colonized past, with men in white pith helmets or OD M1, that Ho Chi Minh City is still referred to as Sài Gòn by some Vietnamese nationals today. This serves as a subtle reminder of the violent troubled past of that South East Asia corner of the World, hinting at the controversial topic of the reunification of Vietnam achieved by the communist-lead North in 1975. For locals, choosing the name Saigon over its official HCM City version is not pure semantics, but a political statement that conveys a lingering identity crisis.
It is the stuff of wars to leave everything in grey areas. Nothing ever stays black or white for long. Lines had plenty time to get blurry during the 30 year-long civil war that opposed North and South Vietnam, a territorial split originally prescribed by an international band of concerned experts arguing at a Geneva round table in 1954…
I recently had a conversation with a person of Vietnamese background, born in North Vietnam in the 1960’s and of Chinese parents. You’d figure that would put you on the celebrating side after the war was won… Turns out her family joined the ranks of the three million refugees who were to flee the Indochinese peninsula in the years following the victory of communist North Vietnam, China and Russia’s protégé.
The troops of General Võ Nguyên Giáp, the Northern national hero and victor of the French Army in 1954, would claim Saigon in April 1975. Everyone who had sided with or fought for South Vietnam feared the purge. The Saigon government, backed by of a long-disillusioned America, had been the wrong horse to bet on. Hanoi was the new sheriff in town, the cadres his deputies.
As Saigon was falling, one could witness surreal scenes of men stripping down to their skivvies, watching triumphant soviet-built T-54 NVA tanks roll into town. Some roads leading to the capital were littered with abandoned ARVN uniforms…
Vietnam’s American war was officially over. But not everyone’s woes.

Yes we defeated the United States. But now we are plagued by problems. We do not have enough to eat. We are a poor, underdeveloped nation. Vous savez, waging a war is simple, but running a country is very difficult.
Phạm Văn Đồng (Prime minister of North Vietnam from 1955 to 1976) reflecting in 1981.

Fall of Saigon (April 30 1975) Photo Jacques Pavlovsky Sygma CORBIS

Abandonned ARVN uniforms, fall of Saigon (April 30 1975) Photo Jacques Pavlovsky Sygma CORBIS

But let’s rewind a bit and take a stroll down Đồng Khởi, better known to some as Freedom Street.
The bustling downtown artery of the South Vietnam capital had been named Rue Catinat up until the end of the French occupation in 1954. It would be renamed Tu Do Street for the next twenty years. Tự Do means freedom in Vietnamese…
In its early days, Tu Do Street was lined by colonial architecture buildings housing offices, institutions, hotels, cafés, and an array of small boutiques and family-owned businesses. At number 132-134 stood Vietnam’s first hotel, the “Hotel Continental”, a Saigonese landmark since 1880, built ten years before a certain Nguyễn Tất Thành (aka Uncle Ho) was born. Owned by an allege member of the Corsican Mafia for years, the Continental had welcomed guests from all walks of life. Its clientele had been a lively mix of French rubber industry magnates aka ‘Michelin men‘, spooks, opium addicts, celebrities, quiet Americans, diplomats, thrill seekers, Air America crews, visiting mistresses, writers, stringers, tipsters, gangsters, opera singers, war groupies, plain tourists… Some guests were at times a combination of a few of the above. Current affairs were constantly being discussed and gossiped about at the Continental’s terrace (aptly nicknamed “Radio Catinat” by some), and the international press found enough material there to feed flows of dispatches heading to a fascinated foreign audience.

In the 1960’s, as Westmoreland demanded more and more troops be sent ‘in-country’, most of them 19 year-old GIs, demand for local ‘entertainment’ grew. The Tu Do Street eclectic mix of establishments inevitably turned into Sleazesville. Still, next to its air-conditioned cabarets, Saigon tea dives and massage parlors, one could find yard goods boutiques and honest tailor shops. Skilled Vietnamese and Chinese thread and needle specialists mixed traditional and European influences in custom creations, targeting both a civilian and military personnel clientele unaccustomed to affordable bespoke fashion.

“... he was dressed in one of those jungle-hell leisure suits that the tailors on Tu Do were getting rich cranking out, with enough flaps and slots and cargo pockets to carry supplies for a squad…
(Excerpt from the ever relevant ‘Dispatches’ by Michael Herr, 1977)

(Vintage photo credits: Visual time travel courtesy of the internet, photos sourced herethere and everywhere. Gratitude to the owners of those flikr accounts for making their photostreams publicly available, for the sake of History preservation. Full credit to those who originally snapped the shots and chose to share them. I try to give credit to the best of my knowledge. Viewer discretion advised on some albums, war is hell.)

<><><><><><><><><><><>

And now, at last, a few words about our “Saigon Cowboy” garment du jour.
The Mister Freedom® ‘Continental‘ shirt/jacket only features four pockets and might not qualify as jungle-hell-ready, but a glance at its intricate inside construction makes it look quasi tailor-made. For the detail-oriented who opens a garment to check its structure, the combination of bias tape piping and fabric selvedge is quite pleasant to the eye, if we may say so ourselves. Our Continental might have had its place in a Tu Do Street store front window display.

Style-wise this jacket is a combination of several influences: fancy 1950’s-70’s unlined tropical gear, short sleeve blazers popular with the African elite, safari-type pocketing, elegant uniform silhouette, whiffs of colonial empires, Old World tailoring, Larry Burrows‘ wardrobe… and the mighty Sun Zhongshan suit, a favorite in China since 1949.
Our ‘Continental‘ overall pattern is adapted from a vintage late 60’s custom-made jacket, the work of a Vietnamese tailor by the name of My Nha, located at 827 D. Nguyen-Tran (unidentified city).

As much as I liked that vintage jacket, I figured we all could live without the 100% polyester fabric of the original sample. We opted instead for the following three textile options:
a) The “Bush” model (not to be misunderestimated): 100% cotton mil-spec OD popeline shell / 100% cotton Buzz Rickson’s USN selvedge blue chambray lining yoke.
b) The “Cholon” model (for the man of leisure): 100% cotton BR’s USN selvedge blue chambray shell / 100% cotton ERDL camo popeline lining yoke.
c) The “Cowboy” model (special jungle-hell edition): 100% cotton ERDL camouflage popeline / 100% cotton BR’s USN selvedge blue chambray lining yoke.

For those into Making Ofs, some boring bits behind the MF® Saigon Cowboy woven rayon label this season:
Our ‘local tailor’ looking MF® label combines the yellow background with three red stripes of the flag of South Vietnam and, for a USO flavor, the red white and blue of Old Glory. The specific rectangular shape with beveled corners seems typical of Vietnamese custom tailor woven labels of the period that I have seen.

The “Continental” is designed in California by Mister Freedom® and manufactured in Japan by Sugar Cane Co.

SPECS

FABRICS
Three options, fabrics milled in Japan:
a) The “Bush” model: 100% cotton mil-spec OD popeline shell / 100% cotton Buzz Rickson’s USN blue chambray lining yoke.
b) The “Cholon” model: 100% cotton BR’s USN blue chambray shell / 100% cotton ERDL camo popeline lining yoke.
c) The “Cowboy” model: 100% cotton ERDL camo popeline / 100% cotton BR’s USN blue chambray lining yoke.

DETAILS
* Pattern inspired by tropical tailor-made attire, with a sober ‘Mao suit’ influence.
* Yes, we dared make a short sleeve blazer.
* Elegant tailored uniform-like silhouette with elaborate darting.
* Two chest flap pockets, one pencil slot.
* Two lower flap cargo pockets, ‘invisible’ stitch.
* All inside seams finished with OD color bias tape, unless selvedged.
* Corozzo wood buttons, golden brown.
* Two-piece back with vent.
* Made in Japan

SIZING/FIT:
Our ‘Continental’ comes raw/un-rinsed and will shrink to tagged size after a rinse/dry process. All three options will approximately shrink to the same measurements.
We recommend an initial cold soak, spin dry and line dry. The wrinkling ensuing this process is normal, in line with the ‘tropical’ look effect.
If you are a Medium in mfsc shirts/jackets, you are a Medium in the ‘Continental‘. Because of the specific cut, the darting and requirements of this blazer-like pattern, this shirt/jacket will not fit every frame. For instance, the arm construction, although comfortable, disqualifies this jacket as beach-volley attire. There are no expansion pleats.
Please consider the measurements below for an idea of the proportions and resulting fit.

CARE:
Launder when hygiene dictates and common sense prevails.
Hand wash or delicate cycle machine wash. Cold water, eco-friendly mild detergent and line dry.
Patina will develop according to activities and frequency of wear.

Available RAW/unwashed
SIZES:
Small
Medium
Large
X-Large
XX-Large

RETAIL $329.95

Available from www.misterfreedom.com, our Los Angeles brick & mortar store, and fine retailers around the World.
Email sales@misterfreedom.com or call 323-653-2014 with any questions unanswered above.
Thank you for your support

Mister Freedom® covers for Fall 2014, made in USA military surplus.

 

Mister Freedom® Fall 2014 head-gear
The Watch Cap & Boonie Hat
New Old Stock Gov’t Issue surplus

 

Just because it appears I lost mine recently is a good reminder that you should protect yours.
So here is a selection of covers we’ve dug up for Fall 2014, some New Old Stock Mil-Specs surplus items.

 

Mister Freedom Watch Cap Fall 2014

Mister Freedom Watch Cap Fall 2014

Mister Freedom Watch Cap Fall 2014

 

CAP, KNIT, WATCH
Made in USA

We could have gone the DIY Mattel route but decided instead to acquire stock from the fine folks manufacturing them for the US Government.
Our wool caps are knitted on a circular knitting machine the size of Soyuz 19, and about as easy to operate I’ve heard.

Knit Magic courtesy of Mattel Mayer & Cie circular knitting machine

Please note that our watchcaps are not reproductions of the original 1940’s A-4 type knit hats issued to USAAF mechanics, as there are already reputable companies offering these.
Our caps are following contemporary US military specs and standards, and are still available today from PX.
We’ve customized this standard issue a bit, adding an ID cloth label, as we had done in 2008 with our old school USN-style watch cap. Admittedly not as useful as a LED flashlight, our ID patch can be customized according to your preferences. This label is not intended as a billboard and is ‘strategically’ positioned on the tubular knit in order to be partially concealed when the cap is worn with the double fold method.

A wool hat won’t turn anyone into Steve McQueen or Jack ‘Bunny’ Nicholson, but will keep your head warm while you keep your cool.
According to how you sport this hat, it will go from ski hat to commando cover… to everything in between.

Courtesy Tony Piazza McQ Watchcap Then Came Bronson Michael Parks 1969 Rebel Rousers 1970 Rebel Rousers Nicholson 1970 WW2 Seabees Courtesy Sam Cox Sleazy Riders 1970 MAD Fashion Tutorial Mister Freedom

(Warm thanks to Sam Cox at WMM for sending above WW2 Seabees photo)

US Gov’t surplus, manufactured in the USA.

SPECS:
* Two ply worsted 100% wool.
* Dark navy blue or Olive Green.
* Circular knit (no side seam).
* Four darts crown.
* US Mil-specs.

WASHING:
Professional dry clean only. This is a wool item, do not machine wash or put in a heat dryer.
Hand washing with eco-friendly wool detergent (such as “Ecovert Delicate Wash”) is possible but might result with stretching or shrinking of the knit hat, to be done at your own risks.


MF® Wool Watchcap available UNISSUED
Color options: Dark navy blue or Olive Green
One Size fits all.
Retail $39.95

And now this one…

 

 

Mister Freedom Boonie Hat 2014

 

Mister Freedom Boonie Hat 2014

 

 

HAT, SUN, HOT WEATHER
TYPE II
Made in USA

Sometimes you gotta love the military for not calling a spade a “spatulous device for abrading the surface of the soil” (Joseph Devlin, 1910).
An E-tool is an E-tool. There it is.
What we have here is a “HAT, SUN, HOT WEATHER”. You’d think there wouldn’t be much to add after this.
Watch me.

This hat finds its origin with the bush-worn felt hat popular with the British troops and Australian diggers in the early XXth Century. The British military replaced felt with cotton fabric around 1944 in order to provide a more practical and durable hot weather hat.
During the Indochina conflict, the chapeaux de brousse, a hat resembling a sort of quilted cowboy hat with a snapped brim, came out. These were often locally made from recycled uniform, parachute or tent camo fabric and favored by French colonial troops and their local VNA allies alike.
Following the (official) US involvement in Vietnam in 1965, an urgent need for proper tropical field equipment ensued. Around 1967, a new hat pattern was developed and adapted from its predecessors in the Natick labs of Massachusetts…
The “HAT, SUN, HOT WEATHER” was to become a US military standard issue, available in OD popeline, ERDL, multi cam… or pink camo, according to where you shop.
The overall design has not much changed today, and this hat is still issued to combat troops.

British felt hat 1917 Borneo 1965 Autralian troops 1944 Bush Hat Le Combatant d'Indochine, 1955 Da Nang 1968 ERDL boonie hat Recruiting Ad US Marines

These covers are often referred to as boonies, because less common on Wall Street than the in boondocks.
In the 1960’s, they earned their stripes on US Special Forces incursions in humid South-East Asia jungles. I have read somewhere that on night patrols, the dome shape of the steel helmet left too much of a target silhouette for VC snipers. Floppy hats were thought to be a better option, as they blended more efficiently with the natural shapes of the jungle. To accentuate that effect, the brim was often chopped-off and the edges frayed, as many period photos show. These boonies were soon associated with LRRPs, RECONDOs… along with the rest of the salty in-Country crowd. The boonie hat was originally were a statement of bad-assness. They were also worn by ARVN troops and Australian units before being adopted by more branches of the military.
These hats were as popular with troops as they weren’t with the higher-highers, too floppy in appearance for the starch-obsessed.
But they worked, and Vietnam would prove out a fine theater for all kinds of liberties with outfits and behaviors.
The hatband was designed to hold branches or strips of fabrics for  field concealment while on raid. That piece of tape also made a fine display for grenade rings, pins and other goodies, when you took your party hat to town.
The four mesh-screen eyelets on the crown allowed air circulation while preventing bugs to p*** you off any further while humping through rice paddies. The hat rolls up in a conic shape, making it easy to carry around in a bag pocket. The crown is shorter in front than in the back, which gives it a specific profile and ‘attitude’.

 

Photo on left courtesy of Darrell G Moe ElmoreProject Delta Recon (May 1968) via this forum. Regarding the bush hat he is wearing on the photo, Mr. Elmore mentioned “I lost it during the summer of 68 while we were fighting in the Saigon area with the ARVN 81st Airborne Rangers. I never got another to ‘break in’ like it”… Thank you for your service Sir, and for letting us feature this BA photo!
Other photos eBay/public forums.

But lets get back on point with the NOS model we are offering for Fall 2014. Our specimen here is an original Government issue, to the best of my knowledge, and I’ve been known to have my foot in my mouth up to the knee at times.

The fabric feels like NyCo (mil-specs 50% nylon/50% cotton). The camouflage is of the tiger stripe pattern family. I am quite uncertain about the actual vintage of this issue, as research based on the procurement label was more confusing than enlightening. A great deal of infos can be found here for the investigating kind, as well as in several books, such as “Les Paras Francais en Indochine“.
I am guessing these might be an older stock from the 1980’s? In any case, they are USA made, as opposed to the countless ‘imports’ available from most Army-Navy stores today.
We were lucky to score two good size options: 7 and 7 ¼

US Gov’t surplus, manufactured in the USA. Limited supply.

SPECS:
* Tiger stripe camo pattern
* Mil-specs NyCo rip stop fabric (50% nylon/50% cotton)
* 2 ½ ” wide brim
* Adjustable chin-strap, leather toggle
* Vent mesh-screen eyelets
* Foliage ring hatband.
* Made in USA

WASHING:
Hand wash when necessary, hang dry. Minimal to no shrinkage.

Available UNISSUED
Pattern: Tiger stripe
Sizes: 7
and 
Retail $49.95

While stock lasts, both the watch cap and boonie hat are available from our Los Angeles store and online from www.misterfreedom.com
Call 323-653-2014 or email sales@misterfreedom.com with any question unanswered above.

Thank you for your patience and support 😉