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Vintage, Only Not: 5 Modern Spins on Old-School Travel Gear

Gear Guide — By Alexi Ueltzen on October 1, 2010 at 6:00 am
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Clothes used to last longer.
Travel used to be more exciting.
Food used to be more flavorful.
Grass used to be greener.

Things were better back in the day. Or were they? A handful of retailers are melding the best of both eras by combining the quality of the past with the technology of the future.

1. Keen’s Pyrenees Hiking Boots

Have a conversation with anyone who was an outdoorsman before 1980, and it will go something like this:

Old Man Winter: You know, when I was a youngster we had leather hiking boots that made our feet sweat and bleed, that cracked after getting wet and weighed about 20 pounds. Each.
You: Wow. I’m glad my kids have sneakers that light up.
Old Man Winter: Are you insane? My drawers are more pristine than our National Parks these days and kids don’t go outside anymore – they’re too busy twittering blogs with their iPads. You’ve all gone soft.
You: What do you want from me?
Old Man Winter: Pass Grandpa the whiskey.

Image: REI

Keen’s latest crack at rugged footwear are boots that the gnarliest curmudgeon would enjoy. The Pyrenees combine classic design elements (simple, tough exterior; basic lacing strategy; toe protection) with the modernest (yep – coining that word now) of materials (EVA footbeds; waterproof, breathable membrane; S3 heel support for shock absorption). The boots look like they belong in the Alps with a pair of Lederhosen but include materials like “Supportive ESS thermoplastic urethane.” They’ve also got Keens’ signature wide toe bed and cushioning, making them So. Dang. Comfortable.

They run around $140 and include models for men, women and kids; in other words, the whole family can become a modern version of the Von Trapps.

2. Modcloth’s Voyage Vanity Case

Remember when you were a kid and things (lunchboxes, car upholstery, entire articles of clothing) were made of thick, almost foamy plastic?
Remember when stewardesses were called “stewardesses,” not flight attendants?
Remember when slightly-misogynistic airline ads were okay?

Well, ModCloth has a travel case that somehow combines all three for just $24.99.

Image: ModCloth

In tuxedo-powder-blue, with a 1960s travel graphic on the front, this soft zippered case is big enough for an old-fashioned wooden comb and the latest iPhone (see how they’re even marrying the old and new in their promotional photos?!). Use it for holding your flask, your nose powder or your Valium – whatever is required to get you through your trip (but out of the stewardess’ flight attendants’ sight). It’s just like a vanity case from the 1960s, but with irony.

3. Spyderco Tenacious G-10 Folding Knife

Lots of people take a folding knife with them on trips.
Lots of companies make folding knives.
Lots of them are lame.

Not Spydercos.

Spyderco combined the folding-knife appeal of Swiss Army, the ruggedness of Bowie and the bad-assery of spiders when it made the G-10.

Image: Amazon.com

If Tom Sawyer had been armed with one of these, he wouldn’t have made a raft; he would have made an entire freaking paddle boat.

Spydercos have a devoted following in the hunter/fisherman population and who better to trust when looking at product recommendations for “things that cut really good”? Spyderco knives, depending on the model, start at around $30 and are easily adaptable for right- or left-handed users. Bonuses like the pocket clip, thick steel blade and an ergonomic design push this knife to the front of the pack.

Kind of like a lone wolf. Or a lone spider. Whatever.

4. Oak Street Bootmakers Boat Shoes

Hand-cobbled shoes were all the rage back when…there weren’t any other kind of shoes.

And they’re back.

Footwear designed in Chicago and made with local Chicago leather (Horween Chromexcel), Oak Street shoes run for around $200. But that’s $200 worth of painstaking detail and sweet-smelling leather you get to to wrap around your feet. The deets:

  • Made by a father-son cobbling team (charming!)
  • Handcrafted using techniques, design and materials that haven’t changed in 100 years (old school!)
  • Made with replaceable outsoles to ensure a lifetime of use (cost effective!)
  • They smell like new shoes, baseball mitts and elegance…and we hear there’s a cologne in the making. (so you can finally ditch Abercrombie & Fitch’s Fierce)

Image: Oak Street Bootmakers

Still mulling over the mysterious and intriguing phrase “Horween Chromexcel”? Wrap your mind around this excerpt from Oak Street’s website:

Chromexcel undergoes 89 separate processes taking 28 days and utilizing all five floors of the Horween facility in Chicago. Over the past 100 years very little has changed in the formula. Food-grade beef tallow, cosmetic-grade beeswax, marine oil, chrome salts, tree bark extracts and naturally occurring pigments are combined. The mixture is then applied using heat, steam pressure, the hands of craftsman and time. This ultimately yields the soft, supple and durable leather that is used for your shoes or boots.

5. Seiko’s Active Matrix E Ink watch

The pocket watches that train conductors used to sport were awesome. Awesome in an “I don’t care what you say; I’m going to ride this screaming, burning hunk of metal all over the countryside and blow my whistle because I feel like it” kind of way.

Well, these watches are just as awesome. Awesome in an “It’s the future, so yes, I do require a solar-powered, 180-degree viewing angle watch that has the smarts to get its time from the nearest atomic clock but still has a sweet retro design” kind of way. Phew.

Image: Seiko

The watch isn’t available until the end of the year – it’s from the future, you guys – but it will, for the first time in Seiko’s history, be modestly priced. Check out Engadget’s opinions on the kick-assedness of this (and other Seiko products) in their Wearables section. Doc and Marty would be super jealous.

Tags: active e matrix, cobbler, flight attendant, future, Keens, knife, modcloth, oak street shoes, old-school, seiko, spyderco, stwardess, vanity case, vintage, watch

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