i know next to nothing about vintage denim. I also know next to nothing about vintage t-shirts. I do however love rabid obsessions and Americana vintage as seen at Lot Stock and Barrel garners the sort of feverish geekery that is somehow quite pleasing, in a world where detail and minutiae are being glossed over. Originally in the Downtown area, LS&B have now moved to a bigger space in the Arts District around from my favourite shop Poketo, making it a welcome addition to this pocket of LA.
The first impression when you step into Florence Tang and Ben Phillips’ store is one of familiarity. We’ve been hoodwinked with dime-a-dozen identikit Americana vintage stores, which have also been adopted by high street brands in their visual merchandising (American Eagle, Pull & Bear, Jack Wills etc etc). But have a few words with Ben, the co-founder of LS&B and you know you’re speaking to someone, who is seriously passionate about what they’re selling. Scouring all over America, they’ve been able to curate (yes, I’ll rightfully use that dreaded word in this instance) garment stories, inspired by certain epochs or movements that inspire them be it creatives living in Topanga Canyon in the 1960s or Edward Abbey’s treatise on preserving our natural surroundings. Their website certainly shows a level of depth and detail that shows that they’re willing to go far beyond the mere surface of Americana.
Authenticity is a huge part of that too. And central to the store is a an old Singer machine – one that operates with a hand crank and foot pedal, running up single needle chain stitch embroidery that you would have seen in Western wear of the past like Nudie. Since embroidery computerisation in the 1960s, these manually operated machines have largely fallen out of fashion but as Ben very kindly showed me, punching the outline through a paper template and filling it in with a circular motion gives this type of embroidery a type of texture that like LS&B’s store concept, has real depth. Ben learnt his trade with a group of veterans that are carrying on this tradition. Tommy D, Tul Jutargate and Ed Hernandez are known as the The Chain Gang, and from their East LA base, they’ve been servicing the car and bike club circles with their custom embroidery and chenille patches for years. It’s not a public service but rather an insider’s gang, who operate much like tattoo artists, embroidering their dynamic designs on club jackets only for those in the car/bike circles. Being a biker himself, Ben has been apprenticing with The Chain Gang and invited them to set up a residence at the store, running up custom designs or pre-chosen patches such as Lot Stock & Barrel’s logo and in-house mascot “Elsby”. I love the idea of a trio of tough bikers hammering out embroidery on an old Singer. it’s a dichotomous image that shows a level of respect for a craft that has been handed down through wartime souvenir jackets to letterman and varsity jackets to greaser sub cultures. It’s about showing the true mark of belonging to a gang or club and so LS&B offers that same mark of authenticity to your chosen shirt, jacket or denim garment.
Denim and tee’s aren’t necessarily my thing and we stumbled in by accident, jaded by generic vintage commodification but instead we were met by truly geeky passion. I left a week later with *oh no she didn’t* a pair of denim cut-off shorts embroidered with Mexican-inspired flowers. It was the Singer stitching that did it…
Lot Stock & Barrel at 801 1/2 Traction Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90013, Open Tuesday – Sunday; 12-7 pm
A brilliant little documentary LS&B produced dedicated to The Chain Gang:
Their 2015 lookbook: