The Apartment, located in Tokyo’s Kichijoji, is a shop that has had a worldwide influence in the collection of vintage THE NORTH FACE, carries vintage gears of various other outdoor brands, and revive these vintage pieces. It is a shop that anyone working in the fashion industry would pay a visit if they come to Japan, which makes it a shop that cannot be ignored when we talk about archives on a global level. We want to learn further what the owner, Takayuki Ohashi, perceives from the archive trend.
This time in the second part of this series, we will primarily be hearing about caps released by outdoor brands, such Patagonia and THE NORTH FACE.
“I collect quite a bit of Patagonia’s summer clothes, but generally I focus on caps. I also collect some vests, but that’s something I started doing recently”
---What was it that piqued your interest in Patagonia’s caps?
“Around when I was in high school, there used to be a trend among B-boys to wear 5-panel caps, or Camp caps by Supreme if you were a snappy dresser. The cap that fitted my head the best during that trend was the Spoonbill cap by Patagonia. I bought one and really took a liking to it, wearing it for a long time. I guess that was my first encounter with Patagonia. But to be honest, I wasn’t that attached to the brand Patagonia itself. At the time, I was a fan of THE NORTH FACE and wore their clothes a lot. The way I saw it back then, THE NORTH FACE was for people who were hardcore even within the world of Hip Hop or those with an air of delinquency, and I liked that kind of vibe. The downside, however, was the poor shape of THE NORTH FACE’s caps, haha. Since Japanese and Westerners’ heads are shaped completely differently, the caps by THE NORTH FACE just wouldn’t fit me. That’s why I only wore caps by Patagonia.”
---Now that you mention it, it did feel like there was a split between Patagonia and THE NORTH FACE within the B-boy fashion at the time. Was the Spoonbill cap the only item you checked out by Patagonia?
“Well, I think Patagonia is popular for its patterned items among the people who like used clothing, but I rather prefer plain-colored clothing, so I mainly checked out their plain earth-colored items that were easy to match with the rest of my outfit. In parallel to that, I began wearing Fitted by New Era for the first time in my first year of high school, and around from my third year onward I wore the Yankees cap by New Era exclusively. I wore Patagonia less and less since it wasn’t quite in line with that Hip Hopish vibe that I liked; it was like it had a somewhat nerdy image attached to it. Because of that, I went on hiatus [with Patagonia] for some time.”
---In other words, the way Patagonia was received in the Japanese fashion scene back then differed from your own view.
“In my mind, the people who wore Patagonia back then did so together with Birkenstock shoes and Manastash shorts, and I wasn’t into that kind of thing at all. So Patagonia felt sort of “untouchable” since I thought of it as a brand for that specific group of people. I love it, I really do, but it felt somewhat alien to me. I thought of it as something that didn’t belong to the Hip Hop culture.”
---At which point were you freed from that way of thinking?
“So I kept wearing jackets by THE NORTH FACE for a long time, while wearing New Era’s Yankees cap. Sometimes, when I combined black and red THE NORTH FACE clothing, I could match it with New Era’s Cincinnati Reds. My mood went on like that for a long period, but nevertheless I liked the Spoonbill cap, so I bought it whenever I found one. It was around this time I connected with some vintage gear collectors in New York, out of which one was collecting Spoonbill caps. That’s when I realized that this was fashionable even for them. It never occurred to me that collectors from New York would check out Patagonia, but then I was shown their old pictures with one of them matching his Polo Bear clothes with a Spoonbill cap. I was told that’s how he dressed in high school. It appeared that the Spoonbill cap had a reputation there for its high quality and being cool. As I’m influenced by New York culture, their culture was the only right answer for me. That’s how I came to like it. This happened just over the past few years.”
---What period is this model from?
“ (looks at catalogue) This one is from 97”
---People say that the best way to get an overview of the history of outdoor brands is by looking at catalogues for each season.
“Right, so I have this crude map in my head of everything I’ve seen up until now, but it tends to be rather disordered and vague. So what I do when looking back is to go through the photos I’ve taken in the past with my QuickSnap, and then cross-check my memory by looking at the date printed on the photo to realize that I was wearing this or that in 97, haha. I don’t have that many photos, so sometimes it may happen that I make things up. Now that I receive catalogues from other collectors, my inner map has gradually become organized.”
---You seem to have a lot of outdoor brand caps other than the ones you showed me today. Are you always checking them out?
“You can use outdoor brand caps a lot without them getting worn out. You can’t wash New Era’s caps, but you can with most outdoor brand caps, plus they’re made of good material, so I don’t mind if I get sweaty when going to a club wearing one. That’s why I’ve liked them for such a long time. Besides, you know how New Era has only one fixed shape, right? Outdoor caps, on the other hand, have details that vary from era to era, which I find interesting. I find them interesting even if it’s something I can’t wear myself. Sometimes I even buy them just because of the interesting way they’re made. But out of all of them, the Spoonbill cap takes the cake in all respects. It’s a cap made to utmost perfection.”
---Does that apply to the current [Spoonbill] caps as well?
“The caps today have their own good qualities, but personally I think the ones from the late 90’s were the most perfected. The 00’s are also amazing. The sweatbands inside some of the Spoonbill caps were elastic and others not, depending on the period of its release. Even something trivial like that can make a big difference. When we were going to make hats of our own, I researched the Spoonbill cap a lot, and it made me realize once again how extremely many amazing things there are about it.
You can’t give the hat too much elasticity since then it won’t stay pinned to your head, but without a certain amount of elasticity it gets too tight for your head. The Spoonbill cap is made with elasticity in the spot where tension is added when worn by humans, so it feels really nice when you put it on. Since the sweatband is made elastic, the part of the head where the most tension is added will expand or contract while the other parts won’t. A relatively easy way to make a hat – when only taking its wearing comfort into account – is to mix only a little bit of urethane into its shell. Then it expands, right? People tend to think that it will make it more comfortable that way, but when you sweat, the urethane deteriorates and tears apart, which means it will only last for two to three years. Patagonia, however, never mixes the main part with urethane, and still the elasticity is perfectly balanced.”
---I see. This Spoonbill cap seems to be made in USA. Do you have any preference for its country of production?
“Generally speaking I prefer those made in USA during the 90’s, but the country of production doesn’t matter to me if it comes with some amazing feature exclusive for a certain time period, so it’s not like I worship everything that’s made in USA. Still, I do think 90’s products made in USA are quite nice. It’s good stuff, simply put. They put money into what they make. The material is just on a different level.”
---What’s special about this cap by THE NORTH FACE?
“American vintage gear collectors just simply love GORE-TEX. What matters to them is not really its function, but rather the fact that GORE-TEX is regarded as something special. There are not many caps out there that has a GORE-TEX logo, but this one does, and for once its actually a THE NORTH FACE item with a wearable shape, so it’s highly admired by many. I think THE NORTH FACE also wants to reissue this cap, but I think the brim will cost them too much. That’s probably why they don’t get around to it. It’s an important aspect since it’s soft-bill. Many outdoor caps are soft-bill. If the cap would be stiff instead, the brim would eventually get damaged and break, but since it’s soft-bill, the condition keeps being superb and wearable even it’s old.”
“This is a model that came out in Japan, and at the moment I’m really digging the taste of its patterns and the color arrangement. This is also one of the rare cases of a THE NORTH FACE cap with a good shape, and it’s one of their few masterpieces. You could say that the one I showed you earlier were the American masterpiece by THE NORTH FACE, while this is their Japanese masterpiece. A certain specialty store that I know of used this cap as the base for their custom-designed orders.”
---When I think of Mountain Smith I think bags, but they also make caps.
“Originally, they only make bags. Probably they beg their friends’ or acquaintances’ companies located in the same area to make hats for them. I think they are making them just by simply using their yellow brand color for the strap on the back. I got a lot of messages regarding this item from vintage gear collectors overseas, including Avi Gold from Better™.”
---This is also an item by Patagonia, just like the Spoonbill cap.
“This one is called “Vented Broadhill Hat” and was also released in 97. Back then it had this mysterious B-Boy vibe to it, haha. I bought and wore it right after its release. It ended up being too mysterious for me, though, so I stopped wearing it almost right away, haha. I used to put it on when going camping during the summer. I think I might be able to wear it now since it would be in line with the trend. It’s truly a well-made item, just like the Spoonbill cap. The tricky part about this kind of caps is its back. If you just let it hang it makes you look like the Japanese military, so what I tend to do is to roll it up. That’s another amazing thing about Patagonia. You can wear it without any particular style in mind, and it still makes a nice outfit just by pulling it up. The visor won’t fall back down, which I think is thanks to its intricate angles and the thickness of the material. It’s not too stiff, yet not too soft; it’s perfectly balanced. It’s really an amazing item.”
---This will be my last remark, but I find it very interesting that Patagonia’s Spoonbill cap – which you collected because of its overwhelmingly high quality – was just as loved by New York’s vintage gear collectors.
”Regardless of what I said about [New York] culture informing my opinions, I feel that if you’re someone who pays close attention to that kind of details, real high quality products get their reputation regardless of what nation you’re from. Patagonia’s Spoonbill is just like that. Avi also said that this cap is the best when they visited my store, which reconfirmed my thoughts about it. People within that sphere all seem to admire this cap. It makes me think that we’re all alike – that we check out the same things. In the end, I think that’s how they reasoned when they said that I have an eye for this. It doesn’t just mean that I understand New York culture; it means that I have an eye for the real deal. That’s how we relate and connect to each other.”
Owner of the Apartment and the Apartment SOHO in Kichijoji, that proposes the fashion and lifestyle linked closely with that of New York’s culture.