Paul Bunyan in Billyburg

Did I call this one in lecture the other day or what? This week’s New York Magazine contains the late-breaking news that — imagine! — plaid flannel shirts are back. (Thank God they’re fitted this time around, is all I have to say: if this really were a 90s grunge revival we’d all be back to wearing things two sizes too large, and NOBODY wants that.)

Earlier this semester I suggested that the proliferation of red flannel, lumberjack boots, and beards among urban hipsters is a 21st-century version of the cowboy craze that took over the East Village in the late 1960s. Back then, the whole Lower East Side was the frontier. Now Brooklyn’s Alaska, apparently. None of this is all that new: the indie rockers have been sporting big old beards for years now. My Melvillean beard done came and went a long time ago.

Of course, whenever I hear someone talking about fashion-forward urbanites in red flannel it puts me in mind of Bowery B’hoys like Mose, above left. The New York Magazine feature made me wonder: Was the Mose get-up self-consciously mimicking the costume of the California miner 49ers? Or were the red shirts standard fireman issue? Anyone have a better origin story for Mose’s suspenders and red flannel work shirts?

Tags: , , ,