Thursday, 15 May 2008

no jacket required....

Whilst I was researching the best type of fedora to get and the best place to get one, I stumbled across a group of people who really couldn't have existed in the world before the internet. We're all familiar, of course, with the stereotypical image of the nerdy geeks who populate the world wide web.

Do you like Star Wars or Star Trek or the X-files? Are you into gaming or virtual worlds? Do you wash irregularly and wear t-shirts with pictures of dragons on them? Do you have a blog? Do you consider yourself friends with someone you have never met? If you answered 'yes' to any of them, then the chances are that lots of people would say that you're a either a geek or a nerd (or both). People like this have existed for centuries, of course, it's just that in the old days they used to do things like write down the numbers of the trains that came through their local station or they collected stamps. Mostly they will have done these things on their own, or at most they would be members of a small, locally based club. What the internet has done is that it has provided the most fantastic mechanism for bringing people together and helping them to share their hobbies. If you're a fan of something - Star Wars, say - you are now only a few clicks away from the most incredibly detailed resource that will tell you everything you ever wanted to know, and much, much more. You will also have access to like-minded people. I always liked the Star Wars films, but it wasn't really until I was at University and I met other people who loved the films that my interest deepened and they stopped being merely films and started being something else.... we egged each other on and we made each other worse, and at some point down the track, you realise that you are no longer quite like other people who see them as just harmless fluff to be enjoyed on the telly, and you see that you now have strong opinions on Ewoks and Gamorrean guards. But by the time you see this, it's too late to go back: you have become a geek.

The most comprehensive resource that I found on the internet about fedoras by a country mile was an Indiana Jones fansite. Fair enough, I thought. After all, Indiana Jones is probably one of the most famous hat wearers in the world. It only took me a couple of minutes of browsing, though, to realise that I had actually stumbled upon a thriving community of people who spend their spare time trying to dress themselves like Indiana Jones... and I don't mean they wanted to dress approximately like Indiana Jones either; they wanted to dress themselves EXACTLY like Indiana Jones. I quickly found a set of useful consumer reviews of different types of fedora and where to get them. Thanks to the opinions in the forums, I was able to steer away from a wool felt hat and towards a fur felt hat, together with a good idea of the best places to get hold of one. That was all I had originally come to the site for, but now I was mesmerised.

How much can there be to discuss about a hat? Did you know that the fedoras used in "Raiders of the Lost Ark" came from Herbert Johnson in London, were made of italian fur felt and that you can no longer get the exact same style? (quite tall crowned, narrow-brimmed and very much in the 1930s style). Perhaps you did. Did you know that the hats used in the three films are very distinct in terms of style? That the "bash" of the hat used in "Raiders..." has an unusually tight and everso slightly lopsided "pinch" at the front, that the one in "Temple of Doom" is the slackest and that the one in "Last Crusade" is a hybrid of the two? No? Can you spot the differences in the hats used between scenes? Can you tell whether a fedora someone has bought has slightly the wrong ribbon bow and tapers too much at the back? No? Well these guys (and they are almost all guys) can. They debate at great length where to get their hats and how to bash them. They put up photographs and compare notes. I was both horrified and fascinated, and completely unable to look away.

As well as absurd level of discussion on the hat, there were other sections dedicated to the leather jacket, the whip, the pistol, the canvas satchel, the shirt, the trousers, the shoes, the grail diary and to every other possible prop used in any of the films. God help me, but I started looking at the forum on the jacket - it's a pretty cool jacket, after all. I quickly discovered that it was possible to get a very reasonable custom measured jacket from the small outlet in Kent that supplied the original jackets for "Raiders..." for a little over £150. That's quite a small price to pay for a fitted jacket, I thought, and read on.

Oh. My. God.

As well as sensible discussions around what kind of leather you can get (lamb, goat, horsehide, nuovapelle, cow hide...), there were endless discussions on how the pockets should look (the scalloping on the flap has to be just so), what kind of sliders should be on the straps (rectangular and not d-ring), whether or not there should be a storm flap (yes, but it should be a narrow one) and if it should be secured at the top and bottom (no for a raiders look, yes for crusade look, apparently). No detail too trivial in the pursuit of screen accuracy, and every post was accompanied by a photo of a member wearing their jacket and asking for advice on how best to get the distressed look or how to treat it. My head quickly started to spin. God knows what the poor guy in Kent who tries to make jackets to these ridiculous specifications to send out to people from all corners of the globe feels about the whole thing...even if it probably is the cornerstone of his business as many of the members clearly have several jackets apiece.

It's a harmless enough hobby, I suppose. I couldn't help but smile when I saw that two of the members of these forums had set up their own hat company a few years ago. It was presumably the natural end to their quest for perfection. Good for them, and good for their fellow members who can now order the perfect hat made to their own perfect specifications in the perfect Raiders bash.... as long as they're prepared for the 12 month wait as their hat is made up for them. Brilliantly, these guys were discovered by Steven Spielberg and were asked to provide the hats for the new film. Every hat that you see Harrison Ford wearing in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was made by these obsessive fans. Their quest for the perfect Indiana Jones hat has led to them to be making the actual hats themselves. Even if you're not a geek yourself, surely you can imagine how thrilling a feeling that must be.

The internet is a strange, brilliant and appalling place.

God help me but I've sort of been looking for a zip-up leather jacket. Maybe I've been staring at the screen for too long, but I'm starting to think that I do actually want one of those jackets. I doubt anyone will believe me, but I have little or no desire to look like a fictional archaeologist (I did a history degree, after all. We historians frown upon archaeologists as they are prone to make sweeping assumptions about thousands of years of history based upon a single find...). I know it looks bad, but I really am just getting a fedora because I want a(nother) proper hat and I really do just like the jacket. I will not be looking to get a whip any time soon. Well, not that kind of a whip, anyway. Not one that I'll use to accessorise a costume. Well, not that kind of costume.... Perhaps I'll just stop talking.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got forum posts to catch up on and pictures to look own custom jacket* won't spec itself you know.....


[* custom only in the sense that I may ask for it to be a touch longer in the sleeve so that it actually fits me, unlike every other jacket I have ever owned, not custom in the sense of an obsession with screen accuracy. I couldn't give a monkey's if the zip is slightly too large or if it's got a storm flap with fasteners, to be honest. Fair play to those that do, but I just don't]


  1. During the Easter break, I was due to meet up with Bob of Bobzyeruncle, as he made a flying visit through here. Sadly, the Terminal 5 fiasco foiled us which was disappointing. Very few people know I have a blog (and that's how I want it to stay), so explaining my plans for the weekend involved a lot of not telling the whole truth which was a bit surreal.

    So, I may be a geek, but I'm, for the most part, a closet geek. Perhaps the worst kind?

  2. Too late. The Internet has you.

    You've just blogged all about your IJ experiences to another group of people who read your blog about your experiences and exploits, some of whom you've never met and might just be as addicted to your posts as Indiana Jones fans are to hats.

    I have to say, though, geeky as I am with my vast knowledge of Star Trek and Stargate SG1, I have never, ever dressed up in costume.

    Not even to go to a cricket match.

    Now, there's a thought. Instead of going as Beekeepers, you could all go as Indiana Jones...

  3. Do you like Star Wars or Star Trek or the X-files?
    I'm into Star Wars and Star Trek.

    Are you into gaming or virtual worlds?
    I do a little gaming, but I'm not a WoW or EQ person.

    Do you wash irregularly and wear t-shirts with pictures of dragons on them?
    No... my t-shirts are all bands, small breweries, and goofy sayings.

    Do you have a blog?

    Do you consider yourself friends with someone you have never met?
    Several people.

    Yes... I am a geek. Proud to admit it. Besides... we geekfolk are entertaining if you get to know us.

    For more info on geeks, click this link.

    Interesting bit of info on the hat. That'd be something I'd consider down the line if I started shaving my head again...

  4. The bit about the fans supplying the hats: A good thing about Spielberg and Lucas: they acknowledge their fanbase, and use them wherever possible. Which is a good thing when the people that matter do also care about other people's geekdom.

  5. I once had a neighbour who owned a Star Wars stormtrooper outfit.