Pattern puzzle: Parrot jacket

Have you ever heard of “the” parrot jacket? Until recently, I had not. One of you is a collector and seller of vintage leather jackets which is how I found out about them (and to whom I owe these photos). [Amended:  Goodbye Heart owns these images. More great styles are on their site.]

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These were produced by a company in San Francisco in the sixties and seventies, called East West Musical Instruments. As a side line, they made things to sell. Their leather jackets became popular enough that that sideline became a separate company in the late seventies. There’s not much information available on the company, I suspect it’s been out of business awhile now. Suffice to say, these jackets are highly collectible. There’s one on eBay in a slightly different colorway with a starting bid of $1,250.00.

Check out that collar pattern, fun no? I don’t know that I’d agree it looks a parrot, more like a goose head but the design certainly provides some design inspiration. Any guessimates on how long it’d take to cut that pattern -or sew it? Somehow, I don’t think anyone will be knocking off this style anytime soon. Tricky design like this is usually self-protecting. Few will attempt it due to complexity alone.

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Unfortunately, I can’t find out much about them. I’m surprised there’s not a wiki entry for them. This site has photos of another style (the wood rose) and says:

The artisans at East West were hand crafting leather and suede garments for everyone from Janis Joplin to Carlos Santana (even Springsteen owned an East West). The workmanship was incredible and to say they are highly prized today is a gross understatement.

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  1. Todd Hudson says:

    If anyone should write a wikipedia entry about East West, it would be Joel Von Stezelberger of South Paradiso Leather in Los Angeles. He tracked down and bought all the old patterns and documentation from East West and created a new brand that reproduces the old products and new ones. Here is an article about it:
    Also, scroll down and listen the mp3 on this page to hear him talk about his pricey products:

  2. Helen says:

    Niftay. Do the decorative seams provide shaping as well? That would be more difficult to copy. I wonder if they used K’s technique for leather overlays on the lower sleeves.

  3. Paul G says:

    Thanks for the mention in your EW Musical Instrument Co jacket story – thought you might be interested in a follow-up I have written about Joel (now Romulus) Von Stezelberger and his relationship with EW on my blog
    Very best
    Paul G

  4. Todd Hudson says:

    BTW, Paul G (Gorman) who commented above wrote the BEST book on post-war popular menswear. It’s called *The Look* and you should buy it new because it comes with a CD. He’s coming out with another book in Spring, 08 about rebel fashion. Can’t wait! And he’s a DE on top of it.

  5. David Himel says:

    Lol I sent you the pics of the jacket, if you go to my blog you will see a link on East West which is a series of memories of some of the people who actually worked there. Joels email is there as well. BTW I finished your book and it was a lovely help, if your ever in Toronto, I can tour you around my leather jacket collection!!


  6. Anne says:

    Hello, I have this exact parrot jacket in a slightly different color pallette, and it fits me like a glove. I need help finding someone who would be willing to attempt to do some much needed repairs, it was rejected by the last place I sent it to because of its value and age, it is my favorite thing, please if anyone could give me any leads or advice I would be forever in your debt!

  7. Joe says:

    Wow, I can’t believe a blog article about my very favorite jacket.

    I can still remember the day, I purchased my on Castro Street.

    Maybe I should have worn it more over the years, but I didn’t and thus today have a pristine example.

  8. Kate says:

    I had a parrot jacket and sold it in 2003 to get money for college. It was found at a yard sale for $5 and given to me when I was 10. I still have fond memories of this jacket on the regular! I will own one again one day!

  9. debbie ann says:

    I am just discovering the east west musical instruments vintage jackets and am in Love.
    Want to own one, if anyone has one and would be interested in selling, please let me know. Even if it was my only clothing purchase for a whole year – it would be worth it.

  10. martin freedman says:

    I sold many incredible East West Jackets and Jeans from ’67 to the mid 70’s. Norman Stubbs was an incredible talent.He frequented my store Limbo St. Marks Place (TM) in New York’s East Village whenever he was in town. My only regret was that I sold every piece, their value increased dramatically over the years.

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