Men’s style had it rough in the 1970s. Sometimes referred to as the decade taste forgot, the ‘70s was characterized by tight shirts, bellbottom trousers, and the piles unrotting synthetics that will probably outlast this civilization. The clothes of that age, as well as the lifestyles, were as lurid as they were chaffing.
Not everything was terrible, however. What decade is better defined by corduroy sport coats and shearing collar jackets? Or those puffer vests that eventually peaked in the ‘80s? For as many companies that made flashy, disco-inspired clothes, there were just as many that relied on simpler, rugged charms.
One of those was Rocky Mountain Featherbed, which was founded in the Cowboy State of Wyoming by Francis “Cub” Schaefer. RMFB specialized in down-filled outerwear with Western-style yokes, which became popular with skiers and ranchers across the American West. These were worn during the days when Colorado ski instructors were still likely to be seen in cowboy hats. Unfortunately, after a decade of success, the company went bust in the ‘80s and Cub lost control of his label to bankers.
As it often goes in men’s clothing, things that would otherwise be lost to the annals of American clothing history are at some point rediscovered and revived by the Japanese. About ten years ago, 35 Summers bought the rights to the Rocky Mountain Featherbed name so they could start reproducing the company’s signature vests, as well as introduce a new line of pullover anoraks, pile jackets, and mountain parkas. Basically, the kind of knockabout, traditional outdoor clothing you’d expect to see in a mid-70s camping catalog (Men’s Club columnist Yasuhiko Kobayashi described it as the “outdoor version of Ivy” in David Marx’s wonderful new book on how Japan saved American style).
The downside? With designer repackaging and hyped collaborations, there’s the unavoidable spike in prices. I recently bought this shearling-collar Christy down jacket and absolutely love it, but … it’s admittedly a bit overpriced at full retail. These are, for the most part, faithful reproductions of the originals. That means the jackets don’t come with the kind of upscale zippers and leather-backed buttons you might find at Crescent Down Works or Moncler. On the other hand, if it’s that 1970s style you’re after, RMFB is perfect. I’ve been wearing my jacket on chilly afternoons with a Buzz Rickson sweatshirt, pair of 3sixteen jeans, and some Yuketen boots.
For a more affordable price point, search eBay for vintage RMFB originals, or similar companies such as Powderhorn Mountaineering. Penfield also makes a model called the Rockwool, although it’s missing a Western-styled yoke. Or, just wait for the Japanese-made RMFB stuff to go on sale (which is what I did). You can find the label at Mr. Porter, Oi Polloi, Superdenim, Kafka, and Frans Boone.