You never know who you might meet on the internet.
A year ago, I found someone on StyleForum talking about Colossus of Roads, a folk art legend that I grew up admiring in the ‘90s. Back then, as a teenager, I spent a lot of time in train yards checking out graffiti murals and hobo art. The latter refers to the kind of drawings you see at the very end of this post. Some simple, others complicated, these were put on the side of freight cars with solid paint sticks or industrial crayons.
The term hobo art is a bit of a misnomer, as it’s mostly done today by graffiti artists, railroad workers, and occasional train hoppers. The name just comes from the early 20th-century practice of hobos communicating through pictograms. Since many were illiterate, they would put up coded drawings around train yards to communicate things such as “this town has work” or “you can sleep in this hayloft.” Basically, things to make a illegal passage safer. Today however, like with any graffiti, it’s mostly done for fame.
It’s hard to explain the appeal to outsiders, but as a kid growing up, these train yards were like traveling folk art museums to me. You could walk between the boxcars and see things that were originally done in Vancouver or New York, assuming they survived the trip before being painted over. No matter which train you were looking at, however, you could always find a side profile drawing of a cowboy. People referred to him as “Colossus of Roads,” although nobody knew who was behind it.
Over twenty years later, I found someone talking about him on StyleForum – and it was his nephew. I couldn’t believe it.
So, the nephew and I corresponded for a bit and he put me in touch his uncle Buz Blurr (who turned out to be former railroad worker). Buz ended up agreeing to autograph one of my jackets, so I sent him a Schott double rider. It was a natural choice, partly because I’ve always admired the painted double riders you see at the end of this post, which were decorated by Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat. For guys who are into hobo art and train hopping, Buz is basically our Basquiat.
Pictured below: the jacket with a Wallace & Barnes workshirt, some 3sixteen jeans, and a pair of RRL Clifton boots. I had the jacket relined a few months ago with an old Japanese boro fabric I bought from Shibui. It’s hard to tell in some of the images, but the fabric has a beautiful, nubby texture thanks to the patches, unique weaves, and long running stitches. I still have a bit of the original fabric left, and plan to use it for another jacket, but I don’t think it’ll end up being as special as this one. This Schott represents a bit of my childhood, and a reminder that everything comes back around eventually – folk heroes and teenage dreams of adventure.