The Elephant Brand Bandanna Museum

The Elephant Brand Bandanna Museum 1

The Elephant Brand Bandanna Museum is finally open. It has been a short journey, but a long time in the making. The current collection on display is of roughly 250 bandannas. The collection and museum is a product of Kiro Hirata’s passion and love of bandannas. I helped fill in the history, curate the bandannas, and added a few interesting pieces.

The age of the collection ranges from the 1850’s to the 1980’s; over 100 years of history. The collection starts with the beginning of the American bandannas coming from Scotland. From there, the navy and red bandannas from Davis & Catterall (Elephant Brand) tell the story of how the simple cambric discharged fabric was used as utility and then slowly became a part of fashion.

There are two floors full of bandannas. The first floor features non-branded RN# pieces, rodeo bandannas, and rare navy workwear brands. The second floor is all trunk up and trunk down elephant logo bandannas, a few rare other FAST COLOR brands, and 19th century Turkey Red bandannas. As Davis and Catterall was an OEM company there are many examples on both floors, of their work. The Museum is located next to the Kapital Soho store in Kojima, Okayama Japan.

As any other museum the collection is constantly improving. We are always open to accepting rare and interesting pieces to add to the collection.

The bandanna is an icon of America with a long and meandering history. Originating in India as the word for “tie-dyeing”, the colors and prints were embraced by the west. The Glasgow “Turkey red” cotton printing industry mass-produced the first bandannas we recognize today. It wasn’t until the 1900’s when a small company in New York City put an elephant brand on their product did the bandanna become truly American. The designs, colors, and prints have then since become a staple of Americana. There are innumerable designs, but the Elephant Brand has become synonymous with authentic American bandannas.

So if you find yourself in Okayama, please stop by Kojima (児島) and check out the museum.

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Lobby and elephant

The Elephant Brand Bandanna Museum 1


The Elephant Brand Bandanna Museum 3 (1)
The collection on paper
The Elephant Brand Bandanna Museum 2
Partitions during setting up.
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History room
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“How-to-enjoy” the museum in Japanese.
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Selection of uncut bandannas leading the way to the 2nd floor.
The Elephant Brand Bandanna Museum 2 (1)
Trunk Up
The Elephant Brand Bandanna Museum 1 (1)
Trunk Down


The Elephant Brand Bandanna Museum 1
During the set-up phase
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The first floor showcase area



Book | Katachi: Japanese Pattern and Design

Katachi - Japanese Pattern 3

Katachi - Japanese Pattern 5

This book was published in 1963, and it is one of my favorite on Japanese design. Katachi means form: this book is a perfect collection of Japan in form. It shows a broad spectrum of traditional designs and patterns, which are as much a part of the landscape and language, as they are art. The incredibly charming photos by Takeji Iwamiya are as simple and deep as their subject. A lot of these photos remind me of my first trip to Japan and the photos I took those many years ago.

It is fascinating to flip through images and see shapes interact with materials, and  how the combination of those define Japan’s arts and crafts. This book is required reading if you are at all interested in seeing how the cultural and daily patterns of Japanese life surface in the crafts and everyday items.

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BTWXTBA | Cattle Hustler Jacket

Cattle Hustler Jacket (1)

Cattle Hustler Jacket 1

Repair is all about what is at hand and utilizing as best you can. In this case there was a starting point. This old Lee Storm Rider Coat had a few circle patches already. We added many more to create a kind of traveller repair. Please take note of the subtle bandana repairs; we imagined a “cattle hustler” would always carry a bandana. Collecting denim scraps along life on the road.

Cattle Hustler Jacket 2

The coat has a nice blonde denim colour, so we wanted to create a type of tiled fade with the patches. Each of the patches are sewn under the fleece liner, so the lining is stitch free. Cattle Hustler Jacket 3

The different tone of denim patches has an aged repair feel to it. After a wash or two it will look even better!

Cattle Hustler Jacket 4


Metamorphosis  1
A marked change in appearance, character, condition, or function.

Function modification, character transition, development; a tangible story written in thread. The clothes you wear often carry the marks of your life. Stains and tears are brief moments. Slow worn fades and patchwork are lengthy periods of time unique to the individual. If you care for your things they change with you. To keep your wardrobe changing without creating waste, repair, modify, recycle, and repurpose. A well-designed  high-quality garment can last a lifetime.

Metamorphosis  1

This was an old Kapital Tobi denim shirt. Narita-san at Brown Tabby did some reconstruction and repair to it for me. The saki-ori elbow pads are made from strips of vintage bandanas. We are of the mind that if you are just staring at it you are wasting it. This shirt was a great design to begin with, from the kohaze clasps at the cuffs, to the reinforced stitching on the shoulders. The repairs to the wear brought out more of the character of this shirt. The gradual change from new to old is a beautiful thing: modification and metamorphosis.

Metamorphosis  2

The Kapital Century Denim 7S started out sumi -grey last September. After two coatings of kakishibu the grey disappeared but after many much wear and tear the grey has started to peek out from under its brown coat. Natural dyes tend to fade rather quickly, which is why they appeal to me so much. Nothing permanent, as to keep that attentive eye sharp.

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Metamorphosis  4

This Tezomeya t-shirt was a kakishibu color . But after a dip in wood vinegar it came out this smoke brown-black. The black will show its brown heart little by little. The color of 憲法色 (kenbouiro) is extraordinary and time consuming. The smokey smell of wood vinegar remains even after several washes.

Metamorphosis  5

This in an ancient piece of Japanese linen used for mosquito netting. It was smoked, and then dyed in indigo with this subtle “Edo Wave” pattern. The two colors merge so beautifully the camera does not do justice. The texture of the linen has that charming characteristic of rural Japan.

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Repair | Pocket Patching

Pocket Patching 1

Pocket Patching 1 This is the final post in this series on repair. In the last post Narita-san demonstrated The Hand-Darn. This time he will show you how to patch your pockets. Believe it or not, the most frequent repair for jeans are the pocket bags. With custom made jeans the pocket bags could be any sort of fabric. In this repair my personal pair of Albuquerque jeans needed some holes patched in the pockets. Bandannas are probably not the best material for pocket bags, but with some regular maintenance you can keep them functional. Plus after several patches the result is a hidden-beauty that the wearer can really appreciate. Start off with a soft cotton thread (egyptian cotton works best) and a standard hand-sewing needle. Pocket Patching 2 The front-side patch is used here effectively to cover the holes, and to avoid additional tearing around the patch. Usually sewing machines stitches have too much tension for such delicate fabric, so hand-stitching is required. The overhand stitch is the most practical here, as it is best to use many small stitches. Pocket Patching 3 Thank you all for reading the repair series. I have enjoyed the feedback thus far, and I am happy to know that this has been helpful to some of you.

Albuquerque People


This is a way of saying thanks to the people who bought the Albuquerque Jeans. I tried to personally meet as many of the people who purchased a pair in the first run. Thank you for taking the time and investing your interest into this project. Without the customer I couldn’t conclude the story.

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John Lofgren & Co. | Ashida Shirt & Albuquerque Jeans Progress


Bandana arm

John Lofgren recently produced this extraordinary shirt of shibui origins. The fabric is Bingo Kasuri woven in Fukuyama, Hiroshima; a product that has a long history. A time consuming process, even today it takes one month to produce an original fabric. Introducing: the Ashida Shirt


The of grey-dusty area under the train lines in Nakatsu was the perfect place to feature this refined piece. A sumi base color, is accented with kakishibu stripes(shima), and flecks of indigo and natural white. Albuquerque jeans, slowly fading add a slight contrast. I really enjoy the Japanese folk craft aspect of the cloth paired with the simple workwear shirt design. Tagua palm tree buttons give some cream-coffee softness to the striping. This is one of the few times I have seen kasuri used so well on a shirt. The early morning light in February really brought out the subtle colors. You can read more on Fukuyama Bingo Kasuri here.

Bandana over shoulder

Such a simple shirt but the quality really lies in the details. Run-off chain stitching, and felled seams, perfection.

over shoulder looking


The fabric in some lighting, looks like it is moving while standing still.

sumi and kakishibu

*Special thanks to J. West for the shutter work.

Elephant Brand Bandannas | Current (Trunk-Down) Collection

Elephant Trunk Down

On display here is my collection of the rarer “trunk-down” variety of the Elephant Brand bandannas. Most of these are probably 1940’s. I prefer the trunk-down versions because the designs are usually more shibui, the designs are more refined. The fabric quality varies a lot, and I feel they have more character.

These really deep turkey reds are my favorite. I love this dirty scarlet color. Paired with indigo, it is one of my all-time favorite color combinations.

And if you want to see the most massive online collection head to Discharge Style.