1. Clip reel of practitioners of systema, a Russian martial art that seems to be gaining some traction in the West now that there are people over here to teach it. Tito’s systema in Spook Country seems to have as much in common with parkour as anything else, and its exact relationship to the systema described by Bigend in Pattern Recognition is, like the history of the old man who hires Tito, perhaps a bit cloudy.

    From Pattern Recognition:

    "Systema," Bigend says.

    "What?"

    "Those three. The Russian martial art, formerly forbidden to all but Spetsnaz and KGB bodyguards. It has its formal basis in Cossack dancing. Quite unlike anything Eastern." He looks like a very determined child, on Christmas morning, who’s finally gotten his way and been allowed downstairs.

  2. What Price Glory →

    What Price Glory deals in reproductions of World War II-era US and UK militaria. There’s a dash of Scots clothes (sporrans, kilts, etc.), Indochina/Vietnam gear, and Indiana Jones reproductions for good measure. Want a repro pair of US Army mountain boots? You got ‘em. WAC shoes? Here they are. GI sweaters, trousers, etc.? Here.

    The level of obsessive detail may not quite be the same as Buzz Rickson’s, but there is an extent to which I think this related to the “gear-queer” phenomenon noted in Zero History. This is, of course, not for the modern mall-ninja. But the underlying element of attraction to the tactical and military may not be all that dissimilar.

    From Zero History:

    "They want to be soldiers?"

    "Not to be. To self-identify as. However secretly. To imagine they may be mistaken for, or at least associated with. Virtually none of these products will ever be used for anything remotely like what they were designed for. Of course that’s true of most of the contents of your traditional army-navy store. Whole universes of wistful male fantasy in those places. But the level of consumer motivation we’re seeing, the fact that these are often what amount to luxury goods, and priced accordingly. That’s new. I felt like a neurosurgeon, when this was brought to my attention, discovering a patient whose nervous system is congenitally and fully exposed. It’s just so nakedly obvious. Fantastic, really.”

  3. Adidas GSG9 boot.
From Spook Country:

"But I have seen your systema, cousin." Brotherman raised a white plastic shopping bag. "Carlito sends you shoes." He passed Tito the bag. The high-topped black shoes still had their white-and-blue Adidas logo tags. Tito sat on the edge of the bagged mattress and removed his boots. He laced the Adidas shoes and pulled them on over medium-weight cotton socks, removed the tags, and carefully tightened the laces before tying them. He stood up, shifting his weight, taking the measure of these new shoes. "GSG9 model," Brotherman said. "Special police in Germany."

    Adidas GSG9 boot.

    From Spook Country:

    "But I have seen your systema, cousin." Brotherman raised a white plastic shopping bag. "Carlito sends you shoes." He passed Tito the bag. The high-topped black shoes still had their white-and-blue Adidas logo tags. Tito sat on the edge of the bagged mattress and removed his boots. He laced the Adidas shoes and pulled them on over medium-weight cotton socks, removed the tags, and carefully tightened the laces before tying them. He stood up, shifting his weight, taking the measure of these new shoes. "GSG9 model," Brotherman said. "Special police in Germany."

  4. Dazzle Camouflage, as seen on the French cruiser Gloire.
From Zero History:

Out in the bike yard, she’d sprayed the penguin’s silver Mylar with black, random, wonky geometrics, their edges fuzzy, like graffiti. Real dazzle had sharp edges, she said, but there was no way to mask the inflated balloon. She used a piece of brown cardboard, cut in a concave curve, to mask approximately, then went back with a dull gray, to fill in the remaining silver. When that had dried a little, she’d further confused it with an equally dull beige, ghosting lines in with the cardboard mask. The result wouldn’t conceal the penguin against any background at all, particularly the sky, but it broke it up visually, made it difficult to read as an object.

    Dazzle Camouflage, as seen on the French cruiser Gloire.

    From Zero History:

    Out in the bike yard, she’d sprayed the penguin’s silver Mylar with black, random, wonky geometrics, their edges fuzzy, like graffiti. Real dazzle had sharp edges, she said, but there was no way to mask the inflated balloon. She used a piece of brown cardboard, cut in a concave curve, to mask approximately, then went back with a dull gray, to fill in the remaining silver. When that had dried a little, she’d further confused it with an equally dull beige, ghosting lines in with the cardboard mask. The result wouldn’t conceal the penguin against any background at all, particularly the sky, but it broke it up visually, made it difficult to read as an object.

  5. The MA-1 is a very complexly iconic garment, having manifested in a number of subcultures since its initial military issue in the 50s. A tiny cult of proto-Mods favored it early-Sixties Soho, skinheads made it a part of their intensely narrow dress-code (often in burgundy, which the USAF never issued either), it was part of a certain gay uniform, goths wore it (always in black). And I had always liked it, particularly on girls. I had never been able to wear one, myself, because they tend to be cut very short in the back, and I have a very long back.

    While Rickson’s had never made a black one, countless black jackets in the MA-1 pattern have been made over the years. It’s been a very popular, indeed classic pattern. These are not made to the specifications of the US military, but for sale to civilians. I gave Cayce one because I thought it worked for her, and I made it a Buzz, because that worked for me. I never stopped to think that Rickson’s didn’t actually make a black one, but if I had, that wouldn’t have stopped me. Hubertus Bigend doesn’t exist either, and I have my poetic license right here, laminated, in my wallet.

    To my surprise, Cayce’s jacket immediately felt to me like a *character*, rather than merely a garment, and I liked that.

    — William Gibson on the iconic nature of the MA-1 flight jacket, and its use in Pattern Recognition.

  6. Buzz Rickson’s MA-1 flying jacket, Pattern Recognition edition from the Buzz Rickson’s William Gibson collection. 
From Pattern Recognition:

The Rickson’s is a fanatical museum−grade replica of a U.S. MA−1flying jacket, as purely functional and iconic a garment as the previous century produced. Dorotea’s slow burn is being accelerated, Cayce suspects, by her perception that Cayce’s MA−1 trumps any attempt at minimalism, the Rickson’s having been created by Japanese obsessives driven by passions having nothing at all to do with anything remotely like fashion.
Cayce knows, for instance, that the characteristically wrinkled seams down either arm were originally the result of sewing with pre−war industrial machines that rebelled against the slippery new material, nylon. The makers of the Rickson’s have exaggerated this, but only very slightly, and done a hundred other things, tiny things, as well, so that their product has become, in some very Japanese way, the result of an act of worship. It is an imitation more real somehow than that which it emulates. It is easily the most expensive garment Cayce owns, and would be virtually impossible to replace.

William Gibson on how Buzz Rickson’s actually came to make the jacket:

Some time after the book was published, I recieved a very puzzled letter from the folks at Buzz Rickson’s, who had been getting requests for black MA-1’s. Once I had explained what was happening, they amazed and delighted me by asking my permission to make a repro of *Cayce’s* jacket, to market as their Pattern Recognition model. Yes indeed, I said, and while you’re at it, cut me one with an extra four inches in the back, please. Which they did, and it’s over the back of a chair nearby as I write this. I love this jacket. It reminds me of the title of a Surrealist sculpture, “An Object From The Other Side Of The Bridge”. It’s real, but it emerged from a work of fiction. (I’m not positive, but I think they all may be a little longer than the USAF pattern.)

The jacket is now available in the US through History Preservation Associates, along with a lot of other fine products from Buzz Rickson’s and other similarly detail-obsessed manufacturers.

    Buzz Rickson’s MA-1 flying jacket, Pattern Recognition edition from the Buzz Rickson’s William Gibson collection

    From Pattern Recognition:

    The Rickson’s is a fanatical museum−grade replica of a U.S. MA−1flying jacket, as purely functional and iconic a garment as the previous century produced. Dorotea’s slow burn is being accelerated, Cayce suspects, by her perception that Cayce’s MA−1 trumps any attempt at minimalism, the Rickson’s having been created by Japanese obsessives driven by passions having nothing at all to do with anything remotely like fashion.

    Cayce knows, for instance, that the characteristically wrinkled seams down either arm were originally the result of sewing with pre−war industrial machines that rebelled against the slippery new material, nylon. The makers of the Rickson’s have exaggerated this, but only very slightly, and done a hundred other things, tiny things, as well, so that their product has become, in some very Japanese way, the result of an act of worship. It is an imitation more real somehow than that which it emulates. It is easily the most expensive garment Cayce owns, and would be virtually impossible to replace.

    William Gibson on how Buzz Rickson’s actually came to make the jacket:

    Some time after the book was published, I recieved a very puzzled letter from the folks at Buzz Rickson’s, who had been getting requests for black MA-1’s. Once I had explained what was happening, they amazed and delighted me by asking my permission to make a repro of *Cayce’s* jacket, to market as their Pattern Recognition model. Yes indeed, I said, and while you’re at it, cut me one with an extra four inches in the back, please. Which they did, and it’s over the back of a chair nearby as I write this. I love this jacket. It reminds me of the title of a Surrealist sculpture, “An Object From The Other Side Of The Bridge”. It’s real, but it emerged from a work of fiction. (I’m not positive, but I think they all may be a little longer than the USAF pattern.)

    The jacket is now available in the US through History Preservation Associates, along with a lot of other fine products from Buzz Rickson’s and other similarly detail-obsessed manufacturers.