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Good morning, and happy February! Today is a special day, because I have a really wonderful interview with Jimmy Lonetti about his throwback Postal Service uniforms. Jimmy is already somewhat Uni Watch-famous because of his longtime excellent work in the field of baseball glove repair, but he’s also an official Postal Service letter carrier, and he customizes his uniforms with vintage patches, buttons, and other throwback details.
I don’t mind saying that this is one of the best Uni Watch articles ever. It’s long — about 5,000 words — and is studded with lots of photos, links to lots of additional resources for people who want to learn more about postal aesthetics, and a very special surprise at the end.
You can read the first part of the article here. In order to read the whole thing, you’ll need to become a paid subscriber to my Substack (which will also get you full access to my Substack/Bulletin archives, of course). Honestly and truly, I can’t imagine a better reason to sign up than to read today’s piece. It’s that good — trust me.
In 1996, before Uni Watch even existed, an AP reporter named Ted Anthony came over to my house to interview me and ended up writing a very nice story about me. Anthony liked my sensibility and I liked his, so we’ve stayed in touch over the years. He recently launched a free newsletter called “Unsorted but Significant,” and it’s really good. One of the first entries is about distressed baseball caps (like the one shown above) and the larger phenomenon of “distressed” culture, and it’s a really fun, thoughtful examination of the topic. A lot of it feels intuitive, like Anthony is saying things you already implicitly understood but hadn’t yet been able to put into words. He’s really good that way.
I had an interesting and slightly disturbing experience yesterday morning as I was rearranging a few knickknacks on a shelf. As I was in the middle of doing it, I realized that the original arrangement was better after all, and I had this instinctive urge to just hit some invisible COMMAND-Z keys to restore the original arrangement.
Then I realized that I’d actually have to, you know, do that myself.
There are probably all sorts of jokes to be made about ⌘Z-ing various aspects of one’s life. But in all seriousness, it’s weird to have the urge to automatically “undo” something in the physical world just because I’m used to doing it on a keyboard.
I shared this same story on Facebook yesterday and asked my friends if they’d experienced anything similar. Got some really interesting responses:
It’s interesting to see how so many of our habits are mediated by technology, and how our behavior in the digital realm can bleed over into the physical realm. Weird!
I recently finished typing a paragraph on my desktop and mindlessly lifted my right hand to slide the carriage return back.
Okay, not really. But that is a fun string of Facebook responses!
Thanks for recommending the Unsorted newsletter. A very thoughtful, and well reported, article.
I don’t have control-Z as a mental state beyond computing, but I have had the experience of instinctively treating physical books and magazines as digital interfaces. Reaching to tap the page of a book to advance to the next page as on an e-reader, or reaching to pinch the page of a magazine to expand text or images, that sort of thing. I’m not sure if that’s a mindset or just more of an interface mistake like the story in your comments of the toddler swiping the TV screen.
I started looking for the comments on a physical copy of the Daily News
Thank you for paying for journalism!
The control z segment was really good. Offhand I cannot think of any experience I have like that. But what I do notice is how less inclined I am to go to live sports now. I was at the last two Eagles playoff games, but it both cases I was more than willing to let another family member take my ticket, or sell them for the right price. Maybe it is an age thing, and the live experience is less thrilling than all the conveniences of watching at home (replays among them). I suppose in that regard, the technology behind modern sports broadcasts is sort of a control z thing for me.
That said, while I might be indifferent to football live (and it is my favorite sport), baseball live still blows away the at home experience for some reason.
About the distressed hat: a very thoughtful piece, but this phenomenon has been exported very succesfully from the USA to different parts of the world. Mostly out of a need to follow fashion, but the need to look like you and your piece of clothing have been through a lot in life is also part of it. So this need to express experiences by wearing pre-distressed clothing is a global trend happening.
One of my favorite hats is a second hand (‘vintage’) hat with a patch from Agriserum (some sort of soil enhancer): a farmer’s cap, for sure, as there are pieces of dried, brown earth inside the clothband of this bright green hat. It has been made by K-Brand in Orange City, Iowa. A small town named after the Dutch prince William of Orange and originally inhabited by Dutch immigrants. And now this hat has found its way to the Netherlands. Quite a journey. This hat has been through a lot in its life.
Tell me you’re a Mac user without saying you’re a Mac user. :-)
For the past 10 years or so, I’ve felt that we’ve moved to a Control Z culture.
People say and do things now with the subconscious expectation that they can just hit two buttons and make the situation disappear.
I have tried using my WMATA SmarTrip card (which I usually use on a subway turnstile) to gain entry into RFK Stadium for a soccer game. Even though I had my ticket in my pocket, I saw the turnstile and pulled out the subway card. Force of habit, I guess!
Fantastic substack interview! Absolutely worth subscribing if you do not already!
Is natural fraying of baseball cap brims really a thing?
I’ve owned/worn a LOT of baseball caps over the years, including caps I’d wear for work “out in the elements”. Not one of those caps’ brims has ever frayed.
I have several in my regular rotation now that have definitely been “distressed” (sweat-stained and faded to the bejeezus) but have nary a hint of fraying.
I was thinking exactly the same thing. I own close to 50 second hand caps and some are stained, bent or faded in color but never did the brim start to fray. These caps and jeans fray at places where they do not normally fray, unless you are near some short of a grinding machine on a daily basis.
I wear hats all the time, but I tend to wear the same hat every day until it wears out, and then I go buy a new one. I have definitely experienced frayed brims from living that lifestyle. Maybe I need to be buying higher-quality hats!
That must be it: I have too many hats, never wear them even two days in a row so they will not fray. Thanks for informing me about what happens if you do wear a hat all the time: fraying of the brim.
It happened to my 2004 vintage fitted Nats road cap. Between that and the sunbleaching, dirt and everything else, I stopped wearing it about 5 years ago.
I broke it out for the parade though :)
I don’t have any social media accounts so I never scroll endlessly or like or engage with any posts so I don’t have any of that as far as how I interact but the Control+Z thing is real.
I edited videos for a living and have now moved more into graphic design so I’m in and out of a bunch of different Adobe products and the first thing that I teach people with these products is that Control+Z is your best friend.
If we could build a heat map of our keyboards like a basketball shot chart those keys would be the hottest zone I would have.
RE Technology and its subconscious effects- I usually watch UGA football games on DVR, just a little behind the regular action. I ignore text message notifications on my phone when I am doing this, out of concern that an incoming text may be telling me about plays that I haven’t caught up to yet. Once this year, I attended a game at Sanford Stadium, and I ignored a flurry of text messages because I did not want them to spoil the action that I was watching live, as it happened.
Re command Z:
I find myself at times wanting to zoom in on physical photos by dragging my apart two fingers, and then being considerably frustrated that it’s entirely impossible.
Ted Anthony’s new Substack is just excellent. I’ve already subscribed and can’t wait for new entries…Great recommendation Paul!
I own way too many of the Angry Minnow brand distressed hats. Leaving aside that they look cool and offer some nostalgia, they are extremely comfortable. MLB-style hats do not have the same fit-and-feel from decades ago . . . or maybe my head just changed.
I think the whole fraying/ distressed look is part of the “blue collar” hard hat thing that sports is now embracing. For some reason people love to fantasize about this. I think it has been one of the more interesting cultural phenomena.
I would agree with this. I know Paul talks about it a lot, but the fetishing of blue collar life exists in so many areas. And I don’t think there is one simple psychological reason for it happening. At least when it comes to fashion I have a few thoughts:
1. The sort of pop/mainstream country music that has become popular. That certainly fetishizes the country boy rural, farmer, blue collar lifestyle in pop culture.
2. There has always been that natural attraction women have to more rugged blue collar guys, needless to say, if women find a certain look attractive, men will adopt it.
3. Certain articles of clothing feel more authentic when very broken in, and make it seem like you have a good story to tell about them / thus you are more interesting. Hats are one of them. In college I had a cap I wore pretty much all the time, to the point where more than a few times girls who I would see frequently around campus but didn’t actually know would ask me why I always wore it. (I just liked the hat)
4. Specific to hats, I think might be a counter movement to the flat brim / new looking hat style. The pushback being pre broken in distressed hats.
I’m ashamed to say that one more than one occasion my partner’s passed me a polaroid photo she’s just taken and I’ve absent-mindedly tried to use two fingers to zoom in.
I often wish I could rewind what my wife just said when I’m half-listening to her, because she will expect me to remember it.
A friend of mine, who is shy, always tells me she wishes there was a “like” button when she sees a guy she finds attractive.
Damn that old AP article has got me feeling nostalgic for the days I used to pick up Beer Frame at the record store.
Means a lot to hear that, Morgan — thanks.
“Well, it’s a little known fact that you’re allowed to wear a postal uniform for as long as its good, as long as you wear it to the specifications that were outlined when you bought it. Of course, the average uniform wears out after about eight years, but they only make the uniforms out of the finest American cotton and there are certain guidelines that allow for federally approved repairs.”
“Cliff, do you ever go home?”
I occasionally ask Siri to make me a coffee in the morning.
My mute button does not work on meowing cats at 3am.
Same. Must need new batteries.
Maybe not exactly the same as your Command Z but similar.
I have watched a lot of movies & TV shows on Prime Video recently. They have an incredible feature called X-Ray (for those who don’t use it, we are basically talking about a built in IMDB feature on their entire library). It is amazing but the downside is it takes me twice as long to watch things as the run time would suggest, because I pause half the scenes to review why a certain actor looks so familiar.
I have now noticed that when I watch on other platforms I can become very frustrated having to google this same information (so google fatigue is a thing). Even worse however is being forced to use my brain to actually recall on my own how or why I know the actors.
What about if you’re at a real movie theater?
The ⌘Z story and resulting comments reminded me of one of my favorite jokes from Late Night with David Letterman from July 17, 1987. It was a technology joke only for home viewers watching on their VCRs. Dave was doing his monologue when he said to the cue card woman, “Skip that one.” The camera switched for maybe a second to the cue card woman holding the joke. You could only read it if you were watching on tape and could pause the show, which I was and did.
The card read :
INCIDENT OCCURRED DURING
LAST NITES SHOW. AT ONE
POINT WE HIT A LULL, AND
A WOMAN JUMPED UP OFF OF
HER SEAT AND SCREAMED
OH MY GOD
I CAN’T FAST-FORWARD