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Fezzes and other fashion finds from Tiki Oasis 9

August 18, 2009 |  6:00 am

Tiki_oasis3

Much to the chagrin of my editing troika, I bolted out of the office early on Friday to get to Tiki Oasis 9 in time for the Tiki fashion show included in the evening's lineup.

It was exactly the type of thing you'd expect -- lots of floral print shirts, aloha-inspired dresses and bathing suits (this year's theme was "Surf City," after all).

What I hadn't expected were the  fezzes that seemed to be as common as Tribbles at a "Star Trek" convention. (It's such a rare choice in head gear, until today I wasn't even sure how to conjugate the plural version.) Turns out they're part of the appreciation for all things retro (think Shriners, Shag paintings or Shag paintings featuring Shriners, of which there are more than few).

I resisted as long as I could, but by mid-day Saturday, I'd lost control of my senses and plunked down my debit card at the  Fez-o-rama booth for a swirly red velvet number embroidered with a Moai. I even had the honor of the fez maker himself -- Jason Rodgers -- affixing a  black tassel to the top.

Rage_fez I only had a few minutes to chat with Rodgers -- business at his booth in the Tiki Oasis "vendor village" was brisk, but among the details he shared was the story of how he fell into this particular hat racket -- working on a dress pattern one day, he plopped a sleeve atop his head in a moment of silliness and was inspired. 

Anyone whose business plan can be summed up as "If it's good enough for Groucho Marx it's good enough for me," is worth talking to in a little more depth. Until I get a chance to chat him up in more depth, you can follow him on Twitter where he hangs his hat (er, fez) as @Fezmonger.

The other fun fashion finds were the cool T-shirts being sold by Portland, Ore.-based Vintage Roadside. The husband-and wife team of Jeff Kunkle and Kelly Burg (who refer to themselves on the fascinating accompanying blog as "Mr. and Mrs. Roadside") have discovered -- and preserved -- authentic advertising images of  mom-and-pop roadside businesses that existed from the '30s through the '60s but Rage_shirt have since disappeared.

But they don't just appropriate the images, they meticulously research and catalog the back stories of the now defunct roadside attractions -- and donate a portion of each sale to the National Trust for Historic Preservation,

For example, the mermaid logo Aquarama T-shirt I bought (for Mrs. Rage) speaks to the bygone days of live underwater acts that entertained diners at an Osage Beach, Mo., attraction of the same name in the 1930s, and the entry on the website compiles what information they've been able to find (Kelly told me they even got a chance to interview the restaurant's former "aquamaid.")

The high-quality pre-shrunk T-shirts are worth the $20 price for the artwork alone, but in an era where the fading logos of yesteryear are so often appropriated for kitsch value alone without so much as a second thought, the added benefit of the back story makes them worth many times that.

-- Adam Tschorn

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Photos (from top): the finale of the Tiki Oasis 9 fashion show (note the fez-wearing fellow), my new handmade velvet fez, and the artwork from another purchase -- a Vintage Roadside T-shirt advertising the now defunct Cherry Hill, N.J., Hawaiian Cottage restaurant. Credit: Adam Tschorn.

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