Second Sunrise Archive: 40s/50s Can't Bust em, Copper King Denim Jacket

Vintage Can't Bust em, Copper King Denim Jacket

Maker - Neustadter Brothers
Era - 1940s / 50s
Material - 3x1 cotton denim 

Acquired - by Douglas Luhanko around 2009

The brand called Neustadter Brothers has it's roots back in San Francisco as one of the early work wear manufactures located on the west coast, established in 1852 and one of the major competitors to Levi's Strauss back in the days. When Levi's were granted a patent for strengthening work garments using a rivet in 1873, David Neustadter followed soon after with a patent granted in 1875 for "Improvement in fastening for pockets". The invention was to add an extra piece of fabric on top of the pocket that was stitched down on the inside to prevent the weak corners from ripping. Two years later David was also granted a patent for the continuous fly construction, where one pice of fabric is used to make up both parts of the fly leaving no weak spot where the crotch starts and where Levi's reinforced using a rivet. 

The brand had quite a success with their reinforced work pants (and a shirt patent that was issued in 1881) up until 1890 when the Levi's rivet patent expired and every work wear manufacturer was allowed to use rivets. Neustadter also had a sub line known at Boss of the Road, famous for it's logo featuring a bull dog. My friend Michael Allen Harris told me that it is thought that since Boss of the Road never was made on the west coast it was most likely the name used by the Neustadter brothers productions on the east coast. Many brands in the west coast were operated by families on the east coast that saw the potential in growing their business on the coast were the sun set. The same goes for Levi's Strauss. I don't know much more than that about the early days of Boss of the Road, so if you have any more information regarding this I would be happy to learn!

Copper King by Cant Bust Em

For what I have learned about the brand known as Copper King by Can't Bust 'Em, the brand was first made by the Neustadter Brothers during the great depression and it later become the brand they used for making jeans and jackets in the five pocket jeans style that became popular after WWll, when Boss of the Road still was more focused on traditional work garments. It's simliar to what Lee did when introducing the Lee Riders line and later also the Wrangler Blue Bell. These garments was what become the outfit of the American hero of that time, the Cowboy, and it was also becoming more common for the Americans to wear denim garments as part of the everyday wardrobe. 

Copper King by Cant Bust Em

However the brand isn't around any more, as H.D. Lee bought the rights for Boss of the Road and Copper King by Can't Bust 'Em in the 50s if I remember it right.

Copper King by Cant Bust Em

The jacket is made of a 3 x 1 denim twill and it has details such as the pleated front, two large chest pockets and a leather label in the neck and a fit that was in style back in the 40s 50s. 

Copper King by Cant Bust Em

The leather neck label measures 7,5cm times 4,2cm and reads "Sanforized Copper King by Can't Bust 'Em". At the top left corner you can also see a rooster dressed up in a denim bib overall, the bird could later be seen together with the Lee logo when they had bought the rights to the brand. 

Copper King by Cant bust em

On the back of the jacket we can see some pulling from the dried leather patch. The shrinking leather patches are usually referred to as "beef jerky" or "jerky tags" due to the fact that they will get stiff and dry when washed and worn. It's common that the patches break and let go of the jacket when worn and thats when you will look for traces in the denim to determine if it's been a leather or a paper tag, as you can see by he traces on this jacket it would be pretty obvious that a shrunken leather tag casued the wear on the fabric if the patch had fallen off. 

Copper king by cant bust em

Im not sure if the shape of the pockets has a specific function or if it's just a way of making a unique shape not used by others. The slanted shape of the pocket might have a purpose to make it easier to reach what you have in them using one hand. That is said to be one of the reasons why Wrangler had similar shape on the pockets of their denim shirt designed in the same era. You can also see that a few stitches was removed at the left corner of the pocket flap and I suspect that someone did this with to be able to store a pencil there.

Copper king by cant bust em

The buttons on this jackets are probably one of my favorites, I just think the design of the text goes well with the era and that the shape of the button and the material used gives them a genuine look. In this picture you can also see that they used a two-tone stitch for the pockets, combining a dark and a lighter thread. This can only be seen on the pockets of this jacket. 

Copper king by cant bust em

The pleated front has also been made with a unique design making it different from the more traditional folded front used by Levi's, Lee and Wrangler of the time.

Copper king by cant bust em

And thats the way it's folded, designed to bring some extra movement to the fabric when the jacket is worn closed. I wouldn't say that its better or worse than the more traditional way of doing it but it gives the same result. I think it's interesting to see an example made to serve the same purpose but still have a different design, this kind of pleating wasn't protected by a patent so it could have  been made as the Levis ones but I suspect that the designer behind this jacket didn't wante it to be considered a copy of an already existing jacket made by another brand.

Copper king by cant bust em

The inside of the pleated front.

Copper king by cant bust em

In the left chest pocket we also find the Union ticket. The printed cotton cloth labels that were introduced back in the 19th century and were added to garments to show that the brand was producing clothes according to the standards set by the union.

Copper king by can't bust em

At the lower back we find two adjusters for the width and according to me, this is probably my favorite design detail on this jacket. The adjuster is made out of a folded belt loop and a bartack machine has been used to make up the space for the button. I think it's clever and also looks well made. The buttons are so called "cat eye buttons" and they are synonymous with Lee jackets, but Im not sure if this type of button was used by Lee or Cant Bust Em first.

Copper king by cant bust em

On the right sleeve we also find a repair. Someone has been cut away a piece of the original fabric and then patched it with a larger denim fabric from the inside. The patch is stitched by hand and I think it brings some character to the garment, showing it's history of being worn a lot.

The jacket has no size but have the following measurements:

Armpit to armpit - 52 cm
Length from neck to botom of the jacket - 53,5 cm
Sleeve length from armpit to end of cuff -  48,5 cm

If you know something about this jacket or the Copper King by Cant Bus't 'Em brand that you believe is worth mentioning I would be happy to here your thoughts in the comments!

Last week we celebrated the cold winter, writing the story of a vintage Swedish military shearling coat and if you think it could be of interest you will find the article here.

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