Meet The Collector #19: Cory Piehowicz

Today the 19th episode of the topic Meet the CollectorMeet the Collector is about passionate people with a focus on collecting. With this topic I will give you an insight in their special collection. Collectors will tell their story behind their treasures, show their most rare and unique items and tell you all about the collecting thrill.

Cory Piehowicz has an amazing and very rare collection of authentic workwear photographs, clothing, bandanas, and so on. Next to that, he’s also a very talented photographer. Thanks for sharing some treasures of your collection and story Cory. Enjoy.

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Cory Piehowicz

Cory Piehowicz

  • Name: Cory Piehowicz.
  • Living in village & country: Live in Sausalito, California USA.
  • Age: 43 years.
  • Instagram ID: @banditphotographer.
  • Number of Instagram followers: 32.ooo followers.
  • Website: www.corypiehowicz.com
  • Daily work: Photographer/Denim Consultant.

What’s your favorite brand:

This is a very very tough question. When I first got into workwear/vintage, I was obsessed with Mister Freedom, which till today is one of my favorite brands. Some of my other favorite brands now are: Blue Blanket, White Feather MFG, Freewheelers Japan,Willie Watson MFG, CeeBlues, Runabout Goods, Freenote Cloth, Two ears brand bandanas, Sidnaw company, SamRobertsLA, and Wornovertime.

My favorite vintage denim brand is Neustadter Bros and second is Levi’s.

Cory Piehowicz

What’s your favorite denim item:

My favorite vintage denim item in my collection are a very old pair of jeans found in an old tobacco farm. They look handmade and have so many hand repairs on them. It is cool to see the life of the denim. Also to see how much time they put into repairing it and not being able to buy a new one so they keep there old garment alive as long as they could. I also have a pullover shirt from the same farm.

Cory Piehowicz

Cory Piehowicz

Cory Piehowicz

Cory Piehowicz

Cory Piehowicz

Cory Piehowicz

What’s your favorite footwear brand:

My favorite footwear brand right now is Danner. Most of them are made in the USA. They make incredible hiking boots and some really cool vintage inspired work boots.

How long are you collecting:

I started collecting vintage photographs of workers around 1996. Which is were my interest and love for vintage clothing started. I would look at these old photos of workers and wonder what clothes these guys were wearing and what happened to all the clothing. Do any of these actual garments still exist? I did a lot of research on the internet and found out there were a few other people that were into vintage workwear. I contacted a few of them and that is where my addiction started. At that point I was finding about 4 – 5 really good photographs a week. I would get so excited to find new images of a particular garment in a photo. For example, I would geek out on finding a portrait of a guy wearing denim in the late 1800’s where you could see the dart stiching on the jeans or new pocket shapes and patterns.

Cory Piehowicz

Cory Piehowicz

Cory Piehowicz

Cory Piehowicz

How many items are there in your collection: 

I would say I have about 2 thousand or more photos in my collection of men wearing workwear. Probably the biggest collection of men wearing workwear from 1860’s-1920’s in the world. My clothing collection is much smaller, I only kept about 15 or so really good pieces. My vintage bandana collection is around 30+ turkey reds and 1800’s silk bandanas. One of my favorite bandanas is this blue anchor bandana where you can see the discharge has starting eating all the fabric.

Cory Piehowicz

How or why did you became a collector:

I have always been a collector. I also collect vintage taxidermy and some odd things like old wax heads from wax musuems. Not sure why I became a collector but when I surround myself with old stuff, it is inspiring and gives me a great feeling. It is really hard to describe what it really is that draws me to a piece. I think for me the more it is beat up or shows character the more I like it and can see the history of the photo or garment.

What’s the best thrill about collecting?

The best thrill about collecting is really finding a piece that speaks to you. It is like a treasure hunt. One example is when you are out hunting for denim and are digging around and see a piece of fabric, it is like “O Shit”. Your heart starts pumping and your adrealine goes through the roof. I think that is why it is so addicting. One of my close friends Brit Eaton  (read more about Brit here). has this addiction to the extreme. He has been a big inspiration to me and really good friend. I would say he has the best 1800’s workwear collection in the USA.

One of the other things that gets me is mining candle wax. I will collect anything related to mining candles. If I see candle wax on a pair of jeans or a jacket, it drives me crazy. Miners used candles in mines until around 1920’s, carbide lamps took over and replaced the candles. I have found miners candles, denim with wax on them, candle boxes, and wax candle wrappers in old mines before. So when I see a photo with a miner holding candles or candle wax all over their pants, I have to have it.

Cory Piehowicz

What is your favorite item and why: 

One of my favorite items is a large format photo of group of train workers working on the Pennslyvania railroad. It has a mix of people and cultures working. There is so much detail in the photo and I know it is super rare. One of the other rare and favorite pieces in my collection is a large format photo of a group of workers and someone cut out another photo and glued the fellow into this photo. Kind of a old way of photoshopping someone in that should’ve been there but couldn’t make it at the time.

Cory Piehowicz

Cory Piehowicz

What’s your best bargain in your collection: 

I think some of the best bargain in my collection is a very old bandana I got as a gift from two of my friends. It is a large bandana and the pattern is beautiful. Lots of character.  I use to get those bargains all the time on eBay but now there is a whole another generation of collectors collecting the same thing, so it is getting harder and harder. But this makes me really happy that the vintage clothing collecting will stay alive for a long time.

Cory Piehowicz

Cory Piehowicz

Which item was the hardest to get and/or the most valuable one: 

I think some of the hardest items to get in my collection are images of guys wearing Levi’s or riveted clothing in the 1800’s. I have found a few but they are very rare. Also finding photographs of miners wearing pleated denim or duck blouses.

Cory Piehowicz

Cory Piehowicz

Cory Piehowicz

Which item would you add to your collection (wishlist): 

I think one item I would love to add to my collection is an original mugshot album form Nevada from the 1870’s. The album is filled with incredible portrait/mugshots of arrested miners wearing workwear. My buddy has this album but won’t be getting rid of it anytime soon. It also has an original mugshot of Black Bart in it.

It’s great to have a solid crew to go mine exploring with. Two of my best friends Eric and Jeff have been going exploring for a few years now. One of the craziest things we have run across in a mine was when we cut under a shaft and there was a dead mule hanging off the wood, looking down at us. It must’ve fell down the shaft a longtime ago. It was super creepy. Probably the rarest thing the crew has found was a Levi scrap dating 1873 – 1875 with the leather tag entact. It is a very rare label that none of us have every seen. It had San Francisco printed really large near the top of the label and the tag was pre 1875 since it didnt have the repatent on the label yet, they also only say Duck and Denim Pants, after 1875 repatent they changed it to Duck and Denim Clothing. The rivets and buttons are all unstamped or marked. One of those cool pieces that fill in gaps in the Levi’s history. We would say it is the earliest piece of Levi’s with a readable tag. There have been other Levi’s found from this time period but without a readable label or any label at all.

Cory Piehowicz

Cory Piehowicz

Cory Piehowicz

Cory Piehowicz

Where do you get your daily inspiration from? 

I get my daily inspiration from old photographs. I think I learned to dress the way I do from old photos as well. The goal is to mix vintage workwear with a few modern items so it doesn’t look like you are wearing a costume. Some pieces are hard like Wabash fabric but who cares, Stifel fabric always looks good to me. Other photographers and artist inspire me as well. I think painters like Mark Maggiori and Nicholas Coleman, Thomas Fluharty inspire me too. Movies also play a big part in inspiring me, I just saw the film “The Nightingale”, and visually it was incredible. The outfits were so raw and the fabrics and colors were driving me nuts.

Where are you working on lately?

Currently I am working on my book “Worker”, which is a collection of photos from my personal archive from 1860’s – 1920’s of portraits of workers. The book also consist of garments and relics from the same time period. I have been working on the book for over 15 years so hopefully I can finish the book this year. I also have new collaboration with Blue Blanket on a pair of work pants in a cobalt duck canvas. I also just finished a new Bandit shirt which will be available soon at www.coryp.com.

Cory Piehowicz

Cory Piehowicz

Cory Piehowicz

What’s your favorite inspiration quote:

“Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one’s definition of your life; define yourself.” by Harvey Fierstein.

Cory Piehowicz

Cory Piehowicz

Read also the previous episodes of Meet the Collector;

Jerry van Vorstenbos: Eposide #1

Michael van Hal: Episode #2

Antonio di Battista: Episode #3

Ronald Vijsma: Episode #4

Eric Maggiori: Episode #5

Ruedi Karrer: Episode #6

Viktor Fredbäck: Episode #7

Dave Edwards: Episode #8

Mohsin Sajid: Episode #9

Brit Eaton: Episode #10

Kay Knipschild: Episode #11

Douglas Luhanko (Second Sunrise store): Episode #12

Jasper Lijfering (Amsterdam Vintage Watches): Episode #13

Will Varnam (Military Collector): Episode #14

Mirko Di Giovanni: Episode #15

Alberto Ulmi: Episode #16

Noelie Ronczka (The Brass Lady): Episode #17

Andrew Phelps (High Grade U.S. Standard): Episode #18

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Written by Wouter Munnichs
I'm the founder of Long John. Next to running this daily magazine, I'm working as a freelance denim specialist for the industry. Titled as 'Denim Influencer 2020' by Rivet 50. Celebrating my 10th anniversary with Long John this year.