John Wayne Sparse
The John Wayne Sparse pattern is very unique. The broad black stripes really stick out and have a boldness that other patterns don't have. I bought this pair of pants at a used clothing store in 1985 for the paltry sum of $9.95. They didn't fit me but I liked the color. Back then, rarely did I fork out money for stuff that didn't fit me. On the other hand, I was pretty thin and most everything did... except these pants. I'm glad I did. Years later I learned that the A-L stamp was simply "Asian Large". No wonder they didn't fit! The waist is about 30" and the length is the same.
In 1990, I was in need of some cash and thought I'd sell some of my uniforms. I had no problem selling the the WWII stuff as it was becoming very popular. I didn't want to sell my tigers because number one, they were hard to find. There was no Internet or e-Bay. Secondly, I didn't want to sell my favorite items. However, since I couldn't fit into these pants I thought I'd get rid of them. Believe it or not, I took them to two different Military collector shops and neither one wanted them. The first shop didn't want them because he dealt mainly in WWII stuff and they were small. The second guy (who claimed to be a Viet Nam uniform "expert") told me flat out they were fake. He even went as far to say that the A-L marking and the pull tabs on the waist were the give-a-ways. "Tiger stripe clothing was never marked because they were use for sterile missions", he said. I asked him if he'd give me ten buck (basically what I paid) for them.... He chucked and wished me luck. At the time, I was bummed out. So, thinking I had a pair of small fake tiger pants, I put them away never to see the light of day until I bought Johnson's book.
A close up of the waist adjusting tabs.
Below is a close-up of the A-L stamp on the inside waist. Once I realized these there John Wayne Sparse, I kept a wary eye out on e-Bay for anything similar. It would provide a good market value for them. When a pair of pants finally did surface, they brought almost $275.00 US. (In 1999) and they weren't in nearly this nice of condition. A similar JWS shirt went to Japan via e-Bay about two years later for nearly $400.00 US. Needless to say I was happy the 1990 deal never went through. And to the "expert" (whom I don't do any business with anymore), you lose!
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Once I found out the good news on the pants, I set out to find a shirt to make a set. This was pretty hard because of the few scarce shirts that did show up on the market were either way out of my price range or they were too faded or tattered. But, I always kept my eyes peeled none the less. One day while searching e-Bay I saw this shirt up for sale... The fade looked close to my pants and it was an Asain Large, given by the measurements in the auction. I watched it closly for a week and low and behold, here it is. It does have just a slight bit more fade than the pants but it's still very, very close.
The back panel clearly shows the broad sweeping stripes.
Looking closly, you'll note there is no size stamp in the neck... just the small hanger loop. However, another unusual feature of this shirt is the style of pockets. They have a center bellows feature which was not common and usually found only on very early garments.
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The shirt and pants paired together for comparison. You can see the slight fade difference between the two. Finding a complete set like this would be very difficult and probably cost a huge amount of cash, if the owner wanted to sell it.
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