The Birth of Buffalo Shirt

Bob Mascall was handsome as a movie star and the founder of one of the coolest stores in Half Moon Bay in the late 1970s. Called Buffalo Shirt, which was clever enough, Bob, a manly and very married man, learned to sew and with his new skill brought life to the hearty canvas bag—and emerged as one of the very few male merchants on Main Street.

I met with Bob Mascall when Buffalo Shirt was housed within the sweetly named Tin Palace, (formerly a rundown old building which he renovated) on the south side of Half Moon Bay’s historic concrete bridge.

(What sticks out in my mind are the long lines of locals standing in front of Buffalo Shirt, the line stretching ‘round the corner with folks patiently waiting for the front door to open. This was not a regular store day but Buffalo Shirt’s annual sale—which was more like a big town event. By then Mascall not only sold the coveted canvas bags but quality handmade woolen jackets and shirts and socks from Ireland. He flew there with his stewardess wife to choose and purchase the lovely soft goods).

But when I talked to Bob it was all about canvas bags. He learned to sew at Half Moon Bay High School, he told me, adding that ” the first thing I made was a miniature log carrier.â€?

After “I learned to thread a needle and after I learned the idiosyncrasies of the sewing machine,â€? Bob said, “I was better off spending my time at home,â€?

Soon after canvas luggage became his passion and Buffalo Shirt was born.

He showed me white canvas shoulder bags and totes, small, medium and large, with perfect seams.

“I do these by hand,â€? Bob told me, “ and I think I do it better than anybody in the world.â€? I can’t sew, how could I dispute that?

“I like to sew but I don’t want to sew forever,â€? confessed Mascall, then the father of a two-year-old.

When the conversation turned to a brief history of luggage, Bob told me that before the appearance of metal trunks, “people carried their things in canvas bags. This is the way people carried things until they started making metal trunks. Today people try to avoid long lines in airports with luggage they can sling over their shoulders. It’s kind of a ‘reverse evolution’.â€?

Bob Mascall may have been prescient. These days you certainly do see more shoulder bags at the airport than metal trunks!

(Note: Sadly, Buffalo Shirt is no longer in Half Moon Bay).