Whats up once more! I have been falling down the Somerton Man rabbit gap over the previous few days, and I not too long ago determined to do some particular analysis that I feel would possibly shed a bit of sunshine on the background of this case. My very own skilled background ended up being rather more related to the case than I would initially thought, and I would like to share a few of my findings with you.
For many who are unaware of the case, here’s a abstract. Lengthy story brief, a person was discovered lifeless in Adelaide, Australia in December 1948, with no identification and no obvious explanation for dying. He was later linked to an area girl, Jo Thomson, who might have had an illegitimate youngster fathered by him just a few years prior. His dying is commonly theorized to be linked to Chilly Warfare espionage, each due to the mysterious explanation for dying (presumably poison) and the seeming absence of any figuring out options on his particular person, notably the shortage of labels on his clothes. The road of thought appears to be that, as a possible spy, he wouldn’t need any of his clothes to be traceable to a retailer or nation of origin, and so he or his handlers took a seam ripper to all his clothes and tore the labels out.
As somebody with a background in costumes and trend historical past (notably that of the mid-20th century), I made a decision to look into this and see if I would be capable to draw any conclusions about what the person’s clothes can actually inform us about who he was and the way he ended up the place he did. Firstly, I took a take a look at this documentary made by the Australian Broadcasting Firm in 1978, the place an investigator kinds via the precise gadgets of clothes belonging to the Somerton man on digicam. A variety of issues bounce out to me: firstly, the commonly-cited assertion that all of SM’s clothes had the labels eliminated is unfaithful. The clothes on his physique didn’t have any labels on it, and on no less than two of the items (shirt and jacket) there may be seen proof of labels having been eliminated, however the clothes in his suitcase featured a number of gadgets of clothes with distinct and traceable labels. Within the video, the investigator factors out an Australian-made “Pelaco” model shirt among the many man’s belongings, with a tag just like this one pictured in a 1949 commercial (although the tag on SM’s shirt seems to have a cricket-bat design on it that I have never been capable of finding different examples of). The pair of trousers discovered within the man’s suitcase additionally had a label printed on them, seen within the high proper of this close-up photograph of the laundry marks on his clothes. Although I can not utterly make out what it says, others on the web have commented that it seems to be like the brand of Marco model’s “Elasta-Strap” trousers, manufactured in Australia within the 1940s. Then, in fact, there may be the well-known tie and laundry bag with the identify “Keane” on them present in his belongings. Many proponents of the “spy” concept postulate that this was a false identify meant to throw investigators off the path, but when this had been the case, why go away the simply traceable labels on different clothes within the suitcase? Australia’s clothes trade was nonetheless comparatively small within the 1940s, and each Marco and Pelaco seem to have been manufactured in just a few factories throughout the nation, making it pretty straightforward for high-level intelligence to no less than confirm the place these things had been initially bought.
Which brings me to my subsequent level – the concept that mid-century spies hid their id just by eradicating clothes labels would not appear to carry as much as historic scrutiny. Within the 1940s, clothes markets weren’t but as globalized as they’re at the moment, and even small inconsistencies would make an outsider stick out like a sore thumb amongst locals. Even within the Somerton Man case itself, investigators famous particulars just like the “American”-style stripes on the person’s tie, operating down and to the proper moderately than up and to the left. In consequence, no less than amongst British intelligence within the 1940s, the manufacturing of clothes for undercover brokers was really extraordinarily meticulous, and gadgets had been usually created from scratch with faux labels sewn in to cover their origin. Admittedly, the idea tends to argue that SM was a Soviet spy, and it is doubtless that Soviet intelligence businesses didn’t have the sources to be fairly as detail-oriented because the Brits, besides, knowledgeable spy on a global mission would doubtless be given garments made specifically for him, both with out labels or with false ones stitched in, moderately than sloppily tearing out present labels with a pair of scissors (which I imagine is how they had been eliminated, as evidenced by the small tear on the jacket lining the place the label was once).
[As a quick side note – investigators at the time pointed out that the ivory-colored tie found in the man’s belongings looked strange and out of place as well, as light-colored ties were not regularly worn at the time. Because I don’t know for sure whether this was a regional trend or not, I can’t exactly link it it to the “regionally specific” spy clothing issue above; however, I would like to point out that ivory ties would have been frequently worn by American military officers at the time, as opposed to the dark ties typically worn by Brits and Australians. My background isn’t in military costume, so take this purely as speculation, but I felt it was worth noting.]
So, if the Somerton Man did not take away his clothes labels as a result of he was a spy, why did he take away them? It is theoretically doable that he’d deliberate to commit suicide and did not need his physique to be acknowledged, but when that had been the case, it might be odd for him to do the deed solely 400 meters from the house of a lady who virtually definitely knew him. However a little bit of analysis into the historical past of the Australian garment trade turned up some info that may make clear issues a bit. In response to this website, run by an Australian classic retailer proprietor and trend historian, clothes tags had been comparatively unusual in Australia till after the top of WWII. The truth that the one garment we all know had a stitched-on, moderately than printed-on tag is the Pelaco shirt, which the investigator within the video factors out is nearly model new, makes me marvel if eradicating clothes labels was merely a behavior that SM had, and that he was planning on ultimately eradicating the tag on the Pelaco shirt as properly. If he had spent sufficient time in Australia to grow to be used to tag-less clothes, I can think about that clothes with tags–particularly the big, scratchy tags widespread in clothes from the 1940s–would really feel insufferable. Alternately, if he was born and raised in Australia, he might have merely seen clothes tags as extraneous and meant to be eliminated after buy, the identical approach one would take away a price ticket earlier than carrying one thing. In both case, I do not assume the lacking labels are indicative of something sinister – most likely simply any individual within the behavior of clipping them out for one cause or one other.
Finally, my takeaway is that the state of the Somerton Man’s clothes is definitely mysterious, but in addition has some fairly mundane explanations, particularly when modern cultural variations are taken into consideration. The clothes trade has modified quickly over the course of the final hundred years, and earlier than drawing conclusions about outdated instances primarily based on clothes, it is all the time useful to double-check and ensure we’re not it from a solely fashionable perspective. May the Somerton Man have been a spy? It is solely doable. But when he was, the clues to that reality can be discovered someplace aside from in his closet.