Out & About – Harding & Wilson Bowties in Portland, OR

In the past I have mentioned that I grew up in a small town in Oregon’s Willamette Valley; this is an area of the country where understanding the finer points of style is not a priority for most men. Be that as it may, I would be lying through my teeth if I said that I was the only style-oriented young man to come out of the area in recent years. One of my well-dressed high school friends is Peter Lee, and a few years ago he turned his interests in clothing into a legitimate business – Harding & Wilson.

When Peter and his college friend Alex Nguyen created Harding & Wilson a few years back, they were a small operation making bowties one by one on a couple of old sewing machines. Today, very little has changed, except that now there are many more orders to fill. Peter and Alex still make each bowtie on their own, and when they’re not working over a sewing machine they’re out finding fabric at local mills or thrift and surplus stores.

One of the things that I enjoy about Harding & Wilson is that they’ve done a great job of capturing the rugged “Northwest” aesthetic through their use of local materials. Most of their fabrics come from Pendleton Mills, a Portland textile legend. Others are vintage deadstock fabrics and thrift store finds. All of them are casual and handsome; very different from the silk repp Brooks Brothers ties that we’ve come to associate with the style. These ties seem at home with dressed-down materials like chambray, denim, and tweed, rather than worsted wool and broadcloth.

While I visited the Harding & Wilson showroom/sewing floor/headquarters, Peter showed me through their manufacturing sequence and made me a lovely tie in the process. The model I chose was the Adair, a plaid tie made from Pendleton wool on their modified butterfly pattern. It was great to watch the entire process, from pattern cutting to sewing to assembly and packaging. It’s clear that these guys enjoy what they do and are putting care into each step. Even the packages are individually stamped with their logo and a vintage map of the Northwest.

Of course, I consider myself fairly traditional when it comes to men’s clothing and certainly would never say that an artisanal bowtie is a staple of the modern man’s wardrobe; that being said, they are beautiful little things and add a bit of Northwest grit to a classic item. If these are the type of item that might work well with your style then I would encourage you to look through their website to see the rest of the designs.

Many people put a lot of pride into buying products that are made in the USA; I’m in full support of this, but I like it when I can go one step further. I love buying products that are not only made locally but made by a single person or small team responsible every product in their store. Brands like Vanda, Jack/Knife, Red Cotton Denim, and Harding & Wilson come to mind as true artisans that control every aspect of their product. In this case, buying a Harding & Wilson tie not only means buying an American-made item, it means buying something made by Peter Lee – baseball enthusiast, Oregon State fan, and bow tie expert.