September 15, 2014
Out & About: the Frank Clegg Leatherworks Workshop
A few months ago I was having a chat with my friend Jacob about how the idea of “American made” items is often over-romanticized. I told him that I certainly have a tendency to do this; when I hear the phrase “Made in the USA” I like to picture a wood-floored workshop filled with well-worn tools and with ceiling-high windows that fill the dusty air with afternoon sun. In that room, a skilled craftsman with graying hair and a smudged pair of glasses holds his work up to the light, his calloused fingers wiping away sawdust and checking for imperfections (and, of course, finding none). He then nods contentedly, eyes twinkling, and places the item in a box with my address on it before moving on to his next project. 
Of course, this image in my mind isn’t really what most American manufacturing looks like. Unless you’re at Frank Clegg’s workshop, in which case it’s exactly what it looks like. 
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In short, visiting the Frank Clegg workshop was like walking directly into that image I had in my head. In a room filled with the smell of leather and buckets of brass hardware everywhere, a very small group of men and women make some of the best leather goods on earth. Every surface is covered with an array of leather products in different stages of production; some stand alone as a made-to-order item or a sample, while others lie in a pile of identical products. All of them were designed and built in this Fall River workshop and bear the signs of good materials, good craftsmanship, and good taste.

Frank Clegg has been making leather goods since the early seventies, and has built up a considerable following in that time. Many of his core items remain virtually unchanged from their early designs and have remained popular across several generations. He told me the story of a lawyer who purchased one of his briefcases in the mid-seventies; 38 years later, the lawyer is about to retire, with that one briefcase taking him through his entire career. If that’s not an heirloom piece then I don’t know what is. 

Frank’s products have made it into the hands of many folks over the past 40 years, including one gentleman that happens to be the President of the United States (Frank proudly pointed out that Obama’s bag wasn’t a freebie; it was a full-priced purchase). There have been other celebrities and prominent figures that have been spotted with Frank’s wares, which is not wholly unsurprising given the quality and tastefulness of his products. Of course, his goods aren’t only for lawyers, politicians and celebrities; most of his customers are just people with an appreciation for well-designed and well-made things and are willing to treat these items as an investment.
The primary materials used in Frank Clegg products are belting harness leather and tumbled leather. These leathers are sourced from Italy and France and, although similar, differ slightly in feel and appearance. The belting leather is firmer and the tumbled softer, but both make incredibly beautiful leather goods. Frank is also known to experiment with more unique mediums like shrunken leather, which has a distinctive “wrinkled” texture. 

Frank also enjoys designing bags made with some stunning exotic skins - take the bag below, which is made from a single skin of a 21-foot wild alligator. “They don’t get this big in captivity, so we need to get wild skins for this,” he explains. He then hand-stains the hide for a rustic look that complements the wild nature of the animal. If you’re looking to buy “the Beast" it will set you back a cool $17,000, but you’ll probably be the coolest guy at the office with this at your desk.

One of the keys to Frank’s success in creating such wonderful pieces over the years (besides great materials and hard work) has been to keep his team small and local. He has never considered moving his small team to another location or outsourcing parts of the process to other areas, he explains. 
Advancements and improvements have been made over the decades,  including the addition of a large CNC machine used to cut leather hides (instead of metal dies). The effect is the same, but the former is much quicker and allows all that extra space to be filled with more leather goods instead of bulky dies. The CNC machine also reduces waste and allows the team to be more creative and experimental with their designs. 

In the past few years, Frank Clegg has collaborated with some exciting brands, his most recent being a partnership with Michael Bastian and with Dan Trepanier of TSBMen before that. I asked Frank if he had any exciting collaborations planned for the coming months; he grinned, and told me that he couldn’t give me details but that his next collab would be “pretty much the top of what I could hope for.” I guess I’ll just have to wait and see. 

In the meantime, Frank and his two sons are continually adding to their collection and working to improve every aspect of the business. The oldest son, Andrew, works full time in the factory and helps with design of new products (like this new camo bag), and the youngest son Ian takes care of product photography and works on the website and social media. 
I have been enamored with Frank’s products ever since I first discovered them, but this factory tour has convinced me that I will eventually have to buy one of his bags. It probably won’t be this year (or even next year) but it will happen. Fortunately for me, I don’t need to be in a rush to buy. Frank’s products have remained virtually unchanged in forty years, and if his team keeps making things the way they always have, I can’t imagine looking for leather goods anywhere else.

Frank explains the construction of his travel duffles

The inside of these bags is as beautiful as the outside. 

Small duffles in tan ready to be finished.

Suede makes an appearance.

Details of a briefcase handle (which can easily be replaced after years of wear)

The leather rainbow - black, chocolate, chestnut, cognac, tan.

Smaller items like these pencil cases and wallets remain popular as well.

Duffle bag details. 

More exotics - three panels of lizard skin.

Out & About: the Frank Clegg Leatherworks Workshop

A few months ago I was having a chat with my friend Jacob about how the idea of “American made” items is often over-romanticized. I told him that I certainly have a tendency to do this; when I hear the phrase “Made in the USA” I like to picture a wood-floored workshop filled with well-worn tools and with ceiling-high windows that fill the dusty air with afternoon sun. In that room, a skilled craftsman with graying hair and a smudged pair of glasses holds his work up to the light, his calloused fingers wiping away sawdust and checking for imperfections (and, of course, finding none). He then nods contentedly, eyes twinkling, and places the item in a box with my address on it before moving on to his next project. 

Of course, this image in my mind isn’t really what most American manufacturing looks like. Unless you’re at Frank Clegg’s workshop, in which case it’s exactly what it looks like. 

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September 2, 2014

Out & About: A Visit to the No Man Walks Alone HQ

When I visited New York last year I had the opportunity to meet many of the great people behind some of my favorite companies. One such person is Greg Lellouche, who founded No Man Walks Alone last year. Like I said then, Greg and his team have done a great job of finding wonderful items across a broad spectrum of styles; the garments vary significantly throughout the store, but the level of quality is high throughout. 

During my most recent trip East I had the opportunity to stop by the No Man Walks Alone HQ and  meet up with Kyle, who runs the day-to-day operations of the store along with Greg. I was able to take a look at some of their core products that I’d only seen online and peek at some new items headed to the website in the next couple of weeks. Just like before, I found the items to be exceptional across the board, both in quality and level of design.

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July 21, 2014
Men’s Clothing, Accessories, and Services in San Francisco and Beyond

Most of the questions my fellow bloggers and I seem to receive are inquiries for local information - the best stores, best tailors, and so on. These are reasonable questions, to be sure, but it can be difficult to answer them all. For that reason, I’ve compiled this super cool interactive map that should help everyone out, whether you’re just in town for the afternoon or you’re a seasoned local looking for a new place to get a haircut.

I will do my best to keep this map updated and accurate, but understand that stores open, close, and move all the time. And although I’ve tried to be as thorough as possible, I have undoubtedly missed places worth mentioning. For that reason, I encourage everyone to add their suggestions, additions, and corrections in the comments below. 

Anyway, here it is (if you’re reading this on tumblr, you’ll have to click the little gray box to see the map; if you’re on tumblr mobile, you’re probably out of luck). There’s a lot of information crammed in this map, so hit the “full screen” icon on the top right to be taken to the original size. 

The map is divided into three layers - clothing and accessories, barbers, and alteration tailors. I included websites, addresses and a brief description of the establishment in each pin. There’s a lot of information to digest, so I’ve copied it all below as well. 

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June 26, 2014
Out & About: The Alden Shop of San Francisco (170 Sutter St.)
There are quite a few clothing stores in downtown San Francisco. Some are common and approachable, like Uniqlo and Macy’s, while others like Nieman Marcus and Wilkes Bashford are only for the true ballers among us. Of course, it should come as no surprise that my favorite store is neither of these things - it is small, unassuming, and focused on doing just one thing but doing it well. It’s something surprisingly unique to the Bay Area, too - the Alden Shop of San Francisco.
I know what you’re thinking: “I thought Alden was a Massachusetts brand! It says ‘New England’ right there in the photo!” Well, you’re not wrong, but it’s a bit more complicated than that. Alden shoes are indeed made in New England, and they’re sold at high-end retailers all over the world. What makes the San Francisco shop unique is that it is one of only two stores that is directly affiliated with the factory (the other one is in Washington, D.C.). For that reason, it is the biggest - and best - collection of Alden shoes anywhere.[[MORE]]
As most of you know, Alden is considered by many to be the quintessential American shoe company; although there were many in decades past, most of them have declined into corrected grain oblivion. Fortunately for us, Alden has continued to make exceptionally handsome and comfortable shoes out of wonderful materials. These shoes are not particularly dressy, sleek, or sexy; rather, they’re solid, informal, and decidedly American-looking. 
I had a chance to chat with Mike Golden, general manager of the store, and we discussed a few aspects of the San Francisco shop that make it unique. The first is its breadth - the store has a huge amount of styles, most of which are available in a large size range (from 6AA to 14EEE). I personally verified this by taking a quick peek in the back room - there are thousands of little green boxes back there. If you order a pair of Aldens online from their website the order will be fulfilled from the San Francisco shop for this reason. 
The second point of distinction is that the shop carries many unique models due to its close relationship with the factory. You will often see shoes and boots bear the store’s name on their insole, a sign that they were made expressly for this location. Some models catch on and are brought into the regular rotation. Others end up on the top-secret sale display in the back of the shop (it’s one of the very few places you can find discounted Aldens).
The last (and perhaps the most important) unique aspect of the SF Alden shop is their access to rare makeups. Those that keep up with the shell cordovan scene know that Alden is one of the best companies around when it comes to working with the unique material, and that there are many rare models that never get to see the light of day. Colors like cigar, whiskey, and ravello are made in very small quantities by Horween and are extremely difficult to find. Mike told me that they never advertise the available stock in these rare models because they sell so quickly. What’s a blogger to do, then? Just give the store a call and they’ll happily tell you what they have in the back room. In fact, while I was chatting with the staff, we had to pause for an incoming phone call - a gentleman wanted a pair of 12D longwings in whiskey cordovan, and it was his lucky day.
Alden’s prolific use of Horween shell cordovan has made them popular in many circles, but it’s important to remember that they have many other classic models as well. Personally, my favorite are Alden’s suede shoes. They are soft, supple, and come in a beautiful array of colors - I have a hard time resisting the urge to buy them whenever I stop in.
I took a few pictures around the tiny store, but the best way to experience it is to stop by. The shop is small enough that you could walk right by it if you weren’t paying attention, but that’s just part of what makes it so special. It’s like a little secret club for people that appreciate simplicity and good taste. Be sure to take a peek next time you’re in the area.


Suede unlined loafers - perfect for summer.

The Horween Cordovan wall - only black and #8 colors are displayed. 

Unlined bluchers - I’m hoping to grab a pair in suede soon. 

Nobody does tassel loafers better then Alden. 

Blue suede shoes. 

A simple but rare shoe - Alden’s chukka boot in Horween ravello cordovan.  

Out & About: The Alden Shop of San Francisco (170 Sutter St.)

There are quite a few clothing stores in downtown San Francisco. Some are common and approachable, like Uniqlo and Macy’s, while others like Nieman Marcus and Wilkes Bashford are only for the true ballers among us. Of course, it should come as no surprise that my favorite store is neither of these things - it is small, unassuming, and focused on doing just one thing but doing it well. It’s something surprisingly unique to the Bay Area, too - the Alden Shop of San Francisco.

I know what you’re thinking: “I thought Alden was a Massachusetts brand! It says ‘New England’ right there in the photo!” Well, you’re not wrong, but it’s a bit more complicated than that. Alden shoes are indeed made in New England, and they’re sold at high-end retailers all over the world. What makes the San Francisco shop unique is that it is one of only two stores that is directly affiliated with the factory (the other one is in Washington, D.C.). For that reason, it is the biggest - and best - collection of Alden shoes anywhere.

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June 5, 2014
Out & About: A visit with Hall and Obi of Juniper Ridge
I’ve never been a cologne guy. It sounds ok in concept, but I’m a bit afraid; it seems so much easier to use it incorrectly than it does to achieve the desired effect. After all, I have met plenty of guys that have bad reputations because of poor cologne usage, but never someone who had a good cologne reputation (if there is such a thing - I guess that’s the sign of using it well). 
Don’t get me wrong; I still love nice smells, and I like the idea of wearing a light fragrance. Cologne just didn’t seem to have a good risk/reward ratio to me, so I never bothered. 
That changed quickly when I met the folks at Juniper Ridge. 
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Juniper Ridge is a small company making fragrances and scented grooming products from real plants harvested in the wild. All of their scents are captured and distilled by the small team of professional hikers/foragers on their frequent journeys into the West Coast wilderness. They climb trees, dig holes, and pick wildflowers until they have captured enough fragrance-filled flora to distill into oil. Large steel drums are filled with fresh plants and steam-distilled until the essential oils are extracted. These aren’t chemists in white coats mixing synthetics - these are nature-lovers making something very cool with their bare hands.
Hall Newbegin, a self-titled “plant nerd” and wilderness enthusiast, started Juniper Ridge in 1998, simply because he loved the outdoors and the plant life of the West Coast. He started making soaps and scents in his kitchen and sold them at Bay Area farmer’s markets; that continued for a while, but demand began to increase rapidly and now he leads a team of 15 people that love the outdoors and capturing its scent. I first read about them in a recent Esquire article and was so fascinated by their product that I made a point to track them down and introduce myself. I’ve now had a couple of opportunities to meet members of the Juniper Ridge team and use their products, and I’ve become a huge fan. 
Hall’s team begins their fragrance-creation journey by foraging around to find the scents that best capture a physical area. Once enough plants are gathered and all the noses approve, small amounts of oil are extracted in an old whiskey still. Other processes like infusion, tincture, and enfluerage are used until all the ingredients are in the correct form. These concentrated oils are then compared and combined, an iterative process that continues until that “ah-ha!” moment of discovery. For many of the short-run “field lab” scents, the journey stops here. The small amount of oils collected are turned into a limited run of seasonal scents. This is the case for this Spring’s Topanga Canyon, which is made from many California wildflowers that only bloom for a short time each year. For their core group of scents - my favorites are Siskiyou and Caruther’s Canyon - vegetation is collected in bulk and processed in 500 gallon drums in Oakland. 
The scents are difficult to describe, but at their core they smell extremely real (because they are). This is not a Chanel brand ambassador trying to conjure the idea of a “earthy, woodsy scent;” this is Hall recreating the sensation of a real place by using plants from that exact spot. Just a simple change of location, temperature, or time of year will completely alter the fragrance’s profile. That’s one of the reasons each scent has a harvest number - although Juniper Ridge carries several “stock” fragrance lines, it’s impossible to perfectly replicate them with different harvests. Rainfall, temperature, altitude, and more will have distinct effects on the final product.
I have used Juniper Ridge’s soap, cabin spray, and beard oil (even though I lack a beard), and have sampled most of the other products. They each have their own style of delivering a fragrance, but the best part is that they wear very light. Since they are not filled with “sticky synthetics,” it is almost impossible to overdose and become a walking cologne bomb. The scents last for about two hours before fading into nothingness. To me, this is one of the best aspects of the all-natural ingredient list.
It is often said that smell is the sense most strongly associated with memory; after experiencing Juniper Ridge’s products I’m inclined to agree. When I first smelled their Cascade Glacier and Siskiyou scents, collected near the area I grew up, I was immediately transported back to the outdoor escapades of my youth. I suddenly had strong memories of hiking the Trinity Alps, rafting the Deschutes river, and climbing the Middle Sister mountain. These scents weren’t reminiscent of those places, they were those places. Every time I use them it’s like taking a quick trip home. As Obi told me, “sometimes you just need to get the city out of your head”; a quick dose of this stuff does just that.
Thanks to Hall and Obi for chatting with me and letting me “sample” an inappropriate amount of product from their tester set. You can see all of their products - and read their harvest stories - on their website. You can also use this store locator to find their products in person. 

The scent library catalogs all of the plant oils used to create Juniper Ridge’s signature scents.

Their product line includes liquid cologne, spray fragrance, liquid soaps, beard and face oil, and more.

Pablo shows me how they distilled white sage on the trail for their most recent field lab scent. 

It takes quite a bit of plant matter to fill even a small vial with oil.

Out & About: A visit with Hall and Obi of Juniper Ridge

I’ve never been a cologne guy. It sounds ok in concept, but I’m a bit afraid; it seems so much easier to use it incorrectly than it does to achieve the desired effect. After all, I have met plenty of guys that have bad reputations because of poor cologne usage, but never someone who had a good cologne reputation (if there is such a thing - I guess that’s the sign of using it well). 

Don’t get me wrong; I still love nice smells, and I like the idea of wearing a light fragrance. Cologne just didn’t seem to have a good risk/reward ratio to me, so I never bothered. 

That changed quickly when I met the folks at Juniper Ridge. 

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June 4, 2014
Out & About: A Visit with Edwin and Matthew of Steed Tailors
In an airy suite on the 16th floor of the Mark Hopkins hotel, a few hundred fabric samples littered a small table. There was no fanfare, no media release, no press party with free booze to celebrate the arrival of these fabric swatches. Unlike the noise that seems to accompany traveling made-to-measure tailors, Edwin and Matthew DeBoise of Steed visited San Francisco with a bit more subtlety. These bespoke tailors already had plenty of fittings scheduled for their two-day visit, so there was no need to make any more of it.
When I saw that Steed tailors were visiting San Francisco I sheepishly sent them an email, asking if I could stop in and learn more about what they do (even though I have no ability to commission something). Matthew was kind enough to accept, so on Monday I headed over to have my first face-to-face meeting with a bespoke tailor. 
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The world of bespoke clothing is a bit of an elite club; the cost generally makes it prohibitive to most men that don’t have a large income or aren’t willing to invest thousands of dollars into a single garment. That being said, there is still value in understanding the bespoke process, whether you are a potential customer or not. After all, there is no better way to understand what quality looks like in a garment than to see the best there is to offer.
Edwin DeBoise founded Steed in 1995, after spending years under the legendary cutter Edward Sexton and then the famous bespoke house Anderson & Sheppard. Both of these names carry significant gravitas in the world of bespoke clothing and are definitely worth familiarizing yourself with. Edward Sexton joined forces with Tommy Nutter in the late 1960’s, and helped revitalize the Savile Row tailors by injecting a bit of rock n’ roll and celebrity into the old traditions. Familiar names like Mick Jagger, Elton John, and the Beatles were among the elite list of clients that frequented Nutter’s shop. On the other side of the coin, Anderson & Sheppard have been prominent Savile Row tailors for over 100 years, and they have developed a house style that has become almost synonymous with their name. 
Both of these companies, while wildly different in style, have influenced the way that Edwin cuts cloth for his suits; the result is something that is inherently British but also unlike any other tailoring house. The Steed silhouette is often referred to as a “drape cut” - this includes details like a sculpted, fuller chest, softly structured shoulders with trim neck and armholes, and a slim waist. The result of these details is a masculine look that is probably impossible to achieve outside of bespoke tailoring. It’s not for everyone, but it is hard to argue that the silhouette is striking. 
As impressive as the end result is, the bespoke process itself is something to behold; it begins, like any other custom experience, with body measurements, fabric selection, and garment customization decisions. Of course, the difference is already apparent, because these measurements are taken by a Savile Row tailor with decades of experience. After that, Edwin cuts the pattern and cloth himself, and passes it on to a small team of professionals for assembly. After construction and trimming are complete, the second fitting is scheduled and any necessary changes are made. The finishings are then completed, and the garment is sent out for its final round of adjustments. 
Of course, all of this skill, time, and incredible cloth comes at a price; bespoke suits and sportcoats are exceptionally expensive and are not for the faint of heart. Be that as it may, it is worth noting that Steed is now offering a made-to-measure “semi-bespoke” option for their garments. Like with most MTM clothing, the key differences are that a unique pattern is not created (rather, an existing one is adjusted) and there are presumably less fittings completed before the final garment is shipped. Even so, this process has the distinct advantage of being led by a skilled Savile Row tailor. As I have said before, the quality of a MTM commission is only as good as the person measuring you, and in this case you have access to the very best. Prices for bespoke and MTM options are outlined on Steed’s website. 
Edwin and Matthew plan on visiting San Francisco at least three times per year, so if you are interested in setting up a fitting you can send them an email to find out when they will be here next. I snapped a few photos below, but many more examples of finished Steed suits are available on their website. I’d like to thank Edwin and Matthew for putting aside some time to chat with me and show me what they do; they’re charming gents and it was a great way to spend an afternoon. 

Matthew in a MTM Steed suit made from Minnis fresco

A sampling of the many fabric options, mostly from the United Kingdom.

Edwin demonstrates his measuring techniques on his son Matthew

Examining some swatches from Moonbeam

Out & About: A Visit with Edwin and Matthew of Steed Tailors

In an airy suite on the 16th floor of the Mark Hopkins hotel, a few hundred fabric samples littered a small table. There was no fanfare, no media release, no press party with free booze to celebrate the arrival of these fabric swatches. Unlike the noise that seems to accompany traveling made-to-measure tailors, Edwin and Matthew DeBoise of Steed visited San Francisco with a bit more subtlety. These bespoke tailors already had plenty of fittings scheduled for their two-day visit, so there was no need to make any more of it.

When I saw that Steed tailors were visiting San Francisco I sheepishly sent them an email, asking if I could stop in and learn more about what they do (even though I have no ability to commission something). Matthew was kind enough to accept, so on Monday I headed over to have my first face-to-face meeting with a bespoke tailor. 

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February 24, 2014

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.

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February 10, 2014
Out & About: Tanner Goods Flagship Store - 1308 W. Burnside, Portland, OR
During my most recent trip to my home state I went in to Portland to visit some menswear companies that are distinctly “Pacific Northwest” - the area has a unique aesthetic, and Tanner Goods captures that as well as anyone else. While I was at the store I was able to chat with Colton Tong, manager of the Portland flagship, and learn a bit more about the brand.
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Tanner Goods began as a leather goods company making a few simple items; you may have heard the name in reference to the natural leather patch featured on many top-tier selvage jeans, or perhaps you’ve seen their camera straps around the necks of your favorite blogger. These days, though, Tanner Goods has a huge selection of leather belts, pouches, wallets, and lanyards, as well as canvas bags and other items that feature materials besides just leather. All of their products are made in the great city of Portland, Oregon, and embrace the rugged and utilitarian style of the Northwest.

All of Tanner Goods’ leather products are made from Chicago’s Horween Chromexcel calf leather, except for the natural leather, which is sourced locally from a tannery making the best vegetable tanned leather available. For those that aren’t familiar with natural leather, it is made with a different process that leaves the hide with its original color, and develops an incredible patina over time. The natural leather items have become some of Tanner Goods’ most popular and iconic pieces. The Chromexcel leather comes in a variety of colors, as seen here. All of the hardware used in the leather goods is solid brass or steel.

The Portland flagship store also carries a selection of clothing, including a solid stock of raw denim choices like Tellason and 3Sixteen (both of which source Tanner Goods’ natural leather patches on their jeans). The store’s stock of clothing can be seen at the Woodlands, which is the textile side of the Tanner Goods family.

All told, Tanner Goods is a company devoted to making simple, high quality goods that are functional and attractive. The Tanner Goods flagship store may be located in Portland, but they have many stockists around the US, including Bay Area staples like Unionmade and Welcome Stranger. If you’re ever in the Portland area, though, I encourage you to stop in and look around.
The rest of the “Out and About” Series can be found here.

Out & About: Tanner Goods Flagship Store - 1308 W. Burnside, Portland, OR

During my most recent trip to my home state I went in to Portland to visit some menswear companies that are distinctly “Pacific Northwest” - the area has a unique aesthetic, and Tanner Goods captures that as well as anyone else. While I was at the store I was able to chat with Colton Tong, manager of the Portland flagship, and learn a bit more about the brand.

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December 20, 2013
In a brief moment of serendipity last month, I happened to come across the Proper Cloth headquarters by pure accident; they were located right next to the Meermin trunk show and I stumbled in by chance on my way out. Needless to say, I took full advantage of the opportunity and had a quick look around.
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Over the years I have bought plenty of shirts from Proper Cloth (as seen here), so it was nice to meet founder Seph Skerritt and get a better look at what the company is up to. Their NYC office is loaded with fabric books and shirt samples, and locals can book appointments to be measured in person there.
I was also able to take a quick look at their expanding line of accessories; the ties in particular were quite nice (the cashmere ones - like on the mannequin below - were sold out at the time, but it looks like they’re back online). All told, it was a fun little excursion, and I’m glad I got to meet the team behind the products I own. My thanks go to Seph and the team for graciously hosting a random walk-in off the street claiming to be a “menswear blogger” - in other words, someone that comes in, takes a bunch of photos, and doesn’t buy anything. Thanks, guys!

In a brief moment of serendipity last month, I happened to come across the Proper Cloth headquarters by pure accident; they were located right next to the Meermin trunk show and I stumbled in by chance on my way out. Needless to say, I took full advantage of the opportunity and had a quick look around.

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November 21, 2013
Coming to America - A Visit to the Meermin Trunk Show
One of my most anticipated stops during the recent trip to NYC was the Meermin trunk show last week. The brand has been getting lots of press in the past year or two and I have been increasingly curious about their wares. The problem, though, is that their shoes are only physically present at their storefronts in Spain and Japan. Their web store is well set up for international orders, but since the shoes cannot be tried on it makes determining the correct size a difficult and somewhat risky undertaking.
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(Linea Maestro Auesterity Brogue in Snuff Reverse Calf)
Fortunately, Luisa and Pepe are working to change that. During their first official visit to the United States, the Meermin duo was able to help hundreds of men and women find the size and style that fit them best. Many shoes were available for purchase, but they encouraged anyone and everyone to come in and get sized. I tried on at least a dozen pairs, and Luisa and Pepe were happy to accommodate my incessant questions and requests. They had a good representation of their products available to try on, and even had some new items that have not made their way to their website yet.

(Classic Line Oxford in Cognac)
All told, their shoes are attractive, well-made, and competitively priced. I think that any menswear enthusiast would be hard pressed to find a shoe at Meermin’s pricepoint of equal or greater value. I should state that I do not (yet) own any pairs so I can not comment on how they wear, but from what I was able to learn from my visit there is no reason to be pessimistic. Meermin is a young company and only time will tell how their shoes will age, but they seem to have the right ingredients in play – good materials, solid construction, and classic designs.
Most of Meermins’s classic line of shoes start at 160 euros, including VAT. Their higher-grade “Linea Maestro” models start at 260 euros, with additional costs for shell cordovan and made-to-order options. Meermin is able to offer their shoes at these prices in part because the shoes are partially assembled in China and finished in Spain.
Another benefit of seeing Meermin’s stock in person was that I was able to directly compare their “Classic Line” and “Linea Maestro” offerings. I definitely think that their classic line of shoes are priced very competitively and reflect one of the better options out there, but even with my limited exposure to their products I was able to see that there is a significant increase in quality between the two lines. In terms of style, the Linea Maestro options are often more refined and sleek, but there are also increases in material and construction quality. For example, while the Classic line uses traditional split suede (suede side is the outside of a split leather piece) for some shoes, the Linea Maestro uses full-on reverse calf from a very well-known manufacturer. For those that don’t know, reverse calf is a suede that uses the “flesh” side of a whole skin as the suede, which results in a much higher quality and more supple end product (read more here).

(Linea Maestro Copper Reverse Calf Oxford and Snuff Austerity Brogue)
An example of improved quality between the two lines is the use of a hand welted goodyear welt in the Linea Maestro shoes (as opposed to a machine goodyear welt on the Classic line).  Beyond the gut-reaction of “hand welted” sounding better than “machine welted,” the differences can be seen and felt. According to Pepe, hand welting results in a slimmer profile and will also create a more comfortable shoe. “The hand welting will feel much more like a Blake-welted shoe, but with the durability of a Goodyear welt,” he explains. For those that aren’t familiar, Blake-welted shoes are well-known for their comfort but usually does not have the durability or ease of repair that a goodyear welt offers.
Another aspect of the company that has been popular with style afficianados is their (comparably) affordable made-to-order program. Many high-end shoe companies have something of this nature, but prices can get very high very fast. Meermin is probably the most inexpensive way to start with a relatively blank canvas and create a shoe to any number of specifications – shape, material, design, and more. One needs to only look at the Styleforum thread or Meermin’s tumblr to see the numerous examples of shoe dreams turned to reality.

(MTO leather options)
Pepe and Luisa are very knowledgeable about the products they sell, and it is clear that they are passionate about what they do. I’d like to thank them for taking the time to bring so many shoes over to the good ol’ USA, and for hosting a wonderful trunk show. If you have any questions about their products you can send them an email or check out their affiliate thread on Styleforum.

Luisa (left), Pepe (right)

Black Cordovan Balmoral Boot

Snuff Suede Boots

Classic Line oxfords - burgundy, cognac, black

Classic Line oxford and Linea Maestro cordovan longwing

Channeled soles on Linea Maestro shoes

Last comparison - Olfe (left), Hiro (right), size 8UK

Pepe’s lovely copper reverse calf double monks

Green shell double monk MTO - an example of Meermin’s versatility

Coming to America - A Visit to the Meermin Trunk Show

One of my most anticipated stops during the recent trip to NYC was the Meermin trunk show last week. The brand has been getting lots of press in the past year or two and I have been increasingly curious about their wares. The problem, though, is that their shoes are only physically present at their storefronts in Spain and Japan. Their web store is well set up for international orders, but since the shoes cannot be tried on it makes determining the correct size a difficult and somewhat risky undertaking.

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