ACL Films | James Wilson of Secret Forts

Since my first discovery of the blog Secret Forts, the site and its author James Wilson have been a bit of an enigma. Recently, the soft-spoken Tennessee native sat down with us to shed some light on his well curated corner of the internet. With the launch of the company’s new collection, ACL teamed up with Cole, Rood & Haan Co. to produce a series of short films covering a group of interesting people and places in and around New York.

Comments on “ACL Films | James Wilson of Secret Forts

    Ryan on October 9, 2009 2:45 PM:

    awesome insight into a really cool guy, great chat.

    Dennis Cahlo on October 9, 2009 3:18 PM:

    Absolutely beautiful cinematography and great insight.

    If you ever need music for any of these pieces, please contact me. Besides my blog I do compositional work.

    It’s very nice to see some wing stretching in the world of blogging. These snippet documentaries are extremely refreshing.

    All the best in this endeavor,

    Nick on October 9, 2009 3:30 PM:


    F.E. Castleberry on October 9, 2009 3:35 PM:

    Nice short…falls right in line with the ACL brand.

    Stephanie on October 9, 2009 3:40 PM:

    Beautifully done. You couldn’t have picked a better subject. Secret Forts is one of the best corners of the internet.

    I can’t wait to see the rest of these.

    DavidH on October 9, 2009 3:46 PM:

    Yeah I enjoyed that, too. It’s kind of…voyeuristic.

    L.A.S on October 9, 2009 3:47 PM:

    its always awesome to meet the guys/gals behind the keyboard. great job man.

    Peter on October 9, 2009 4:53 PM:

    Michael –

    Props to you and James. Dig both of your blogs, and love the feel of this short. A testament to your good eye, and hopefully more projects like this to come.

    Curious about Cole, Rood & Haan, however. You’re always very good about fully disclosing your relationships with companies featured on ACL, as you have done here.* What rubs me the wrong way is how CR&H present themselves and their relationship with you, here and on their website. In particular, the “Other Things” section of their website, which includes a faux blog roll that basically reads as a who’s who of influencers within the subculture CR&H are hoping to reach (ie, ACL readers).

    And really, who could blame them? For Cole Haan, the “re-introduction” of this vintage-inspired line is savvy, and from their perspective, being associated with you, James, and the rest, is a coup. That they’re an American brand works to their advantage; that they also happen to be a subsidiary of Nike wouldn’t really be an issue if they weren’t trying to look small and independent.

    I’m a fan of collaborations between established companies and visionary newcomers. But are CH&R really collaborating with anyone, or are they merely paying to be seen with them?

    Curious to hear your thoughts.


    *For my part, I work in branding/advertising, though not with any of the companies named here, or their competitors.

    Michael Williams on October 9, 2009 5:04 PM:

    Peter — well said sir. Without going too far into things (because I don’t feel it necessary), I will say that the Cole Rood & Haan people have been VERY involved in this process. (I’m on a first name basis with their receptionist.) And the fact of the matter is, this short would never have been made if it weren’t for Cole Haan. The idea of doing videos has been floating around in my head for a while, just waiting for a gust of wind. That said, you can be skeptical and you can disagree. But you can’t argue that Cole Haan didn’t make 3 minutes of your Friday afternoon better with that video. —ACL

    Jon on October 9, 2009 8:30 PM:

    Everything on the Cole Haan “other stuff” list is awesome. I’ll be waiting for the day they can add themselves to that list.

    I especially like how they have Mast Brothers Chocolate on their. Well played guys.

    P.S. James is a very very nice and really well informed dude.

    chris on October 9, 2009 8:44 PM:

    looks like we’re neighbors! i live a block away from mcgorlick. anyways, clean video, can’t wait to see more.

    Isaac Buie on October 9, 2009 11:24 PM:

    Good call Michael on “making 3 minutes of a Friday afternoon better”. It certainly made mine better. James and Secret Forts represent an uncommon and brilliant perspective on gritty plain-and-simple American aesthetics. I hope to see more of this very well produced series. Thanks

    Don Guss on October 9, 2009 11:49 PM:

    I sort of feel this video cheapened the “Secret Forts” “Brand” but we all have our own take on the blog world. But it was very well done – and that isn’t nothing. I just wonder if we all aren’t being taken by all the cross-over coolness of you blogs. I sure love all the connections I make from your work here, but it makes me wonder.

    I’m happy for your success and continued visibility.
    But not the seeming progression of your visibility.
    If that makes sense. I sort of wish you could continue to be our secret.
    But I know that isn’t possible.

    Keep up the great work, either way,

    DVL on October 10, 2009 1:10 AM:

    I do, more often than not, enjoy what you have on ACL. I must admit, however, that it has found a home on my bookmark bar because of your superb taste in other blogs. Secret Forts has been one of my favorites from the beginning, for no particular reason that I can recognize, which is probably the best reason. Unfortunately, a side effect of distilling someone’s awesomeness into a three minute film with glorious shots and statements so simplistic that they border on having Hemingway-like profundity makes both the subject and the creator look pretentious. All of this is a sort of nasty way of saying that I loved it and wish I could have been a part of it. Well put, Guss. What strange relationships we develop with these blogs!

    N Bolton on October 10, 2009 9:02 AM:

    We are talking about a blog here right? While I really enjoy both of these blogs and really like the trends in clothing and style that refer to or are inspired by the past, ie. “the 1940’s,” as James said. When I hear things like life then was “more simple, easier then” I cringe. Things were not more simple/easier then. While I think romanticizing and having nostalgia for a specific aesthetic of a time period is ok, as in clothes, I think you have to be careful to assume or say that life was easy or more simple for everyone. There were many people, women and african Americans especially, that were still struggling for basic rights. If we are going to take a blog so serious, so to heart, then I think we all need to be aware of the connotations our nostalgia caries with it. Its just a blog.

    Michael Williams on October 10, 2009 10:42 AM:

    I think James was talking about the simplicity of clothing from the 1940s/50s. Every time nostalgia comes up someone comes along and makes an N Bolton like comment. I think we have covered this.

    Chris on October 10, 2009 11:33 AM:

    While I agree with N Bolton to some degree, I believe we all tend to read into things a bit more than needed to make a point. After all, the video is mainly about James’s collections, his thoughts on having a store and his views on fashion. If you take just those element and leave out all the strife, poverty and oppression that we all know existed than I believe the 1940’s was a simpler and easier era.

    Look at any 1940’s photo of a busy city street. Just about every man had on the same regimented attire, top-hat and hairstyle. Each man’s closet, from one house to the next, consisted of essentially the same items. The choices in styles and colors were nowhere near they are today and more importantly, the prevailing thoughts of what men should wear were stifled and therefore, like it or not, more simple.

    jordy on October 10, 2009 1:15 PM:

    “i don’t want 10 of something that does one thing. i want one that does it right.”

    — if only everyone could look at life this way. a great ending to a great short. thank you.

    William Bain on October 10, 2009 9:36 PM:


    What’s the status on the ACL store?



    Michael Williams on October 10, 2009 9:37 PM:

    ACL shop will launch sometime near the end of the month or early November. Hopefully sooner than later.

    bob on October 12, 2009 9:49 AM:

    so, what kind of frames are those?

    Andyu on October 13, 2009 3:22 PM:


    I believe they are Ray Ban frames, see here:

    branden on October 14, 2009 6:22 PM:

    good good things.
    anyone know what watch he is sporting? great face. very simple. beautiful.

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