A few years ago I unsuccessfully pitched GQ Style an idea I had for my column about proactively supporting the things you want to exist. The idea came from a trip to MoMA. I was thinking about how I could get in without having to pay by using some reciprocal membership — similar to what you would try and do at the Starwood lounge in Frankfurt. Then I realized that I should be buying an annual membership even if I only go a few times a year. I want the museum to thrive and if everyone was trying to avoid the entry fee like me how would that happen? That experience made me think about what other things in my life I should be thinking about differently. This approach to the things we use/wear/love has come back to me in a big way right now and I wanted to share some brands that I want to survive.
The tricky thing about talking about this right now is everyone’s situation is different. I’m not assuming you can afford to buy a cashmere sweater at this moment and I’m not pushing you to do that. But maybe some of you are in good shape financially and you want to get something nice. At the same time you can support someone who really needs it. Maybe this will just be an inspiration to think about some places that are meaningful to you and you can proactively support them in your own way.
Let’s also keep in mind the idea of not buying what you don’t need. Buy less, buy better never seemed more relevant. I just wanted to point out some brands that make special things or a few tiny operations that could use some special attention. I’ve worked with some of these people — in some cases for free because I believe in them. My intentions here are as straightforward as what I said above. This is limited to brands or shops for the most part, but there are many other people who need all the help they can get. Think hard about what you would miss if it were gone and act accordingly.
Over the past 5 years NWKC has made some of my favorite clothing. I have a strong preference for wearing wool and NWKC’s unique Merino Dual Cloth is incredible. This brand and the product is so hugely underrated it kills me. This crewneck is the best sweatshirt I have ever owned. It wears like a sweatshirt but it can look more dressed up if you want to wear it to dinner. It can just go into the wash without special treatment. It holds its shape, is breathable, and is comfortable enough to wear on the plane. NWKC is an ambitious project that has yielded some of the most worn items in my wardrobe.
Any business that was challenged pre-COVID is most likely going to have a difficult future. Retail falls into this category, but good men’s clothing shops are even more threatened. Our world would be better off it we keep them off the endangered list. The names below are some of the most special places for men to shop and I want to be able to take my son to Harrison Ltd to buy him a blazer from Scott Pyburn one day.
The Andover Shop in Cambridge, Cuffs in Chagrin Falls, Harrison Ltd in Mountain Brook, AL, O’Connell’s Clothing in Buffalo, Sid Mashburn in Atlanta/LA, Leather Soul in Honolulu and David Wood in Portland, Maine.
Founded in 2019, Ghiaia is a Pasadena based knits brand that makes some incredible cotton and cashmere sweaters. The man behind the brand is a Sicilian named Davide Baroncini — whom I met originally when he worked for Brunello Cucinelli. Ghiaia —pronounced ghe-i-ya— means gravel in Italian and is solely focused on making great sweaters. Davide is a good person and has created something really special. This could be the worst possible time to start a young brand, but I hope Ghiaia makes it.
Fort Worth, TX-based Hey Gang is one of the coolest kids brands I’ve come across. I first met the founder Lauren Block at her shop in Austin way back when. She’s one of the sweetest and most creative people who I have been lucky to meet through ACL. Hey Gang is entirely made in the USA and it’s one of the few American kids brands that rivals what I’ve seen in Japan. This is probably as much of a dad blogger that I will ever be.
The stars of ACL’s (and Pop Up Flea’s) heyday are still kicking-out great stuff — and I want them to continue to supply me with high-quality leather goods. Billykirk turned 20 years old this year – if you can believe that— and they are one of the first artisanal brands that really became sucessful. Through everything they have remained true to who they are…except that weird moment when they were living in LA making leather cuffs.
The other big leather goods brand that I love is Portland’s Tanner Goods. I wear a Tanner Goods belt nearly every day. That belt is one of the best purchases I have ever made when considering cost per wear.
Some other brands worth considering.
Thanks to Justin Chung for the top images.