17 Thoughts.

It’s been a difficult and strange time. It seemed trivial over the last few weeks to post something about clothing. The voices for change, for an end to police brutality, for human rights and for true equality need to be heard. Everyone has a part to play in this and I hope our country and society can change. I will do my best to be a force or positive change and I hope you will too.

  1. “What causes the eruptions, the riots, the revolts- whatever you want to call them- is the despair of being in a static position, absolutely static, of watching your father, your brother, your uncle, or your cousin- no matter how old the black cat is or how young- who has no future. And when the summer comes, both fathers and sons are in the streets- they can’t stay in the houses. I was born in those houses and I know. And it’s not their fault.” James Baldwin, Esquire Magazine, 1968. This could be a quote from last week. Nothing has changed — but it needs to.
  2. Parallel to obvious systemic racism in education, policing, housing and economic opportunities runs what I think is the major block for progress in America: money in politics. Elected officials don’t serve their constituents —they serve their self-interest and the interests of their donors so that there’s no progress for the people. I can’t see real change happening until Citizens United is overturned.
  3. The shoes I have probably worn most in the past 10 years are Rancourt & Co Ranger Mocs. The Lewiston Maine-based footwear maker recently collaborated with American Trench on the perfect pair of suede handsewns. The best part about buying Rancourt shoes is the fact that you can send them back to Maine to be re-soled and fixed up.
  4. Scott Galloway is the best listen of 2020. Here are some amazing quotes from BoF Live: 1. “American exceptionalism is a reconfigured tractor-trailer that becomes a morgue.” 2. “Amazon partners with an industry the way a virus partners with a host. It usually ends up very poorly for the host.” 3. “The only place that I would argue that luxury has got kicked in the crotch is around watches with the Apple watch.” 4. “There’s honor in craftsmanship. There’s honor in blue-collar work.”
  5. Brooks Brothers is closing all three of its American factories. This is truly heartbreaking news. At first, I thought it was just Garland that was shutting down. I went and ordered some OCBDs just because. Then it became clear that Southwick in Haverhill, Mass, and the tie factory in Queens are closing as well. It’s just such a punch in the gut. The feeling of a factory closing hits me the same way every time I experience the news. First, it’s shock and anger. Then a huge wave of sadness for the employees, the communities, and for the people who have poured their lives into these companies. It probably sounds a little cliche for me to talk about this stuff this way — but for some reason, it really hits me hard. I grew up in a place that experienced so much pain from offshoring and factory closures that I feel like I am permanently scarred by shit like this.
  6. With the exception of a G&T or Negroni, I have very rarely made a cocktail at home. I honestly don’t know much about making cocktails and I generally don’t have a lot of the ingredients. Pre-COVID when I wanted a good cocktail I would go to Baltaire or Bemelmans, but now all of that is out the window for the time being. So I have been asking friends who know better. The #1 thing I have been craving is a martini. My friend Will Tanous (who is an awesome guy and music-biz bigwig) is the only person I know who regularly drinks martinis at home. In fact, Will is the only person I know in the universe who is truly obsessed with Vodka. So I reached out to Will and here’s his excellent home martini method. “So for my Martinis, I’ve become a big fan of Belvedere Single Estate Rye series. Very smooth. Best when stirred (not shaken, sorry Mr. Bond) and with a few spritzes of Dolin Dry Vermouth. I’m also a fan of Nikka Coffey Vodka as well. In terms of glasses, I have a nice set of martini glasses from Flask & Field (at the ROW in DTLA). I tend to prefer the coupe shape over the classic cone after too many experiences with the cone-shaped glasses that resulted in me wearing half the martini by the time I sat down.”
  7. I was listening to this Rolling Stone article on Audm the other day about Rudy Giuliani and it really made me think about what motivates people. Sometimes very obvious things like money or simple ambition drive people. In other situations, like in Rudy’s case, people are motivated by a fear of irrelevance. A lot of the time when I see motivation in people I wonder about what’s inside pushing it. I’ve thought about whether or not I should be skeptical of motivated people. I’ve always tried to be motivated in a way that adds value and doesn’t take anything away from anyone. Though in my experience, the things I have done for others has helped me the most. My unselfish acts have done the most to help me in my career. I always tried to help people find jobs if I could — I thought hard about who I knew that needed good people and tried to make the connection. Most people get an email from someone who is trying to find an opportunity and they don’t really spend any time on it because it’s not your problem. I would do the opposite and try and put myself in the sender’s position. I didn’t really have an agenda — I think in life I have just placed a high value on empathy. Not surprisingly it turns out that the people that I have helped over the years have returned the favor tenfold. This wasn’t by design, but I’m glad it all worked out the way it did. Helping people when they really need it has been one of the keys to any minor success I can lay claim.
  8. California is being taken over by Detroit Style Pizza — which is one of the best possible things that could happen for my mental health. Tons of buzz around Dough Daddy in LA and Square Pie Guys in San Francisco. Bring it on.
  9. I’ve been fixing stuff around the house and I’m sort of shocked at how much satisfaction it brings. I repaired a hole in my favorite shorts (which are from Abercrombie & Fitch but have been phased out. If only the head of design over there would listen to me and bring them back) and got them back in my rotation. Prolonging the life of something —like a Barbour coat or a pair of leather shoes— is one of the often-overlooked benefits of buying something well-made. There’s a sense of pride in both spending a lot of money on something but also being frugal at the same time. It’s a quiet little personal victory and a prolonged friendship with a trusted associate. It’s one of the best feelings you can have as a consumer — to extend the life of an object that serves you well.
  10. There’s still a place in the universe to appreciate nice things. The new 911 Targa is pretty and one of those things that should be appreciated.
  11. Millennials have had to deal with a lot and have rightly expressed a lot of frustration with another economic disaster. It finally occurred to me while reading this thought-provoking bit of writing that what Millennials are really dealing with is the downward slide of America. While everyone was quick to blame the people of the generation they should really have looked at how our country has failed and how millennials are just the first generation to show the effects of the true failure of America. “The refrains we return to — that we’re a land of opportunity, that we’re a benevolent world superpower — are false.” It’s sad, but true.
  12. Lovely dining notes from Alan Richman on pizza and all-star crew cooking at Mulberry Street’s Sophia’s.
  13. This Swedish brand is so simple and great.
  14. I’ve become extremely skeptical of start-up CPG stuff like Away, Allbirds, Great Jones, that Sunday lawn care company, and the hundreds of other brands that have popped up in the last few years — and all of it infused with CBD. Basically, I feel like any company that advertises its DTC brand on Instagram is shit. I know it’s not totally true, but this is how I feel. I almost universally had bad experiences with almost all of these brands with a few exceptions (Bombas being the big standout winner – but I’m friends with those guys so maybe I am biased). Recently I came across this website Thingtesting (which started as an and Instagram account, what else) that aggregates all of these companies and reviews them. It’s shocking to see all of these companies together in one place without any irony. My fav Untuckit is even listed on there. Some of these brands must be good, but when you look at this stuff all together you have to wonder what the fuck is going on with consumer tastes in 2020. Do pots and pans need to be reinvented? Do I need a subscription to my toothbrush? I don’t feel like I do. If subscribing to dog food on Amazon stresses me out then some of this stuff is just a bridge too far. I honestly hope that we can see less of this stuff in the future.
  15. More MiUSA shirt news: Gitman is closing it’s Ashland, PA factory and will shift shirt manufacturing to Tennessee.
  16. One of the most authentic voices in golf is Geoff Shackelford and his newish podcast is excellent. You can listen to it here.
  17. Buy It For Life is the best thing on Reddit.

Comments on “17 Thoughts.

    Richard E. Press on June 15, 2020 10:11 AM:

    Remembering with tears my favorite Heublein of Hartford, CT produced Smirnoff Vodka very dirty Martini on the rocks served in an Old Fashion cocktail glass loaded with Cross & Blackwell Pickled Onions that also got me regularly loaded @JGMelons

    kdfg on June 15, 2020 11:05 AM:

    You seem to have an anti-American sentiment in a lot of your comments.

    Michael Williams on June 15, 2020 11:10 AM:

    Yes, I’m known for being anti-American. Thanks for stopping by.

    MRS on June 15, 2020 1:34 PM:

    Loved this read. Very thoughtful commentary. Thanks.

    Christopher DiEugenio on June 15, 2020 1:46 PM:

    Agree with KDFG to some extent. I don’t think you’re anit-American but I do think you’re struggling to find what belies the problems the country faces. When you noted that Citizens United is the culprit, it seems that analysis dismisses that a lot of these issues have been ongoing long before that Supreme Court decision. I enjoy your writing, regardless.

    Luke on June 15, 2020 1:51 PM:

    If you are looking for some cocktail stuff I put together a giant google doc last month for some of my friends. I have been out of the bar scene for a few years after managing some of the best in the country but now but my wife and I enjoy our quiet 5pm cocktail hours. Hope you find something tasty to make!


    Michael Williams on June 15, 2020 1:55 PM:

    Wow, thanks Luke!

    Daniel E on June 15, 2020 3:23 PM:

    Would you consider D2C clothing brands better than CPG? I’ve seen ASKET before and it looks great but not sure how it would be different than pt 14 (which I mostly agree with).

    Michael Williams on June 15, 2020 3:25 PM:

    @daniel Probably not all that different. Good point. Maybe I just don’t see it more as product first and marketing second? I think DTC makes a lot of sense in clothing when it’s not trying to reinvent something that doesn’t need reinvention. Perhaps I’m just silly or stupid. I’ll let you all decide.

    Daniel E on June 15, 2020 3:30 PM:

    @Michael – I’d agree with that. I worked for a D2C brand for a few years, and I felt like we were doing something unique, but most of products in the D2C space were just knock off versions of a premium product with cheaper prices and clean marketing (think about the 500 knockoffs of Common Projects).

    Andy on June 15, 2020 3:32 PM:

    Have you followed the opening of Vidalia MIlls (Vidalia, LA)? Imogene+Willie (among others) are using their denim. What are your thoughts?

    Michael Williams on June 15, 2020 4:09 PM:

    @Andy My friend Eric Goldstein is one of the drivers of what’s happening at Vidalia and I have heard a lot about what is happening down there in Lousiana. It’s pretty amazing. They have all of the old Cone shuttle looms and are basically making white oak selvedge with 100% American cotton. I guess Vidalia bought the floor that the looms were sitting on in North Carolina. Seems like an encouraging development for American denim. I was hoping to get down there and see it, but who knows when that can happen now.

    Ted Harrington on June 15, 2020 6:19 PM:

    Good thoughts, man. I too have been tackling small tasks around the house. I may even open a can of paint.

    Nacho on June 15, 2020 7:59 PM:

    Git MSN’s PA factory was near where my mom’s family was from. The menswear store in town was a stockist so ITV was always great to be able to support 2 small companies with every order.

    Santa's Little Helper on June 16, 2020 3:38 AM:

    Tone deaf.

    Starts out ok.

    Gets terrible.

    Chris on June 16, 2020 10:53 AM:

    Thanks for the read! Millennials are a bit dramatic in our predicament and don’t like to take any responsibility for our own actions. At all. I was born in 86 and am somewhere in the middle and most people of my age I know were either made by or done by their own choices, not by the world at large

    Stephanie on June 16, 2020 12:01 PM:

    Regarding #14: The internet made entrepreneurship super accessible, and the current wave of aesthetically pleasing DTC brands are a direct result of this. Anyone can cobble together a “DTC startup” for pretty much any product, and the result is hundreds of really pretty-looking brands with questionable products. I think it’ll work itself out in 5-10 years – most of these startups will fail, but the few handful that brings actual value to the customer will persevere.

    Michael Williams on June 16, 2020 1:07 PM:

    @stephanie — well said. Thank you.

    Matt on June 16, 2020 8:23 PM:

    I love reading ACL, and only intend to be a bit snarky with this: Martinis are made with Gin! A Vodka Martini is made with Vodka. Apologies, I had to get that off my chest. Keep up the great work!

    And @Luke, I know it wasn’t really meant for me, but thanks for the google doc!

    Michael Williams on June 16, 2020 8:27 PM:

    Matt – I thought about this when I wrote it because David Coggins hates big Vodka Martinis but I left it the way I wrote it to annoy people like you and him!

    Ankur Khanna on June 16, 2020 9:16 PM:

    “Brooks Brothers was born in the mind of the family not to make products in America but to import the best products from all around the world, so I don’t think we are going away from the original mission,” Del Vecchio, NY Times.
    This is what the current owner said to justify the closures. This is what he believes. Part of it might be true. It’s also upon us consumers to say: NO!. American industry is not open to the highest bidder if they will do as they please, aka ship production and jobs overseas. You want to manufacture in China? Fine!! But I will then only be willing to pay $20 for your OCBD. Profit margin math has to change if you produce goods cheaper overseas. Just my 2 cents.

    whiskeydent on June 17, 2020 1:45 PM:

    The comment about millennials not taking responsibility for their actions was quite apt. I live in downtown Austin and see an awful lot of millennials unmasked and not distancing. They’re still partying like it’s 2019. As a result, 44% of those diagnosed with COVID-19 here are under 40 and no one under 30 has died. People 65 and older make up 17% of the cases and 89% of the deaths. Now, we’re spiking because our brilliant governor reopened the state too soon. So I suggest that millennials put on their damn masks and quit killing their grandparents. Stay off my lawn too.

    Jacob Hurwitz on June 19, 2020 8:05 PM:

    I’m really upset about the BB factories. Hoping someone buys Southwick. I’ve been to the tie factory in Queens and had ties made there. Never made it down to Garland. Very sad. I wish we could do something about this. A go fund me for factories. Keep these places alive, run them better, sharpen the product, create heritage. There is so much dignity in manufacturing that exists near you. It makes sense, like buying food from farm close enough for you to visit. That’s why the manufacturing heritage movement wasn’t just about MiUSA, it also sprouted in other places like the UK, France, and other parts of Europe.

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