Today, I thought I’d take a moment and share some of the stuff I use in my daily life. Being someone who spends a lot of time and energy doing my best to make quality products, I try to look for the same in the things I buy. Most prominently, that's usually clothing. Since most wet shavers care about craftsmanship, a meaningful brand name, and quality, my suspicion is that this may strike a chord with some of you.That's my hope, anyway!
A small disclaimer: some of this stuff is rather expensive for what it is, but keep in mind, I buy this stuff because it (a) lasts longer than its discount-oriented counterparts and (b) is made by passionate people. Also consider that I acquired this stuff over the course of many, many years. (Then again, some of you have probably spent more than $200 on a razor to shave your face so maybe I’m preaching to the choir.)
Nonetheless, just noting these acquisitions didn't happen overnight.
Item #1: Railcar Fine Goods Jeans
I have always had a fascination with raw denim. What is “raw” denim, you ask? It’s sort of self-explanatory. It’s denim that has not been treated, washed, or otherwise altered to look a certain way or to feel comfortable. This is how all jeans used to be made, but as high fashion and quick, cheap comfort overtook the market, jean manufacturers started altering their processes for efficiency over quality. Raw denim is a nod to the good ol' days. It fades over time as you wear it and wash it. Designer jeans are meant to look like authentic raw denim jeans after a few years of wear.
It’s very stiff when you first buy it and not very comfortable. But it pays off greatly after years of wear as you truly “break them in” as your own. Fades develop, the waistline stretches out in just the right places and at that point the comfort becomes second to none. They become like a second skin.
Most denim in raw jeans is made on old school shuttle looms that run very slowly and make interesting and unique fabric. The result is what is called “selvedge” denim.
Railcar is an all-American company that uses some of the highest quality Japanese and American-made selvedge denim from some of the most renown denim mills in the world. They cut and sew their jeans 100% in-house on turn of the century equipment (I mean 1900s-turn-of-the century). Again, these old school sewing machines run much slower, but are more durable and make absolutely amazing products. You will pay about $200 for a pair of these jeans, but it’s actually quality you are paying for, not a brand. Arguably, Railcar perhaps makes the best quality jean produced in America today.
Item #2: Buck Mason T-Shirts
Buck Mason is another American-made, American-milled brand. They focus on only making timeless products. Nothing is ever trendy, nothing has a flashy brand name, and nothing looks like it’ll go out of style in a year. They strive to create products that would look just as appropriate in 1950 as they do today. This typically means solid colors and simple cuts. Their t-shirts in particular are absolutely incredible. I wear the slub tees. They’re made with a loose weave so they’re breathable, light, and a bit stretchy (but not in an elastic or plastic-y way). The fit is slimmer but not uncomfortable. And the bottoms are rounded so they mask any unwanted "stomach flash" that would otherwise be seen in other tees if you were to reach above your head. Did I mention they hold up incredibly?
Their other pieces are just as good, but the tees in particular have dominated my weekend wardrobe. If you see me anywhere on a day I’m not working, I’m going to be wearing Railcar jeans and a Buck Mason tee.
Item #3: Blade + Blue Boxers & Socks
It’s very, very hard to find comfortable, made-in-America underwear. I tried many kinds before I came across Blade + Blue. They’re San Francisco based and make a slim-fitting boxer that doesn’t get bunched up when you put your pants on. They’re comfortable, durable, designed well, and have an adjustable button at the top. They’re about all you can ask for in a boxer.
Similarly, their socks are very versatile, especially if you’re like me and enjoy having socks that work both casually and formally. Durability is concern #1 with socks, and I have many pairs of these that are over a year old and not showing any signs of serious degradation yet. A little pricey compared to the Wal Mart variety pack, yes, but they are made in America and serve me well.
Item #4: Headlands Handmade Wallet
This is actually kind of a curious item. The proprietor of this business is the husband of an old high school friend of my wife’s. My wife got this wallet for me because she knew I was looking for a natural bi-fold wallet and had heard her friend started this business. I thought it was cool but was a little skeptical of the quality given that this wasn’t something I had researched on my own. But this thing truly blew me away.
The natural leather has faded over the years and now has this absolutely stunning golden brown patina. The oils from my hands condition the wallet and it shows absolutely no signs of cracking or drying out. It’s truly more beautiful today than the day I got it for Christmas 3 years ago. There’s no reason this thing won’t last me for another decade.
This is a killer product and everything is 100% made by hand; no machines at all. Since receiving the wallet, I’ve ordered a bunch of stuff from them and every single item has been awesome.
Wallet - New in 2015
Item #5: Red Wing Heritage Shoes
You’ve probably heard of Red Wing, but you may or may not know of their Heritage line. The Heritage line is the small portion of Red Wing’s business that is still made by hand, in Minnesota, with premium materials. In other words, they’re the kind of shoes you want to own.
Fast fashion has taught us that shoes are disposable. You wear them for a few years and then throw them out. But that doesn’t have to be true. If you buy a quality leather shoe, you can wear the hell out of it, get it resoled after a few years and then keep going. Quality leather shoes last decades.
I’ve had the Foreman Chukkas for about 3 years now and wear them nearly every day.
Like raw denim, most high-quality shoes like this are a bit uncomfortable at first. The leather is stiff, the insole hasn’t been broken in, and the cork in the midsole hasn’t formed to your foot yet. However, over time, the shoe “understands” the way you walk, the shape of each foot, and becomes like an extension of your body.
Quality and craftsmanship go a long way. I find that owning a product that you have some personal attachment to allows you to enjoy it that much more. We probably all feel that way about some items in the shaving universe. Why not extend that philosophy to the other stuff we use every day? PS, I have absolutely no connection to any of the aforementioned brands other than being an enthusiastic customer :)
Hope you’re having a great summer everyone.