Heritage brands across the United States are having their moment. Historic denim producers, leather workers, and work boot designers from New York to San Francisco are leading a renaissance in men’s style, all of which is rooted in our desire to connect with American craftsmanship. Additionally, in a time where everything in our lives is more immediate, more connected, and more temporary than ever, we’ve started longing for products that our grandpas would have (or actually could have) given their much respected seals of approval to.
Much like growing a beard, supporting heritage brands allows us to connect with something that we all feel is disappearing from the world around us: authenticity. Many of us grew up in the era of mega mass production, where Gap, Old Navy, and American Eagle rang supreme and sold clothes that were new today, destroyed tomorrow. It’s because of this, and our desire to support American made products, that fashionable young yanks have started looking to hometown producers, many of which have been at it for over a century, if not more.
Along the way though, we’ve come to expect cheap prices for clothing, which is completely fine when you’re looking at, say, tube socks, but this is adulthood, man. It’s time to stop buying shoes that’ll fall apart too soon or jeans that’ll routinely rip in the exact same place after only six months. Do heritage brands cost more? Of course, but can you tell the difference? Absolutely.
Although you probably can find a number of American heritage brands in your own city or state, these are a few of our favorites, ranging from the industrial parks of Massachusetts to the foggy ports of Seattle:
1. Chippewa Boots
Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin
Every man needs a good pair of work boots, regardless of your climate or profession. Nothing pairs better with a pair of jeans or your favorite fall jacket and no matter what you throw their way, boots allow you to handle any situation in comfort and style. The good folks at Chippewa Boots have been producing handcrafted footwear since 1901 for everyone from train engineers to motorcycle gangs to arctic explorers. Hell, in 1963 they actually produced a model called “The Snake Boot,” designed specifically to protect outdoorsmen from rattlesnakes. If you’re even remotely questioning these boots’ ability to stand up to harsh winters or endless subway rides, please re-read the previous sentence.
Our personal favorite: The 6” service boot is simple, durable, and great to look at. What more could you want from a pair of boots?
$260.00 at Amazon
Designed for gold prospectors and lumberjacks, Filson has been producing gear and apparel for the men of the northwest since 1897. Founded by a Nebraska transplant and railroad conductor, Filson has become widely recognized as one of the finest producers of high quality outdoor wear that’s durable enough to survive the elements while also being stylish enough to wear around town, even if you don’t chop trees for a living.
Our personal favorite: Filson is known for lots of products, but it’s their legendary tin cloth jackets that have and always will survive the test of time. They’re designed to visibly age as you break them in and each jacket will continue to change depending on what you expose it to, whether that’s the rain of the Washington coast or under the shadows of a Nashville skyline.
$260 at Filson
3. Hamilton Shirts
Keeping it in the family can be a major challenge for companies over time, but when it comes to their legacy as the finest shirt makers in the country, the Hamiltons are unlike any other. Since 1883, the same family has owned and operated Hamilton Shirts, always keeping a close eye on their incredible designs, each of which is hand sewn and personally inspected at their Houston headquarters. You might be telling yourself that any old dress shirt will do, but once you’ve worn a custom shirt from Hamilton, you’ll be able to see and feel the difference.
Our personal favorite: Although it’s truly hard to go wrong with any of Hamilton’s offerings, the twill cotton button down is classic enough to be worn almost anywhere, but still distinct enough to set you apart from the other guys in your office. Splurge a little, you’ll never feel more confident and stylish than in a shirt designed just for you.
$225 at Hamilton
4. Randolph Engineering
If it’s good enough for the military, it’s probably good enough for your desk job. As is the case with Randolph Engineering, maker of fine sunglasses for the Army, Navy and Air Force since 1978. Aviator eyewear is always a good choice when you want to look your coolest while keeping the sun out of your eyes and what better company to trust than Randolph, who makes aviators for actual, you know, pilots (along with Don Draper).
Our personal favorite: You can never go wrong with aviators, but we like the sportsman model for a different take on a classic. The signature sweat bar set just above the bridge brings to mind army generals and New England ship captains, either way people will know you mean business when you throw on a pair.
$179 at Randolph USA
Born out of necessity long before the birth of the $7 billion dollar surf wear industry, Nancy and Walter Katin helped appease a lone surfer in the late 1950's when he asked if they could make him a durable pair of swim trunks for surfing. The rest, as they say, is history. More than fifty years later, Katin continues to produce the best swim trunks around, while also branching off into other areas, including shirts, jackets, and hats just to name a few. It might be getting colder in whatever town you call home, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t enjoy a little bit of the California sunshine year around.
Our personal favorite: Although their trunks are legendary, we know that most of you won’t be hitting the beach anytime soon. Katin has started focusing more on clothing and accessories that embrace the attitude of southern California and we couldn’t be happier to oblige with their native short sleeve and beach bum hat. Throw one of these on under your hoodie next time you leave the house and just remember, somewhere someone is surfing.
$79/$28 at Katin