Any dude who has visited a clothing store in the past year or so will tell you that Americana, as labeled by the capital F Fashion world, has become one of the most, if not the most, dominant trends in menswear of late. American, working-class style is on the racks of all the major clothing retailers and bros from California to Tokyo are rocking Redwings with their Levis, Wayfarers with their TopSiders, and outside of the office sporting a much less polished, more organic look. Beards are cool, plaid is cool, looking like you enjoy getting your hands dirty is cool. Having grown up in a blue collar family on the coast north of Boston, this kind of "look" never really had a name. Folks sport TopSiders because they are practical for days out on the boat, my dad wears Redwing boots because they hold up in the mud all day long, and my grandfather wore Woolrich because because their field coats (the buffalo plaid red and black of course) layer well in the winter and are just the right weight that you don't have to take them off when in and out of the dump truck, back-hoe, or local watering hole. These things are well made, functional, and as it turns out very stylish.
Obviously there are contrasts inherent in working class style meets high fashion but personally I'm on board with the Americana vibe. When practiced in moderation and keeping in mind that I live in San Francisco, not in Minnesota, not in a Polo add, it feels natural to me and always has. The look is classic and thus far has withstood the test of time. I was excited then, when a few weeks back I read (via ACL) that quality Americana had come to San Francisco, to my neighborhood. Union Made opened its doors a month or so ago in the Castro and last weekend Alexandra and I had a chance to check it out. As we walked through the front door we were immediately greeted by the smell of douglas fir, the glow of soft pine, and the enthusiastic hello of owner and co-mastermind Todd Barket. In tow, to Al's delight, was Todd's recently adopted greyhound watchdog buddy, named Buddy. Given it was closing on a Saturday we had the place to ourselves and got the chance to learn a bit about the store while browsing some of the merchandise. Todd was extremely gracious in giving us the grand tour, pointing out some of his favorites and discussing things to come. The selection at Union Made is consistently Americana without being too over the top (no waxed mustaches) or monotonous. The more pricey selections such as those from Alden or Rogues Gallery are balanced well by more affordable goods from Woolrich, Levi's and Alternative Apparel. "Democratic pricing" Todd calls it. As a compliment to this theory, the store also mixes it up with accessories, t-shirts, outerwear, shoes, scarves, ties, totes & even a few man-products. Don't expect to find 20 dollar Wranglers but there's defintely a little bit of everything, for everyone. Having paid his dues in retail at the Gap for many years Todd knows how to run a store and it clearly shows. The place is very cool, it has a nice local flavor and like much of the clothing on the racks bears the mark of hard work and a little elbow grease. When I expressed that I was digging the unfinished pine look of the display furniture Todd gushed that his bf had taken two weeks off of work and built everything from local wood. They had to rent a UHaul to get it all back to the city. Al and I spent almost an hour hanging out and were impressed with their attention to detail and with the diverse selection of man stuff. Keeping my annual income in mind, my two top picks would be the Alternative Apparel sweatshirts (around $50) and the no-name military grade aviators ($100). We walked out with some sweet goods (gotta support your local businesses) but would have been happy just to hang out and drink a beer, Pabst or High Life of course.
Union Made is in San Francisco at 493 Sanchez (basically on the corner of 18th) and a work-in-progress on the web at http://www.unionmadegoods.com/. Remember it's the Holiday season, show some love.