Monthly Archives: April 2009

L.L.Bean Boat & Totes

Vodpod videos no longer available. Just in time for summer, Mary Rose MacKinnon of L.L. Bean sent me this video featuring some great footage of their Boat & Tote in production. Pick yours up today. Once I get my ducks in a row, I’ll be picking up the Maine Inland Fisheries & Wildlife Hunter’s Bag; a portion of the purchase of one of these bags will be donated to the MDIFW.bat

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Lost Boys

lost-boys-000Lost Boys sits on a quiet street steps from the heart of Georgetown’s hectic M Street. A row house which formerly played host to a law firm has been converted by D.C. native Kelly Muccio into a smartly-outfitted menswear boutique.

lost-boys-001“I can’t tell you the hours I spent in Home Depot figuring out the plumbing for the garment racks,” Ms. Muccio told me during a recent visit.  Lining the racks are well-curated offerings from brands like Band of Outsiders, Rogan, Shipley & Halmos, and Steven Alan; I was galvanized.

lost-boys-003While the selections err on the side of conservative, Ms. Muccio’s been able to inject some style into our nation’s capitol. Lately, the store has received as much attention for the clothes as it has for the fact Kelly and crew serve beer, liquor, and sparkling water from Italy.

lost-boys-004“We probably go through a case a month… if that,” Kelly laughed. “People are coming here to shop not to drink beer.”

lost-boys-005The Rogan “Altar.”

Muccio likes to combine the rough and the delicate, like flowers and chains. Even the store’s name nods to both the whimsical characters of J.M. Barrie’s most famous novel and Joel Schumacher’s late eighties rough and tumble vampire flick.

lost-boys-006Lost Boys offers personal shopping as well. Ms. Muccio and her staff can help you prepare for a hot date or provide a full style upgrade. Around the shop hang framed photos of real Washingtonians post-visit to “The Style Bar.”

If you’re in the neighborhood, definitely stop by Lost Boys. Crush a brew and pick up some high quality denim while you’re at it.

For more on Lost Boys and Kelly Muccio, see the write-up by Valet’s Cory Ohlendorf at men.style.com.

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Custom Quoddy Trail Canoe Mocs Handmade in Maine

canoe-015Canoe Moccasin

– Brown Cromexcel Leather
– Nickle Eyelets
– 38″ Red Rawhide Laces
– Red Brick Camp Sole
– Natural Handsewing
– Full Deerskin Lining

Lined “after eyelets are inserted so deerskin comes up behind lacing and eyelets don’t touch Max’s instep on the inside!”

Last Used: M10.5 E
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canoe-001For more see Flickr.

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Randolph Engineering

rePhoto c/o A Restless Transplant

A few years ago, fed up with losing expensive frames to the bottom of some lake or river every summer, I sought out a pair of affordable aviators worn by, well, aviators. At $90, Randolph Engineering’s stylish frames are hands down the best sunglasses money can buy.  They offer both mineral glass and polycarbonate lenses, and they are all at least 98% UV protective. I’ve dropped the Sportsmans (pictured, above) in a Maine snowbank, while crossing Park Avenue, and on the gravel path at the National Mall, and they are still in tact, a scratch here or there – nothing more. And while, yes, I lost a pair of the Aviators last summer at the bottom of Lake Skenonto, prior to their death, RE sent me two other sizes to test as the ones ordered were two sizes too large for my narrow melon. They have a great warranty, an excellent customer service department, and they’re made in the United States of America.

sportsmanThe verdict is still out on the Sportsmans. I am not usually a fan of the brow bar, but leaving them out in the sun this weekend, I began to appreciate an element of its function: sear-prevention. With frames like the Concorde, the potential for the metal to warm up and burn the skin is higher than with a pair like the Sportsmans. I will most likely wear these every day this summer, that is until the Lady of the Lake gets her hands on my REs.

Michael Bastian is a fan.

As is Nick of ATG.

As is Ryan of h(y)r collective.

As is Cory of Valet.

As is James of Secret Forts.

As are the folks at Selectism.

Nuff said? No? Ok, one more:

As is Jonathan of Material Interest.

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WILCO & The Nudie Suit

ashes-of-american-flagsMonday night, alongside Mr. Capps of D&D, I had the opportunity to see the latest in a series of excellent documentaries featuring the band, WILCO. Ashes of American Flags, the band’s first concert film, follows them as they trounce their way around the southeastern United States on tour in 2008. Among the many moments that stood out were drummer Glenn Kotche and guitarist Nels Cline icing themselves after a gig, multi-instrumentalist Pat Sansone’s spot-on South-side Chicago accent introducing backing band “The Total Pros,” and bandleader Jeff Tweedy’s Nudie suits.

nud_titlewilco-1Nudie Cohn, a Ukrainian-American tailor in North Hollywood who came to prominence in the fifties and sixties, is – without question – the most famous tailor in rock and country music.

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Mr. Cohn, on the left, made this gold lamé suit for Elvis Presley’s LP 50,000,000 Elvis Fans Can’t Be Wrong.

nudiepepper1While working for Mr. Cohn, his protégé Manuel Cuevas designed the suits for The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Johnny Cash’s black suits, the roses and skeletons logo for The Grateful Dead, and Mick Jagger’s inflated lips pillows which inspired John Pasche’s tongue and lips design for The Rolling Stones.

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nudiegram3Arguably the most famous Nudie suit, Gram Parsons wore this on the cover of The Flying Burrito Brothers’ Gilded Palace of Sin. This is the suit most-often referenced as quintessentially Nudie: high on pyrotechnics and a big ol’ middle finger, but crafted with a beautiful drape and the sharpest lines, not a stitch was out of place.nudietweedy2The fundamentals of Mr. Tweedy’s suit, while more PC and more classically tailored, reference those of Mr. Parsons’.

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Vodpod videos no longer available.

At minute 1:53 in this video of WILCO singing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” at Wrigley Field, Mr. Tweedy talks about the Nudie suit, and at minute 4:20 he explains why he’s a fan of The St. Louis Cardinals.

See the movie. It’s screening in several North American cities over the next few weeks. In celebration of Record Store Day, they’re releasing the DVD on Saturday the 18th at independent stores nationwide, and it will be available everywhere on the 28th.

“They sound really good live. I was shocked,” a friend less familiar with the band said as we were leaving. As a fan of hyperbole, I reminded him, “Yeah, they’re the best band in America.”

Hands down.

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Hockey Plaid

Vodpod videos no longer available.

“Maybe we can get away with the old ones after all.”

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In middle school, while other boys dreamt of becoming the next Michael Jordan or Ozzie Smith, I wanted to be Bob Costas. I admired sportscasters like Jim McKay, Marv Albert, and Jack Buck for their ability to spin a trivial sporting event into a life-altering moment with drama tantamount to Shakespeare. I also admired the ones who didn’t take themselves too seriously.

Affectionately known as Mr. Baseball, Bob Uecker with his garish jackets, his Wrestlemania appearance, and of course his short-lived acting career, takes the cake. A Milwaukee institution, he was honored by minor league hockey team The Admirals with “Bob Uecker Night” reviving a jersey once seen in a team commercial featuring Mr. Uecker.

The Baseball Almanac has a comprehensive listing of his classic quotes.12

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Factory Visit: Quoddy Trail Moccasin

quoddy-0011Pulling off I-95, the town of Lewiston hits my windshield with a thud. Cruising their main strip, I passed a chicken shack, a Burger King, and a slew of empty buildings. My directions read, “Look for ‘Maine Thread.’” Even with eyes peeled, I nearly passed the small sign fashioned of white plywood and black vinyl letters no bigger than my hand.

quoddy-0022Thinking I’d reached my destination, I sauntered through the doors at Maine Thread, past walls covered floor to ceiling in spools upon spools of the stuff, organized by color and gauge. Finally, I reached a small metal desk, where a small wooden man sat in a big ball cap embroidered with an eagle and an American flag.

“Excuse me? Are these the Quoddy offices?”
“No – no. What you gonna do….”

Rising, he walked me past the spools and outside, pointing to an arched brick alleyway.

quoddy-3Random House defines the moccasin as “a heelless shoe made entirely of soft leather, as deerskin, with the sole brought up and attached to a piece of u-shaped leather on top of the foot, worn originally by the American Indians.”quoddy-019Wood tools, like this rounded wedge Kevin uses to press the leather into the last, are rare.quoddy-028A stitch gauge measurement of five assures they are properly spaced.

quoddy-004“They’re Kwah-dih,” Alex, the kindly English sutler, informed me upon discovering a grizzly boot and boat shoe for sale at Freemans Sporting Club a few years ago. I’d mispronounced the name in asking the make. I remember saying the leather felt waxy, and Alex, not content to let my observation stand, replied, “Yes, they’re buttery.” Supple, sturdy, well-oiled, well-cushioned, all stand to describe a Quoddy Trail moccasin upon first interaction. When held, when properly examined the precise balance of heft and delicacy emanates. Their handmade attributes, every stitch, every stretch mark, every skived edge beg to be admired. They define remarkable.

quoddy-005QUODDY the sign read. I felt the sweat on my feet. Wool socks, Bean Boots, and a shock of nerves hit me as I entered the factory doors.

quoddy-006This is the new handsewing workshop for Quoddy Trail Moccasin which until recently was based in a small storefront on the main drag. That isn’t to say the building is new. Quite the contrary, Kevin and Kirsten Shorey, owners of Quoddy Trail, recently acquired two floors of the defunct Maine Moccasin factory, along with relics of the factory’s past: antique sewing machines, old wooden lasts, tools, and leather scraps aplenty. The powder blue paint job was covered with dust and dirt; the floor beneath me could have just as easily been beach property, albeit beach property beset by a nagging nail infestation. As I entered the darkly lit room where Quoddy stitches all their shoes, I watched four men hunched over tanned, pressed leather, as they spun gold. Each of them moved around a mounted shoe as though it were a seven-layer cake receiving seven layers of icing. Stitch by stitch crafting moccasins with their bare hands – bare, but for the grip tape wrapped around their knuckles.

quoddy-008Gambler Tobacco, Grip Tape, Handsewing Ends

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quoddy-013This is how the leather looks after it’s prepared at their facilities in Perry, Maine.

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“The Shorey family has been making moccasins for generations, beginning with Harry Smith Shorey, a hand-sewer for L.L. Bean in the early 1900s,” this from their charming, out-dated website.

quoddy-009The shop manager stitches the ends to the toe of a new blucher.

quoddy-014Kevin Shorey, the well-spoken, well-shod, bear of a man runs the day-to-day operations from his office in Perry. He introduced me to some of the skilled craftsmen who form these shoes and gave me a bit of background.quoddy-021

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Several years ago, fed up with his job at a big-time newspaper, he moved home to Maine and alongside Kirsten, started making moccasins in his family’s barn. Yuki Matsuda, of Meg Company, got wind of the Shorey’s shoe-making operation,. Yuki, Kevin, and Kirsten formed Yu-Ke-Ten to target the Japanese market. As business grew, Yuki’s desire to expand the brand’s offerings beyond footwear led him to take full control of Yuketen, as Kevin and Kirsten concentrated on Quoddy.

quoddy-023Cordovan Leather, Gum Sole, Cross-stitch Toe, Quoddy for Albam quoddy-024Another view of the Albam moc alongside a refurbished Ring Boot

This was eleven years ago. Since that time, Quoddy has been quietly growing a loyal following around the world, and rightly so. The company offers handmade shoes, made the old-fashioned way, “the hard way,” as Kevin likes to say. He was eager to express just how customizable their offerings are, walking me through several custom jobs they’ve acquired: everyone from Rogues Gallery to J. L. Powell to South Willard; Sid Mashburn to Freemans Sporting Club; Camilla Staerk to 3sixteen. The newly formed “Quoddy for…” line has begun to pick up steam. “People are willing to invest in the name, Quoddy,” says Shorey.

Today he makes the four hour drive to the stitching plant in Lewiston roughly once a week. When I met him, he wore a zippered fleece, khaki pants, and a pair of Quoddy Trail bluchers with a solid tread Vibram sole.

“Not bad,” I said, admiring the yellow Vibram logo.
“Yeah, these won’t wear out too quickly.” Kevin chuckled.

quoddy-026Not a Vibram, still a crepe sole will last a long time. Beyond them are two memory foam insoles which are wedged between the two pieces of leather in shoes like the double-bottom ring boot above.

With a one-piece vamp – the front, sides, and bottom of the shoe – swaddling the entire foot, full leather sock lining, and a heel pad, I can guarantee they won’t wear out too quickly. Using leathers from the tanneries of Horween in Chicago, S.B. Foot in Minnesota, and Irving from right there in Maine, everything is handmade. All the major cutting and prepping of the leathers occurs at their shop in Perry. The handsewing and finishing touches are added in the storied town of Lewiston, once home to thousands of skilled artisans famous for their quality craftsmanship. Kevin and Kirsten Shorey are making moccasins, a shoe with a story that began thousands of years ago with this country’s first settlers, made with as much domestic product as humanly possible, and they’re doing so entirely by hand, by American hands – cutting, skiving, stitching, and hand-sewing.

Nearly every sentence Kevin spoke began with, “We take great pride….” “We take great pride that we’re not conventional… that we do it here in Maine… that we stand by our product… that we’ll fix any problem.”

“With Quoddy, you receive a genuine handmade moccasin. While leather properties vary slightly with every hide, each pair demonstrates our philosophy: Attention to detail and no shortcuts. Also, many of our moccasins can be made in special widths or sizes… without an outsized price tag.” (website).

That said, I asked the guys working in the factory if they owned a pair.

quoddy-025“Can’t afford it,” One gentleman quickly replied.

quoddy-029I, too, can’t afford it but couldn’t leave without ordering a pair. Never in my life has the vice president of a shoe company approached me with the backside of a desk calendar and a pen saying, “Stand on this piece of paper. I’m gonna outline your foot.” Usually, I wear an 11D; according to my invoice, these were made on a 10.5 E last. Excited, I await the arrival of my first pair of custom-made leather moccasins.

quoddy-0301I chose to have a canoe moccasin made with dark brown full grain leather and a deerskin full-sock liner in gold. The eyelets will be nickel-plated silver. They will have a red brick camp sole, and for a bit of flash, I chose red leather laces, a personal trademark. The cow’s leather is from Horween in Chicago, the deerskin comes from a butcher in Holden, Maine who passes the skins along to a tannery once he’s carved out his venison, and the soles are from Brazilian gum trees by way of Ohio. Priced at $165, for a shoe of the highest quality materials, made to my exacting specifications down to the last stitch, it seemed reasonable.

Leaving the factory, I caught a glimpse of myself in a window’s reflection. In that moment, the scruffy, bespectacled hipster staring back at me wondered how the moccasin made its way from the feet of a Canarsee chieftain stalking wild turkey along the marshes of the East River to the boutiques of Bedford Ave. Something tells me he didn’t take the L train.

Quoddy centers their brand around doing things well, doing them locally, and doing them with pride. Invest in a pair of Quoddy moccasins. If you wear your Quoddy’s with the same care that went into crafting them, then they might even outlast you.

For more, please contact:

Kirsten & Kevin Shorey
Telephone: 207.853.2488
Fax: 207.853.4406

1041 US Route 1
PO Box 129
Perry, Maine 04667 USA
quoddytrail@prexar.com
kshorey@prexar.com

For more photos of my visit to the factory, see Flickr.

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