Made In The USA, Affordable And Retail: Dearborn Denim

If you’ve been reading this site for a while, you know that I am very passionate about bringing you products that are Made In The USA. Unfortunately, in the current economic and political climate that means I’m spending a lot of time talking about remarkably expensive or extremely specialized stuff. One of my readers called me on the carpet recently regarding this. He suggested that we lay off the $250 resole services and $299 fidget spinners (both of which are, um scheduled for future articles) and focus on products that regular working-class Americans can buy without taking out a second mortgage.

He was, of course, absolutely right.

So today we have a new category: Made In The USA, Affordable. And I’m kicking it off with a new retailer that offers completely American-made jeans for just $59. You can buy Dearborn Denim online, but since I was in Chicago for another reason I decided to visit their retail location in the baddest part of town and see what the company is all about.

Continue Reading →

Made In The USA: Vortic Chicago Series

If you’ve been reading this site for a while, you know that American-made watches are a recurring theme around here. Bark, Danger Girl, and I all own and wear Shinola watches, which are assembled in the United States using components from Switzerland, China, and Florida. Bark owns a Weiss Standard Issue Field, which combines an American-assembled Swiss movement with American-made case, crystal, and strap. I have the Weiss American Field, which takes the standard Weiss and adds a movement made in the United States by Cameron Weiss and a team of CNC machines. Only the hairspring and the jewels come from other countries — in this case, Switzerland.

Believe it or not, there was a time when American watchmakers didn’t import anything from Switzerland. They made the whole thing here, soup to nuts, in massive factories that churned out millions of watches for working Americans. The Elgin Watch Company, for example, operated thirty miles away from Chicago, from 1864 to 1968. It was the largest watchmaking operation in the world and it made everything from solid-gold ladies’ watches to clockwork fuses in World War II bombs.

The ownership of a gold Elgin pocketwatch in the Twenties was a sign of significant personal accomplishment; it was the Rolex Submariner of its time, neither everyday common nor uncomfortably recherche. As the value of gold skyrocketed during the Obama years, a lot of vintage pocketwatches were melted down for the $1500 or so worth of precious metal in their cases and the painstakingly-crafted movements were thrown into storage lockers — or worse yet, into the trash. After all, who needs a pocketwatch?

Luckily, today’s wristwatch aesthetic has grown to include massive cases that are large enough to hold pocketwatch-sized movements. IWC, for example, is exploiting this with their 150th Anniversary watch which is basically a vintage pocketwatch re-imagined for use on the wrist. Here in America, a new company is doing something even more interesting: they are taking those old pocketwatch movements out of the trash, rebuilding them, and placing them in American-made cases to create 100% USA-made watches at a price well below even that of a Weiss American Standard. To find out how well that idea works, I ordered a Vortic in early December. It was delivered today.

Continue Reading →

Made In The USA: Weiss Standard Issue Field Watch

 

As many of you may remember, Brother Jack got his own Weiss American Issue Field Watch with the Cal. 1003 movement from Weiss Watch Company a few months back and raved about the quality of the product. Much of his writing that day, however, dealt with the movement contained within the case—the reverse-engineered Caliber 1003, which Cameron Weiss has painstakingly created in his shop in Los Angeles, California. It’s the standard bearer for American watches in modern times.

However, JB also mentioned that Mr. Weiss, who’s a disgustingly young and handsome man, started his business with the Standard Issue Field Watch. He still makes the crystals and cases in SoCal, but rather than using his hand-crafted automatic movement, he uses the Caliber 1001, a hand-wound fully mechanical movement which is imported from Switzerland and finished by hand. The end result is a watch that is no less beautiful that the American Issue, but costs half as much.

As I tend to rotate my watches more often than many men rotate their underwear, I wanted to support Mr. Weiss’ efforts, but I was reluctant to spend the nearly $2000 required for the automatic movement. As such, when it came time for me to buy my own Weiss timepiece, I opted for the Standard Issue, as you can see in the photos above (if you’re not familiar with the ‘gram, you can click on the image to scroll through the four unboxing pics).

It has, thus far, been fantastic.

Continue Reading →

Made In The USA: Vans Style 113

Repeat after me: There has not been a “skate shoe” made in the United States since the turn of the century.

There has not been a “skate shoe” made in the United States since the turn of the century.

Ah, but we are both wrong. There were one thousand, four hundred skate shoes made in the United States this year. Seven hundred pairs. At a price, and through a distribution method, that borders on the obscene.

Eppur si muove, though. This pair is mine.

Continue Reading →

Made In The USA, Soon: Pacific Blue Denims

Last week I told you the bad news about the closing of Cone Mills. Today I have some good news. Pacific Blue Denims has announced that they are buying six of the Draper X3 looms to made selvedge denim in the United States again.

To find out more about the Draper looms and another, much smaller operation using them here in the United States, take a look at Huston Textiles. Note that neither one of these firms actually makes finished clothing; they are suppliers to the large market of small-batch clothing makers out there, many of who are either in Japan or the United States. Cross your fingers for Pacific Blue — and I’ll keep you posted as I find out more!

Made in the USA: SILCA

Here’s an unusual Made-In-USA story: SILCA, a manufacturer of bicycle pumps and assorted tools, was founded and operated in Italy until the death of its founder, at which point the new owner brought it to the United States. More specifically, he brought it to Indianapolis. I’ve heard so much about SILCA’s stuff, and all of it good, so when they put a few items into a scratch-and-dent sale I figured I had no choice but to pull the trigger.

Continue Reading →

Made In The USA: Lodge Cast Iron

Success carries its own kind of burden. We are knock-knock-knocking on the door of two million visits here at Riverside Green, and we’ve had more than twenty thousand comments in the past thirty months. This is all great news. The problem occurs when you are looking for a particular needle in that comment haystack.

A few weeks ago, one of the commenters recommended some American-made cookware. I wanted to go back and feature that company, but I couldn’t find the comment. I ended up calling up a list of American-made cookware manufacturers and searching the comments for the brand names until I came up with Nick D’s comment regarding Vollrath. They make some awesome stuff in the literal sense that I am in awe of their pricing. Check it out. Be aware that not all of their brand lines are USA-made, but the high-end stuff definitely is.

Meanwhile, here at Schloss Baruth of the West (the Eastern one is here) we’ve just taken delivery of some Lodge iron pans. The verdict so far?

Continue Reading →

Made In The USA: Weiss American Issue Field Watch Cal. 1003

A few months go, I discussed the importance of Shinola and taking “baby steps” towards American manufacturing. Today, we are going to talk about the first mass-market-oriented USA-made movement to appear in my lifetime: Weiss Cal. 1003. I’ve just taken delivery of a Weiss American Issue Field Watch, and it would be an understatement to say that I’m thrilled with it. Below, I’ll explain why this new watchmaker, and new watch movement, is so critical for American manufacturing — and why Shinola is probably still more important for American watchmaking as a whole.

Continue Reading →

Made In The USA: Unicomp Buckling Spring Keyboard

Good afternoon, everyone.

Meet Unicomp.

Unicomp makes keyboards. If Shinola is the perfect example of made-in-USA-as-branding-tactic, then Unicomp is the anti-Shinola. They make everything, soup to nuts, right here in the States. They are the inheritor of what is perhaps the oldest existing tradition in the relatively young field of personal computing. Their products are reliable beyond imagining and they are cheaper than the Chinese alternatives. If you want to own the best of something — anything — and you work at a keyboard, then today is your lucky day. You don’t even need to finish this article. Don’t need to click the jump. Off you go, friendo.

What? You want to hear the whole story? You have that kind of time? Well, let’s start with this: If you ever think that your childhood was lame, compare it with mine. Pretty much the biggest highlight of my nine-year-old life was going to my father’s office once a week or so, because I had a chance to use his secretary’s IBM Selectric II. What did I do with it? Very simple: I wrote the weekly newsletter for my school’s video-game/computing club.

Easy there, ladies. I’m spoken for.

Continue Reading →