Made In The USA: Pelican Coolers

True story: Last year I spent three days exploring the ghost towns of Colorado with a nature photographer and his best friend, who also happened to be the model for some of the photos used in the article I wrote from the experience. When I got to the photographer’s house, I saw that he had YETI… everything. Four different sized YETI coolers. A whole bunch of YETI insulated cups. YETI stickers on his truck and on his photo gear. He was all about the YETI.

I was confused because the only YETI I knew was the high-end bike maker that sadly moved to Taiwan for production about fifteen years ago. But I didn’t give it any more thought, until last week. That was when YETI became involved in a whole bunch of drama regarding its decision to withdraw its support from the NRA. To be honest, I’ve read twenty articles about the YETI/NRA thing and I still don’t know the truth. YETI claims it was all a misunderstanding — but is that just a case of a company walking back a social-justice policy when they realize just how unpopular said policy is among the hunters, woodsmen, and explorers that make up the company’s customer base?

In the middle of all the drama, Pelican Coolers popped into social media with a very canny promotion: buy a USA-made Pelican Cooler using a certain code (PELICANPROUD) and the company would donate ten bucks to the NRA. Plus you’d get a (Chinese-made) insulated cup similar to the YETI one that every thirtysomething mother in the Midwest has in her immediate vicinity at all times. So I took a look at the company’s offerings. They had a 30-quart cooler that looked about perfect for my summer NASA/SCCA/BMX/skatepark/World-Challenge season. And it was available in Lime Green. The price was a bit breathtaking, but I justified it using some absolutely stupid math that I’ll share with you after you CLICK THAT JUMP.

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Dearborn Denim Is Saved, Offers Savings In Return

A few months ago I visited Dearborn Denim and bought three pairs of pants that so far have held up quite well. There was some concern at the time that Dearborn would face some genuinely negative consequences from Denim North America’s decision to terminate denim production. “DNA” is Dearborn’s source and with Cone Mills closing at the same time it looked like there would be no reasonable way to do a fabric-to-finish American-made set of jeans in the long run.

This morning I got an email from Dearborn stating that they have convinced DNA to continue the supply at a higher cost and minimum-volume requirement. They also gave me this discount code. You’ll save ten or twelve bucks when you use it… and I think that if five of you use the code then I get one free pair of pants. I tell you what, the chances to milk you rubes for sweet cash and prizes just never end, do they?

An alternative that uses Cone Mills Denim and doesn’t put one-fifth of a pair of pants into my crooked pockets: the Cone Stretch from Gustin, which is $81 plus shipping. Either way, I think you’ll be happy.

In Which The Author Learns Some Hard Truths About American Bicycle Manufacturing

Last month, I pointed an emerald-green S63 AMG across the California desert separating Pasadena from Apple Valley. My purpose: to meet up with my old pal Bill Ryan, owner of Supercross BMX. I hadn’t seen Bill for more than a decade and a half, although we had kept up a sporadic conversation via email and social media. My plan was to order a new race frame to replace the 2001-vintage Supercross UL that Bill had custom-built for me and maybe to make some plans for my son’s next race bike.

Bill was in fine fettle when I arrived and we chatted for the better part of two hours. “Let me give you the tour,” he said. We walked through a series of warehouses. “This is where the fabrication line was… this was where we painted the frames… Right there was where we did all the machining and drilling for the stems.” And as we walked it dawned on me that every single drill, every single jig, and every single fixture I saw was coated with the thick dust of long neglect.

We returned to his office, where a massive whiteboard detailed every incoming shipment of frames and parts along with cost, supplier, and various conditions regarding delivery. Almost without exception, the names of the contractors were established Taiwanese OEM cycle suppliers.

“Bill,” I said, “I don’t understand it. Fifteen years ago you were making a ton of stuff here. Regular production, custom builds, small parts. What happened?”

“Well,” he exhaled, and some of his infamous manic energy seemed to evaporate, “…we’re in California.”

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Made In The USA, Affordable (And Used) Edition: The $59 Wilberts, Two Years Later

Would you buy, and wear, a set of used shoes? I don’t think most people would, but there is a solid case to be made for certain used-shoe purchases. To begin with, it is often possible to get a nearly-new set of American-made dress shoes for half the price of Chinese department-store junk. Furthermore, if you pick the right shoe, you can get a pair of used shoes and a set of new shoes for 2/3rds of that shoe’s street price.

To demonstrate how this works, and to show you how to achieve footwear nirvana for the price of a two-top dinner and drinks at Applebee’s, I decided in January of 2016 to buy a set of used Allen-Edmonds off eBay and to see what happened next. My long-time readers know that I own close to a hundred pairs of dress shoes from A-E, Alden, Grenson, Crockett&Jones, Bruno Magli, Edward Green… with the exception of Ferragamo, Gucci, and TOD’S, I think I have an example of pretty much every high-end shoe out there. I don’t typically buy used shoes. As you will see, however, there was no penalty to my having done so, and over one hundred wearings later, I’m still feeling good about my purchase.

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Five Good Minutes with Cameron Weiss and Weiss Watch Company

cameron weiss

“If you wanted to make a 1920’s Ford,” explained Cameron Weiss, the owner, operator, and watchmaker at Weiss Watch Company, “the first thing you’d do would be to go look at a 1920’s Ford. You wouldn’t try to design the parts yourself, because it’s already been done.”

“That’s what makes watchmaking so cool—we’re dealing with old technology, but we’re finding new ways to do it.”

We’ve featured Mr. Weiss’ work here a couple of times before, but I was fortunate enough to have the chance for him to give me a guided tour of his Los Angeles facility last week. And what I saw was enough to convince me that not only do I need to earmark some more money for an Cal 1003 or Cal 2100 watch of my own, but that you probably do, too.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!