Made In The USA: Woobies MOD-1

There were 1,400 pairs of Vans skate shoes made in the United States last year. I now own two pairs of them: one in white, one in black. Unfortunately for me, they were so expensive, and so irreplaceable, that I have yet to lace either pair up. Yes, I know that’s ridiculous.

When I read about the WOOBIES MOD-1, however, I thought that I might have stumbled on an affordable alternative. The WOOBIES website and marketing materials are primarily focused on “first responders” and military types, but the phrase “skate shoe” does appear. And the price is right: $85, just a bit more than a set of Ultracush-equipped Vans Pros. So I ordered a pair. They’re produced intermittently so it took a while for the Mod-1s to arrive. So… are they a great alternative to Vans?

The answer, as Juan Peron’s advisors say in Evita, is… a qualified yes.

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Last Call For American Stretch

It didn’t work out. Last year, I told you how the nice people at Dearborn Denim managed to preserve their arrangement with Denim North America. Today, I got an email telling me that “DNA” had cancelled the arrangement. Dearborn has seven rolls of the fabric left; when they are sold, they will be purchasing from Cone Mills. You know, that Cone Mills. The ones who got moved to Mexico by their private-equity strip-and-sale.

If you want to try Dearborn before it’s too late, click here. You get ten bucks off, and I get ten bucks’ worth of credit towards my next Dearborn purchase. What’s next for the company? According to the email I received, they are going to work on creating their own denim in Chicago, “but it is at least a four year process.” Let’s hope they make it.

The last remaining denim mill in the United States is Mount Vernon Mills, which supplies LC King — but LC King pants are very traditional, stiff-then-shrink affairs. The Dearborn Stretch Denim was a different animal, very compatible with a bike-to-work or physical-labor lifestyle. I’ll miss it.

Made In The USA: Allen-Edmonds And The “Artisans Of Freedom”

A few weeks ago, my brother sent me a picture of some “Le Tigre” shorts he’d seen at a yard sale. Le Tigre was, to be a charitable, a budget brand back in the Eighties; one of our best friends at the time endured a few weeks’ worth of vicious ribbing because he showed up to school wearing their stuff. Perhaps “junk” would be a better word for Le Tigre, actually. And yet the tag on those shorts that Bark found read “Made In USA”. Yes, there was a time when even our cheap and junky stuff was domestically produced — and until we get back to the days when “Made In The USA” does not almost always correlate to “expensive and upscale” we won’t really have a manufacturing renaissance in this country.

In the meantime, however, we have the Artisans of Freedom, a charmingly (if haphazardly) arranged group of high-end clothing and accessory manufacturers assembled like the Justice League by the nice people at Allen-Edmonds. The “Artisans Of Freedom” watch by Weiss sold out almost immediately, and given what I know about production quantities in Cameron’s two-man shop it will be quite some time until the orders are filled. That’s exciting in and of itself, but there’s more to the Artisans than a very handsome manual-wind watch.

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Made In The USA: Comply Foam

What’s more economically important, the razor, or the blades? I have two sets of what the kids call IEMs, but what we used to call “earphones”, from the nice people at Noble Audio: the Noble x Massdrop and the Noble Luxe. The former is stellar, the latter ain’t bad. I’ve discussed in the past how Noble carefully notes the source of every component in their IEMs, which is nice. So far my experience has been very good and I’m expecting long service out of both sets. The problem, however, is simple: earplugs, unlike diamonds, are not forever.

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Made In The USA: Anodized Titanium Straws from Firefly Bicycles

Using the only criteria that matter — the ones maintained by the 12-year-old boy in the back of our brains — what was the absolutely most cool/awesome/dope/fly machine in human history? It wasn’t the P.K. Ripper or the 917K, cool though they may be. Nor was it the AR-15 or the Cigarette boat driven by Sonny Crocket. It wasn’t even the F-104 Starfighter, although that is the plane I would buy if I won the lottery tomorrow.

The apex machine, the alpha dog of technological achievement, is surely the SR-71 Blackbird and its “Oxcart” sibling. It went faster than the missiles fired in its direction and it made Darth Vader’s TIE Fighter look like a Toyota Yaris. I don’t know about you but I’m looking forward to the “Hidden Figures”-style movie to be made about it where we find out that the Blackbird was invented not by a bunch of nerds with pocket protectors but rather by a diverse team of women’s studies majors, bronies-of-color, and MS-13 lieutenants. Good stuff.

The SR-71’s hull was made of titanium, a necessary inconvenience that required a massive amount of duplicity on the part of American intelligence agencies and/or corporations. Titanium is the king of metals: strong yet ductile, inert and hypoallergenic, able to withstand more heat than the other options in the craftsman’s arsenal. I have lived the vast majority of my life with various different titanium bolts holding me together.

There is little that titanium cannot do. Having saved the world in the Cold War (for a while, anyway) it is now ready to save the world yet again, in the greatest battle humanity has ever faced.

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Forget It Jack, It’s Chinatown: Richer Poorer Socks

I have a bit of a distaste hierarchy when it comes to made-in-China stuff. Are you a Chinese company, using your own brand and forthrightly discussing Chinese production? Then maybe we can do business — this article is being written on a Lenovo Y900. Are you an American company that makes some of your products in China, clearly labeling them as such? Okay, Pelican and SILCA… let’s give it a shot (although I just had an unpleasant experience with a Chinese SILCA product, more on that in the near future). Do you obscure the place of production in favor of long bullshit rants about American design and sustainability and being a force for good? Sorry, Patagonia, you can fuck off.

Ah, but there’s a level of Chinese obfuscation even below that of Patagonia et al — the level where you claim to make things in Western countries, or in Japan, only to send me Chinese products when I order them.

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Made In The USA: Liberty Bottleworks

Let’s just get this out of the way: If you like the idea of an American-made aluminum bottle with WWII graphics on it, then you can get it here. It’s built like a P-47 and it will just barely fit in a bicycle waterbottle cage, assuming that said cage is as flexible as the titanium King Cages I use on my bikes.

If you want to read a little bit about morality and empathy and food safety and whatnot, click the jump and let’s go for a ride.

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Forget It Jack, It’s Chinatown: Betabrand, Sometimes

Fool me one time, shame on you
Fool me twice, can’t put the blame on you
Fool me three times, fuck the peace signs
Load the chopper, let it rain on you

Imagine how happy I was to get my new Dragon-Hide Hoodigan from Betabrand just in time for a few long plane trips. Then imagine how I felt to see that they’d sent production to China. Well, it’s nobody’s fault but mine.

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Made In The USA: Weighting Comforts Blanket

From our valued contributor John Marks comes this link to a company that sews weighted blankets in Tennessee. They partner with Sew For Hope, a nonprofit that helps refugees in the Tennessee area learn to sew. So this is the rare company that should warm the hearts of America-lovers and refugee-lovers alike. I’m assuming that the refugees in this case are not 22-year-old former ISIS foot soldiers, but hey, even if they are, at least the blankets are made in Tennessee, right? Check them out — and while you’re at it, take a look at another link Mr. Marks provided, this one a defense of Trump’s “reset” with Russia.