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!

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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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Made In The USA: Kirkland Signature Socks

Okay, I admit it. As of late, this “Made In The USA” series has been a little bourgeois. And the items that I have coming up won’t do much to address the criticism that’s been repeated by our readers again and again: namely, that this obsession with American-made products is really just another way to spend too much for things, the same way that the “foodie revolution” occurred because you have all these people in cities earning $250,000 a year who literally don’t have enough room in their apartments for a second bicycle but who still want to indulge in copious displays of economic well-being.

To counter this unfortunate trend of $175 extension cords and the like, I present to you: Kirkland Signature Socks. I paid $8.95 for these at Costco a while back. The best way I could think of to torture-test them was simple: use them for a day at work, then an evening at the skatepark, then another day at work, then 35 minutes on the elliptical machine. That’s not really equivalent to a year’s worth of hard use or anything like that, but it’s enough to cause visible wear in the overseas-made stuff you get from Wal-Mart. As part of this comparison, I would then evaluate the Kirkland socks against my limited-run, American-made Flint&Tinder socks, to see which set was better.

Surprise: The Kirkland Signature socks appear to be just as good as the F&T socks that cost literally ten times as much. But, as with everything, there’s a catch.

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Made In The USA: Shinola x General Electric

“Can’t believe that you, of all people, buy into the Shinola hype.” That’s what a commenter wrote on my Instagram page yesterday. I think that’s a compliment. And while my opinion on Shinola is, I hope, reasonably hype-free, I also can’t say that I’m immune to the brand’s charms.

I stopped by their Ann Arbor store late last night. This is, it has to be said, a profoundly satisfying place. The ground floor is designed around a selection of natural materials and carefully spot-lit to cast a flattering glow on everything from their boxes of traditional wooden pencils (that I bought for my son) to the handsome Runwell, Bixby, and Detroit Arrow bicycles.

The basement, reached down a set of wrought-iron-and-rough-wood stairs, is an authentic marvel. Brick-lined, with a fourteen-foot ceiling and that same careful accent lightning. A gloss-red bicycle sits between small, private alcoves for conversation. There’s a bar, tended during my visit by a painfully earnest and ruggedly handsome beard-and-suspenders fellow who cleaned glasses with the precise amount of vintage, authentic effort displayed by the android bartender in Passengers, where you can buy soda and baked goods. Beneath another soft spotlight, there’s a pair of bookshelf speakers and a selection of usual-suspect records (What’s Going On, Rubber Soul, Physical Graffiti, that sort of thing) for you to play on their stunning new Shinola (by VPI) turntable. A great place to write a novel, meet your future wife, or just relax with a made-in-Detroit Shinola soda. At only $1.00, the twelve-ounce glass-bottled cola is probably the only genuine deal the brand offers.

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