George Vlagos of Oak Street Bootmakers: Human (Video)

As you all know, I’m a huge fan of Oak Street Bootmakers. I have a few pairs, and wear them to death. Over the years, i’ve gotten to know founder George Vlagos, and can speak from experience in that he truly loves his craft. There is something to be said for American craftsmanship, and Oak Street Bootmakers embodies all that is good. George recently teamed up with Uproxx to produce a “Human” film on him and his company. I’ll let it speak for itself:

 

Now, tell me you aren’t a fan…

Blankenship Dry Goods: Behind the Curtain

I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know Blankenship Dry Goods over the past year.  Tory Lenzo, their founder and CEO, really has a great vision for his company.  The lineup is strong: a great fleece pullover, pants and shorts, oxford shirts, and this incredible hat.  What’s great about about this outfit?  All made in the USA and 5% of all proceeds go to Wounded Warrior Project.  The USA thing is big for me.  The Wounded Warrior donation is even bigger.

I had a chance to catch up with Tory to get an understanding of his business.  Enjoy:

What is the Blankenship story?  Blankenship Dry Goods’ successes are largely due to embracing the hustle of NYC. I began the brand as a Freshman at NYU with no industry experience. My two feet and mouth were my greatest assets – 99% of life is showing up and connecting. I used to walk around for hours, day after day, and talked to people that all held a small piece of the puzzle.

The learning curve was steep. Every wrong turn was an expense and added frustration. Just when I thought I had something figured out on the manufacturing or sourcing end, everything would unravel.  As someone that loves making progress quickly and traditionally has had difficulty waiting, I can sincerely state that nothing has ever tested my patience like running this brand. Nothing worth having comes easy.

Eventually, I got things right. By placing myself in an environment to learn, I had the chance to grab at opportunities as they presented themselves. Nothing just happened because stars were aligned. Persistence and hard work got the brand where it is today. For these reasons, I believe that my brand exemplifies on the micro level the American Dream. The process is ongoing but I strive everyday to continue to make forward progress.

I am furthermore most proud of being able to assist other entrepreneurs, both young and old, in their own ventures in an external consulting role because of my experience running my brand.

What made you want to start Blankenship?  I really found issue with looking at the label of my shorts and not reading “Made in America.” I wanted to create a brand that took pride in where, how, and what was produced. This inspired the Freedom Shorts – our first design.

What type of guy is a Blankenship customer?  A guy that respects classic American style but prefers more contemporary cuts on his garments. He doesn’t need a brand on the exterior of his garment to define his style or associations in society. He loves America, is appreciative every day of the opportunities that exist in this country, and is humbled by the sacrifice that our service people have made to protect his Freedoms. Aesthetically, his patriotism is subtlety brought to attention by the American Flag motif detailing our garments.

Where do you get inspiration for Blankenship Dry goods?  I design in the heart of the fashion district of NYC. The city is a melting pot and you see so much to derive inspiration from on a daily basis.  Much of what gets designed is based on trends I have seen in the places I have in my life. This includes the contemporary vibes of the NYC prep world, traditional styles of New England, and believe it or not Italy for from fitting and comfortable cuts.

Fine garments need no branding and that’s what we aspire to create. We want our quality to do our bidding. Never should there be a point that I can sell something because I threw an elephant on it and called it a day.  All product color ways are inspired by American History, Natural Beauty, and Icons.

What is your favorite piece in the Blankenship line?  The Tailgater is too cool a garment not to be my favorite. It is attractive and has amazing functionality. Our canvas coozie technology has been a hit for years and does not interfere with the garment wearer when not in use. Our redesign incorporating canvas details, handcrafted canvas coozies, and metal snaps into the Tailgater has made the piece extremely durable and crisp. We are dropping our first line of Fall color ways September 15 (2 currently on preorder online) and 7 heavier weight Tailgaters in early October that include the Aspen and Sun Valley patterns that did so well for us in the past. If last year was any indication, they will be sold out quickly this year. We are also really excited about our limited production “Black Hawk” color way that will donate a royalty of every sale to the Navy Seal Foundation.

What is the best part about running your own business?  People I get to meet and what I get to learn.

I’m a pretty focused individual. Having this endeavor to sink my teeth into has allowed me to channel my energy and commit to it fully. I have been fortunate enough to make amazing connections and learn from those that know significantly more than myself. I intend on continuing to be a sponge and roll with each and every punch.

What do you like to do in your spare time?  I try to learn as much about other industries as I can. As I briefly mentioned, I have worked in a freelance consultant role for other ventures in many industries and in venture capital. These experiences have allowed me to look at business from a different yet equally important angle.

Who are three people you’d like to drink a beer with?  First, Mitt Romney – Shrewd businessman, involvement in consulting (Bain), great family man, true leader.  Second, Ralph Lipschitz – American icon in the fashion industry – could certainly shed some important insights onto my business.   Lastly, Michael Bloomberg – Would love to hear about what it takes to become the mayor of NYC.

What’s on your Spotify playlist?  I listen to Bloomberg Radio (reference q 8).

Criquet Conquers College (Football)

We talked about this a while back, and now we come full circle.  The Criquet team – those fine fellows out of Austin – are releasing their collegiate collection tomorrow, and just in time for college football season.  Do us all a favor and forego that Star Trek poly-blend polo and get some style here.  ALL of the color combinations are outstanding, even if you don’t have an affiliation to the school.

Here’s the rundown:

Georgia:

 

Ole Miss:

Texas A&M (or Bama):

Texas:

Baylor:

TCU:

Which is your favorite?  They are all great…  Cheers, folks.  Kickoff is just a couple weeks away…

Sale Stuff

As I’m sure most of you are aware, the last month as been littered with sale after sale after sale.  I know my inbox has taken a beating from all the friendly reminders.  I did OK…I got this stuff from H.Stockton during their 60% off sale:

I got these two New England Shirt Company sport shirts and the Smathers & Branson Bonefish belt all for under $200(!).  I’ve had my eye on this belt ever since my wedding/honeymoon down in Harbour Island where we did quite a bit of bonefishing.

I also pulled the trigger on the Filson navy blue zipper tote from East Dane.  It was the only place that had it in stock.

There’s more, and we’ll get to it later.  What did you score?  Let’s talk about it in the comments…

The 2015 State Traditions X Red Clay Soul College Football Preseason Rankings

I’ve been looking forward to talking about this for about seven months.  College football season is FINALLY right around the corner.  All the freshman are on campus, all of the teams have started practice, and the witty banter has started.  Have you listened to talk radio lately?  College football is starting to dominate.  As we all know, this is the greatest part of the year.

With that said, we are continuing our tradition with the fine folks over at State Traditions by releasing our top 20 preseason rankings.  We thought long and hard about this, so here we go:

We make bold predictions here at Red Clay Soul, and given what we know today, this is what the landscape looks like.  There is a very good chance that this looks different after week 2, except for the top spot (obviously).  As with these rankings comes along some serious smack talk, so let’s hear it…but keep it PG.  Bring it on.

Fall. Is Coming…

Well folks, Fall is coming.  There are so many sales going on right now that my Inbox is getting more and more excited about National Unsubscribe Day (the day after Thanksgiving).  From a #menswear perspective, Fall is prime time.  It’s not too hot for a blazer, or a jacket, and eventually a sweater, and then eventually a sweater under a jacket…you get it.

I’m working on curating my Fall get up, as well as my Fall closet.  In the meantime, I wanted to ask you folks – what are you into this year?  What are you most looking forward to waking up out of hibernation?

Let’s hear it in the comments below…bring it on…

La Matera: Pinamar & Talampaya

And the boys from La Matera are at it again…  Coming out of the gates STRONG with their two new belts, the Pinamar and Talampaya.

You all know I’m a big belt guy.  I pay as much attention to my belt as I do any other item that encompasses my daily get up.  Maybe it’s because I’m not a jewelry guy and I’m looking to compensate?  Whatever.  I own a few La Matera belts, and they have a different feel than the rest.  These are the type of belts that have incredible style, but they are ok to wear when breaking a sweat.  In fact, that’s their thing.  The inspiration behind La Matera is the Argentinian life, including horses, polo, and a rugged lifestyle.

Most of the La Matera belts have lived inside the primary color bookends, but the recent releases bust those bookends at the seams.  The Pinamar is a really nice light blue background with khaki and navy decorations:

The Talampaya is a non-neon orange color with khaki decoration:

These belts are a GREAT addition to the lineup.  The both look great with jeans or khakis, and work on the course, at the office, doing yardwork, or just hanging out.  They look better with age – especially the leather.  That’s the little secret of the La Matera belts: the leather has a feel that is pleasantly surprising for a belt at this price point.  It will develop a very desirable patina.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again.  Guys – DO NOT be afraid to add a little flare to your outfit with your belt.  You’ll be hard pressed to find a better way to do it than a La Matera belt.  They aren’t whimsical, but that’s not their schtick.  And that’s just the way they like it.