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Ramblers Way

24 May

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I don’t typically go into great lengths over consumer ethics with this site, though I have my opinions. If you’ve been reading along through the years, you’ll notice I focus on what is normally referred to as “heritage brands”. This broad term, to me at least, can describe a brand with a rich history, but more accurately describes a brand that focuses on craftsmanship and quality over mass production, price scaling, and distribution. In this vein, a company like Brooks Brothers is not a heritage brand, though often the products made for them are made by heritage brands (and in more cases, in Chinese factories).

It has been interesting living in Vermont these last few years. There are cultural and socioeconomic facets to this place that are more deeply rooted than I care to discuss, but a really interesting one is the crap economy. Vermont is a tiny state that produces VERY little for export. This little state however, in the mid 1800s, produced more wool and woolen goods than any other location in the US. Vermont had a massive wool industry, and in the space of 60 years, it fell flat due to a variety of circumstances that more or less equated to the industrial revolution, outsourcing production, and agricultural life being ended abruptly in favor of factory work. In short, people left Vermont, and its sheep pastures, to make quick money and live in cities. This ultimately destabilized the American wool industry for the next century, and left Vermont in a 100+ year economic recession.

Where am I going with all of this? Some woolens brands remain in New England, and new ones are popping up.

One such  is Ramblers Way (named as an homage to the English walking tradition, not as play on words on the Sheep breed Rambouillet, or the English folk song ), a woolen goods brand based in Kennebunk Maine ( founded by Tom’s of Maine Tom and Kate Chappell).

Check out their beliefs statement page. Any brand that commits to quality, sustainability, and local industry is a great one in my book. All of this is well and good, but they also make a really attractive line of woolens, and (dare I say it) sweaters. One in particular is their Shawl Neck Fisherman.

 

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Late summer

20 Aug

In like a lion, out like a lamb, or is that just for winter? Seems to be the case for New England summers. There is already a chill at night, and the days are hovering in the 70s. Tweeds will be returning soon.

A little recap, as I spent an inordinate amount of time this summer living life while not documenting it.

Gardening

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Closet Projects

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And now, Fall, come at me.

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squirrel time, again

6 Oct

 

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This marks the 3rd recurrence of my presence here in Vermont during the Summer to Fall transition. The first time, I just didn’t know what I was looking at. The seasons shift with a special kind of wanton subtlety. The natural forces of this state want you to be shocked on that first cold morning, to be caught outside with a light jacket at night. Oh, but now I know better

Vermont really is most lovely in the fall. Summer starts to creep away, and things coalesce into this state of grace on the spectral level. Everything just suddenly feels right. This in and of itself, is yet another natural bait and switch; the second you’ve gotten used to the crisp days and chill nights, you find yourself under 3 feet of snow, in a dead wind-blasted wasteland. Not to put a bitter edge on it or anything.

Here is a series of  personal distractions in biographical order-

Music

New sunglasses- Persol PO 3046S

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This video featuring Kalpesh Lathigra’s recent shoot of the RRL w2013 line for Port magazine

Getting the fall boots ready

Rider Cordovan and LL Bean Shearling Ducks– Also known as the Vermont Fall to Winter 2 step.

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I think it’s hot cider time.

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1957 Lyman and the last of summer

1 Sep

My brother in law, an intrepid renaissance man of numerous talents, owns a boat. This boat (which I am trying my damnedest to buy from him) is a wooden masterpiece of lake skimming glory. A 1957 Lyman. In the below we are boating around lake Sunapee on the last day of August. A perfect way to close out an otherwise hot and lengthy summer.

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Heinrich Dinkelacker and THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN EXPENSIVE AND VALUABLE

19 Apr

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I’m really into sturdy shoes. I think thin soles and fine leather on shoes have their place, but nothing beats a crazily built-up cordovan wingtip. These types of bullet-proof foot coverings can be referred to as gunboats. Gunboat as a phrase was popularized in the 1920s to describe both cars and feet that were over-sized or especially ungainly. This carried over to shoes in the 30’s in Dashiell Hammett style prose, and has stuck with aficionados of well built shoes since.

One shoe maker of this classic style that few people know of here in the US is the German based Budapest made organization Heinrich Dinkelacker. From their site-

“At Heinrich Dinkelacker the production of sewn-welted men’s shoes lies in the experienced hands of 40 specialized shoemakers who have learnt their trade from scratch. Every one of these experienced craftsmen has particular expertise in 2-3 working steps. Without an assembly line or constant pressure to increase efficiency, each employee creates one pair of premium shoes per day. And each pair undergoes 300 manufacturing steps – from the cutting down to the finish.”

Dinkelacker has been making classic “Budapester” styled brogue shoes for over 50 years in the classic 100 year-old tradition first made popular in Hungary’s capitol city.

Check out some of their 2013 collection below.

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London Captoe

 

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The theme of quality is a dear one on this blog, as you may have noticed. There is a marked difference between expensive and valuable, as as a core principal at Dinkelacker, their work speaks for itself.

These shoes make me wish I was walking along the Danube. Then again, most things make me wish I was walking along the Danube.

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gransfors bruks

16 Mar

Life in Vermont is full of interesting requirements. I find myself picking up all kinds of new skills because of where I live. Included in these are: the ability to drive in heavy snow, the capacity to eat maple syrup on any variety of food, and the ability to split wood. Up to a point, wood is easy to split. This ease is usually achieved by careful pre-seasoning and selection. When you find yourself in possession of a bunch of wood that is still in more or less unseasoned condition, and is in fact in what is referred to as rounds, a normal axe just won’t do it. Not knowing the abilities of my own upper body, the limitations of standard axes, or the tenacity of solid wood rounds that have been frozen solid for the last 4 months, I broke a maple axe handle nearly in half, and also nearly removed a foot. My wife, in an effort to save me from having false limbs, decided to get me the right tool.

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This beauty is the Gransfors Bruks splitting maul.

I’ve always been a bit of a tool nut, and this one strikes a deep chord of axe-satisfaction. This is not some “Best Made” fashion axe with a racing stripe and a velvet lined display box. This is a monstrosity of splitting efficiency. Not only am I made happy by the pure functional purpose of this splitting maul, but its also nice to see an old company producing quality items well after its 100th birthday. Its actually quite interesting to hear what Gabriel Branby, CEO of Gransfors Bruks has to say on the re-invigoration of a company/brand with the reintroduction of practicality and old fashioned values.

Reminds me of what Harris Tweed went through in the last decade.

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