BEST IN CLASS FOR BUILT TO LAST | CHIPPEWA BOOTS

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Circa 1939, Ola, Idaho — Farmers turned Loggers with a load ready to go to their self-help cooperative sawmill, started with a Farm Security Administration loan.

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From the desk of Contributing Editor, Eli M. Getson–

The thing about great American design is that, for the most part, function is the driving element.   It’s this functionality that’s ultimately the true spirit of what MADE IN AMERICA stands for.  It ain’t about being pretty; it’s about being tough and working the way it’s supposed to.  A lot of it harkens back to a time when Americans toiled long and hard outside, with their hands, and demanded gear that could hold up to their hard-scrabble lives, and unforgiving the elements.  The gear was simple, honest, and true.  You got your money’s worth.

Our forebears would probably be more than slightly amused by the fact that many of today’s American workwear brand purists are not loggers, miners, and metal workers– however, the quality, core values, and classic designs behind these brands still resonate deeply within us.  I believe down inside, most of us value the dignity of hard work, quality goods, and simpler times.  There’s something honest and pure that’s sadly missing in the daily gadget grind of our increasingly disposable lives.  It’s like some of us have a primal itch that we just can’t scratch– so we gird our loins with garb from days gone by, to pay tribute to a life and times we’ll never know, but long for so badly.

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Circa 1908– Lumberjacks in Northern Minnesota –Image by © Minnesota Historical Society

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Recently I had the honor of sitting down with Clark Perkins, brand manager for legendary Chippewa Boots.  Full disclosure– I am not exactly Charlie Rose, I am a cultural observer and men’s wear guy who gets excited about a lot of different things, especially product I use and love.  I traffic in hyperbole, but in this case everything I pen about Chippewa boots is 100% true!  Ok, maybe a little opinion is thrown in there, but when I interview brand managers, merchants, and design folks I admire, I melt into the form of  a 13 year old girl watching Twilight than an objective observer, but what the hell.  When you’re talking about ‘best in class’ products, respect is due.

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Circa 1930s– Loggers (or Lumberjacks) working every muscle in their body, and living off the land.

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Tell me a little about the Chippewa Story?

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INDIAN | AMERICA’S FIRST MOTORCYCLE THE EARLY YEARS OF COOL INNOVATION

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Circa 1937– Springfield, Massachusetts. Since the creation of the Indian Motorcycle, the Indian Factory (the Wigwam) has been the greatest of its kind in the world. The tremendous facilities of this factory are laid out over 12 acres of floor space– nothing short of an actual visit will enable you to visualize the manufacture of today’s Indian motorcycles. In making a tour of the 35 departments of the factory, a person would walk a distance of 7 miles. The row upon row of machinery, if placed end to end, would alone stretch out over 1 1/2 miles. Indian leadership has been maintained thru the years by that manufacturing expertness which finds its outlet in making each new Indian better than the best Indian which has gone before it. When you ride on an Indian, you ride on the Best. — Image by © Lake County Museum

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When you think of classic American Iron, two brands typically come to mind– Harley-Davidson & Indian. Well, Harley-Davidson always comes to mind– and if you know a thing or two about bikes, then hopefully you’re familiar with Indian too.  For those of us that came along after the heyday of American manufacturing, it’s easy to overlook that in the early days there were literally dozens (some even say hundreds) of companies producing motorcycles right here in the US.

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Indian co-founder Oscar Hedstrom on left, CA. 1902.  And I suspect that’s him on the right, ca. 1901.

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GREATEST RIVALRY IN ALL OF SPORTS | THE ARMY VS. NAVY FOOTBALL GAME

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From the desk of Contributing Editor, Eli M. Getson–

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The first reported kidnapping of "Bill the goat" was perpetrated one week before the Army-Navy football game of '53. West Point cadets snuck onto the Annapolis grounds, assisted by a West Point exchange student living at the Naval Academy. After locating the goat behind the stadium, the cadets stashed "Bill" in the back of a convertible-- however, their cover was blown when the goat's horns shredded the car's top. The cadets successfully made it back to West Point and presented the goat to the entire Corps at a raucous dinnertime pep rally-- however, many Navy midshipmen refused to resume classes until "Bill" was returned. After the goat's return was ordered by officials from West Point (as well as President Dwight D. Eisenhower himself, a West Point grad), the Army cadets staged a mass protest which was posted on the front page of several New York papers as "Goat Rebellion at West Point." The Army football team went on to defeat Navy 20-7.

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"Billy" the goat, under the watchful eye of Naval Academy caretakers.

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Every year since 1890, the Navy Midshipmen and Army Cadets meet in the cold of Early December, to play one of the great games in all of American sports.  I’m hard-pressed to think of any other rivalry in all of sports extending that far back, with as much history, sentiment and anticipation as Army-Navy.

While the football fortunes of both service academies have risen and fallen– the grace, tradition, and style of this game endures.

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Original caption, November 1923-- This photo shows the Navy goat and the Army mule wishing each other good luck, in their own peculiar language, before the game. --- Image by © Bettmann. In 1899, at the Army-Navy Game, the Navy football team appeared with a mascot, a handsome if smelly goat. Army fans looked hastily for a mascot of their own. The Army mule was already legendary for its roughness and endurance, so the mule was obvious. A quartermaster in Philadelphia stopped a passing ice truck, and the big white mule pulling it became the first Army mascot. Dolled up in leggings, a collar and a gray blanket, with black gold and gray streamers fluttering from his ears, this mule met the Navy goat and - according to West Point legend - "hoisted that astonished goat toward the Navy stands to the delight of the laughing crowd." Army won the game too, 17-5. --via The Army Football Club.

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1912 -- The Army Mule at Army-Navy Football Game -- Image by © Bettmann.

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THE OAKLAND MOTORCYCLE CLUB | HILL-CLIMB HELLCATS & DIRT DEVILS

EXCELSIOR MOTORCYCLES

The Oakland Motorcycle Club group photo in front of W.P. Williams Excelsior Motorcycles, circa 1910s

Founded in 1907, the Oakland Motorcycle Club has a long history & heritage of turning out hellacious old school hill-climbers, modern-day enduro jockeys, and all-around raucous riders. Checkout the tonnage of awe-inspiring vintage photos documenting their historical group shots, outdoor motor-sports, and runs galore on good ol’classic American iron– Indian & Harley Davidson motorcycles. And if the bike action doesn’t get ya’, their gear-head meets The Great Gatsby style certainly will. Bow ties,  shawl collars & jodphurs– oh my.

Oakland Motorcycle Club 1920s

Oakland Motorcycle Club members, circa 1920s – nice Harley Davidson jersey

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Sidecar Conversation.

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I don’t know if you can tell from some of my recent posts– but I really need to hit the open road.  Soon.  This picture makes me especially itchy.  Must.  Get.  Out.

When I was a boy there were certain things that were just cool to you.  Tents, campers, convertibles, BB guns, slot cars, Indian arrowheads, Zippo lighters, hermit crabs, anything to do with a CO2 cartridge… well, you get the picture.  But if I had to pick just one thing, it would probably be a motorcycle with a sidecar. Continue reading