In 2008, the worldwide economy collapsed and left businesses, big and small, feeling pinched like a bit of plankton in a crab's claw. Some of the world's largest markets were forced to hit the reset button and fashion was no different. Many wonderful brands, along with (let's be real) many less wonderful brands, were unable to keep their head above water in the most difficult of economic climates. However, from all that carnage, a beautiful new trend sprung forth, and it was one steeped in a renaissance for artisanal, handcrafted goods. With a tighter budget, men were looking to invest in wares that not only stood the test of time, but got better with time. Out went disposable clothing, and in came goods with either a true heritage built in through years of craft or the promise of heritage to be born out of their wear. Some of the brands offering this level of quality had been hand making their goods for decades upon decades, like Red Wing boots, and some of them were relatively new, like 3Sixteen denim.
Red Wing has been creating work boots in their home base of Red Wing, Minnesota, since 1905. The brand's footwear garnered a reputation for standing up in the grittiest of environments as they created hundreds of thousands of boots for soldiers during both World Wars. The Red Wing Heritage line of boots is still made to those same standards. It's not uncommon to see a pair of 30 to 40-year-old Red Wing boots, oiled to the perfect city or work-torn patina. Each pair of Red Wing Heritage boots is Goodyear welted, allowing them to be resoled, for continued life and enjoyment. These are boots with the potential to outlive their owners.
Boots built to last weren't the only heritage-infused trend to pop off during and after the recession. Raw, selvedge denim saw a huge rise in popularity. 'Selvedge' refers to the self-finished edge of fabric that is created when denim is woven on vintage shuttle looms. Raw denim is untreated and unwashed, and selvedge, raw denim jeans are often handcrafted in the USA by brands like the aforementioned 3Sixteen or Rogue Territory. The quality of a product created in such a fashion is inherent, but what truly contributed to the rise in popularity of raw denim is the unique bond that is formed between the garment and its owner. It is really only through repeated wear that raw denim begins to take on life, and that life is formed intrinsically through the everyday habits of it's owner: heavy fades at the knee he rests on the ground as he changes the oil in the motorcycles that come through his shop, the spider web of honeycombs behind the knees that have formed as he rides his bike to work everyday, or simply the ubiquitous iPhone fade at the front pocket. These are jeans that are built to be worn hard and well. They only get better with time.
These are products with a kind of excellence that makes them more than just another garment, but truly an investment. It's easier to part with that extra cash for a pair of Red Wings when you know that they could very well be an heirloom to be passed on, as opposed to just another worn out shoe that has to go to Goodwill in a few years. And of course, these are more than just simple items of function, they are objects of real beauty. Once you know the pride of owning handcrafted goods, it is hard to go back to mechanized, disposable goods. The care and thought that goes into each stitch is there to see and feel, to be pushed to its limits, and hopefully to become ingrained into the very real fabric of your everyday life.