Dogs are everywhere. Goldens, labs, English setters—gayly jockeying for position up and down the aisles of the upper deck, tails sideswiping every shin within a two feet radius. Sure, the Hy-line smells like wet dog and whatever fast food the family in the corner brought on board; no one cares. We'll be on ACK in less than fifteen minutes.
I first met Jack Robie co-founders Brad Corona and Brian Nicholson last summer, when they had just launched the online shirt company out of a loft in Chinatown. At the time, the business was focused on dress shirts, but the small offering of colorful, washed sport shirts was the inadvertent topliner of the collection. Although they spared no expense on the fabrics, the fit left something to be desired. Fast-forward one year and much has changed. "We shifted the focus from dress to casual, which was the clear path almost immediately after we launched, moved to a local factory with better production, and re-worked the cut of our signature pattern," explains Corona.
We’re at Nantucket's historic White Elephant for a couple of days to shoot the Jack Robie spring/summer campaign. The island is an ideal backdrop for the summer plaids, ginghams, and stripes prominent in the new collection. It’s heaven here. A couple models, a dog, a rack of shirts, a topless truck, scooters, and an evening at Black-Eyed Susan’s made for quite the weekend.
“Based on the initial reaction to our new collection, which in some ways is a re-launch of the business, our customers appear to be very pleased.”
Trust me. I tried one on in the bathroom of Seersucker one rainy night over dinner with Corona. I was in a bespoke shirt I recently had made...which is to say that shirt fits me perfectly. When I buttoned up the Jack Robie prototype, the fit was nearly indistinguishable. They nailed it.
George Vlagos is meticulously running the pads of his fingers over tanned hides in cherry, black, tan, and navy. Eyes closed, arms outstretched, the buttery soft surface is music to his hands. It's Chromexcel®, or CXL as it’s written in the five story Horween® building. A combination tanned leather that undergoes 89 separate processes stretching over a month, the formula has been around for over a century and arguably produces some of the world’s best leather today. Vlagos takes the navy.
Some fifteen years ago, in a Chicago cobbler shop, a pubescent George Vlagos sat under the skilled hands of his father during Christmas, spring, and summer breaks. It was an attempt to show his son that working with your hands was difficult. Vlagos’s father, a Greek immigrant, wished an education for his son. It backfired. Though he would go on to earn his masters, Vlagos gravitated back to the family craft after realizing how difficult finding quality shoes proved.
“I wanted a shoe made in America, full grain leather, and at a reasonable price.”
Designed and sourced in Chicago, Oak Street Bootmakers’s Chromexcel® navy beefroll penny loafer (along with the entire collection, for the record) is hand-sewn in Maine, where according to Vlagos is the only region in the country where you can track down craftsmen still capable of the craft. The loafers boast a stacked leather heel, welted construction (simply send them back to Oak Street for resoling), hand-stitched moccasin uppers, and carry just enough weight to intimate their craftsmanship.
“Oak Street is about taking classic ideas, putting our twist on them, but really doing it right,” Vlagos conveys with conviction. This means working with only Horween® leather, hand selecting hides, and attentively crafting each pair for each customer. Not only does Vlagos design and oversee production, but he is on the other end of your emails, phone calls, and boxes up each pair of shoes himself. “It’s really important to offer incredible customer service, answer each customer’s questions, and fit them in the perfect shoe.” And for $270, perfection is a lot easier than it sounds.
Even though summer is here, you can still make an effort on the weekend without losing your cool.
1. Ray-Ban tortoise shell Wayfarers
2. Brooks Brothers extra slim-fit oxford cloth button down shirt
3. Rugby Nantucket reds
4. Esquivel suede bucks
George Esquivel—the master of handmade footwear and designer for Fratelli Rossetti—has created an idealistic “lace-up-and-go” suede buck for summer that is casual in its stance yet murmurs you’re making an effort.
Silk is a great alternative to seersucker come the blistering heat of summer. Just as cool, not as cocksure.
8. Timex Easy Reader watch w/J.Crew nylon strap
9. J.McLaughlin gingham pocket square
The older I get, the more seldom I pull on a T-shirt—and a graphic T-shirt at that. I only have a couple in the back of my wardrobe somewhere. But come the weekend, you’d be hard pressed to beat the comfort of one paired with beat-up khakis and canvas sneakers.
Two summers ago, Peter Moore, a Long Island native accustomed to memorable Montauk summers in his youth, was in the market for an iconic local T-shirt. His search turned up pseudo-authentic graphic tees only alluding to fictitious Montauk establishments. Contrived, to say the least. That empty search gave birth to the idea behind Local Knit, graphic T-shirts featuring local mainstays in distinct towns across the country. Naturally, Moore started with the unapologetic fishing village of his childhood summers.
From top to bottom: Lazybones, Herb's Market, Star Island Yacht Club, Montauk Bake Shoppe, Westlake Marina
In any town, locals know best. Montauk is no exception. Weekend surfers mingle with commercial clammers to create an offbeat lifestyle largely responsible for its popularity amongst tourists. The ring-spun cotton tees* ($24 each) serve as a simple roadmap to the best dives. From Gosman’s Fish Market to Duryea’s Lobster Deck, these local outfits epitomize “authentic”. Customers help preserve the quirky character of the beloved town as a portion of every sale goes directly back to the featured business. That’s not even the best part—the shirts actually fit well. Next up as Local Knit makes its way inland? Amagansett and East Hampton.
I’d like all of you to experience these tees for yourselves but five of you can do so on my dime. Visit LocalKnit.com and let me know in the comments which tee and size (they run true to size) you want. Winners (chosen randomly) will be announced on the Facebook page (“like” it so you’ll know if you won) Monday June 13th. Pick one up this weekend and it might just be the reason your favorite spot is still there next summer.
*courtesy of Local Knit