5 November 2016
This is why Someone Else exists:
I started writing about style while working for a certain men’s clothing service in Chicago. It was fun interviewing Billy Reid, George Vlagos, Jason Schott, Bob Kidder, and all those guys, but the final stories weren’t exactly making me cream my selvedge jeans. When I interviewed George for the company blog, for instance, my main objective—per manager expectation—was to explain why Oak Street Bootmakers penny loafers cost $320, and why it matters that they’re made out of something called burgundy CXL from some place called Horween Leather.
This kind of storytelling gave our salespeople talking points, and, more importantly, helped resolve customer apprehension related to price.
But personally, I was more interested in designers’ motivations and inspiration. I enjoyed talking to Billy Reid about buffalo-horn buttons, but I wanted to dig deeper into why being called a “Southern designer” irked him so much, and why he set up HQ in Florence, Alabama. George Vlagos told me that his father, a cobbler, wanted him to be a doctor or lawyer, but not a shoemaker. I wanted to get deeper into that. After touring the Horween factory, home of that burgundy CXL, I wanted to write about the Horween family and their dedication to old-school leather-making. Sadly, that kind of thing wouldn’t have resonated with my audience or bosses.
My preference for stories over selling points came to a head when I advocated for my company to bring in some shoes from New England Outerwear. After we received shipment, I did a product-knowledge presentation for the entire sales team. With Mr. Smith Goes to Washington fervor I held forth about how Dan Heston and Greg Cordeiro bought their own shoe factory in Maine; how they recruited a master hand-sewer from the local landfill (he had been an offshoring casualty of the LL Bean and Bass departures); and how all that informed the quality of the final product. I ended my impassioned speech with, “God bless New England Outerwear, and God bless the United States of America.” Then I asked if there were any questions.
Weeks later, none of the shoes had moved. In turn, I knew I had to move on.
Back when I finished the Horween factory tour, I met Phil Kalas, who works at Horween and runs Ashland Leather on the side with Dan Cordova. This introduction ended with me heading home with an unusual Fat Herbie shell-cordovan wallet. This particular wallet was limited-edition with special threading, intended as an Ashland Leather x Momotaro collaboration, which had fallen through. I wrote a blog post about the wallet, focusing on the Momotaro angle. After posting the link to my Facebook, Stefan Draht shared it on his timeline. Stefan was a designer I’d recently met through work. I thanked him for the share, which led to a conversation that’s been going on for the last three years.
Stefan and I shared similar dissatisfactions and ambition. We weren’t completely satisfied with style publications that focused on what: Here’s a new shirt; here’s a new pair of shoes; here’s a new designer. Those sites are great at what they do, but outlets like Hypebeast, and people like hypebeasts, seemed disinterested in going beyond the hype. There are also publications focused on how, which I also read and appreciate. It’s fun to nerd-out on the minutiae of denim looms, and places like Heddel’s are great at that, but excruciatingly detailed explanations of arcane clothing-manufacturing processes don't stick to my ribs.
It might sound precious or even wildly pretentious (I’d cop to either count), but Stefan and I wanted to go deeper, into that sense of why that I couldn’t really explore with Billy Reid and George Vlagos. So we produced a story about the Independence shop in Chicago, which ended up becoming the first Someone Else entry, “With Opposition.” Stefan hand-coded a standalone website for the story, which went live in August 2014. From there we kept the conversation going and launched a new website in January 2015. (During the transition, “With Opposition” got lost in the shuffle and went offline.) In the subsequent 12 months we published 12 stories, most of which touched on the theme of family. Our “Family Issue” included three business stories, three personal stories, three podcasts, and two essays, with a piece on Sturgill Simpson thrown into the mix. During that publication run, Stefan and I kept working, eventually planning a complete site overhaul, a project that we nicknamed 2.0.
You are now visiting Someone Else 2.0. To commemorate our relaunch, we are opening with “With Opposition” as our main feature, along with the three business stories from the Family Issue. In the weeks and months to come, I will recreate the remaining Family Issue stories in our current CMS, while also publishing new work on Freenote Cloth, American Trench, Left Field, Yuki Matsuda, Ashland Leather, a Chicago metalsmith named Gillion Carrara, and many others. Through it all, Stefan and I will keep searching out new ways for design, visuals, and copy to combine as equal storytelling elements, to get us deeper under the surface.
We hope you’ll join that conversation.
Let us know how we’re doing, what we can do better, and what kind of why you’d like to see.Joe Jarvis, Editor (email@example.com)