It may seem as though we Americans don’t make anything anymore, buying all our stuff from places where labor is cheap and standards are cheaper, but this holds true only when you look at mass market consumption. If you examine what goes on among the people — most of them young — who inhabit our creative subculture, you’ll find they are producing like mad, creating all sorts of cool stuff for all sorts of niche markets. And it’s not just hipster women knitting trendy items like cowels and fingerless gloves; the men are on the forefront of this movement as well. And they have expanded their enterprises far beyond beer-making and pickling and into areas of light manufacturing, making things like hatchets and tweed caps.
And then there’s my own husband. A teacher by trade, he has always, always made stuff. I met him when we were just 18. Which, upon reflection, seems like a lifetime ago. But then again, it seems like just yesterday, because he is much the same person, possessing the same sort of energy that he had when he was not much more than a kid, ready to attack a piece of wood with a sharp implement just to see what he could make of it. When we were 19 I bought him an antique draw knife at a flea market as a Christmas present. This is the sort of romance we had. Practical and impractical, all at the same time.
Today is our anniversary. I’ve now been with him nearly as long as I was without him, and in honor of this fact, and the fact that he is coming into his own in this era of Men Who Make Things, I wanted to create a wish list of gifts for this very cool man, my husband. These are the things he deserves, things made by like-minded fellows, even if they aren’t what he will actually receive.
1. Tweed Cap: A limited run of 45 created by Secret Forts in collaboration with FairEnds. This cap is a tweed version of a blue wool cap my husband wore when I first met him. He looked pretty amazing in that cap. The day that it disappeared was a day of minor mourning. As though our shared youth was over.
2. An Axe. Is it pretentious to have a handcrafted axe named “Courage”? Not for a man who is both obsessed with chopping firewood and in possession of a MA in Philosophy. This axe is from Best Made Company. (Whose entire product line is basically my husband, broken into streamlined bits of modern interpretations of vintage manhood, available for purchase.)
3. Boot Oil. My husband is a man interested in leather. And in products to treat leather. I believe he must find something soothing in taking on a pair of cracked boots in an attempt to restore them to their original state. (Maybe this is the 19th-century-minded man’s version of talk therapy?) And along those lines, he’s also the only one in our household who regularly makes repairs using thread and needle, patching everything in sight. But I stop short of buying him a sewing kit. That’s too practical, even for me. (The boot oil is also found at Best Made Co.)
4. Journal Cover. The design of this piece hovers in the space between handcrafted and homemade. From its hearty looks, I’m sure it would last as a cover for successive notebooks, enough for a lifetime. From Hickoree’s.
5. Slingshot. This one is a bit of a cheat, as my husband has already made more than a few of these. But I thought he might appreciate a break and enjoy someone else’s handiwork the next time he feels like shooting at rocks in the woods. From Hickoree’s.
6. Alden Men’s Indy Workboot. Like everything else in this list, the Alden Indy Boot is American-made. Unlike everything else, however, Alden has been manufacturing great footwear since 1858. No boot could be more tried-and-true than this classic. Just like the man himself, my husband. May he prosper as long as the Alden Workboot. And just like the very best boot leather, I can testify that he is wearing well, and if I may say, has broken in very much to my liking.