What is handmade? The simple answer, as defined by Merriam-Webster’s dictionary is: “made by hand or a hand process.” However, many brands these days would like you to believe that their goods are “handmade” because it has been determined by some marketing executive that the term sells products. Based on their loose definition, if a hand touches an item at any time during the manufacturing process it qualifies. By this definition we can only count out products that are completely machine-made. I believe that this is an exploitation of the term and does not do justice to the history of handmade and handcrafted goods.
Nobody believes in the quality and integrity of “Made in USA” more than me. I come from a family that has never turned its back on American manufacturing – we’ve never even considered it. Since my grandfather established himself as a shoemaker in the 1960’s, we have made our shoes in Maine, and we always will. That said, as a brand, we have had to travel outside the US network of manufacturers to find some of the components that we need. At Rancourt & Co., our number one priority is to offer the best possible product. We do not sacrifice quality for cost, and at times, that means sourcing parts overseas.
Photos courtesy of NothernGRADE.
One could say that the American menswear pop-up market is the #menswear anti-hero. No models, no runways, very few photographers, and no nonsense. Just people who make things talking about their goods, demonstrating how they’re made, and selling them directly to the people who share their passion.
When my father first traveled to Japan in 1994, I was 10 years old. At the time, I couldn’t wrap my head around it. It seemed too far away, too foreign, too unlike anything I knew. “The flight takes 15 hours!?” I questioned incredulously. “They eat their meals with wooden sticks?” It didn’t make any sense to me, why would someone travel all that way? It seemed like more trouble than it was worth. However, my father reassured me that they were good people who loved the shoes that my family made, and, that they were very important to our present and future success.
Last week, the daughter of a member of our product development team joined her mother at work for the day. As part of the experience, the teenage girl spent a couple of hours observing and lending a hand in our finishing room, where one of the veteran finishing team members said to her, “make sure you go to college so you don’t have to work in a factory.” When I heard this, I experienced an immediate and intense gut reaction, “what’s wrong with working in a factory?” I said. “What does a college degree guarantee you?”