The Heritage Man

He’s authentic. Rough-hewn. And channels the mindset of a 1930s Detroit factory worker.

Laurann Claridge, Kate Allen Stukenberg and Seth Vaughan
June 06, 2012

He’s authentic. Rough-hewn. And channels the mindset of a 1930s Detroit factory worker. He proudly wears American heritage brands (Woolrich, Riley Jeans and Red Wings) and decorates with Hudson Bay Blankets.

The union workman vibe has pervaded SoHo in New York and Ginza in Japan, and in Houston, you’ll find him gearing up at Settlement Goods & Design, Mortar, Billy Reid and The Class Room; knocking back a bourbon at Anvil and The Hay Merchant; and ordering a loin of pork at Underbelly. He’s not afraid to read A Continuous Lean, Free/Man and The Sartorialist online … After all, that’s where the revival began.

Shop Local: These Houston shops stock a great selection of fine heritage and heritage-inspired brands.

Billy Reid, 2702 Westheimer (next to Chuy’s), 713.552.0333; Louisiana-born Billy Reid became a Seventh Avenue sensation when he went back to his Southern roots and created a line that modernized American workwear with
a nod and wink to Southern dandies. His stores, including the flagship in Florence, Alabama (where his design studio is also housed), are merchandised with  family heirlooms, making the vibe decidedly Southern. Visit his new Houston store, located in an early-1900s bungalow.

The Class Room, 2534 Amherst, 713.874.0004; This Rice Village men’s boutique opened late last year and stocks coveted heritage-inspired brands Mark McNairy, Hamilton 1883, The Brooklyn Circus, Rogue Territory and Tanner Goods.

Mortar1911 Westheimer, 713.529.0009; This shop on lower Westheimer is the first men’s boutique in Houston to embrace the “well-made goods” fashion concept. Mortar stocks Rag & Bone, Raleigh Denim, Wings + Horns, United Stock Dry Goods and Gitman Vintage.

Reserve Supply Co., 2205 Washington Ave., 713.750.9582;; This men’s boutique celebrated its one-year anniversary in April with a bash that brought a bevy of vintage motorcycles to the storefront. No wonder, considering Reserve stocks brands that value quality and construction meant to withstand the test of time — or the test of your motorcycle, bicycle or skateboard.

Rye 51, 2800 Kirby Dr. in West Ave, 713.523.8222; Rye 51 is the cool little brother of Q Custom Clothiers, located next door in West Ave. It not only offers made-to-measure casual shirting, jackets and pants called Rye Reserve but also stocks clothing and accessories by Earnest Sewn, Billy Kirk, John Varvatos and PRPS Goods & Co.

Settlement Goods & Design, 3939 Montrose, 713.701.7872; Everything in this shop is made in America, and Settlement carries lines for  women’s and home, as well. Expect men’s clothing and accessories from The Good Flock, Grown & Sewn, Beau Ties of Vermont and Left Field.

Labels to Know

Billykirk: Brothers Chris and Kirk Bray handcraft timeless-looking canvas and leather goods (bags, wallets, watch straps and more) with a wonderful nostalgic quality.

 Engineered Garments: Created by Japanese designer Keizo Shimizu, founder of Nepenthes, Engineered Garments is a brand within a brand by designer Daiki Suzuki that employs artisanal stitchery techniques. Think of it as a mix of urban street edge with crunchy outdoor-guy nonchalance.

Filson: This American-heritage brand has been around since 1897, and its sturdy canvas bags are de rigueur among manly men with style. Best of all, they only get better with age. Be selective when shopping the clothing line; the jackets and vests are among the pieces Filson does best.

H.W. Carter & Sons: Talk about a study in longevity. This New Hampshire-based brand, known for its overalls and workwear, has been in business for 152 years and was contracted by the U.S. railroad system. It’s a name heralded in the Northeast for menswear that never lets you down on the job. This season’s collection is a return to the gloriously gruff and meaty medium of denim and canvas.

The Hill-side: These accessories, such as casual chambray scarves, bandanas and pocket squares, complete a man’s look — yet never in a self-conscious way.

Levi's: The legend lives on. Keeping up with the trend that hearkens back to its heritage, Levi’s selvedge-goods line is made with unique denim woven on traditional shuttle looms. The signature red and khaki seams identify a time-consuming production.

New England Shirt Company: For the last 75 or so years, this little Fall River, Massachusetts, company has made impeccably tailored shirts that a man can really feel comfortable in. Don’t mistake them for precious pieces starched within an inch of their life; these shirts are made to be worn with a few wrinkles.

Penfield: This Hudson, Massachusetts, firm has been getting a lot of play lately because of its collaborations with another MA firm, Sperry Top Sider, and sightings of Penfield menswear on models (female, mind you) such as Agyness Deyn. It’s a brand you should get to know.

Red Wing Heritage: For more than a century, men who did real work — the sort that puts dirt under the nails and chaps the palms — swore by Red Wing Heritage work boots. Adopted by the urban man, this triple-stitch footwear gave rise to the sleek Beckman Chukka boots.

RRL: An acronym for Ralph Lauren’s rugged line. Need we say more.

Save Khaki: Boys, these aren’t your daddy’s Dockers. Save Khaki makes straight (flat-front, natch) trousers in manly hues, from stone to chambray houndstooth. Made in the USA, the line also includes surplus and Bermuda shorts.

Woolrich: Branded “The Original Outdoor Company,” Woolrich was founded in 1830 by John Rich in Plum Run, Pennsylvania, with the iconic buffalo-checked flannel shirts.


For a Pilgrimage: Heritage Shops Elsewhere

Sid Mashburn: Every man with a modicum of sartorial sense should make the acquaintance of Sid Mashburn. This former J.Crew and Ralph Lauren designer has assembled a curated collection of enduring pieces, from Tretorn sneakers and Mackintosh raincoats to trousers and shirts of his own design.

Stag Provisions for Men: Stag is a magnet for guys pairing high with low and vintage with new — a modern-day general store for every man.

Ball and Buck: This store was modeled after an old hunting lodge outfitted with vintage industrial lighting, vinyl records, leather sofas and taxidermy heads. (There’s even a barber’s chair in the back for a hot shave and a trim.) You’ll find clothing and accessories by Wolverine, Hill-side, Apolis and Left Field, all made in the USA. Wondering about the name? They say George Washington used to tell his troops during the American Revolution to “ball and buck” their musket loads to make a greater impact on their targets.

Imogene + Willie: Jeans don’t get much cooler than the custom denim handmade by the artisans at Imogene + Willie. Before the owners opened their own store and workroom in a former Nashville gas station, they manufactured denim for RRL, Rogan, Levi’s and Ernest Sewn. Under their own label, however, they’re not acid-washing or faking whisker marks on their custom dungarees (available online as well as at stores such as Stag in Austin). IMAGE: Matt & Carrie Eddmenson.

Odin New York: With (at last count) three stores in New York, well-edited Odin carries Engineered Garments, Bespoken shoes, Burkman Bros and Shipley & Halmos, as well as its own line of manly fragrances, candles, socks and shirts.


A Continuous Lean,



Mister Crew,

Mister Mort,

Secret Forts,

The Sartorialist,


Reverse Gentrification at Underbelly and The Hay Merchant

On a balmy Tuesday evening, this gent visited two new restaurants from the gastro-masterminds behind American workman-style bastion of mixology Anvil Bar & Refuge. Underbelly is chef Chris Shepherd’s temple to Houston foods (think migrant, back-to-the-founding-fathers type fare), and next door, The Hay Merchant is the workingman’s speakeasy — if the everyday man drank crafted beers accompanied by chef-driven blood sausage queso fundido and pork cracklins. The partners, Shepherd and Bobby Heugel, serve equal parts Houston nostalgia and man-cave living, personified by Underbelly’s in-house butcher shop and 150-mile sourcing limit on protein and produce — i.e.,  everything is off-the-hoof fresh. A fortification of the American-heritage workplace ethos of the ’20s and ’30s, manifested in Houston’s bustling port and industrial scene, Shepherd’s mixed cultural oeuvre conjures Korean braised goat and dumplings; sausage-stuffed smoked quail with corn chowder and beans; Broken Arrow Ranch braised antelope, curry and coconut rice cake; and lamb loin with charred leeks. We’re entranced with seared Gulf bycatch, a term used by fisherman for a fish caught when they are seeking something else. And as Truman Capote quipped in La Côte Basque, what defines the rich are their vegetables; I suspect he was referring to something similar to these at Underbelly. Fresh produce, hardly touched beyond warm water, is Shepherd’s homage to Houston’s bountiful agricultural history, with abundant seasonal, fresh-from-the dirt varieties. Desserts are termed “Non-Fancy” on the Menu … but the lady doth protest too much: vinegar pie with salt brittle; roasted strawberry ice cream; Indian-inspired milk bar; and Pandan ice cream. Scoot next door to The Hay Merchant for an exhaustive and imaginative catalog of crafted beers, plus extensive bar snacks such as sweet tea brined smoked chicken salad, meat chips and sweet and spicy pork ears. We’ll be back in our Woolrich and Red Wings. Underbelly, 1100
Westheimer, 713.528.9800, underbelly The Hay Merchant, 1100 Westheimer, 713.528.9805; Seth Vaughan

Nuts and Bolts

Talk about a man of metal. In 2006, George Tobolowsky traded a white-collar law and business career for days digging in junkyards. Often seen pillaging through a promising scrap heap, this Dallas born-and-raised, SMU-educated sculptor loves nothing more than a promising find at a fabrication plant — where outmoded or obsolete nuts, bolts, rotors, saws, blades and other machine parts become raw fodder for a Tobolowsky sculpture. All this welding and alchemy takes place north of Denton, in the rural retreat of Mountain Springs, Texas, where Tobolowsky, inspired and influenced by David Smith, Louise Nevelson and mentor James Surls, is often hard at work on future commissions or his next show. It’s no accident that the late Ted Pillsbury gave him his first gallery exhibition or that Nasher curator Jed Morse has Tobolowsky in his sightlines. Stay tuned. Through Catherine D. Anspon

IMAGE: George Tobolowsky’s My Signature Piece, 2009. Photo courtesy the artist, collection Tyler Museum of Art, Tyler, TX.

Man Art: Dean and Dan

Their monikers sound like a ‘60s-era surf band. But in the Houston art world, when you string the names Dean and Dan together, everyone knows you’re talking about Dean Ruck and Dan Havel, aka the founders of Havel Ruck Projects. They’re fondly recalled for creating the site-specific Inversion, which literally stopped traffic along Montrose Boulevard in 2005; Art League Houston tapped the duo to concoct this ephemeral sculpture out of a couple of decrepit bungalows turned classrooms before the buildings met the bulldozer and the new nonprofit rose. What have Ruck and Havel done in the half decade since? They’ve continued to play with saws and hammers. After placing a 2007 piece in the permanent collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and crafting a signature work for Toby Kamp’s “No Zoning” exhibition at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston in 2009  — both nailed together from demolished, abandoned or crumbling vernacular buildings — the collaborators recently completed Fifth Ward Jam, a public commission in a pocket park at 3705 Lyons Avenue, principally funded by a grant from the Houston Arts Alliance. Incorporating salvaged floorboards, shingles, window frames, door jams and all manner of discarded lumber from a condemned house in Houston’s Fifth Ward augmented by other found materials, this inspired casa-sized creation (complete with performance stage) is equal parts a paean to preservation and a rallying cry for protecting our neighborhoods. It’s also a testament to the beauty of the “Fifth,” the birthplace of blues, barbecue and the late statesman Barbara Jordan. Hurry, catch Havel and Ruck’s Jam while you can; this hammered-wood architectural incantation is only here temporarily (to book as a venue, 713.674.0175). Catherine D. Anspon 

IMAGES: Havel Ruck Projects’ Fifth Ward Jam, 2011, at 3705 Lyons Avenue. Photos courtesy Houston Arts Alliance.