Nordstrom got its start as a shoe store when our founder, John W. Nordstrom, set up shop in Seattle in 1901—and to this day, our shoe department remains the cornerstone of our family-run company’s reputation for quality and service. So when our Men’s Shoe Buyers tell us they have something special in the works, we know they mean it.
Keep reading for a closer look at six small-batch brands that our shoe team felt deserve a larger spotlight. They range from American icons with 100-year histories to a future legend founded by a cobbler’s son. The common thread? All six make impeccable shoes and boots right here in the USA.
As we may have mentioned before, the exclusive clothing brands our very own, in-house design teams create are nothing short of fantastic. We recently tried some items on for size from Nordstrom-exclusive brand Wallin & Bros.—and found timeless menswear staples boasting quality fabrics, an ideal fit (trim but not tight), and appealing price tags, to boot.
We decided Wallin & Bros. could easily outfit you for a full week at work, so continue reading for five days of office-ready looks featuring our own exclusive brand.
Last week, Men’s Shop Daily had the distinct pleasure of catching up with Marcus Wainwright (left) and David Neville, co-founders of Rag & Bone, at their in-store appearance at Nordstrom Bellevue Square, near our Seattle headquarters.
Below, the two British designers—who met in boarding school in England, before starting Rag & Bone more than ten years ago in New York—discuss their fashion baptism in rural Kentucky, smashing guitars, and style advice that every man should swear by.
MEN’S SHOP DAILY: Welcome to Seattle. Have you been out here before?
DAVID NEVILLE OF RAG & BONE: “We’ve been a few times, but only ever to see the people at Nordstrom. It’s worth the trip. It’s an amazing company.”
MSD: That’s great to hear—what makes you say that?
NEVILLE: “I think that when you look at the history, and the legacy of how it was started, and what it is now…I’ve actually read [Bruce Nordstrom's] book, Leave It Better than You Found It. The fact that it’s still run by the family, and the approach to customer service, and differentiating themselves as a store…The success that’s bred is kind of amazing. It’s 130 stores in America. I should be like a spokesperson.” [Laughs.]
MSD: You’ve noted the photography of August Sander as an inspiration for your Fall ’13 men’s collection. What drew you to his work, and are there any favorite photographs that stick in your minds?
MARCUS WAINWRIGHT OF RAG & BONE: “I’ve got a lot of his photography. I like photography—I collect [it] and like taking pictures myself. Part of it is just the subject matter—apart from the photographs themselves, the clothes are really cool, and very relevant to Rag & Bone. We do a lot of workwear, we do a lot of tailoring, and the August Sander pictures capture a lot of people working—and he captures them in a period where people were working in suits. If you look at the early pictures of rag-and-bone men, after the Second World War, they’re working day-to-day in tailored clothing. There’s no T-shirts, there’s no just shirt-and-jeans. And there’s a sort of beauty in that handmade clothing that’s been disheveled and rumpled and rained on and worked in.
“So the subject matter of the pictures is amazing. There’s a German aspect to it, which is pretty cool—it’s quite sort of different from the English stuff; it’s less sort of ‘dandy.’ There’s an amazing picture of a baker…and one in particular of a guy in a street in the most beautiful coat, which we made a sort of version of, which closed the show. It’s just great photography.”
MSD: Does Michael Pitt [the actor in Rag & Bone's fall campaign] have the best hair in Hollywood?
NEVILLE: “We were actually a little bit worried about his hair in a couple of the pictures—it just looks a little bit too sort of retro, kind of Johnny Cash, which wasn’t really the reference, you know. But he’s a cool dude.”
WAINWRIGHT: “He does have good hair.”
NEVILLE: “We had fun. He was awesome. He came to the shoot really sort of enthused, and there’s an amazing moment where he smashes his guitar in the middle of 6th Avenue. That was his idea, and it was fairly impromptu—it wasn’t staged or anything. It was cool content to just be able to create.”
[Seattle band Campfire OK played a killer set at our in-store
event—decked out in Rag & Bone, of course.]
MSD: When the two of you first decided to start a clothing company, you visited a legendary denim factory in Kentucky. What was that experience like, and what did you learn there?
WAINWRIGHT: “It was the birth of Rag & Bone in many ways. It was a very old denim factory in Tompkinsville, Kentucky. It had been a massive factory at one point, but everything had shifted—been bought or invested in by a Mexican company, and a lot of denim [production] had moved to Mexico. So it basically shut down most of it, and it was just sort of 60 people, as a sample room for the Mexican production—but it was the best sewers and pant-makers that they had.
“It was an amazing place with 50 years of knowledge about how to make proper jeans. It was an incredible place to go to, when you had no experience in fashion at all, and never really been to a factory to speak of, and you were sort of baptized into the fashion and sewing world by these women who were in their 60s, sewing jeans all day, proper salt-of-the-earth ladies from Kentucky—in a dry county, so there’s no booze. It’s rural Kentucky, and they take great pride in their work, and they’re just lovely people. They taught us the meaning of quality and authenticity and the value of that history of craftsmanship—and the value of that experience, and how easy it is for that to disappear.
“They were the last of 3,000. They shut down within two or three years of us working with them. The ladies who’d been sewing their whole lives went to work in the local outboard motor factory, or Walmart, or waiting tables. Never to sew again. The American-invented and American-owned skill of sewing jeans just disappeared from that factory forever, and it’s happened across this country. And that’s sad. So I think our company has a lot to thank that experience—to thank them—for what they taught us about the importance of maintaining that, and not just shipping everything to a factory that’s chosen based purely on price.”
MSD: If you could give male readers one style tip for Fall 2013, what would it be?
NEVILLE: “Don’t try too hard. Do what feels right; what you feel comfortable in. Menswear should never really feel like you’re trying to make a fashion statement. I think that can go desperately wrong. You should just be wearing what you feel comfortable in—and what your wife tells you you should be wearing is maybe a good tip.” [Laughs.]
WAINWRIGHT: “Guys should take pride in their appearance. I think when guys go wrong it’s when they try too hard or they don’t try hard enough. And you get a guy who just doesn’t think about it, and buys a pair of ill-fitting, cheap jeans and a cheap shirt. There’s a lot of inherent beauty in clothes, and clothes can make you feel great, and I think clothes are worth investing in. It’s worth buying the perfect leather jacket, for example, because it’s something that will be with you forever. It may seem like a lot of money, but it’s worth it, and it makes you feel good. And I think it’s important that you take pride in your appearance.”
MSD: What’s changed, since you founded Rag & Bone in 2002, in your approach to designing menswear?
WAINWRIGHT: “Not a lot. Menswear doesn’t change much anyway. We’ve been through periods of being more or less adventurous with men’s design, and we learned a lesson as men’s designers, quite quickly, that if you go too far out of the box, guys don’t get it. Girls are way braver—and way more willing to take a risk. You couldn’t get a guy into a white, leopard-print jacket, for example. But that looks cool on you [nodding to our female video producer in the room]. You’ve got to reference things that a guy is familiar with, whether he’s conscious of it, or subconsciously, something he’s seen in a movie, or seen his dad wear, or seen in photographs. That’s what menswear is really about: beautiful fabric, and detail, and making clothes that guys are familiar with—but at the same time, pushing it gently forward in terms of design, and the fashion part of it.”
MSD: After growing up in England, you’ve both lived and worked in New York for more than ten years. What do you appreciate about each place you’ve called home?
NEVILLE: “New York City is an amazing place. The energy of the city is intoxicating, and it’s very different to London in that regard. We thank New York for really giving us the platform to start our company—not just from a practical standpoint, but also from an entrepreneurial sort of enthusiasm, which I don’t think you find in many places in the world. We’ve been in New York a long time, and we feel sort of like adopted New Yorkers now, so that’s great. We miss London, miss our friends, miss the pubs…but I think both of us are very happy where we are, and don’t really have any intention of moving back.”
MSD: Do you visit London often?
NEVILLE: “We have a store in London now, which is exciting—and I think made our parents quite proud.”
— — —
In Their Own Words. Here’s a short clip of Rag & Bone founders Marcus Wainwright and David Neville, filmed before their personal appearance at Bellevue Square Nordstrom last week:
What happens when our Men’s Shop video team goes to Las Vegas during Market Week? They run into Pharrell. They get down to brass tacks with up-and-coming design heroes. And they make some movie magic.
Above is one of four new videos we shot while traversing the vendor booths in Vegas during three furious days of menswear trade shows. Press play, learn about the elbow grease that goes into some of today’s best gear, and shop our Editor’s Picks from a few of the brands we interviewed. (Notice a theme? Fall is officially here.)
It’s that special time of year: Anniversary Sale. A time not only to revel in scoring new Fall items, at sale prices, ahead of schedule—but also a time to look back on our 100+ years of history.
Did you know that the first Nordstrom was a shoe store? John W. Nordstrom himself set up shop in Downtown Seattle in the year 1901. A century later, we’re still here in Seattle—and still family-operated.
[Our founder standing proudly in front of his first store, circa 1901. His partner's name now graces our in-house, heritage-inspired brand, Wallin & Bros. For more vintage photos, read our post on Nordstrom's Illustrated History.]
Alright alright, enough reminiscing. Here are a few of our favorite fall steals on indispensable footwear—for the office, the gym, the bar, and everywhere in between. Find more Anniversary-Sale shoes here. Happy hunting.
Inter-brand collaborations in the menswear universe may have reached a near-comedic level years ago—but when a partnership starring labels as universally loved as New Balance and Herschel Supply Co. comes along, how can we do anything besides pause for a collective moment of admiration…Before starting in on the tough math of whether you can splurge for both the sneaker and the boot.
Ladies: If the guy in your life adheres to his GQs and runs around sockless most of the year, wet weather can come as kind of a shock. (Especially if his favorite Chucks have a hole in the sole—not that we know anything about that.) A few pairs of thick, cotton-blend socks—especially ones in camo-, Norwegian- or Navajo-themed motifs like the Stance Socks above—will look great dangling from the mantle, and even better peeking out of the killer boots you bought him.
Gents: Be forewarned, these socks are so cozy, the lady in your life might be tempted to borrow them. Situations like those below, from Stance’s website, may ensue.
Boots are one of those items in a man’s wardrobe with serious staying power—over the course of a season (we introduced our Boot Guide in September, and have been updating it continuously ever since), as well as year after frigid year…especially when you invest in a solid pair like the waterproof, 5-star-customer-rated UGG® Australia ‘Butte’ above.
Today, we’re focused on the near-indestructible genre of footwear that will carry your feet unfazed through the toe-chilling rain, sleet, snow and slush that January and February are bound to usher in. Any of the specimens below will match up impeccably with your toughest puffers and flannels (see above)—but if you need a dapper way to stay dry en route to work, consider the clean lines and graphic punch of pairs like the Sorel ‘Sentry’ and UGG ‘Hannen’ below, neither of which will look out of place grounding a suit or sportcoat (pull your wingtips out of your briefcase once you’re warm and dry at your desk).
Start with our Editor’s Picks below, then shop our full selection of Weather-Ready Boots. And remember: The best gifts for guys are as practical as they are stylish. A great pair of boots more than fits the bill.
Here at Nordstrom, we may prefer to celebrate one holiday at a time—but when it is time to celebrate, we go all out. So, with Thanksgiving officially behind us, we popped over to our flagship store in Downtown Seattle to see how they decked the halls (or aisles, as it were). A couple indications that it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas:
Walls full of festive sketches by our perennial favorite illustrator, Ruben Toledo.
Trees all aglow.
Ornaments the size of a small child (or large elf).
Mannequins prepping for a black-tie holiday soirée.
An interactive snowflake-catching experience.
Santa posted up in the corner window display, awaiting your kid’s wish list. (Or yours.)
Despite the festive decorations, we couldn’t help getting distracted by all the sumptuous winter wares festooning the mannequins in the Men’s Shop. Here’s the best of what we saw at the store—and links to help you get these looks online.
Excited to hit the slopes this ski and snowboard season? Look no further: From jackets and hats to gloves and boots, our new Snow Shop has everything you need—including mind-blowing winter inspiration via the world’s preeminent outdoor brands. Check out Scot Schmidt—godfather of extreme skiing, and the sport’s first-ever endorsed athlete after The North Face got a hold of him in 1983—in the video above, as well as the vintage ski pics below.
L: Photo by Gary Brettnacher, 1993 | R: Photo by Scott Markewitz, 1990
Photo by Hank de Vre, 1985
Schmidt (L) with fellow freestyle skier Glen Plake (sans-mohawk)
in a still from Greg Stump’s 1988 ski film The Blizzard of AAHHH’s.