This is one post we here at NCG look forward to each year.  It’s a time were we get to showcase some great product made by great companies, right here in the USA.  This season we have selected ten items that would make any guy beam with joy if he found them in his stocking or under the tree come Christmas morning.  To sweeten the pot even more, the fine gentlemen over at Owen & Fred have agreed to donate a YOU EARNED IT solid brass bottle opener to 3 readers who leave a comment.*  If you ask me, that beats any Black Friday deal I have seen thus far.  Links to the products and where to purchase are below.
*Discloser:  Readers will be picked at random and notified via e-mail*


Patagonia has released a short film that showcases some of their iconic pieces of gear and the people who use them.  The catch is, these pieces span from being 10 to 35 years old and are still going strong.  It’s a testament to Patagonia and the products they created, but to me, the message the video is telling goes deeper than that.

The message goes totally against the mindset that has been ingrained in my mind the 17 years I have been in the retail game.  Keeping clothing as long possible and not buying new each season, that’s just crazy talk in retail.  If everybody followed that model, what would happen to all the malls, the large sales bonuses given to retail executives and the collaborations between brands and celebrities? In an instant gratification society where we value the new vs. the old and then have to be the first person to get that item and show it to our loyal followers, on whatever social media platform is the coolest that day, this video and its message puts that idea on its head and then kicks it in the ass….and I totally agree with it.

In this day and age, we need more brands and retailers to follow this message.  Putting hard work, dedication and quality into every item them make.  They need to think more about the lifespans of their garments and how to enable them to be passed on from this generation to the next.  It’s more about creating a legacy for the brand than creating EBIDTA.



mikerowetestifyingThe below is the transcript from Mike Rowe’s testimony before the U.S Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation from May 11, 2011.  While is has been posted many times and is almost 2 years old, I always take the time to reread it every so often.  It reminds me of my grandfather, his generation, as well as my father-in-law. The men and women who worked hard to make this country what is today.  It also grounds me and forces me to think about what I would be doing for a career if I was not in the rag business.

I question if I would be able to make it in a skilled trade role because I truly believe that type of skill and understanding is far more superior than picking the right apparel trend, owning the right inventory or pricing your goods competitively.  I am not a life coach or motivational speaker, but take the time to read what Mike Rowe had to say and if you already did, take the time to ready it again.  You can thank me later.

May 11, 2011

“Chairman Rockefeller, Ranking Member Hutchison and members of this committee, my name is Mike Rowe, and I want to thank you all very much for the opportunity to testify before you today.

I’m here today because of my grandfather.

His name was Carl Knobel, and he made his living in Baltimore as a master electrician. He was also a plumber, a mechanic, a mason, and a carpenter. Everyone knew him as a jack-of-all-trades. I knew him as a magician.

For most of his life, my grandfather woke up clean and came home dirty. In between, he accomplished things that were nothing short of miraculous. Some days he might re-shingle a roof. Or rebuild a motor. Or maybe run electricity out to our barn. He helped build the church I went to as a kid, and the farmhouse my brothers and I grew up in. He could fix or build anything, but to my knowledge he never once read the directions. He just knew how stuff worked.

I remember one Saturday morning when I was 12. I flushed the toilet in the same way I always had. The toilet however, responded in a way that was completely out of character. There was a rumbling sound, followed by a distant gurgle. Then, everything that had gone down reappeared in a rather violent and spectacular fashion.

Naturally, my grandfather was called in to investigate, and within the hour I was invited to join he and my dad in the front yard with picks and shovels.

By lunch, the lawn was littered with fragments of old pipe and mounds of dirt. There was welding and pipe-fitting, blisters and laughter, and maybe some questionable language. By sunset we were completely filthy. But a new pipe was installed, the dirt was back in the hole, and our toilet was back on its best behavior. It was one of my favorite days ever.

Thirty years later in San Francisco when my toilet blew up again. This time, I didn’t participate in the repair process. I just called my landlord, left a check on the kitchen counter, and went to work. When I got home, the mess was cleaned up and the problem was solved. As for the actual plumber who did the work, I never even met him.

It occurred to me that I had become disconnected from a lot of things that used to fascinate me. I no longer thought about where my food came from, or how my electricity worked, or who fixed my pipes, or who made my clothes. There was no reason to. I had become less interested in how things got made, and more interested in how things got bought.

At this point my grandfather was well into his 80s, and after a long visit with him one weekend, I decided to do a TV show in his honor. Today, Dirty Jobs is still on the air, and I am here before this committee, hoping to say something useful. So, here it is.

I believe we need a national PR Campaign for Skilled Labor. A big one. Something that addresses the widening skills gap head on, and reconnects the country with the most important part of our workforce.

Right now, American manufacturing is struggling to fill 200,000 vacant positions. There are 450,000 openings in trades, transportation and utilities. The skills gap is real, and it’s getting wider. In Alabama, a third of all skilled tradesmen are over 55. They’re retiring fast, and no one is there to replace them.

Alabama’s not alone. A few months ago in Atlanta I ran into Tom Vilsack, our Secretary of Agriculture. Tom told me about a governor who was unable to move forward on the construction of a power plant. The reason was telling. It wasn’t a lack of funds. It wasn’t a lack of support. It was a lack of qualified welders.

In general, we’re surprised that high unemployment can exist at the same time as a skilled labor shortage. We shouldn’t be. We’ve pretty much guaranteed it.

In high schools, the vocational arts have all but vanished. We’ve elevated the importance of “higher education” to such a lofty perch that all other forms of knowledge are now labeled “alternative.” Millions of parents and kids see apprenticeships and on-the-job-training opportunities as “vocational consolation prizes,” best suited for those not cut out for a four-year degree. And still, we talk about millions of “shovel ready” jobs for a society that doesn’t encourage people to pick up a shovel.

In a hundred different ways, we have slowly marginalized an entire category of critical professions, reshaping our expectations of a “good job” into something that no longer looks like work. A few years from now, an hour with a good plumber ’ if you can find one ’ is going to cost more than an hour with a good psychiatrist. At which point we’ll all be in need of both.

I came here today because guys like my grandfather are no less important to civilized life than they were 50 years ago. Maybe they’re in short supply because we don’t acknowledge them they way we used to. We leave our check on the kitchen counter, and hope the work gets done. That needs to change.

My written testimony includes the details of several initiatives designed to close the skills gap, all of which I’ve had the privilege to participate in. Go Build Alabama, I Make America, and my own modest efforts through Dirty Jobs and mikeroweWORKS. I’m especially proud to announce “Discover Your Skills,” a broad-based initiative from Discovery Communications that I believe can change perceptions in a meaningful way.

I encourage you to support these efforts, because closing the skills gap doesn’t just benefit future tradesmen and the companies desperate to hire them. It benefits people like me, and anyone else who shares my addiction to paved roads, reliable bridges, heating, air conditioning, and indoor plumbing.

The skills gap is a reflection of what we value. To close the gap, we need to change the way the country feels about work.”


Michael and Tom of Vagrant Nobility have put together another great capsule collection for Fall/Winter 2012.  Titled ‘The Fly Over Collection’, the pieces continue the Vagrant Nobility tradition of being designed and manufactured in the heart of Chicago.  This season’s collection includes waistcoats, woven shirts and jackets, all classic pieces that every man should have in his wardrobe.  Expert tailoring and attention to the details are what you will find in each piece of this collection.  Nice work gents!


This past weekend the wife and I made our annual trip to Timbuk Farms to cut down the family christmas tree.  Timbuk Farms has been a central Ohio tradition since 1952.  Its 200+ acres hold some of the best pine, spruce and fir trees money can buy.  Going to Timbuk is always an event that family’s look forward to year after year.

200+ ACRES