BIG THINGS AHEAD: MAX of ALL PLAID OUT

February 1, 2012

max was all FIRM handshake and BIG smiles when we met in the fall, a charming guy with an incredibly flattering enthusiasm about BIG THINGS. we met at dose market in chicago via his partner, the absolutely lovely dosette, jessica herman. as one of the internet’s most style-savvy male bloggers, his blog, all plaid out, has esquirethe wall street journal, dwell, barney’s, and refinery29 all tugging at his perfectly-cuffed sleeve men’s fashion tastemaker.

max is also the co-founder of buckshot sonny’s, an online shop that stocks essential, americana-influence clothing and accessories for guys: shirts, jackets, gloves- both baseball and regular. and completing the circle of style, retail and origin, he and friend, joe gannon, are working on made right here, a series of factory tours to the companies that they carry in the store. it’s a great way to see who is behind, something that max and friends really appreciate. his “what my father taught me” posts, featuring friends reminiscing about their pops, also allow for a nice personal connection and love for the past.

there are some really wonderful parallels between what we are both doing- there’s a commitment to handcrafted, locally-made, quality goods and the inherent socio-political and environmental ethics that ride alongside those values. plus a general love of factory tours and just having FUN! max wastler is the perfect BTA because he loves what he’s doing, he’s is ENTHUSIASTIC, curious, and willing to just go for it. if we learn anything from this man today (besides how to look good!), it’s how contagious positivity can be and how far it can get you. big thanks to max for taking time to do the interview and for just being an all-american, all around good dude.

Name: Max Wastler
Age: 31
Hometown: Chicago, Illinois

Where are you right now? How’d you get there? I moved to Chicago a little less than a year ago after five years in New York, and a year roaming The Plains States working as a traveling salesman. At this exact moment, I’m sitting at a rickety, old computer in a dark room listening to someone in the next room who is singing along to the radio. The song is “Happy” by The Rolling Stones. They seem very happy. I am, too.

Where are you going? As your site would suggest, BIG. I’m going BIG. There ain’t no goin’ home. I’m going BIG.

What will you be doing when you get there? I will be working alongside one of my best friends, Joe Gannon, as we continue to build upon the relative successes of our store, Buckshot Sonny’s, and our TV Show Pilot, Made Right Here.

Who/what/where was the inspiration that lead you in this direction? These two projects are the culmination of a life spent pursuing my passions to their fullest. As a kid, I wanted to be a sports broadcaster. In college, I quit my newscast and found myself sweating in the stage lights of a 99-seat theater. It was there, making some shirts for a Shawshank Redemption¬-esque scene, that I discovered a passion for clothing construction. I fell into a couple jobs working for clothing companies while I was studying acting in New York, and I took a solitary road trip to Maine to meet a guy named Foster and tour some factories. It was on that trip I discovered I want to tell these peoples’ stories. There’s a shirt factory in Pennsylvania, where on one row of sewing machines, a mother hands a sleeve to her daughter who sews on the cuff and hands it to her daughter, who attaches the buttons, and she’s pregnant, and expecting… a girl. I’ve come to love that story and dozens like it since I made factory tours an extension of my passion for learning more about things made well and made in our own backyards.

How are you feeling? Are you excited? Nervous? Terrified? Thrilled? Yes.

What kind of expectations do you have? I expect these things to work out. I always do. Regarding failure, Richard Branson has several great quotes, but this is one of my favorites, “If you look at the history of American entrepreneurs, one thing I do know about them: An awful lot of them have tried and failed in the past and gone on to great things.”

Are you scared of anything? I have always been afraid of success. “What would happen if this actually worked out?” I second-guess myself a lot.

What’s the worst thing that could happen? The best? Exactly! That first question is the impetus to all execution. “What’s the worst thing that could happen?… So it doesn’t work out? Figure out something else.” The best thing of course is that it does work out, and I am finally able to pay those debts.

What are you taking with you/leaving behind? I’m taking with me every experience that’s lead me to this point. I leave nothing behind. As my high school swim coach would say, “Leave it in the pool. Leave every drop of it in the pool.”

What did your friends & family say when you told them? They’re incredibly supportive. For the most part, they’ve said, “Yeah. This is you, buddy. This all makes a lot of sense.”

What do you think is the origin of the recent renaissance in classic, American-made style that Buckshot Sonny’s is embracing? The economic downturn much of the world has faced recently has forced many of us to return to things that will last for years to come, investment pieces, things we know won’t look completely ridiculous in ten or twenty years. Also, there’s been a great focus on the provenance of goods. Having a relationship with the person who made something you use, or having an understanding of exactly what it takes to make something and just where the heck it came from has become a luxury in a world that relies so heavily on cheap and fast mass-production.

As a barometer of men’s style (don’t deny it, it’s true!), where do you see fashion going from here? We’re always looking back at the classics, we did the 90s, what’s your forecast for 2012? It will always be about fit and fabrication. As we continue to learn more about the harmful effects the production of goods has on the environment, we will more ardently value the ethically made product. Paul Hawken, an environmentalist said in the New York Times, “Fashion is the deliberate inculcation of obsolescence.”

I am such a sucker for factory tours- people have such an interesting connection to objects when they know the whole production process so intimately. What was the most enlightening factory visit you’ve made recently? Nokona Baseball Gloves in Nocona, Texas. They pour themselves into every aspect of the production of the world’s best-made baseball glove. And then, they did as we did, they go to the high school football pep rally. Go Indians!

And the million dollar question: if you could get access to any American factory…where would you go?! Thing is, they’re all great. I’d like to make some Black Watch plaid fabric at Pendleton, a Louisville Slugger Baseball Bat, a bag at Winter Session, some frames at Drift Eyewear, and I’d love to make a pair of my trademark tassel mocs at Alden.

photo of max by nathan michael secret forts; photo of max & joe by chad davis; others via buckshot sonny’s and all plaid out.

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