-BRANCH MGR

Detroit, by birth, where I found my soul. Nashville, by fate, where I learned to Rock-n-Roll

The Judy Stakee Experience (France)

Where to begin?

I, admittedly, applied to attend one of Mrs. Stakee's retreats because I fan boy over all of her YouTube videos and because my admin assistant (who is the reason I do most risky/unconventional things that I do) told me to. Haha. My decision to choose the France Retreat over options that were closer came when I realized that most of the participants would likely be from Europe and in no other context would I be able to meet these fellow songwriters...and, y'all...I'm so glad I made that choice. (SJ & Mané, if you're reading this...I can't wait for our next cowrite. You two stole my heart).

Location: Beautiful. Experience: Life Changing (and that's no exaggeration). I came away with a new sense of purpose and focus for my songwriting and artistry. Anything I've written before this retreat, I either have decided to discard or re-write.

The Joys of Judy...For someone that has as much experience as she does at choosing and developing winners, she's full parts kind, inspirational, motivational, packed with just enough of a dose of castor oil when you need it. Behind that Southern California-sunned smile, is a full-fledged music exec who, if you give her the opportunity to tell you like it is, will tell you like it is. Her credentials far outweigh the strength of any ego, I assure you, so I recommend leaving yours in the airport. I opened the door for a critique and after I wallowed in self-pity for a few moments, I requested a hug from her and thanked her for the kick in the rump and for calling me out on hiding behind production and metaphors in my songs. I assure you that the four songs I've chosen to demo since are full disclosure and exposure. She reminded me that it is our individual essence, voice, and story as artist-writers that people connect with. 200 words. 4 min. That's all we've got.

For those of you that aren't privileged enough to attend one of her retreats or can't quite afford it, I strongly recommend snatching her new book, The Songwriter's Survival Guide. She gives you key tools to further your craft, brand and business...because, afterall, as songwriters, that's what we are now...a business of, at least, one.

Hit me up on the contact section if you care to chat more. :)

-BRANCH MGR

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inVest in Veterans Ventures

{Previously published at an earlier date}

[Military Clothing] is always going to be mined for inspiration. It is an archetype.
— Abdul Abasi

It's, allegedly, the most wonderful time of the year! Where commercialism, Christ (for some), and kindness create a range of emotions that aren't nearly as common any other time on the annual calendar. Chatting back and forth with a pal currently deployed to the middle east, I'm reminded of how he and I had the same conversation three years earlier, when he called me from Afghanistan on Christmas. I'm humbled by the thought that several of my comrades in arms are away from loved ones, involuntarily, in that few plan on a deployment away from beloveds, and voluntarily, in that service to country and nation is a sacrifice that they make above all others. To those away this holiday, know that your commitment to duty is valued and that you are loved by brothers and sisters across the globe.

Speaking of service, Christmas isn't typically a day for celebrating veterans, nor is my blog typically the place for that. However, for my final blog post of the year, I'd like to highlight some veteran-founded companies that have the common goal of closing the civ-mil gap by focusing on our commonalities as simply...humans.

Sword & Plough: "To turn swords into plough shares" or, in layman's terms, to take military technologies and materials and apply them to peaceful civilian applications; which is what co-founders Emily and Betsy Núñez have done with Sword & Plough. Says Emily, an Army veteran, "I wanted to create something that would emotionally and physically touch civilians in their everyday lives and remind them, in a beautiful way, of the challenges our country and servicemen face." Sword & Plough (fully involving military veterans throughout the process as designers, models, quality control and advisers) uses recycled and repurposed military gear to create fashionable dopp kits, totes, ruck sacks and travel packs for the man, or woman, on the move. Through these products, they aspire to empower veteran employment, reduce waste and strengthen civil-military understanding.

As Complex Magazine assesses, "A look at the modern man’s wardrobe proves that the marriage between the military and men’s style is obvious; supplying menswear with more than just smart design, but with great designers... the unique skills of a military veteran make him perfectly attuned to success in fashion—especially when menswear has so much of the military embedded into its history."

That all seems to be true when discussing New York-based Abasi Rosborough. Says Abdul Abasi-creator, "Historically men have wanted to be warriors, and warriors are the epitome of masculinity— the culture of respect and responsibility...Most trenchcoats, bomber jackets—you name it—are derived from a military garment which was designed with function in mind. These garments are made to protect the wearer in times of conflict... it just epitomizes strength.” It seem like he gets me...and my blog. 

Inspired by military fits and cuts, as well as his international travels during his time in service, Abasi is one of the first to admit that he
didn't originally see the style or fashion aspect of military apparel. Instead, he was originally only aware of the necessity and function that it provided. That function and durability, I think, is one of the appeals and reasons why designers worldwide regularly return to military basics season after season. The construction, the stitch...the touch...the feel...of cotton! (Yes, I went there...indulge me for a moment) Abasi's goal? To create a perfect blend of artistry, design, and functionality. What do you think?

Thank you so much for supporting my blog this year. Your comments, messages, tweets, Facebook notes, Instagrams, etc. have meant so much. 
Thanks for reading! I'd love to hear from you.

A.T. "-BRANCH MGR"

Chevrons, Epaulettes...that's how you spell CADET

{Originally published at an early date}

The man who, as is often said, can get away with wearing a trench coat over his dinner jacket, or an old school tie for a belt, is the one who in fact understands best the rules of proper dress and can bend them to suit his own personality and requirements
— G. Bruce Boyer

(Did somebody say trench coat?!) Happy Halloween! And welcome back! What broke the silence? Well, I'm glad that you asked! I was recently scrolling through my Instagram feed and noticed some models in militaristic clothing and thought, "Is this a reenactment? What on earth is happening?" So, I investigated. Come to find out the strapping souls dressed as admirals (gah, I love rhyming) were part of a campaign for an up-and-coming company called: CADET. 

I'm not endorsing their brand, by any means. Let's be real, my blog isn't nearly popular enough to gain traction or their attention, however, if you've listened to anything I've written about these past 10 months, you know that the purpose of me even beginning this blog was to highlight how much we, as military brothers, and those who do not bear arms, have in common. In general, yes, and even more so  in the clothing department. Only a small percentage of us will ever face opportunities to do heroic things, but we all long to be the Lancelots of the world (Arthur, you're my boy, but Lancelot got Guinevere)! We may not all be able to walk the walk, but can surely dress the part.

 If you're as curious as I am, click image for link to their site

If you're as curious as I am, click image for link to their site

CADET's brand focus seems to highlight all of that: the mystique, honor, and prestige associated with a well-fitted military uniform, but toned down for the urban market or kept dressed up for the usinessman, whatever your preference may be. As my cousin so enthusiastically exclaims, "I'm 'bout that life!" or something to that effect...essentially, I express my agreement. Critics scoff at appropriations, arguing that if one wants to wear a uniform, they should join the military. I tend to disagree. Creating a caricature or seeking the benefits of servicemen (and women) by wearing uniforms, I agree, is despicable. Yet, I view what CADET has created as more of an appreciation for a look, a reinterpretation, and capturing the essence of a culture without being vulgar or disrespectful. Let's face it, when people stop attributing facets of military uniforms to style goals it most likely will mean that the public opinion of service members has signifigantly dwindled and...well...we know what happened when the guys came home from Vietnam...let's just say I'll take the imitation-based flattery. Bazinga!

In the spirit of Halloween, if CADET ever wants stories about the life of this former West Point cadet, they should feel free to drop me a line. I have PLENTY of tales. 

The video below has absolutely nothing to do with what I just discussed, but if you ever wanted to see men's fashion in 3 minutes from 1915-2015, you're in luck!

For some cool history on several of the items you may find on CADET's website, check out some of my earlier posts! 

Thanks for reading. Any new ideas? Connect with me on Twitter. I'd be grateful to hear from you. 

Abraços,

A.T. "-BRANCH MGR"

Can Kanye Camo?

Believe in your flyness, conquer your shyness
— Kanye West

{Originally published at an earlier date}

Attempting to pinpoint my source of inspiration is like trying to catch a wild chicken with a fishing net (#ivedoneit)--difficult and almost pointless to exhaust the effort, so I'll spare you. I don't seem to have regular things or places that inspire me to write. However, when pop culture intertwines with my professional world, even in the slightest of ways, the intrigue of it all gets to me and, thus, I'm writing. 

On July 1, 2015, the NY Times published an article about the US Army's soon-coming new camouflage print. The below excerpt captures the essence of everything I care to discuss as I re-visit camouflage print and modern style:

Why should this matter to those who are not themselves part of the army, or closely connected to the army, or whose camouflage of choice might be denim, or a navy single-breasted suit, or a sleeveless shift dress?
Well, partly because the process of researching the new camo took four years, had its own name (the Camouflage Improvement Effort), and was the most comprehensive camo study to date. And partly because the result is what is supposed to be the safest, most effective camouflage made.
But mostly because of the trickle-down effect — speaking in fashion and not economic terms, of course.
While the terminology, once used to describe the relationship between the runway and the mass market, has fallen out of, well, fashion (the street trickles up to the catwalk as much as vice versa), when it comes to the parallels between military and civilian style, it is practically axiomatic.
What is fashion, after all, but uniforms abstracted and diversified for a multitude of armies, both corporate and communal? (Click Here to see full article)

Four years?! That's the length of two elephant gestation periods, or four blue whales, but I digress. It is apparent that the level of research required to identify the most effective camouflage patterns surpasses my comprehension. 

Two of the most current, popular appropriations of the woodland print style camouflage are seen in Kanye West's Fall 2015 collection (partnering with Adidas) and the new Nike Tech Fleece that is taking Instagram by storm (and that I, admittedly, want to run and buy right now...just not in camo print).

When I first saw the image on the left, I thought, "Maybe he (Kanye) woke up and thought that his job was as tough as being in Afghanistan so he created something that would reflect that belief? Oh, wait...that was, allegedly, Tom Cruise. Then Marky Mark got in his grill for that nonsense. Where am I going with this?" Pop culture is a whirlwind. Whether you like the man or not, however, I propose that Mr. West's decision to create and present pieces fabricated from Army-derived woodland printed material for his first fashion line bolsters the argument that things attributed to the military uniform are equated with authority, sexiness (although the fabric cut and drape above are less than flattering) and grandeur. Or, it is likely that I've read much too far into this and he has simply created a uniform to subliminally lure his fan base into eventually forming his army during his 2020 run for the presidency. Woof. 

The image on the right argues the pattern's visual correlation with strength and endurance. In its corresponding advertisements, Nike uses field, court and turf warriors (Neymar, Ayumu Hirano, Grigor Dimitrov, Kevin Durant, Colin Kaepernick and Cristiano Ronaldo) to further the stance that Nike developed their new Tech Fleece only for those who dare. Because bravery and strength are two qualities most frequently linked to the military, I applaud Nike's marketing team and designers for this killer tactic...a lesson taken from Cartier's marketing book with the Tank watch. History may have been my least favorite subject in college, but it sure can "learn you something!"

Thanks for reading. Please comment! Any new ideas? Connect with me on Twitter. I'd be grateful to hear from you. 

-A. T. "-BRANCH MGR"

Keep 'em Comin, Clark!

Style is when they’re running you out of town and you make it look like you’re leading the parade
— William Battie

{Originally published at an earlier date}

This post was inspired by my roommate. He came home one day, after braving the crowds of TN's tax free weekend, with a new pair of brown shoes. As guilt flushed his face, he exclaimed, "Dude. I like these shoes, but I don't know if I'll wear them enough to justify buying them." Being his sartorial fairy godfather, I assured him that he'd made a good decision. To comfort him, I went out and purchased a similar pair, because why just provide a shoulder when you can walk in the same kicks, right? Anyhow, while shopping I saw a pair of Clarks Desert Boots.  Before doing this blog, I, admittedly, lacked curiosity, but I now wondered if a correlation existed between my military experience in the desert and the name of the boots. Come to find out, after some quick research, my suspicion was confirmed. With that, let's delve into the militarily correlated history of the Clark Desert boot.

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"The World's First Casual Shoe"

One would imagine that being the great grandson of James Clark, the founder of English shoe manufacturer Clarks, placed Nathan Clark in the perfect position to have his ideas lead to global footwear dominance. That kind of happened...just not in the way you'd expect. 

While stationed in Burma (currently Myanmar) with the British Army, in 1941, Nathan picked up on a shoe trend that his compadres were sporting: suede, heat resisting boots with crepe soles. Through his inquiry as to where and why they got them, he learned that his fellow officers specially ordered these boots from a bazaar in Cairo as a comfortable, durable, off-duty alternative to their work boots. Intrigued and anticipatory of their success back home, he began to draw up design blueprints.

Nathan Clark in 1950

ate continued working to prefect his design during his time at Staff College in 1944 and sent back rough patterns home to his brother, and company chairman, Bancroft. Bancroft seemed supportive, but the Stock Committee superintendent, Arthur Martin, attempted to dissuade Nathan and the Clarks company board from pursuing this shoe idea. He staunchly argued that the boots would 'never sell.' Gratefully, for our sakes and for the Clarks company, Nathan Clark disagreed with Mr. Martin and continued to work on his prototype. He eventually shared his prototype boot with his Esquire Magazine fashion editor pal that he'd met at a Chicago shoe fair in 1949. Esquire, in turn, ran a photo story. For the piece, Clark used the simple label of Desert Boot for the previously nameless shoe--a nod to its military origins. The boot's "deceptively simple silhouette and unusual crepe sole" captivated the public and fashion editors alike. Clarks had a bestseller on its hands.

Thanks for reading. Any new ideas? Connect with me on Twitter. 

Below, you'll find a video with pointers from Simple Man Style on how to prove your Clarks' versatility. Seriously, you can wear them with almost anything.
 

-A.T. "-BRANCH MGR"