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On the surface, the new documentary Making the American Man almost plays like an 70-minute promotion of niche, made-in-America bro brands – a virtual who’s-who of companies you’ll find at Pop-Up Flea. That’s a superficial assessment that would be grossly unfair. The truth is that we are bludgeoned by advertising and promotion from the huge mega-brands with mega-budgets, and it’s nice to see some of these smaller outfits get some long overdue time in the sun.
Directed by Gregory Caruso and produced by Bristol Pictures, the movie brings to light some some very important issues about manufacturing jobs in America, craftsmanship, durability vs. disposability, pride in one’s work and making something not just for the profit but for the love of making it. The idea of getting customer service directly from the owner of the company himself because he actually cares is a rare phenomenon in our consumer culture. And these are the kind of brands who do just that.
The film also explores what it means to be a man, particularly in our evolving genderscape with LGBT equality and a lot of women making more money than men. What is chivalry and gentlemanliness now? It was very interesting to see Brett McKay, founder of the wonderful blog “The Art of Manliness,” and other brand creators lend their perspective. The consensus seems to be that a gentleman today is someone who is a useful member of society – someone who cleans up and looks presentable out of respect for oneself and others; someone with a capacity for compassion, empathy, emotional availability; and someone who knows how to make or fix something other than money (like make an omelet or fix a bike).
Being as consumer-conscious as I’ve become as a blogging self-made thousandaire and having been a customer of some of these brands and personally getting to know some of the owners, there wasn’t much new information for me here. But I would definitely consider Making the American Man essential viewing for any American man, young or old, who cares about how he looks, how he shops and how things are made. This film is about awareness, consciousness and giving a damn.
I’m certainly not “made-in-America” with everything I buy, since a lot of beautifully crafted US-made goods can be pricey. But I absolutely am an advocate for doing it where you can. My Alden chukka boots were a very justified splurge that will last me a lifetime, my custom “Chief” from Heritage Bicycles in Chicago is my car, my beloved General Knot ties are gorgeously-made head turners, and my Barbasol shave cream is indispensable.
I’d love to see a Part 2 of the film, including other fine American-made brands like American Woolens (fabric), Hickey-Freeman (suits), Alden and Allen-Edmonds (shoes), Layrite Pomade (hair goo), Terrapin Stationers (engraved stationery) and more. But I understand that the filmmakers surely had time and budget constraints, with which they did an extraordinary job. It’s a very well-made and worthwhile film.
Making the American Man is now streaming on Netflix.