The California Shirt on Esquire.com

I woke up this morning to a text message from Michael B. Dougherty, author of the latest post at Esquire.com. The text simply read, "BOOM." It was followed by a link to his story. It's about my journey to making the first product to carry my name, The California Shirt. 

BOOM is right. It's fitting that the first story about a product made from my life's history (this shirt's pattern is based on my father's first custom shirt which became a hand-me-down for me and my brother) would come from Esquire. 

It's likely that I wore my dad's shirt on or around the time that I discovered in the back of Mr. Jerry Boyle's AP English classroom a pile of vintage Esquires. Mr. Boyle liked to heap praise on his students comparing us to his favorite of Esquire writers from the sixties. Where others were compared to Baldwin, Mailer, or Talese, after a fluffy story of my family's fall traditions, he dropped my (A-) paper on the desk in front of me with a delightful, delayed delivery, chewing his words: "Mis-ter Wast-ler.... a nice attempt at Nora Ephron...." 

I would've been fine dying then and there. Esquire was also once home to one of my college mentors, Mr. Tom Chiarella, whose ability to tie the personal narrative to many of our national conversations is unrivaled among his peers today. In my time under his care, I leaned on him more often than I probably should have for fluffier stories with a particularly collegiate bent to them: profiles of the women's rugby team or a takedown of the Administration following the suspension of one professor or another, or somehow tying a campus cycling race to the Tour de France. 

But today, I am featured not as a writer but as a merchant, and Dougherty did a wonderful job encapsulating what I am attempting with this first offering. It should be noted that as acquaintances, he reached out to me at a time when I felt uncomfortable seeking press. I actually deliberately did not seek publicity hoping instead to allow for the proof of my concept to speak for itself on this early beta run of what is to come. Granted, I am entirely grateful to him for the platform, for the kind words, and for the opportunity to share more of the behind-the-scenes. 

If you have time to read his profile, I would be grateful. I suppose it goes without saying, nonetheless I sit here humbled to see words I've spoken gracing a space authorized by a publication I have admired for so long. Thank you again to Michael B. Dougherty and to Esquire.

The California Shirt

Photos courtesy of Carolina Mariana

Photos courtesy of Carolina Mariana

Consideration is defined as “careful thought, typically over a period of time.”

For the past decade, my central focus has been men’s clothing. For a time in 2009 and 2010, I traveled a twelve-state territory in the center of the country selling shirts and ties to high-end men’s boutiques. Prior to this experience, it had been my dream to build button-downs with flourishes that I liked in a well-made men’s shirt. Through my experience as a traveling salesman, I learned that many of those flourishes were just that, ostentatious and superfluous to the function and quality of the shirt itself. What has remained exists in this first offering from the newly formed company which bears my name, Max Wastler.

Know, first, who you are, and then adorn yourself accordingly. - Epictetus

I spent my entire childhood shopping. I would pore over catalogs, magazines, and racks of clothing, obsessing over every detail. I inherited my father’s extensive mental checklist for quality and value and my mother’s inherent ability to foresee a trend. As I grew older, I began modifying my tastes to suit the fashions of the day, learning the implied messages that clothing sends.

From early on, the shirt was the center of this obsession. It’s the billboard. When we meet, it’s the first thing we see. It expresses so much, so quickly. It covers the core of our being: the heart, the lungs, the stomach, and the arms. I have owned every kind of shirt you can imagine, and in the process, I have learned some valuable lessons. These lessons largely informed my first offering, The California Shirt.

Blue Years ago, a mentor of mine told me, “A man needs two things in this life: a blue shirt and a blue shirt.” He was right.

Gingham Long associated with scooter-cruising Mods and before them, fellow Kansan, Dorothy Gale, gingham has reemerged in recent years as a staple of men’s shirting. Prior to this, in 2008, I wore a navy gingham shirt to a wedding. A groomsman told me I looked like a picnic table. By the time we were dancing, he had the crowd chanting, “Go, Picnic Table, Go, Picnic Table, Go!”

Durable In 2010, a shirt sat atop my mother’s clothing donation pile. Examining it, I recognized it as one I had spent the last year selling. With signatures like double-track stitching on the collar, a chalk button, a box pleat, a trim fit, and a “Made in U.S.A” label. In 1989, after moving our family to a new city to start a new job, my father had this shirt made, a rare move for a man who never buys anything for himself. While flipping through my high school yearbooks not too long ago, I discovered I had worn this shirt, his hand-me-down on my first day of high school. My brother wore it after me, and after rescuing it from the donation pile, I have continued wearing it to this day. I hope my shirts last you and your family a quarter-century or more.

Seasons of Love How do you measure a year? In 2016, I moved from Chicago to Los Angeles. Upon arriving, I mentioned to a friend that my wardrobe was too heavy, and he replied, pointing to the linen shirt I was wearing, “you’re going to need more of these.” I designed this with two flap pockets to keep my phone from falling out of my breast pocket, and to stash my favorite pair of wayfarers or an ice-cold stubbie of Coors Banquet Beer.

The California Shirt Now you know why I call this lightweight yet durable shirt “The California Shirt.”

For more details on the shirt itself, visit The Shop.

Max Wastler’s Guarantee For me, the sale isn’t complete until the goods are worn out and you are still satisfied. I am committed to delivering well-made, well-considered, dependable products. If you are not satisfied with one of my products at the time you receive it, or if it does not perform to your satisfaction, please return it for a repair, replacement, or refund. If you are uncomfortable doing so, I will gladly repair anything worn or torn at a reasonable charge. Above everything, I want to avoid having a dissatisfied customer.

From the Archive: Made Right Here: Schutt Sports

Now that we're within a couple hours of professional football's regular season kick-off, take a look back at the surprising process that goes into making a helmet by hand. At Schutt Sports in Litchfield, Illinois, it really is a family affair. 

While you're at it, take a minute to read 61 Reasons to Love the NFL in 2016Tom Chiarella's latest for Bleacher Report

From the Archive: "Enjoy every sandwich." - Warren Zevon

As I reflect back thirteen years ago today on the passing of Warren Zevon, a musician and songwriter who had a massive influence on my life, I am reminded of this post which originally appeared on All Plaidout in May of last year as I was preparing to say goodbye to another impactful man, David Letterman

Take a moment to enjoy all of the known appearances of Zevon on Letterman's programs throughout the years, read about their special relationship, and as his parting words to Dave would suggest, enjoy every sandwich

The full post can be found here.

Linen Shirts & Lemonade

I’d like to resurrect the slow dance.

Yes, I know. It’s not really dead, but its prominence at casual social gatherings among my friends and loved ones has diminished continually throughout my life. I recall a time as a young boy seeing couples at backyard barbecues swaying their hips between sips from a bottle of Bartles & Jaymes or a tall, gold can of Coors, the light butt taps in time on pastel-colored madras shorts and flirty sundresses, the meeting of the eyes, the widening of the smile, the soft nuzzle, and then the emphatic twirl.

Affectionately called “Linen Shirts & Lemonade,” this is a mix of tunes that comprised much of my summer, a summer spent soaking up my last days as a Chicagoan, strutting my way through Mississippi, boot-scooting across the southern United States, bobbing along the rushing Colorado River waters, spinning my legs and my dizzy head up a Vail trail, and driving -- oh my, the driving -- all over California. As I was compiling them for you to enjoy at your Labor Day weekend festivities, I came to realize many of these songs rekindled that swaying late-summer yard party that I miss so much. Listen. You can hear it: arriving to the buzz of a cocktail hour that’s louder than the croak of a cicada field, hitting the dance floor hard with a skip in your step and your hands in the air, and then searching into the dark of night for your sweetheart to tell her that you love her and then give her a nice firm turn and careful dip. And after you have wound your way down a moonlit road, you stand with her in the doorway, unsure if those are the stars in her eyes or the shine of affection. You end the night with a kiss, salty and sweet and better than any dessert created by man or God. Sunday Candy.

Thank you for continuing to follow my playlists. And thank you to all the laborers who keep this country working as well as it does. I hope this mix, Linen Shirts & Lemonade, truly does aid in your enjoyment of a much-deserved day off.

Linen Shirts & Lemonade

  1. Shel Silverstein - Hug o’ War

  2. Patrinell Staten - I Let A Good Man Go

  3. Soul Survivors - Expressway to Your Heart

  4. J.J. Jackson - But It’s Alright

  5. Skyy - Call Me

  6. 3rd Bass - The Gas Face

  7. Poor Righteous Teachers - Rock Dis Funky Joint

  8. Gang Starr - Step in the Arena

  9. John Holt - Sister Big Stuff

  10. The Kinks - Picture Book

  11. Nicki Bluhm and the Gramblers - Mr. Saturday Night

  12. Eric Clapton - Can’t Let You Do It

  13. Wilco - Someone to Lose

  14. Angel Olsen - Shut Up Kiss Me

  15. Margaret Glaspy - Emotions And Math

  16. Manu Chao - Bongo Bong

  17. Three Dog Night - Shambala

  18. Shake Russell - Troubles

  19. Grateful Dead - Fire On The Mountain

  20. Old & In The Way - Wild Horses

  21. Van Morrison & Brooks Arthur - Sante Fe / Beautiful Obsession

  22. Bill Withers - Sweet Wanomi

  23. JJ Grey & Mofro - Tupelo Honey

  24. Faces - Love Lives Here

  25. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers - No Reason to Cry

  26. Doc Watson - Deep River Blues

  27. Dave Rawlings Machine - Sweet Tooth

  28. Willie Watson - Bring It With You When You Come

  29. Paul Simon - Peace Like a River

  30. Whiskeytown - Everything I Do

  31. Joe South - Games People Play

  32. Tony Joe White - I Want You

  33. Paul Revere & The Raiders - Powder Blue Mercedes Queen

  34. Junction - Sorcerer

  35. The Guess Who - Ramblin Gamblin Man

  36. Marcia Griffiths - Here I Am Baby

  37. Vulfpeck - Back Pocket

  38. James Taylor - Day Tripper

  39. Donny Hathaway - Magnificent Sanctuary Band

  40. The Cannonball Adderley Quintet - Mercy, Mercy, Mercy

  41. Isaac Delusion - Midnight Sun

  42. Loudon Wainwright III - Hollywood Hopeful

  43. Vince Bell - Sun & Moon & Stars

  44. Gene & Debbe - Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye

  45. George Harrison - Between The Devil And The Deep Blue Sea

  46. Bob Wills - Stay All Night (Stay A Little Longer)

  47. Josh Garrels - Farther Along

  48. Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment - Sunday Candy

You can find the whole thing, Linen Shirts & Lemonade on Spotify.

President Barack Obama on Feminism

Though I prefer to allow my actions rather than my words reflect my politics and my beliefs, I was inspired to share this photo of my mother after reading the president's remarks on feminism. I related to one passage in particular. "I spent a lot of time trying to figure out who I was, how the world perceived me, and what kind of man I wanted to be. It’s easy to absorb all kinds of messages from society about masculinity and come to believe that there’s a right way and a wrong way to be a man. But as I got older, I realized that my ideas about being a tough guy or cool guy just weren’t me. They were a manifestation of my youth and insecurity. Life became a lot easier when I simply started being myself."

I debated for some time whether or not to share this, and I wrote thousands of words before finally realizing he says it better. Take time to read and share his thoughts with the would-be feminists in your life. 

Max Wastler's City Guide for Barneys New York: The Window

Faribault Woolen Mill x All Plaidout

Faribault Woolen Mill x All Plaidout

When the time came to name this All Plaidout, a blog with posts about things that are not trendy, about the stories of style over fashion, about the stories behind the clothes we wear, I turned to the rich history of a cloth pattern known as a tartan. I chose the tartan most emblematic of my style, my appreciation of history, and the one that most often showed up in my closet from as early on as I can remember, the Black Watch.

A dark, neutral tartan, it was first worn by the watchmen, highly trained members of the Scottish military who’d combined their clan’s patterns to stand as one. Owed primarily to its widely appealing aesthetic quality, it has become one of the most popular and sought after plaids.

When collaborating with John Mooty at Faribault Woolen Mill on a Black Watch plaid blanket, he offered a unique suggestion.

“Let’s ground it in the threads of the U.S. Military blankets for which we’re most well-known,” Mooty said.

By combining the green from the U.S. Army, the blue from the U.S. Navy, and the black from the West Point Academy blankets, Faribault has created a subtly new, beautiful, and altogether American take on a pattern with a rich and wonderful history.