Ball and Buck's retail store is hidden away on Newbury Street in Boston. If you don't know what you're looking for, you might just miss it. But once inside the shop, you're introduced to a trove of hunting nostalgia from yesteryear that still looks awesome today. There are also plenty of American-made clothes in the shop, like Ball and Buck's collaboration with Portland, Ore.'s Danner on a pair of Danner Lite boots, which are slated to release on October 29.
To get a better understanding of Ball and Buck and its work with Danner, we chopped it up with the store and brand's founder, Mark Bollman, and discussed this project, along with hunting in western Massachusetts, and what it is about Made in USA clothes that excites him everyday.
Tell us the main story behind why you worked with Danner on a boot.
One of the key points is how aligned Danner is with Ball and Buck and how they focus on quality above all else. They're making product for people who actually get out into the woods and use it. They've done hunting product for decades. We were super excited about creating a boot that spoke to what we're all about.
The boot itself is designed to equally as comfortable as it is on the streets of the city as it is in the field hunting. To do that, we used a pretty aggressive lug pattern on the bottom, but the sole material is the Gum Lite by Vibram. It's a lightweight version of the more traditional sole. It also has a Gore-Tex membrane so it's waterproof. This shoe, the Danner Lite, is actually the first shoe ever to integrate Gore-Tex into a shoe.
The leather gets better with age. It's oily, it has a lot of pull-up to it, it's waxy. We also used a 10-ounce camo cloth that I designed and is a direct nod to the hunting heritage of Ball and Buck. Then we added a little bit or orange on the heel, which is similar to what we did with our New Balance product.
What's it like having your store located in Boston, where you have a lot of outdoors influences, but you're located in a major city?
One great thing about Boston is the shopping pattern of heritage and quality. You have your Bean Boot guy, your tin cloth guy. The weather in Boston is pretty cold, so you need something that's going to hold up. Do we have purpose-built hunting product in the shop? We have some of it. But a lot of it is a crossover. I personally hunt and field-test everything we make and sell.
So what was it like then when you released the New Balance sneaker and being in Boston, a city with such a large streetwear scene?
The demand for that sneaker was amazing. We're talking about lines around the block for days, camping out, and selling out the shoe online within a matter of seconds. That was something that I had not been exposed to, but I'm a super big fan of people collecting things, and being super into and knowledge about certain brands and products. To me, the 574 is the most iconic sneaker out there. It was Ball and Buck, but as a sneaker. It was subtle yet meaningful and practical. You wouldn't go up upland hunting in them, but you could.
Your brick-and-mortar store is very heritage driven, how did that concept come about?
The inspiration for the store itself is 1920s hunting lodge. You have your cool rug, your game heads, your leathers, your woods, your reclaimed iron. I want people to feel like they came into a whole other world when they walk into the shop. You're not only going back in time from a visual standpoint, but back in time from a quality standpoint—to when a lot of things were Made in USA.
You recently held American Field, the pop-up event. How was the response to that?
It was super awesome. It was 50 percent bigger than last year in terms of vendors, and the public outcome was 200 percent bigger. The vendors were happy, the customers were engaged: purchasing, learning, watching things being made on the spot. Rancourt & Co. was making shoes on the floor and L.L. Bean was making totes at the show. It's great to be able to bring the production of the product right to the customer.
You actually get to meet the person who creates these items, and to me it's great to show consumers that there's another of purchasing that's not based solely on consumption.