Our friend/photographer/cinematographer/documentarist Bradley Wentzle documenting the Mint 400 in Primm Nevada; filming the Spitfire Race Team. These boots are collision of tough raw simplicity with beautiful refinement; a curation of pragmatic utilitarian beauty. Black Bear Brand with Wesco & Horween!
A love for Americana, the old ways, its strong influence on style.
The new and old colliding in a quest to elevate what we do and love.
Black Bear Brand 2016/17 Winter Parka Collection
- Black 60/40 Shell; Stone Blue Corduroy Lined Hood; Black Nylon lined Body; Stone Blue Corduroy Accents; Leather reinforced snaps.
- Black 60/40 Shell; Khaki Corduroy Lined Hood; Black Nylon lined Body; Khaki Corduroy Accents; Leather reinforced snaps.
- Navy Duck Canvas Shell; Black Corduroy Lined Hood; Black Nylon lined Body; Black Corduroy Accents; Leather reinforced snaps.
Making a Boot that Lasts a Lifetime
From Maker to Maker
-Story and images from the makers themselves-
The intention is in the details, to always serve a PURPOSE with pragmatism and refined tailoring. I’m striving for us to have this in all elements of the brand. We put in the work to curate excellence in the process, product, art/photography, and in our stories.
One of the fun parts of our process that I love is that we test the product. We use it, showing and proving the purpose in the process. After completing the samples, we did a quick “final” wear fit test and shoot in Seattle. That same day I sent the pieces on their “Union Of Makers” road-trip test.
First it went to Nate Wessel in PA to test the wear, the build and prove the use. Nate then shipped the vest to Rob Gallaher in Kamloops BC. He then sent it to Kris Sherry to test the wear and prove the design. Here’s a taste of our “Union Of Makers” road-trip test.
Builder – Mechanic – Photographer
Inspiration drives everything I do. My bikes, my music, my photography, my relationships & my life are all created out of an inspiration. It’s the thing that gets me up in the morning ready to receive the world. That’s what Black Bear Brand is to me. It’s an inspiration to ambitiously seek balance between functionality, durability, tough authentic style and refined tailoring. Be a dreamer...Make stories...
Kamloops BC Canada
Bike: 1978 Shovelhead custom rigid chopper. Built for fellow maker Bradley Makepeace, Hugging Tree Winery, and Makepeace Organics. Engine: 96” S&S Shovelhead.
3” BDL open primary. Transmission: RevTech 6into4. Front End: Wide glide. Wheels: Front-HD 21” Rear-HD 16”. Seat: Biltwell solo Tuck n’ Roll with Matcho Negro seat hinge.
FABRICATOR – DESIGNER – CRAFTSMAN
To me, Black Bear Brand is an ode to the past, to a time when men worked hard and honed their craft. When clothing served a purpose and was made to endure. The shirt-jacket was a great example of this. I worked, welded and wore this jacket socially and was extremely pleased with the quality and styling. I pride myself on being well-rounded in many handcrafted skills and not being afraid to put in the very humbling time it takes to learn and to grow these skills. You’re only as good as your tools and having the proper attire falls into that category for me. From welding and grinding a new gas tank for my motorcycle, to fabricating anything that comes my way, the shirt-jacket is my go to. Styling and functionality in everything I do is key and I strive to achieve that in my own work as well. Black Bear Brand is on the same path I am, and being able to take part in bringing this brand to the level it deserves, just seems to be a great fit.
Pinching a 1976 Harley Davidson SX-250 Gas Tank.
DESIGNER – FABRICATOR – BUILDER
I have been involved with action sports for 20 years. As a pro athlete, there are many brands that wrap around you, they can make you who you are as well as define you. For many years I have supported and been supported by brands that I felt were a huge part of my everyday being. I am in a new chapter of my life, but I am still surrounded by action sports and athletes. However, I was missing that brand that truly connected with my life, my work and my passions. That void has been filled by a brand that I feel encompasses me better that anything I’ve ever been a part of. It revolves around all of my passions for every walk of life that I am a part of. Whether it is playing, riding, ripping, shredding, chillin’, fabricating, building or hanging with my family, it all works as one. Black Bear Brand encompasses me and everything that I am about.
Maryland / Pennsylvania
Designing and fabricating a ramp in Maryland / Pennsylvania for Nitro Circus.
An Indestructible Legacy Left in the Footsteps of our Fathers
A Black Bear Story
By Flint Benson
Click on preview to view full screen.
Click to view individual pages.
Read UNEARTHED: A Black Bear Story below.
My Grandfather, Robert Benson, was born in 1910 in the Swedish Dairy farming community of Cedardale. The farm ground, east of present-day Interstate-5, ran parallel with a mountain range in the area between Mount Vernon and Conway in Washington State. Having been raised at the base of these mountains, he witnessed the operations of the English Lumber Co., which was the area’s largest player in the logging industry. In 1914 the English Co. began construction of a bridge along what was known as the “English Logging Railroad.” The bridge, which the company claimed to be the tallest of its type in the United States, spanned Sandy Creek at a height of 119 feet. As a boy, my Grandfather watched the locomotives transporting Fir and Cedar across the trestle from the Mount Vernon area. The sights and the sounds of this magnificent era must have made quite an impression on my Grandfather who, at the age of nineteen, decided to become a railroad logger for English.
The Great Depression made getting a job with English a stiff competition. Loggers were expected to work hard, because if they didn’t, there were about two hundred other men ready to take their place. My Grandfather often spoke of his first day at work.
...The foreman took me out to a railroad grade, as we rounded the corner I saw five men pitching gravel at a frightening pace. The Foreman handed me a shovel and said, ‘get to it, boy!’
He joined the men and matched their effort. Ten minutes later, sweaty and near collapsing with exhaustion, the men threw down their shovels and shared a hearty laugh. Grandpa explained to me that they were testing his work ethic along with his sense of humor, because to work that hard, you needed both.
My Father was born in 1948 and spent his youth exploring the same mountains where his father was raised. He sometimes recalls having lunch with my Grandfather on what remained of the old trestle bridge. He never forgot the stories my Grandfather told of an old English Logging camp where 14 bunkhouses had been destroyed in a fire sometime during 1913. Grandpa also mentioned a cousin, Uncle Edgar, who used to hike up to these camps in search of colored bottles. As a young man, my Father used the old Railroad grades in the area of the old camps to access higher elevation while deer hunting. One day on a deer hunt my father spotted the signs of a bottles dig high on the mountain side and quickly realized that he had found the old burned down camp.
I was born in 1979 and grew up in a mountain house built roughly 200 yards from the old trestle bridge that the English Co. had constructed over Sandy Creek. Only one piling remains of the bridge which, like the mountains, hadn’t experienced much industry following the glory days of the English Logging Company. That all changed when the Scott Paper Co. came to town and reignited the logging industry. After nearly 70 years the mountain roared back to life with the whistle blows of the log yarders and the constant flow of Fir and Cedar down its side. Eventually, the clear-cut land came for sale in 40 acre parcels. My Father thought that we could buy some acreage if we supplemented the cost by cutting and selling firewood from the slash piles. We cut hundreds of cords over the next two years to make ends meet. I remember cutting on a new logging road when my father pointed out the location of the old English Logging camp. He explained to me how the trains brought the buildings in and took the buildings out, all except for those 14 bunkhouses had burned down long ago.
My grandfather passed away in 2007, he was 97 years old. The last years of his life the family took turns caring for him in his home on the mountain across Sandy Creek Canyon. I found that the book, "Logging Railroads in Skagit County" took him to a place where he could recall with confidence the stories he treasured the most. In the following year, I found myself as a self-employed Tile setter in a struggling economy. In my spare time I was drawn to the woods much as I had been as a child. My yellow lab and I wandered the mountain and creeks looking for antler sheds or an arrowhead, while unsuccessful on the latter, the times coming home empty handed taught me patience. I learned the native flora and fauna and hunted the black-tailed deer and migratory waterfowl. I walked the old railroad grades like my fore-fathers and, with a new appreciation for the mountain, I slowly became drawn to the logging camp.
In 2011, armed with a metal detector and my yellow lab, I entered the alder flat that would consume me for the next 3 years. I started finding parts to wood stoves and bed frames, within the first week I felt I had the footprint of the fourteen burned bunkhouses...a 30'x200' sea of nails. I was still learning the metal detector when I got the surprise of a lifetime, out of the ground came a Winchester model 1896 saddle ring carbine! I decided that with the large amount of nails in the ground I would need to set up 5'x5' areas and pull each and every nail, one handful of dirt at a time. The first finds to come were mostly all clothing related. The most common find among the nails were metal buttons from work pants and coats. I was delighted to find the buttons were stamped with the name of the manufacturer. A set of ten buttons were usually accompanied by a set of suspender buckles. I remember the buckles and buttons to be far more ornate than I had ever imagined. The designs were classy and well made. Traces of gold gilding or nickel plating still remained in places inside the buckle and within the recessed stamped designs and lettering. With each new brand discovery a new opportunity arose to research the brand’s history. The closest company to my hometown was the "Black Manufacturing Company" in Seattle. They produced garments using the "Black Bear Brand" as their line of work wear. A search of their history provided a picture of a massive painted mural advertisement preserved on the side of a brick building in Seattle. I had seen that sign before!
The most thrilling day for me was April 12th, 2012. While digging under a rotten stump I hit a pocket of buttons. It seemed every handful of dirt produced at least one button. "Buffalo Brand,” "Rose City,” "Chester Make,” "Capitol Make,” 45 buttons and four suspender buckle sets came out of the ground. I recorded my first coin, a 1906 Liberty Head Nickel and a "Good for five cents" trade token from the "Viaduct Saloon" in Everett, Wash. The following year I learned that early plastic was prized among loggers; combs, smoking pipe mouth pieces, and even a men's ring was found from materials ranging from Baleen, Celluloid, Bakelite, and hard rubber. The next two years produced a total of sixteen manufacturers of work clothes and suspenders of thirty different designs from at least a dozen suspender makers.
In March of this year, my fiancé and I were walking up our creek, about a half mile from Sandy Creek. We had been finding antique fire brick on our journeys up the creek and this particular day lead us to the source, a large fire brick lined kiln. On the next trip up we found a patch of daffodils and a wrought iron bed frame. A week ago I took the dogs back up the site and below the bed frame I started digging. To my surprise a couple of buttons came out of the ground, but they were rusted beyond recognition. The best find of the day was a "Black Bear Brand" button, I instantly knew what it was. With excitement about the find in a new location I continued to dig. Some 15 minutes later I heard a grunt, I looked up to see a full grown black bear 20 yards away walking towards me on the railroad grade. I stood up, and the dogs ran the bear off, but I remember thinking the coincidence was more than astounding. The events of the day lead me to research Black Bear Brand again, and that is when I saw the brand had been revived. I was impressed with how much research had been done, and that the company honored the late clothing manufacturer in preserving its story, history, and the designs of the old workwear and buttons. I sent an email to the company to inform them that I had 4 different designs of "Black Bear Brand" buttons found in a 1912 logging camp. My email was answered immediately and within a week I was meeting with brand curator, Josh Sirlin, and photographer Chad Lyons at my home in Mount Vernon. We visited and drove up to the logging camp. I was very pleased to see a company take so much interest, Josh and I share a passion for early 20th century workwear and while I was never able to share these finds with my Grandfather I am so pleased for this opportunity to tell his story.
Tear Sheet GQ Germany.
Tilley Surfboards - Union Of Makers
A collaboration bred from quality and heritage. The recipe for a true Union of makers: Black Bear Brand x Tilley Surfboards.
Black Bear Brand originated from a label of the same name that had been part of the American clothing landscape for almost 100 years. Desiring to carry on the heritage of its forbearer, the rebooted Black Bear Brand takes reinterpreting classics very seriously.
In anticipation of the inevitable cold months, Black Bear turned to fellow maker Crescent Down Works to collaborate on a small capsule of outerwear. Crescent, for its part, has been churning out completely custom down jackets since 1974. That said, it only makes sense that the collection should include down shirts, a down parka, and a down vest.
Working out of a small factory in Seattle, the duo combined patterns that have been popular in the Northwest for decades with high-quality fabrics, and 700-fill white goose down. These items are all about warmth, durability and optimal performance.
Serving those who serve us… Build & Ride.
Bikes Over Baghdad is a team of professional action sports athletes who have traveled to the Middle East in support of the troops since 2009. Here’s a look at the recent November trip to a lot of undisclosed locations in the Middle East.
Nate Wessel - Union Of Makers
My experience on the morning September 25th was surreal. While it was calm and peaceful, it was an absolute sensory overload at the same time. I was paddling out with Jason Tilley of Tilley Surfboards for our first session on a collaboration board we created, and the marine layer was thick and the ocean and sky were separated only by their slight variation of grey, blurring the boundary between the two. The morning was cool and the water was still warm enough that wearing a hood was a preference and not a necessity. We paddled out into chest high rollers.
Anticipating the next wave with such reduced visibility required focus, and had I missed the full meaning of something Tilley said to me while we were waiting for the next set. He wanted me to look at something off to my right, but I didn’t see much.
I’ve heard stories about how one sense is enhanced by a deficit in another, and maybe it was the uniformity of the environment that deprived me of crisp vision, but either way the first I caught of it was the smell. It was overwhelming. It was as if the ordinary smell of the ocean had intensified a hundred fold. Not rotten—just the smell of bait fish, maybe shrimps, and salt air. And then I saw it: the top of a massive whale. I’m unsure what kind it was, but I was close enough to feel the pressure of the water it parted as it moved by. I’m unsure why it came so close to shore. Perhaps it was curious about what we were doing.
“I was paddling out with Jason Tilley of Tilley Surfboards for our first session on a collaboration board we created.”
Jason Tilley of Tilley Surfboards has an interesting story. “Building wood surfboards the way I do is a product of everything I have done and have been into since I was a kid,” he said. “Much of that was passed on by my father. Tilley does more than build surfboards. He’s a vast well of knowledge in all things wood and ocean.
“Windsurfing, surfing, sailing, working on wood boats, living and traveling on a small wooden cutter, all these are part of who I am and create the context for my experience and work,” remembered. “Being deeply immersed in the wooden boat scene, especially the working trollers, longliners, packers, gillnetters, and seiners of SE Alaska, gave me an intense appreciation and understanding for how well beauty and function can complement one another. Beauty enhancing function and function enhancing beauty. Most important is how much each adds deeply to the lives of the designers, builders, and users who get to partake in the art and craft. A beautiful soulful object is such a pleasure to use. At every turn it adds to your experience. It promotes proper care and recycling. Beautiful functional craft are restored, resurrected, used and coveted. These boards aren’t meant to be set against the wall and admired as art, because there is also beauty in their use. I like to think that each one of my boards walks that line: were the joy of using it and the joy of looking at it are hand in hand. It has to look stunning. It has to perform well. It has to be made to last.”
Jason and I met and quickly realized that where we really saw eye to eye when it comes to board design was the traditional fish. “With the fish design, we are able to draw something cool from the past and twist it a little with updated concepts,” Tilley said.
“It has to look stunning. It has to perform well. It has to be made to last.”
We wanted to respect the tradition of board building, but at the same time be creative and build our own new thing, and the fish template was the perfect way to do it. “The template of the collaboration fish draws on the long linage of fish designs, and is my go-to template for traditional fishes, Tilley explained. “It is a little drawn out and longer than the norm.”
So what’s different with our collaboration from a normal fish? Tilley designed a template that’s slightly different than average. And of course, as with all board design, small changes make a big difference, and not just aesthetically. “With this board I focused on the rails, bottom contours and fin template and set-up,” Tilley explained. “The rails lean towards the fuller round rails of a typical modern board. They are about halfway between the low thin rails often seen on traditional fish and a medium full rail. The deck is rolled more than normal, something that I think looks good. The bottom starts with a mellow single concave in the nose, to flat in the middle, and transitions to a vee shape with double concave. I pulled my normal twin fin template a little more upright, which actually is a step back towards the originals. The fins are set with a very slight toe (pointing towards the nose) and cantilever (tips pointing outboard), which is not a true keel fin set up (no toe and no cant). This aspect would make a dyed-in-the-wool traditionalist moan, though the numbers are so small they would need a good eye to determine this is not a straight keel. Tints, wood selection and logos were very much Josh’s game with much back and forth and adjustments to pull off the look. I like the Yin and Yang balance, it fits with the idea of new and old, past and present.”
The board itself truly was a labor of love. To sum it up in one small paragraph doesn’t do the amount of work justice, but Tilley kept the build’s explanation short and sweet. “The basic build is my standard wood railed construction: a cut and hand-shaped foam blank, select lumber, and milled up deck and bottom skins,” he said. “The deck is just shy of 1/8″ and the bottom just shy of 1/16″. These were vacuum bagged onto the blank with a layer of glass and epoxy between the skins and foam. I then cut a little more than 3/8″ from the perimeter of the board and laminate the rails on. Instead of the usual nose block I steamed and bent the rails all the way to the nose, doing one side first, trimming and then overlapping the other side on top. I was striving for clean lines and a clean wood canvas to show off the color design and logos. Next, I glued the tail block on. I got into sculpting the tail block, indulging in a little hand tool carving while thinking of wooden boat stems. After shaping down the rails and fairing everything together was logo and color work, followed by a layer 4oz glass in epoxy. Then fill, sand, gloss and polish. This sounds quick in one paragraph, but is no small amount of labor.”
The Making of the Black Bear Brand x Greenwich Vintage Co. Collaboration Boots
Union Of Makers - What was once a brand new Oro colorway Red Wing #875 boot has now been transformed by Greenwich Vintage’s Master Cobbler, Tamas “Zen” Pomazi. "We dyed the boots black by hand, to have an overdyed patina and we re-midsoled and corked the inside with a black 6 iron midsole sewn on a landis k curve stitcher. These one-of-kind moc-toe boots have been outfitted with brand new black chrome eyelets hand hammered in shop. Last but not least we made our own Black Bricklayer wedge out soles.” - Zen
The delivery date is set for November 20th at www.blackbearunion.com
Crescent Down Works x Black Bear Brand
Union Of Makers - Collaboration
Making custom down garments since 1974.
Patterns based on long-established northwest outerwear designs.
"We use high quality and time-tested fabrics and construction methods, stuffed with 700 fill white goose down selected for the best combination of durability, feel and performance.” - CDW
Time-honored style provide a sought-after product proudly made in America with care.
Located in Seattle, 100% of our manufacturing is done in-house in our factory in Pioneer Square.
"We love doing custom work for our partners, especially locally…” - CDW
Limited collection coming soon.
Photos by Chad Lyons
British Columbia, Canada
Union of Makers - Justin Ormiston
"After three days in the field following fresh tracks, finding warm beds and hearing the sound of hooves moving through the soil, along bounces the biggest four point buck I've ever seen. Locked and loaded I waited patiently for a clean shot; sure enough the buck stopped just before entering the dense forest. One long exhale I squeezed a standing shot from about 140 yards out. The click of my 7mm mag firing pin was all I heard... no bang."
"The round misfired due to a faulty primer. I quickly cycled another round into the chamber, ready to pull, but there was no deer left to shoot."
"I never did find that four point again, but the three days of grizzly bear prints, coyotes howling, cold nights and warm scotch, it's the journey that counts."