Wattie Ink. - Handcrafting World Class Apparel In The USA
by - Chris Bagg
The whole “Made in the USA” concept, as a piece of marketing, has changed its meaning in the century or so since it’s first coinage. In the early history of the United States, globalization barely a thing at all, the claim was largely unnecessary. For the general population, everything was made in the USA, insofar as most of what people consumed came from their local market. During the 1950s post-war manufacturing boom, “Made in the USA” popped up as a point of national pride, as a fever of American exceptionalism gripped the country. In the 1970’s and 1980s, as that manufacturing boom faded, “Made in the USA” became more of a plea, something to keep consumers from buying Chinese or Japanese products. Today, as the country swings back towards valuing the local and particular, Made in the USA is again a point of pride, but not a national point of pride. Today it stands more for proximity between maker and consumer, an antidote to the alienation of mass-production and outsourcing.
That’s a long way round to explaining what stands behind the garments at Wattie Ink. All throughout 2014 and 2015, training with the other Wattie Ink professionals, new pieces showed up for workouts, and then disappeared back to the factory afterwards, our feedback going along for the ride. This past spring, when I visited the factory just outside of San Diego, one of Wattie’s partners rushed up to me with a blank jersey. “Hey,” he said. “You have a second to try this on and see how it fits? We need to know how it’ll go on your body type.” This past summer, on a still, grey day in Bend, I tried out an early version of the long sleeve aero jersey in production this past fall. The day in question was not one you’d normally think of for long sleeves: overcast but close, verging on stuffy. But never one to pass up the chance to wear a brand new jersey, I slipped my arms into the sleeves and zipped up the front. Yes, snug, as you’d expect of an aero jersey, but not overly so. I rolled off on a four-hour ride through the Bend forests, a slate of sub-threshold intervals on the menu for the day. After the ride I wistfully returned the jersey, despite the fact that I had imagined many more rides in it. I could extol the jersey at this point, say that it worked exactly as intended, or remark on the fact that I never needed to zip it down for ventilation, but that’s not the point I’m after today. The point is that one of the final steps of that piece’s trip to the market was on the back of an actual athlete, in an actual workout, in conditions he might actually see on race day. The point is that the jersey was homemade.
Sometimes, “Made in the USA” can seem like an arrogant claim, like suggesting that things are made better simply because they’re made here, an inherent claim that America is superior to other countries that make things (a claim that is, obviously, ridiculous). But for the Wattie gear, Made in the USA is less a marketing claim than a simple fact. In order to make the kind of gear they want to make, the athletes, designers, and seamsters/seamstresses need to live in proximity to each other, so each garment can go through a rigorous testing and application period. There’s just no other way to do it. This past September, ahead of Heather Jackson’s storming 5th place on debut at Kona, the team in San Diego came up with a new jersey just for HJ’s Kona assault. Three weeks later, they had the new kit finished, not just for Heather, but for general purchase on the Big Island—it’s a short timeline from inspiration to creation, each step in the process shaped by athletes committed to speed, comfort, and style.
Another benefit of that short timeline is that there’s no way to water down the product in such a short period. The gear sold at Kona this year, or the gear that goes to the custom team orders, is the same stuff that I wear, or Heather wears, or Rachel or Guy Crawford wears at races around the world. That speedsuit you’re thinking about purchasing is the same one, stitch for stitch, that I’ve been wearing at all my races this year, with weeks of feedback and analysis going into its design and execution.
So is “Made in the USA” a marketing point? Yes, but at Wattie Ink it’s more a statement of purpose. Everything is made here, at home, because there’s no way to make it elsewhere and maintain the level of control and care we feel is necessary to make the apparel we want to make: fast, comfortable, and yours.
Thanks for reading - Bagg
Chris Bagg is one of Wattie Ink’s professional triathletes. He lives, works, writes, trains, coaches, and very rarely (but very happily) plays ping pong in Portland, Oregon. His coaching company, Chris Bagg Coaching Group can be found on the web at chrisbagg.com/coaching or on Facebook here. He is @chrisbagg on Twitter here and @christopherbagg (he knows: confusing) on Instagram here.
WATTIE INK. CUSTOM TEAM APPAREL
Interested in outfitting your team or club? Wattie Ink. Custom Team Kits are Handcrafted in our own factory in San Diego, California using the finest imported Italian fabrics. We offer our own in-house custom designers to help you design your own unique kit to make your team or club stand out from the pack. For more information, contact us today at: Wattie Ink. Custom