You might, at first, mistake a jacket by The American Mountain Company as vintage winter clothing. But, take a closer look.
The Michigan-based company makes technical outerwear in an “Americana classic look,” as the company’s vice president Chad Caudill calls it. The clothing is so stylish that people often don’t realize it’s designed to endure the elements while mountaineering or skiing.
About 10 years ago President Brad Sawdon created the company for a class project while studying finance at Grand Valley State University in Michigan. Brad created a pair of climbing pants as part of the project. He even sold a few before his attention got diverted elsewhere.
Then, about three years ago, he mentioned his business project to his friend Chad, who he had met through a job at an outdoor retail store. Brad wanted to reinvigorate the brand. The two talked about how all technical jackets looked the same. Why couldn’t they create something just as technical, but with a classic look?
“It turns out that is more difficult than it sounds,” Chad said.
Making classically styled clothing is a doable endeavor. But making something look classic, while maintaining the functionality of a ski or mountaineering jacket, proved harder.
The challenge was presented in the little things, like where do you put the pockets? Chad said.
To create the coat they wanted, they sought out the best materials for technical jackets. It was important that whatever they designed be compatible with a harness and pack, waterproof and made in the USA. They wanted their clothing to be “mountain wear.”
Neither partners had design experience, but this didn’t stop them from moving forward.
“That gives us a leg up,” Chad said. “We break every rule. We go to the factory and say ‘This is what we want,’ and they say ‘this is crazy.’ But we say, ‘no matter the cost, figure it out. This is how we want it.’”
They drew inspiration from lifestyle and fashion brands, as well as their Detroit-area roots. The result is something you could wear to climb Mt. Rainer, or to the pub.
The company launched its line, which includes six pieces, in summer 2012 at Outdoor Retailer. The overwhelmingly positive response they received affirmed they weren’t crazy.
The American Mountain Company will likely double its six item collection this year. Clothing will be in some stores this fall and available on the company’s website soon.
Prices range from $139 for a baselayer sweater to $679 for a hardshell jacket. Everything is manufactured in the United States and has a lifetime guarantee.