Next month, two dudes from Portland, Oregon, will embark on a yearlong motorcycle journey to South America and back. But these aren’t your ordinary adventuring hipsters — they happen to have their own apparel line being produced by Woolrich, whose American-made gear has been worn by explorers and adventurers since 1830.
The duo is comprised of bicycle builder Jordan Hufnagel and motorcycle maker James Crowe, both of Portland, and they are departing on an unscripted epic motorcycle odyssey from Whistler, British Columbia, to Patagonia, Argentina in celebration of simple living, authentic travel and American-made apparel and equipment, riding under their flag West America adventure outfitters. They are taking a break from years of long days working in their shops, and saving up for this trip.
And they’ll be sporting their new line of Woolrich outdoor apparel along the way. “The line is completely designed around James and mine‘s wants and needs for stuff we wanted to take on this trip with us,” said Hufnagel.
He also gives great credit to Woolrich Vice President of Design Karuna Scheinfeld. “As it was all based on James and I’s input, the credit for the design should really rest with Karuna,” Hufnagel said. “None of that stuff would have been anywhere close to as awesome as it is without her.”
Woolrich’s Gehron Burkholder is based in Portland, and originally reached out to provide them with some apparel for their trip. It progressed from there into a much larger program including the design collaboration. “Jordan and James are embarking on a journey that embodies the spirit of adventure that defines our brand,” said Josh Rich, Woolrich vice president.
The trip inspired a Made in USA line capsule that Woolrich developed in collaboration with Crowe and Hufnagel. The collection includes a Woolrich mill wool shirt, vest, multi-use poncho/blanket, waxed canvas motorcycle jacket, and hat. “Everything in the line is made to be multifunctional,” explained Hufnagel. “Aesthetically, we designed the shirt and the jacket and the vest to be warm and versatile on the bike. The poncho is also a blanket…whether it’s used in the car, in camp or on the back of a motorcycle.”
Retailers were able to see the capsule in its own special room at the Woolrich booth at Outdoor Retailer Summer Market in early August – possibly the first time a major manufacturer has dedicated an entire 10×10-foot booth space at the trade show to two bike builders about to leave the country for a year. Riding two motorcycles made by Crowe in their workshop, the duo’s itinerary will be determined by their personal compass with only a general geographic final destination and timetable.
“We’re small craftsmen, passionate about domestic sourcing and manufacturing. And to see a huge company like Woolrich that wanted to put their money where their mouth is was really great,” said Hufnagel. “They stand a great chance of actually creating jobs. Partnering on this initiative shows a reason to be working together, rather than a superficial clothing sponsorship situation. It started with one product, a blanket, and ended up snowballing so fast, it was ‘pie in the sky’ type stuff. Normal lead-time is 18 months. We went from initial conversation to shipping a full production run in 10 months.”
The team is also working with Smith Optics and Danner boots, as well as Poler Outdoor Stuff, but for the most part eschews sponsorships, instead electing to go it on their own. “Everybody that we’ve partnered with in any degree is someone who deals a lot with the domestically made environment,” said Hufnagel. “It’s a big deal for us to be in control and make sure it doesn’t look like some corporate trip…we want other people to know it is accessible. We’re dirtbags, just poor dudes, but we really appreciate quality and durability.”
“There are a million different things to take away from a trip like this. We are really looking forward to the personal connections with people along the way, and the uncertainty about what lays around every corner,” said Hufnagel. Crowe and Hufnagel will be documenting and sharing their journey on their website (www.wearewestamerica.com) and on Woolrich’s Instagram feed (@woolrichinc). Woolrich will also feature content from the trip on their site (www.woolrich.com) and across its other social media platforms.
—Elevation Outdoors digital editor Aaron H. Bible is not a hipster but he is on Instagram.