In 1914, Seattle’s George G. Black opened the manufacturing center for his Black Bear Brand, a maker of overalls, flannels, and other durable staples marketed to the Pacific Northwest’s loggers and miners. For decades, the line clothed blue-collar workers from its factory (a building designed by an apprentice of Frank Lloyd Wright, now deemed a heritage site), but ultimately shuttered in 1998.
Over the last two years, however, Black Bear Brand has experienced a comeback at the hands of new creative director Josh Sirlin, who revived the company after learning about its history and legacy of functional, masculine style. Sirlin, an itinerant graphic designer who spent his formative years in Washington state and appears equally at ease seated behind a desk as he does atop a Harley Davidson, sees Black Bear Brand as still relevant to the modern working man in need of clothing appropriate for an active, dynamic lifestyle.
Established in 1914, Black Bear Brand has experienced a comeback over the last two years at the hands of its new creative director, Josh Sirlin.
Under Sirlin’s direction, Black Bear Brand now provides well-designed workwear elevated with meaningful details. Shirts, which come in Pendleton wool, Harris tweed, or waxed canvas, are cut for a handsome silhouette and feature corduroy accents, soft leather-backed snaps, and even pencil pockets. These details go a long way in the age of modern professionalism.
Recognizing that the brand’s historic connection with its makers defines its identity, Sirlin emphasizes the brand’s dependence on a union of makers—an essential group of artists, workers, and makers who share Black Bear Brand’s dedication to craftsmanship, and with whom he collaborates.
For instance, in order to craft its boots (all handmade and made-to-order), Black Bear has collaborated with Vancouver’s Dayton Boots, which opened in 1946. Continuing to stick with Pacific Northwestern partners, his latest series taps with Oregon’s Wesco, which opened in 1918. Jacket-shirts are tailored with Pendleton wool, altogether smart and straight-lined without losing its rugged form.
Life is an adventure, and Sirlin’s goal is to produce the type of well-made menswear that can go along for the ride—workwear for a lifetime.
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