I am not sure that I have ever been in a cooler shop in my life.
Our vacation took us through Nashville, and thank goodness our good friend Hannah Miller urged us to visit Imogene+Willie in the 12 South district. I’m so glad we followed her counsel. Little did we know what we were in for.
Imogene+Willie make blue jeans right in their store. The patterns, the manufacture, the treatment, and the tailoring are 100% Nashville, Tennessee.
It’s rather humorous to contrast Imogene+Willie’s story with that of The Cordial Churchman, especially considering that Carrie and Matt knew exactly what they wanted to do–after spending 9 months on their business plan. These folks breathe and bleed denim, and have for years. They also ooze with Americana style. They knew their niche and went after it hell-bent for glory. We just sort of stumbled upon ours. You can’t but respect these folks.
When I first started paying attention to clothes and attempting to consciously develop my own personal sense of style, I went very, very traditional. I have a master’s degree in history for Pete’s sake. I wanted to dress like my grandpa. I wanted to stick out like a really dapper sore thumb.
Somewhere along the way someone told me that blue jeans were for working in machine shops, cutting the grass, and possibly hiking in the woods. But real traditional educated American men, the audacious story went, wore khakis and blue blazers everyday. So I did a completely ridiculous thing: I did not wear jeans for 365 days straight. Just because. Completely self-righteous. Completely worthless. And, as it turns out, completely un-American.
Otis James (Nashville) necktie with Imogene+Willie jeans
If I weren’t so prone to such extremes, I’d say that it’s really hard to believe that that was me. Giving up denim??!! The ridiculousness felt crushingly shameful when I walked into Imogene+Willie. All my Ivy League wanna-be snobbishness was finally blotted out as I traipsed back and forth across their old repurposed gas station showroom, fitting room, and shop. Had I not been 2 weeks into a diet and anticipating some size-flux, I’d have plopped $250 down then and there to spring my sartorial soul from purgatory and walked out with custom, Nashville-made blue jeans.
Nashvillian Griffin House’s song “Give A Little Love” provides the background for this short video tour of Imogene+Willie’s shop.
It was also very tempting to buy a pair of Red Wing boots, given that though my waist was hopefully changing, my feet were staying put. Instead, I walked out with a leather card case by BillyKirk (which, incidentally, I haven’t been able to locate all day). But mostly I walked out feeling really good about being a middle-American. I walked out inspired to keep playing with my personal style, and especially to play around with the “workwear” stuff that, though classic, happens to be all the rage right now.
More than any of that, I walked out of Imogene+Willie with a fresh determination to steward the brand that Ellie and I have almost accidentally built. It might even be time for me to learn to sew.
Hopefully before long I’ll be doing so in a pair of my own Imogene+Willie blue jeans.
See if you’re not inspired by their story: