Saturday, May 18, 2013

Billy Mays With Acromegaly And A Palsied Makeup Artist

The sign says the factory is in Brewer, Maine. Brewer is basically Bangor. It's a city a couple hours east of where I live. We have a Paul Bunyan statue in our town, too, that doesn't belong here, either. Ours doesn't look like a nifty gay superhero like Brewer's does. Ours looks like Billy Mays if he had acromegaly and a makeup artist with palsy. All those people in the video sure look familiar, though. Mainers from the poor cities look and talk like everyone working on the line in that video, except for the robo-dweeb that's narrating. He looks more like Portland, ie: Northern Massachusetts.

No one in any of those places would be caught dead wearing Sperry Topsiders. Someone must still be wearing them Down East, I guess -- the constellation of little hamlets hard by the granite coast where people sail during the ten minutes of good weather that Maine gets every year. They don't wear them while sailing, of course, just in the bar after.  Yuppies used to wear them in the eighties. I wonder if the fellow with the shirt three sizes too small signals a resurgence among the hipster crowd. They're comfy shoes; they could do worse. According to the Bangor Daily News, it's the Japanese and other assorted Asians that are buying them. Asians only want them because they aren't made in Asia. You can try to explain that if you want, but I have a headache already.

It's the Sperry label you see at the beginning of the video, but Justin Brands owns it, and Berkshire Hathaway owns that. That's Warren Buffett's bailiwick. Warren Buffett only buys things that have some strategic advantage someone's missing out on. A "Made in Maine" tag seems to be all you need to sell boat shoes in Japan. Who knew? Then again, Berkshire Hathaway used to make shirts when Buffett bought it. If I was working in one of his factories, I wouldn't buy any green bananas.

The elderly workforce in the video is not a gimmick. Maine is old people. After we moved to the wilds of western Maine, we later learned that everyone called us "the young couple." We are not young. But if you stand next to midgets you're tall, I guess. If you have children shorter than you, you're young, at least in Maine.

Maine used to make a lot of shoes and boots. It was the state's largest industry until very recently, when free trade killed American piecework dead.  The state's current largest industry is selling oxycodone you stole from grandma's medicine cabinet, I think. You can still find Quoddy in Maine. Bean. Sperry. Bass. Red Wing. New Balance. Oops, I forgot about Bass. They're made in: "Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, China, Honduras, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Philippines, Malaysia, Mongolia, Singapore, Thailand and Taiwan." They still show scrawny, WASPy- looking chicks and their lantern-jawed LL Bean brochure consorts sitting on Adirondack chairs, dockside, on their website, though. The Maine ethos still sells. Maine is the size of Ireland, and about five square miles of it looks like those ads, but, whatever.

Maine used to look like those people in the video. Hardworking, no-nonsense people. I always admired people like them. I wonder who I'll admire when they're dead and gone. It won't be long till I find out, I guess.

(Thanks to my friend Gerard at American Digest for sending that one along)


Casey Klahn said...

Yeah, I can count the things around this house, including the house, that are American made.

Can't decide if any of my clothing is. Can't really find much clothing around here, anyway.

Market is the thing, but you touched on that. I suppose if you wanted to make clothing in the US, you'd want to aim it at the youngsters.

Okay. carry on.

Casey Klahn said...

Oh - I'll run a on a bit because it's interesting. That little picture of me on the right. I'm wearing a Seattle made garment: Filson.

That wool coat I received from my dad's estate. He was much bigger than me, and of course he worked in the woods. That was something Americans used to do a lot of.

It rained so much on both he and the wool cruiser that it shrank several sizes, so it fits me perfectly now. When he'd come in the kitchen door, his hat would drip rainwater onto the collar back, and it would pool there. There's a ring of mold, now.

Ask Gerard the next time he's in Filson's (I know he hangs there a lot) to check the labels to see where Filsons are made these days. I will wait, half-cringing, to hear the report.

Leslie said...

I confess, I had a pair of Topsiders as a college chick in the 80's. It surprised me to see both my older kids wear them, though, they are not their mother's Sperry's. Julianne has silver ones! I guess it shouldn't have surprised me, as my daughter asked me to give her a perm last week. Aye yi yi..

Rob De Witt said...

I wore knockoff Topsiders when I lived in Sausalito in the '90s; I think I bought 'em at Penney's, IIRC. For most of a decade I wore nice suits in the daytime and vacation clothes any other time. Perfect.

Mostly what I liked was that they were slipon-kickoff, and a nice relief after a day of English shoes. Never occurred to me that I was imitating the Japanese....

Kathleen M said...

Casey, on this:
It rained so much on both he and the wool cruiser that it shrank several sizes, so it fits me perfectly now.

Doesn't this make you the Sultan of Shrink" (Sorry....!)

Casey Klahn said...

Kathleen: the coat shrank. The coat.

Kathleen M said...

Casey: Thanks for the laugh......and it was a good one!

SteveS said...

Sperry? Didn't they used to make gyroscopes?

SippicanCottage said...

Hi all. Thanks for reading and commenting.

Steve S. - I used to make gyroscopes for Sperry-Rand's competitor. Sperry-Rand was swallowed by Unisys.

H. Gillham said...

I had to look up "acromegaly."

I used to know words. I miss them. They left me behind.

Your post made me giggle.

Anonymous said...

How large of an employer is Bath Iron Works? I am retired from US Navy and the guided missile destroyers that BIW builds are held in high regard by the USN.

John Lien said...

Mom made me wear a pair in junior high and my classmates teased me. I hated them with their stupid looking white soles. Our class went on a science field trip to the shore. I somehow lost them in the surf.

Two years later my classmates were all wearing them.

We homeschooled our children.

OregonGuy said...


You still have to shop at Bass.

Sperry topsiders? Famous Footwear.

Delaware Dave said...

We flatlanders from the state that is only "three
countys at low tide and two at hight tide", and the highest natural peak is a sand dune still love childhood
Maine vacations(at least in senility-inspired dreams).
Your young looking for work elsewhere will find exciting jobs here, as drool cup changers in our nursing homes. Anyway, you forgot another fallen flag
of pedestrian finery - Sebago Mocs! Some were sewn
on RT 302, just outside of Bridgton. Moose Pond is still
our "Moosie, but why the #$&* is Pleasant Mountain
now "Shawnee Peak"? Remy's just does not do it for
some summer exiles......

BJM said...