Inquiries & Responses vol. 01: Jack Morgan on the future
Posted on April 20, 2011
This is the first in a series of interviews with people who have a keen interest in menswear, style, design, or generally cool stuff. Most of these people are doing something of great note that you should absolutely take a look at.
For the first interview I spoke with Jack Morgan, best described as a real estate mogul, entrepreneur, Shakespearean expert, tie maker, and multi-lingual musician with an interest in keeping things cool. Jack and I first spoke via the original American Classic page and I became very interested in his work hand-knitting ties. We spoke in February 2011. Click below to see the full interview.
AC: Tell me a little more about yourself? I know you currently live in Virginia but how did you get there and what do you do?
JM: I’ve lived in many countries, Germany, England, Japan, but I was born in Los Angeles, CA. When I came back to the US, I went back to college and attended UC Berkeley. I majored in English and German and I was a research assistant for a famous Shakespearean who kind of sent me to Staunton, VA, where the American Shakespeare Center is. I met a girl there and got a job at the American Shakespeare Center, so I stayed here. I’m in commercial real estate and I own a restaurant with my wife called Darjeeling Cafe. And I make ties. And I’m in a rock band called the Murder Brothers. And I still publish poetry semi-regularly.
AC: What sent you abroad to begin with?
JM: I got kicked out of High School, so I went to a technical school to learn Graphic design. I also had a terminal college degree/certificate when I left High School and I was working with Coca-Cola, and I worked with Disney and a few other big-timers so I was young and had a pretty kick ass resume/portfolio. Germany was hosting the World’s Fair so I went there and got a job as an art director for a midsized ad agency. I could work in Irvine, CA as a graphic production artist or I could move to Germany and be an art director in an incredibly exciting environment.
AC: We met each other via American Classic, what brought you to the tumblr/blog world to begin with?
JM: I’ve been blogging since it was called Weblogging. I just thought it would be interesting to keep in contact with people. I thought my adventures were important and that the people I met on them were important I wanted a way to make it easy for people to find me. and to keep up with what I was doing.
AC: Now how about the ties? How did that come about? I know I first found out about it as you were posting on your Tumblr.
JM: Man, I love Tumblr. I hear every day that people don’t have enough time to keep things fresh with their social media efforts and Tumblr is the easiest way in the world to get it all done.
Anyway, every year I buy a ‘Dummies’ book. I’ve learned how to brew beer, how to sell real estate, all sorts of things. And one year a few years back, I got one about knitting. and I’ve kind of been knitting ever since. when I have to sit and read a long boring thing, I’m knitting. it doesn’t have to be boring. But, I like to feel like I’m doing something… getting something done even if I’m reading or watching a DVD. ..so I knit. It’s not an everyday thing, but I do it often enough to get ties done, and I love men’s fashion, and ties. But I don’t want to look so conservative it’s important to define and refine your own style irrespective to labels and brands it makes you the type of person people want to know and want to work with and buy things from. So I started knitting ties and people liked them a lot.
I decided to start Thornrose Gentlemenswear and sell the ties. You were one of the peeps who convinced me to sell them. The label shares its name with the cemetery here in Staunton. . . it’s a very cool cemetery and it sounds very Scottish. The Southerners have a lot Scottish fetishizing going on.
AC: So how many have you made and are there different variations you create?
Tons. I don’t know how many I’ve made. but there’s a huge difference in styles. I like seamless ones. And bow ties represent endless possibilities. I like skinnier ties, but you can get a real 80’s look or 50’s look all depending on the shape and how thin they are. I only do vegan ties… but I also strip old wool sweaters from thrift stores and use them to make ties. So not technically vegan on those but cruelty-free.
AC: So what’s the future of Thornrose Gentlemenswear?
JM: I’m talking with a friend who has electric knitting looms and she does a lot with bamboo yarn, mostly women’s things, but I’d really like to get a bigger inventory and try to sell them in this retail location I’m working on in downtown Staunton. I don’t know how to use one of those yet, so I’ll have to buy another Dummies book.
I’m very into locally-made things and local economies so it would be amazing to have a tiny textile mill. Even if it didn’t bring in a million dollars, it would be a very cool project. You know that guy who started Band of Outsiders? He started out making ties and shirts just because he thought, hey I’m creative, and I like fashion. Someone told him that creative entrepreneurs should go into that industry so he did it on a small level and look now? Someone called him tomorrow’s Ralph Lauren. Only in America. I’ve lived in all these countries and I still get this feeling in America like anything is possible. It’s like we’re all playing the lotto here and your birth certificate was your ticket.
AC: Where do you see menswear 5-10 years from now?
JM: I think that this wave is going to last a long time… I think people are going to keep getting dressier. You know, red-neck anti-intellectualism has really been a horrible force in our culture world-wide. Because TV and mass consumption of goods that come from long distances and are simultaneously disposable are the main deals in a global economy. But when gas costs$7/gal, let’s say, you won’t be able to buy cheap shit from far away, so you’ll buy stuff built to last that’s made closer to home. Stuff that says who you are and what you stand for or believe in. It won’t just be what we wear on our bodies but what we have in our homes and in our offices.
For the last 30 years, the sign of wealth has been the ability to buy stuff and throw it out the window after one use those days are numbered. the sign of success is the sharp suit, tailored. the repurposed shelf, and that’s coming back in a big way. like Walter Benjamin’s writings about the aura of items in the industrial age he talks about how things, when they are handmade, there’s something also intangible or something unscientific about the way you feel about the object the way you become attached to it. When books were written by hand you really had a physical connection to the author. But when they are put on a printing press, that starts to disappear. Now, we are at an extreme distance from the people who create the things we consume. The whole process. I’m looking at my desk right now and there really isn’t anything on it I wouldn’t throw in the bin. It’s more than sentimentality.
AC: And who are The Murder Brothers?
JM: We are a hard rock band. I’ve been deriving more joy from this project than I thought possible. It’s my first band; taught myself how to play guitar and started a band with an incredible drummer, and a young bassist. People really like our live act. We need to get recorded in a way that makes us sound like us. We do this monthly show called Murder Bros. & Friends. I basically rent an event space and get a band we like to headline. We open. we’re the host, it’s the modest thing to do. I believe in inventing scenes. We have all these rock bands in Central VA, but not many venues. And when I was a poet in SF bay, we did readings like this. Get a room, invent a scene. The Oakland Poetry Scene was reinvented recently with Sara Mumolo and I doing readings there. She’s done amazing things out there. Only in America.
Anyway, we keep the act classy, we wear Thornrose ties. and we play originals. A couple covers that sound like originals. I love being a rocker and the people I do business with are always impressed and surprised. My life after dark, you know? I have a rudimentary website, but the Facebook is really active.
You can follow Jack and learn more about him at his Tumblr page.
You can also see some of his graphic design work and more by clicking here.