I couldn’t wait to interview the Gentlemen behind Muskhaven.
Bruno and Danno are based 45 miles apart in St. Peter and St. James, Minnesota US but still have managed to create an exciting environment. It’s a hub of style striving to keep sartorial traditions alive through exquisite grooming, paraphernalia and leather accessories. They also offer a wardrobe consultation service. After a lively three-way Skype call where I met families and partners, I was keen to delve a little deeper into the Muskhaven brand.
How long have you both been friends and how did Muskhaven come about?
[D] I recall the friendship developing when I was in my mid teens. Bruno is a couple of years older than me. I tend to be a bit socially reserved so, as I remember things, it was Bruno that was outgoing enough to initiate a friendship when we spent time doing things with other mutual friends. One of the first meaningful conversations that I remember having with him likely led to a friendship developing. It began with Nate asking the question “Do you listen to Morrissey?” [LOL]
[B] Danno and I have known each other since about 1987. Our families were friends of other families that brought us into contact. Muskhaven came about quite haphazardly. Both Danno and I very much liked clothing, style and the general study of new things which seemed to involve fine items. I have dabbled in wardrobe consulting when time has permitted. Considering both of our acute interesting similar subjects I thought Danno would be a fine Gent to throw the crazy idea to about morphing our hobby into something more tangible. To my slight surprise he actually bit.
Can you tell me more about Muskhaven – what do you offer and who is your customer?
[D] Muskhaven’s aim is to provide information and products that are useful to sartorially minded gentlemen who are looking for lasting quality and timeless style. The list of things offered includes but is not limited to Wesco brand boots, traditional men’s shaving gear, custom leather accessories, beverage mugs, and hand-made leather bags. We are particularly thrilled when a customer asks “Can you do or provide such-and-such?”. It’s often the spark that ignites a new avenue of service or products that we are able to create and offer.
[B] Muskhaven, from my perspective, is an ever-changing animal as we grow in knowledge and abilities. We offer what we think to be some of the finest boots made today – Wesco. We also offer shaving products. I really could exhaust an attention span with this list. I prefer to exist without walls so-to-speak. We have recently taken our leather crafting to new levels. Danno has designed and constructed wallets, satchels, and many other fantastic leather items, all sewn by hand, no machines mind you. We seek to be ever-changing in our offerings due to the fact that humans are made to learn new things and adapt them to life. For example, while working with an individual and his wardrobe, it is very important not to push personal preferences upon him. It is essential to study the person at length to understand his very being and how he sees himself and the world around him. It is just as crucial to understand how he wants to see himself. A gentleman seeking assistance with his wardrobe needs someone who will assist him with perceiving his own viewpoint. He needs the right questions aimed at him and then support to follow through with his plan. This requires a desire to learn new things, viewpoints, from both parties. Rules such as, ‘pleated pants must always have a cuff’ or ‘flat front pants must never have a cuff’ are limiting and extremely subjective.
Picture courtesy of fellow Muskhaven associate Carey Otto (instagram @ottonomous1)
How do you see Muskhaven developing / plans for the future
[D] Wesco boots are a product we are quite passionate about and we’re proud of being able to represent such a fine manufacturer as a product dealer. We hope to become the first name people think of when they decide to order a pair of Wesco boots. We are specifically interested into opening up possibilities for gentlemen in the UK and other parts of Europe and Asia to more easily acquire Wesco boots at a reasonable price.
What is your favourite Muskhaven product or service?
[D] I really enjoy the mugs that we design and make. The concept and design are relatively simple, yet people love the look and function of them and they can be personalized or customized in almost limitless ways. I especially like knowing that the product will likely be used on a day-to-day basis and that the owner may have a special appreciation for where and how their hand-made mug was produced.
Early settlers to Minnesota came from all over the world, do you think this mix of culture has had an impact on the style of the local people?
[D] Years ago, it likely did. Today, the far majority of people seem far removed from their ethnic roots and tend to purchase and wear either what is most convenient, most comfortable, or momentarily trendy or a combination of those influences.
[B] I believe most of the early settlers are extinct among the living. I truly believe that the culture of those early settlers died with them due to the fact our modern world has changed so much. I think that in the last several years people have inadvertently started noticing, and thus wearing, early Americana/vintage due to a relatively low number of people making it part of popular culture. People tend to dress for their activities no matter which culture they exist in. I will say that clothing seems to be moving toward becoming a melting pop of sorts as our world shrinks due to modern technology. I believe this is a big reason why many people are deciding to love quality in their lives. Quality is often killed by convenience.
What is the usual clothing style in Minnesota and how do you hope to influence this?
[D] While there is an element of society (especially in metro areas) that is inclined toward classic and timeless styling, far too many go out and about in athletic clothing or worse yet sleepwear. It’s pretty sartorially sad. To many, especially men, the concept of “dressing up” involves putting on a polo shirt instead of a t-shirt and a cleaner pair of athletic shoes. Far too many also view putting on a neck tie as the greatest height of sartorial splendour. Especially in cooler weather, it would be great if neckwear were viewed as a means to express one’s own style and preference rather than something done out of obligation on very formal occasions only. Rather than aiming to conform the masses, Muskhaven will continue to support any and all who would like to give more than a few passing moments of thought to what they wear and how they groom themselves on a daily basis.
[B] Unfortunately, hoodies and anything made from sweatpant material is king here in MN. If it is worn to bed it is good enough for daytime wear. People do exist that seem to take delight in their appearance but they are definitely an endangered species.
Why do you think grooming is important in today’s society?
[D] It does speak volumes about an individual’s respect of themselves and others. People would benefit themselves and others if, rather than go to obsessive measures, they would simply develop a balanced and dignified way of grooming themselves. It often seems that those who care about how they dress also care about how they speak and act.
[B] When people desire a job they most often attempt to look their best. I can’t see why a person wouldn’t want to look their best when they enter society. One never knows when they will be in a situation when looking one’s best is in their best interest. It’s not uncommon for people to be offered employment in a casual atmosphere not intending to receive such an offer. We need to portray that we indeed respect and care for ourselves and thus have the ability to respect and care for others.
Worldwide, men seem to be taking a greater interest in their appearance than they have ever before, why do you think this is?
[D] Information, ideas, and products are so much more accessible. The internet seems to have opened up a whole new array of possibilities to many who for different and varying reasons may have been quite limited by circumstances or location in the past.
[B] Simply put, because it is popular to do so. Thank goodness right!?
Describe your personal styles?
[D] Some refer to me as “Dapper Dan”. Whether I live up to that description or not, I do enjoy clothing that lends to a dapper appearance. I love sturdy handcrafted footwear, especially boots. I enjoy wearing suits and dressing up. A very specific aim of mine is to dress for the occasion in a way that seems appropriate to me, but not necessarily in a way that the “majority rule” might demand. I have always worked with my hands, being involved in several occupations that require physical work in the outdoor elements. For that reason, I also really favour sturdy work clothing. I do enjoy working vintage looks into my daily style but, rather than mimic any specific era, I attempt to wear combinations that would look as good forty years ago as they do today and perhaps would still look good forty years from now.
[B] I believe my personal style has no clear definition. My mother says I’m a true eclectic individual. She is still attempting to figure me out as an adult. I like tweed clothing very much especially herringbone. My everyday clothing includes a twill work shirt, raw denim or hickory stripe denim jeans, a handmade belt by Muskhaven and a pair of Wesco narrow engineers. I can sum it up by saying that my two most important criteria are durability and fit. After these have been met then it must look good.
How has your taste in music influenced your style?
[D] I’ve listened to and enjoyed so many genres and forms of music. I’m very, very far from being an audiophile. Yet, I think that my wide range of interest in connection to music pairs well to my wide range of interest in connection with dressing, style, and grooming. In both areas, (music and style) I tend to favour neither the eccentric or deviant nor the low-key boring stuff, but rather things that are unique and classic, and in some way mentally stimulating.
[B] Music is one of the most subjective topics we will discuss. Very few genres of music exist that I will not listen to. Music has the ability to change ones mood and emotion. Clothing and style are linked very closely with these as well. When I was about thirteen I remember listening to The Smiths and having intense interest in early styles of hair and clothing in cinema. Think herringbone suits and full luxurious hair combed to perfection. The soothing crooning voice of Morrissey mixed with Johnny’s genius was a perfect ensemble. The cold gloomy Minnesota was quite calming and almost seemed to beg for clothing with substance. Symphonic music is exceptional as well. I remember one fall day, when I was about thirteen, I entered a bicycle shop in a nearby town. As I entered this small building overhanging a lake I met a bearded fellow wrenching on a bike amongst a mess of various style bicycles. I instantly asked what was raging from the two very large speakers atop an old display case. I just had to know because I just loved it! ‘That’s PUBLIC RADIO my boy!’ I thought that a very silly answer due to the fact that all radio seemed to be public, Duh! So I sallied forth with my questioning, ‘What do you mean?’ He then explained that a public supported radio station played such music 24/7. I thought, well I’ll be darned! I must say that began a lifelong love of classical music. Yes, I did frequent that man’s shop. He was quite odd but that very aspect of him is what I quite liked. I better stop answering this question as I fear you may die from old age before you could finish reading.
What are your 3 favourite things to wear and why?
1. My first custom pair of Wesco Boss engineer boots which are not only incredibly comfortable, but also tremendous looking boots that have acquired some fantastic patina and character.
2. Also a first, my first and only bespoke suit to date. It fits great, I love the look of it, and I just enjoy wearing a fine suit altogether. Each time I wear it, I’m reminded of the unique experience I had when creating the garment with our favourite tailor.
3. Well, as long as I’m on the subject of firsts, my third would be my first pair (to my knowledge) of jeans constructed from raw denim. No, they weren’t expensive at all. They’re a pair of black Levi’s 501 button-fly rigid shrink-to-fit. They’ve been everything a great pair of jeans should be and now, after two years of heavy use, are fantastically faded and comfortable beyond belief.
1. Wesco engineer boots. MP toe #705 sole with a double midsole. Because they are built like a tank but have the finesse of a toe dancer.
2. My custom suits because I designed them and they were made for me specifically.
3. Hickory stripe jeans because the print is so darn hard to beat.
What item of clothing means the most to you?
[D] I have a burly sort of cotton flannel shirt that really isn’t anything special to look at, but my wife of nearly sixteen years gifted it to me on our first wedding anniversary. She felt she had shown no imagination or creativity in purchasing a gift for me and was sure that I would be disappointed. She was wrong! Who doesn’t love a good comfy flannel, after all? It’s showing a LOT of wear these days. Although I’m not very sentimental by nature and send many personal items to second-hand clothing stores, this shirt has escaped and will continue to escape such an outcome. I’m keepin’ it and wearin’ it folks!
Lastly, how do you both like your eggs?
[D] The best eggs I’ve ever eaten were served poached on top of a generous portion of duck confit and smothered with a heavenly hollandaise sauce. I think I could eat eggs that way on an almost daily basis and never tire of it.
[B] Just like my elephants – poached! Haha, just kidding. I have not had an egg cooked in any style that I’ve disliked as yet! Variety is the spice of life.