All PlaidOut and everywhere to go: The content-producing, sporting goods store–running, TV show–making life of Max Wastler
By Meghan Keedy
A baseball glove, a classic button-down shirt and a weathered leather belt.
What do they have in common?
In the world of Max Wastler, each was made right here—in the good ol’ USA.
Wastler’s life centers around advocating for American-made products. The creative Chicagoan is the co-owner of an online general store called Buckshot Sonny’s Sporting Goods that offers signature menswear and accessories. He’s also the voice behind the popular blog All Plaidout.
In his spare time, he and business partner Joe Gannon produce Made Right Here, a pilot television series that showcases the stories and traditions of people who make American products.
Wastler became interested in how things are made while working in the apparel industry for a decade, primarily in New York—he worked in sales for Speedo and Gitman Brothers and merchandising for Patagonia.
When Wastler launched his blog in 2009, he began visiting the factories where his favorite American products were made and shared their stories and photos on All Plaidout. A native Midwesterner, Wastler yearned to return to the area, and in 2010, he moved to Chicago.
The change turned out to be a blessing. Wastler found that surrounding himself with Midwestern creatives sparked his own creativity. He quickly immersed himself in projects with friends and colleagues, including Buckshot Sonny’s, and grew a following on All Plaidout.
Made Right Here was born out of his friendship with Gannon, a master fixer-upper originally from Delaware, and the passion they share for well-made American products. Combining Gannon’s technical skills and Wastler’s writing ability and salesmanship, the dapper duo are a strong collaborative team. They’ve visited factories, thriving businesses and mom-and-pop shops from Texas to Tennessee, capturing a slice of homegrown American entrepreneurialism at work.
Check out their trailer to watch them try their hand at pummeling pockets into baseball gloves, cutting shirt patterns and painting lightweight watercrafts called “sea darts.”
DIYBA: Joe fixes cars, builds houses and restores record players. You’re a writer with a background in sales, clothing production and design. How did your partnership on Made Right Here come about?
Max Wastler: Joe and I met at a party in New York. We didn’t even really hit it off that night, but in an e-mail following the encounter, Joe offered to help me develop All Plaidout, and we struck up a friendship centered around making things. We’ve been to cities big and small seeking out the best in life. It’s been a pretty natural progression from a party to shopping buddies to factory and market visits, to creating a shop and putting together a TV pilot.
What’s the Made Right Here startup story?
In separate cars on a late fall evening, Joe and I barreled down the highway in three hours of steady rainfall, traveling from Nashville to Gatlinburg. When we arrived, we met our friend Billy Moore, an artisan and proprietor who lives there. He was busy slugging PBR and pounding out recycled aluminum Christmas ornaments. That night, we made belts and belt buckles for hours. Just before falling asleep that night, one of us said to the other, “This could be a TV show.” So we set out to make it so.
Joe called our friend Matt, who works as a production assistant for movies and TV shows, and also his college roommate, Rick, who’s had a 20-year career behind the camera. We all met up in Texas and shot for a weekend and, about a month later, Rick and Matt turned out a short video that we all shared with our friends online. With 21,000 views, a now-expired production deal, a trip to Texas, and a whole lot of wishing and hoping and praying later, we’re still holding out that someone will come along and turn our pilot presentation into a show.
What roles do each of you play as co-hosts on Made Right Here?
Ha. We discovered pretty quickly that Joe is the perfectionist at the bench, and I’m invariably always going to mess something up. I think it falls to me to be the straight man, taking the fall for the team. I ask a bunch more questions than Joe, mainly about history and personal stories.
Joe’s interested in the nitty gritty, the technical details of how things get made. He’ll show you how to make it the best you can with one shot. I’m there to show you that it’s actually really difficult to make these things.
I’m always after the why—why are you still making this thing? Why did you want to do this?
Tell us about a person you met on the road whose craftsmanship impressed you.
I enjoyed meeting and talking with Nestor at Imogene + Willie, a Nashville company that creates and sells men’s and women’s jeans, tops and accessories. Nestor is a master cutter and tinkerer. He messes with the art form of clothing manufacture. While we were in his shop, he showed us a green nylon rain jacket he made several years ago that zips into a small pouch. He makes all of his own clothing, and even wrote a textbook on the subject of patternmaking.
What are your goals for Made Right Here distribution? Where are you at in the process now?
The obvious answer is to have a long-running and successful TV show. According to the production company we signed a short-term deal with, they’ve shown our pitch spot to every cable network under the sun. This said, I have no idea if it was received by the “right” person at each network.
How have you used your blogs, All Plaidout and Well-Plaid, to market Made Right Here and Buckshot Sonny’s Sporting Goods?
One of the principles of design—one that applies to product design, writing and salesmanship—is the principle of repetition. I’m fortunate that I’ve been able to build relatively compelling platforms where I’m allowed to repeat my message. Say it once so they hear it, say it again so they remember it, and say it a third time so it sinks in.
You’re a savvy jack of several trades. Do you earn a living solely from Buckshot Sonny’s and your blog? Or do you work other gigs as well?
At present, my main source of income comes from a yet-to-be-announced partnership with a small batch bourbon brand. They’ve hired me to create content and build brand awareness with a particularly American bent. Sounds like fun, doesn’t it?
What’s your greatest strength as an entrepreneur?
I hardly consider myself an entrepreneur. I have an infinitely creative bent, and I enjoy connecting people. I most enjoy taking existing ideas and combining them in new ways. I’ve enjoyed making shirts using a fabric more commonly used for pants. I’ve introduced people who’ve gone on to make great things together. Those are my strengths. Connecting people, places, and things in ways they’d not been connected before.
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