MF Editor Note: Chris Logsdon is the founder of The Godspeed Co. which produces The Shop Rag Shirt. Chris and his co-founder Allan Glanfield of Loyal Canine Co. are pioneers in work wear design. Thank you Chris for taking the time to answer our questions about your life and work.
Tell us about the moment of inspiration/your flash of insight for Godspeed and The Shop Rag Shirt.
They were two separate moments actually; one born from the other. GodSpeedCo. simply started as my Instagram handle a little over 4 years ago. At the time Instagram was blowing up and it became the best way to capture my motorcycle escapades in and around NYC. The Shop Rag Shirt hit me like a ton of bricks a couple years later one afternoon while sitting at my then agency. Ever since I started riding motorcycles I would carry a shop rag in my back pocket. That afternoon I took it out, examined it and wondered to myself what the story was behind this little square piece of fabric. Who made this? Where did it come from? Questions that ultimately led me down one hell of a path.
Where does the name Godspeed come from? And when did you first hear the word Godspeed? What were you doing? Where were you?
I couldn’t tell you exactly where the expression comes from but for me it just felt right. ‘Good wishes to a person starting a journey’, what could possibly describe my time on the back motorcycle, or generally in life, better?
Tell us about your co-founder Allan? How did you meet?
I’m so happy you asked. I couldn’t have asked for a better partner in all this. Allan and I both share very similar interests in motorcycles and work wear. I was introduced to him after I had been venting some frustrations to good friend and confident Jon Patrick of The Selvedge Yard. At the time, I had gone through round after round of Shop Rag Shirt prototypes and had just about given up when Jon mentioned he knew of a ‘kid’ who he had just met at a separate event. That was Allan and thankfully he knew what I sought after conceptually and was creative enough to make it a reality. He ultimately created the first true prototype of the shirt. After several conversations it only made sense to bring Allan aboard. His expertise in the area of menswear has contributed to much of our success.
Why are shop rags red?
Great question and I wish I had an answer. Unfortunately, we don’t know for sure. What we do know is this - shop rag material is 100% cotton and is constructed using a weave called Osnaburg. In earlier days, mills would collect the scraps that would fall to the factory floor and recycle them by weaving them together. This created a very coarse, but durable, fabric that was characterized by several different colors from the variety of scraps used to make it. Our only guess is that eventually this material was dyed red to give it a more uniform look.
What’s the story of why/when The Merrow Sewing Machine Company began manufacturing the shop rag?
Merrow doesn’t manufacture the shop rag. Rather they are famous for manufacturing the over-locking sewing machine, specifically the MG-3DR machine that creates the little rolled stitched edge found on every single shop rag. All of our Shop Rag Shirts are edged with this exact machine.
How did your collaboration with The Merrow Sewing Machine Company begin? And where is it located? Also tell us about the factories you’ve posted about on MakersFinders.
In order to properly create an American-made work shirt inspired by the iconic shop rag, we needed the two things that characterize each shop rag: the red shop rag material and the machine that produced the over-locking edge. Through trial and error and asking a lot of people a lot of questions, I eventually found my way to the 178-year-old Merrow Sewing Machine Co. In my first phone call with Charlie Merrow, I borderline pleaded for his help after explaining to him what it was we were attempting to do. He acknowledged the effort and extended an invitation for me to visit him and his factory in historic Fall River, Massachusetts. Since that call, Charlie and brother Owen have been extremely helpful in getting us to where we are today. Our shirts are cut and sewn about a mile down the road at the New England Shirt Company, situated in the old Flint Mills factory.
In addition to Merrow and the New England Shirt Co., we also work with The Waterbury Button Company in Waterbury, CT. They are the oldest US manufacturing company still producing the same product they produced when they first began – buttons.
What does The Shop Rag Shirt mean to you?
It’s the physical manifestation of the American can-do spirit. We sweated every detail with this garment in order to truly pay homage to the blue-collar worker that made the lowly shop rag the icon it is today.
If you can summarize the story of The Shop Rag Shirt in a few sentences, what would it be? This could change often, but how do you feel about it today?
The story told here is actually not about the shirt. It’s much bigger than the physical garment. Rather it’s the story of decades of American grit. I’m deeply inspired by the images of photographer Lewis Hine, particularly his ‘Men at Work’ series in which he documented the workers who risked their lives in building the Empire State Building. Their determination to create something bigger than themselves is something we strive to do in everything we create.
What is your vision for the future of The Godspeed Co?
For us it will always be depth over width. Meaning creating products that go beyond throwing our logo on t-shirts, hats & stickers. Nothing against those brands that go that route, it’s just not for us. The Shop Rag Shirt will probably be the best example of what we will strive to do moving forward - a first-of-its-kind product with a rich story as its foundation. And of course Made In America will always be our religion here at GSCo.
What is it about making things in America that is important to you personally?
It drives me insane why everyone doesn’t do this, but I understand that it’s cheaper to do it elsewhere (although that is changing). There’s certainly a sense of pride in making our goods stateside but more than that we feel it's our responsibility. In a city like Fall River where our shirts are manufactured, the impact we can have on the local workforce is tremendous. So the question then becomes, why wouldn’t we want to make it there? Most would argue the costs are too high to be sustainable. True, our price point is higher than the average mass-produced overseas shirt but more and more consumers are willing to pay that price knowing they’re getting a quality shirt that’s made in their backyard.
The Shop Brooklyn, when I first found it, was a motorcycle-parking garage with a tiny bar that quickly became my local when I moved to NYC. I loved the place so much I became an investor and aided in the branding behind it. Around the same time, I met the guys at Iron & Air when they were first getting started. It’s been amazing to see their growth over the years. After some back and forth they offered me an opportunity to write for their magazine. How could I not take advantage of something like that? Since then I’ve contributed numerous pieces for them and they even featured the story of our Shop Rag Shirt. It’s been a brilliant relationship.
VaynerMedia is a social-first, digital agency that I currently work for. Its name comes from it’s originator Gary Vaynerchuk, a social-media guru/entrepreneur/best selling author/business man that I admire greatly.
How has your experience with these companies informed your approach to The Godspeed Co?
I’m greatly influenced by my work at Vayner and by the advertising world in general. My role as a creative director consists primarily of storytelling. At Vayner, I’m challenged daily to create for the social platforms we all use and love on a daily basis, so I have to know in the ins and outs of them. All these learnings inform how we run & manage the GSCo.
When did you become interested in motorcycles?
I wish I could say ‘I grew up riding and wrenching on them’ but sadly that’s not the case. My father always talked of owning one but for some reason, mainly financial, he never pulled the trigger. I love him dearly but I didn’t want to be like him in that regard. It wasn’t until a break up with the girl that I truly considered it. That little bit of rebellion, that ‘I’m gonna show her’ got in my system and rest is history.
When did you become interested in fashion? When did you become interested in work wear?
Living in NYC, particularly Brooklyn, I was constantly exposed to the brands I endeared most. I was specifically drawn to Ralph Lauren’s RRL. Obviously their attention to detail is great but its the way the brand is able to transport you to another time that I love the most. Around the same time, I started to geek out over Made In American brands – Red Wing, Filson, Randolph Sunglasses, Shinola to name a few. As for work wear, I guess it’s the idea that the clothes can or should withstand anything. Form following function.
Where did you grow up?
I had the distinct pleasure of growing up as an Air Force brat which meant moving every 3-4 years. Mather Air Force Base in Sacramento, CA is where I was born. 2 years later the US government would station my family at Yokota Air Force Base (AFB) right outside Tokyo, Japan. We spent the next 5 years there and I remember most of it. Looking back, it was quite the experience. Afterwards we would return to California, but this time, to the Mojave Desert about two hours east of Los Angeles. The widely known Edwards AFB would be our home for the next 4 years. I was about 10 when we were given the option to head north to Alaska or northeast to New York. Wanting to experience the 4 seasons, my parents decided on NY. 5,000 miles later we landed in Upstate NY where I finished out the rest of my middle & high school days, after moving three more times of course. I was always the new kid and forced into situations where I had to make friends quickly. However, this type of childhood encouraged the very extroverted individual speaking with you now.
Of all your travels, in particular, we’re curious about the time you spent in Japan. What did you do while you were there? Has your time there had any influence over what you do now?
Interesting enough I lived the life of a normal American kid. Air Force Bases usually resemble the typical American lifestyle. My parents did a great job however of making sure we took advantage of the culture that directly surrounded the base. Weekend family bicycle trips outside the base was a constant as were excursions to Buddha monuments and even the large naval base situated in Okinawa. My memories of Japan wouldn’t be complete without mentioning my illustrious (ha) childhood modeling career. Being a blonde-hair blue-eyed kid in Japan in the 80s apparently equated to model material.
Did your family have any influence on the type of work you’ve chosen to pursue?
Yea you could say that. My mom’s side of the family has a long lineage of artists; I guess I’m the most recent iteration. I got my work ethic from my father though. He always pushed me and my brother to work hard no matter the job because as he would say ‘You’re a Logsdon.’
What motivated your move to Chattanooga?
Truthfully, my wife. After going through her first pregnancy in NYC she had just about had it. She actually wanted to be closer to family upstate but I wasn’t ready to leave the agency I currently work for – VaynerMedia. After a few discussions and the recent opening of its latest office here in Chattanooga we decided it was time to leave our beloved NYC and try something different. Per my previous childhood experiences, moving is second nature for me. We couldn’t be happier (and probably healthier) here.
What is the maker community like in Chattanooga and how did you come to meet them?
It’s not as saturated as it is in NYC but it’s certainly here. Chattanooga is also situated perfectly between Nashville, Knoxville and Atlanta so it’s been a pleasure to meet makers in those cities as well.
MakersFinders has a foundation in curiosity - What are you curious about?
I’ve experienced nothing short of amazing by following my curiosity. It’s what drove me to explore the history of a simple red rag and what led me to discovering something much greater. But I want to continue to dig deeper. I feel there’s much more to the story we’re just now unearthing and I’m very curious how others will react to it.
Anything else you’d like to share?
Nothing, except that we are so very humbled by your time and attention. Opportunities to share our stories & experiences like this keep us alive and well. Thank you.
MakersFinders is a social platform that helps people share and sell what they make and find what they love.