It’s apparent that Camber don’t do funny business. There’s an enduring mystery to this sports/workwear brand that’s nicely at odds with every other brand letting the blogsphere see every inch of their inner workings down to the guts – they make great product, so hard wearing that it nearly falls into the current workwear boom that’s got your local hipster hotspot looking like dress rehearsals for ‘The Grapes Of Wrath’ with added GORE-TEX. This has been the year of the heritage range. Marketing guy spots local urchins in denim and workboots, discovers the hype blogs and realises that all they need is their old logo on a patch, Vibram on the sole and voila! They’re in the running.
In the tumble to show just how goddamn old and authentic they are, old brands are acting less like the bemused Farnklin Davis who expressed concern for Ben Davis fan Snoop Dogg around the time he was aquitted of murder charges, “I heard something about that Snoop Dogg guy getting in trouble…” or a crotchety old man chasing a young man in cropped chinos wielding a DMC-GF1 off his factory property. Nope. Now it’s all blogger tours and storytelling.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing at all – many companies must be caking it this winter from a new breed of consumer but sadly, the waxed canvas bubble will pop one day, and there’ll be brand casualties, regardless of how timeless the product is. It’s the age-old story, a long lost tribe found then corrupted by another tribe – fickle consumers with oneupmanship on the brain.
I once theorised that all the industry’s current ills go back to the day Nike retroed the Jordan 1 in 1994. I was stoned at the time of attempting to contextualise this, but after that release was treated with ambivalence by all but the clued-up and the Jordan series retros started shifting, while it certainly wasn’t the first Nike retro, the brand must have clocked the profits to be made from raiding the archive – it’s interesting the golden age of sports shoe design comes to a close as the retrospect rose. But that’s a whole ‘nother blog entry, and I’m on holiday, so I’ll stop talking shoes.
You’ll find no J. Peterman style essays, or tales of kitting out workers in days of olde on their site, but Camber are a brand with some history, well, for those of us who can remember brands like Gimme 5’s UK Bathing Ape subsidiary Very Ape printing on their thick tees circa. 1995 we know they go back to the mid ’90s at least. There were brief rumours that Camber’s thermal hoodies were the basis for Supreme and ALIFE pieces – but this has been attributed to CYC, who’ve stepped out from blank status lately with Reigning Champ and Wings & Horns (who to be fair, have been talked about regularly on forums like Superfuture for nigh-on half a decade).
We know Camber are based in Norristown, Pennylsvania and that their gear is proudly US-made. And that’s about it. Both those previous factoids would see most brands elevated to capo status in the current climate, but this one seems content to go about their business.
Savvy Japanese consumers picked up Camber sweats and gave them some magazine buzz a few years back, and any visitor to workwear mecca Dave’s in New York might have seen stacks of chunky zip-up numbers sharing shelf space with Carhartt and Dickies. A recent visit had a poor showing from Camber, and a glimpse at their website today indicates stocks are significently lower; one style and colour at time of writing. This just makes them all the more intriguing.
Carhartt’s European franchise meant they could serve dual roles as a trend and working brand well, causing some minor confusion (it’s all in the way those bad boys are cut), but without alienating either fanbase. Dickies is currently in the middle of a hunt for that trend-level scrilla, and after making some mediocre selevedge ventures since the late ’90s, finally seem to be on the right track with the excellent impending Wiliamson-Dickie numbers.
Max-Weight t-shirts do what the name suggests – a Hanes Beefy T weighs in at 6.1oz – the Max-Weight is 8oz of shirt. That’s excessive to the heavy shirt haters, but if you’re in the market for a non transparent tee, they’re a good choice. The Arctic Thermal zip-up is a flagship product for Camber – 19oz is enough to beat a man to death with one, and they’re a good winter pick. Dark green and brown are two of the best shades, and for those of you fetishising Lampo and Riri zips – fall back. You’ll get none of that for seventy bucks, but the brass eyelets and overall fit, taking in the fact they shrink by at least ten percent (something that doesn’t happen with the CYC numbers), is decent. The set in sleeves are a good length too, though a little prone to fraying over time. Again…these are, like Carhartt hoodies, despite dependabe build, seasonally disposable thanks to their pricepoint.
The contrast hi-vis one isn’t some ’07 nu rave flashback – it’s eye-bleeding for a reason, and there’s a custom service promoted on the Camber site that offers orders that can be placed be placed “with a minimum quantity as low as 6 dozen” and the photographs show some clean examples of the factory’s commissions. Plus a mention that they do private label work too.
Camber deserves more respect, but props to the brand for keeping it real while all those around them lose their heads over the new found attention.
On a loosely related note, this blog shows a lot of promise –
There’s some great bits showcased on there for the one percent who care. Holmes knitwear is quite a flashback.
And linking to an earlier point, here’s team Red Wing making plans for further domination in 2010, plus some good (underexposed) promotional videos from their European, er…wing.