14 episodes

Meaningful conversations with interesting people with an emphasis on men's style and well-made things.

www.acl.news

A Continuous Lean‪.‬ Michael Williams

    • Arts
    • 5.0 • 14 Ratings

Meaningful conversations with interesting people with an emphasis on men's style and well-made things.

www.acl.news

    The Perfect Shirt

    The Perfect Shirt

    There really aren’t a lot of ways to reinvent a woven shirt. Somehow in 1999 Steven Alan found a way to do it. That was the year he created the Reverse Seam which would go on to sell tens of thousands of shirts. The innovation? To twist the placket and to reveal the outseam. It’s more than that though, Steven flipped the dress shirt to be a deliberately casual button-down. It’s not complicated, but the Reverse Seam was a important reinterpretation. It’s like going back in time two decades and popularizing the entire ridiculous idea for Untuckit. Only these shirts were for people who don’t hate themselves. (Sorry, I had to do it.) In all seriousness, a casual woven shirt was a great idea and that’s why Steven has sold so many of them and why Amy Larocca called it the perfect shirt, which I think sums things up fairly well.

    My opinion is that Steven Alan is a legend. I’ve always loved his point of view and his Annex shop in Tribeca was my favorite shop in New York. His product was great, he brought in amazing brands from all over the world and there was always something great to discover. I mostly wear his other woven shirt, the Single Needle, since it’s a bit roomier and we collaborated to make some flap-pocket shirts way back when. They sold out in like 38 minutes. It was a bit of a dream collab for me because I love Steven’s general aesthetic.

    Over the years Steven expanded the business to a point that became difficult to manage in a changing world. As wholesale and physical retail evolved Steven had to close all of his stores and the financial situation took him to the brink. He made some tough decisions to extract the company from the store leases and eventually he was able to recommit to a completely online only direct-to-consumer brand and web shop.

    When the brand relaunched online Steven started making shirts in the garment center again and the Reverse Seam and the Single Needle have been resurrected. In a way the business has come full circle and Steven himself seems reinvigorated with the simplicity of it all. I’ve missed shopping at the Annex and seeing Steven in New York and was curious about the evolution of the brand. I reached out to Steven a little while back and we recorded a sort of impromptu podcast. Through our conversation we chart the early days of his stores and how Steven Alan has evolved through the years. Steven has had a huge impact of so much of what we see today. His brand is as relevant as ever, especially now that the Reverse Seam is back. Hope you enjoy our conversation.

    The ACL Podcast is more of an add-on to the newsletter than a full fledged podcast. You can listen in Apple Podcasts or via Spotify directly if you prefer that to Substack. If you enjoy this edition, please consider subscribing and sending to a friend who you think would like this. I appreciate your support.

    Thanks to Al James for lending me his music. The song is: Hard Working Dogs by Dolorean.

    This is a public episode. If you’d like to discuss this with other subscribers or get access to bonus episodes, visit www.acl.news/subscribe

    • 55 min
    An Uncluttered Mind

    An Uncluttered Mind

    Last year I was reminded that it is easy to accumulate things, but difficult to get rid of them. I spent most of the year giving things to friends, donating to charity, selling on eBay and just generally pushing to divest. It was happening in every area of my life; my closet, electronics, bikes and as you well know, my extra car. If I wanted to just junk things it would have been easier, but it probably would have resulted in much more separation anxiety. If I sell something cheap on eBay or Offer Up I'm glad it went to a place where someone will use it. 

    It's hard to get rid of things and it's equally as hard not to just keep bringing new things in. My wife likes to remind me of this anytime a box arrives. I've even started to do some awkward but necessary things. Friends with brands have sent clothes and I have thanked them and sheepishly sent them back. That seems offensive, but I just don't need any more pants. I probably never will. 

    My big goal was go to get rid of 60% of my stuff. We moved several times in the past two years and seeing your possessions in boxes is alarming. When your stuff is out in the open you really get a sense of how unimportant most of it all is. That's what happened to me and the process has helped me think harder about the things I buy and if I really need it. Even if I haven't made it to 60% (yet; I've probably unloaded 30% of my overall footprint) I've learned a lot in the process. The one person I've really looked to for inspiration and guidance in this process is Sean Hotchkiss. He wrote this amazing essay for GQ about getting rid of all but a few essential possessions. It was sort of shocking and the article went pretty far and wide. He was the only person I actually knew who had just dramatically simplified his life when it comes to stuff. My curiosity piqued on Black Friday 2020 and we recorded a short pod about it. 

    Since 2016 when Sean went super minimal and now the pendulum has swung back a bit for him and he seems to have found a happy medium. He's not living a fully minimal lifestyle now, but he's also not in the same overwhelmed place he started out. This was the state I am hoping to get to and I wanted to check in with Sean again to see what he has learned at this point. We spoke about our relationship with our possessions, the behavior that drives some of this consumption and we even talk a bit about mental health. Not everyone is going to identify with these issues and I certainly understand that I'm lucky that these are my problems. In no way would I overlook the fact that the world has a lot of problems and a lot of people have suffered tremendously in the past few years. The goal here is to try and become the best version of ourselves that we can be. An uncluttered home with a clear mind. Just don't look in my garage. There's still work to be done.

    Hope you all enjoy our conversation.

    The ACL Podcast is more of an add-on to the newsletter than a full fledged podcast. You can listen in Apple Podcasts or via Spotify directly if you prefer that to Substack. If you enjoy this edition, please consider subscribing and sending to a friend who you think would like this. I appreciate your support.

    Thanks to Al James for lending me his music. The song is: Hard Working Dogs by Dolorean.

    This is a public episode. If you’d like to discuss this with other subscribers or get access to bonus episodes, visit www.acl.news/subscribe

    • 40 min
    One Year of Central Division

    One Year of Central Division

    It’s been a year of Central Division. It’s hard to decide if a podcast’s birthday is something to be proud of or embarrassed about. But here we are. So we reflect on a year of the show, consider some friendly criticisms from loved ones, and fearlessly look forward. 

    We also invited some friends to celebrate. Master of all media Chris Black joins us (19:25). And we talk to our old friend Matt Hranek, the king of print (40:45).  Hope you like it and thanks to everyone for listening and supporting this year.

    Michael and David

    Listen to Chris Black on How Long Gone. 

    Order Matt Hranek’s book The Martini.

    This is a public episode. If you’d like to discuss this with other subscribers or get access to bonus episodes, visit www.acl.news/subscribe

    • 1 hr 5 min
    The ACL Podcast 010: Huckberry

    The ACL Podcast 010: Huckberry

    As promised, a conversation with Huckberry founders Richard Greiner and Andy Forch.

    Over the past several years Huckberry has grown and evolved to be an important company in the gear/outdoor/clothing/home/ space for men. It’s everything we all want in a brand: humble, genuine and adventurous. And where else can you buy a cooler, an avocado vase and a therapy notebook — highly considered, well-made and unique things all in one place?

    Every interaction I’ve had with Huckberry over the years has been positive and when I met co-founders a decade or so ago they struck me as nice, easy-going guys. Part of me thought maybe they are too nice — fake nice? They weren’t. Maybe that was just me having lived in NYC for too long? Maybe I had become cynical where I didn’t expect people to act that way unless they needed something. Fast forward to 2020 and we all reconnected and actually had a Zoom happy hour. I couldn’t believe that I was having a happy hour virtually for starters, but I was also surprised that the Huckberry guys were still as incredibly humble and nice as I remembered.

    In between when I met them around 2012 and when we reconnected last year Huckberry has become incredibly successful and beloved by its customers. It has quietly grown to be a significant business that has a huge 3rd party brand offering (I bought my Ooni from Huckberry) and also has a few of its own in-brands. Huckberry has become an important retailer and expert storyteller. I admire how Andy and Richard have done what they have and forged their own path with Huckberry. If you read the founders story you can’t help but to walk away inspired and impressed.

    We have a nice conversation about how Andy and Richard built the business, about hustle culture, FJs, what they look for when making a hire and so much more. I hope you enjoy our conversation.

    The ACL Podcast is more of an add-on to the newsletter than a full fledged podcast. You can listen in Apple Podcasts or via Spotify directly if you prefer that to Substack. If you enjoy this edition, please consider subscribing and sending to a friend who you think would like this. I appreciate your support.

    Thanks to Al James for lending me his music. The song is: Hard Working Dogs by Dolorean.

    This is a public episode. If you’d like to discuss this with other subscribers or get access to bonus episodes, visit www.acl.news/subscribe

    • 1 hr 27 min
    The ACL Podcast 009: Rosecrans Baldwin

    The ACL Podcast 009: Rosecrans Baldwin

    A few weeks back I recommended the book Everything Now: Lessons from the City-State of Los Angeles by Rosecrans Baldwin for a summer reading list. Having been an admirer of Rosecrans’ writing (especially in his newsletter) I was eager to chat with him about the book on the podcast. He graciously drove across town and we had a great chat in my backyard. We spoke about the many great stories in the book, life in Southern California and he even opened up about his relationship with the brand Patagonia.

    “What if I hate Los Angeles? Why should I read this book.” That’s the big question for Rosecrans. It’s something we speak about in the podcast but it is worth pointing out again here. If you love L.A. this is a good book for you. If you hate it — there’s likely something for you too. If you are interested in the human stories that bring a place to life then you will enjoy it.

    All of this thinking about Los Angeles makes me revisit the ongoing N.Y. vs L.A. debate. So much is said about these two cities but it doesn’t seem like many people truly understand either place all that well — myself included. I’ve got a connection to each city, but I’m not really from either and don’t think I’ll ever consider myself a New Yorker or an Angeleno. I only think I know them well enough to know that I’ve only scratched the surface. The book reinforces this theory.

    One fact I heard during the pandemic about the size of L.A. surprised me. If Los Angeles County was a state it would rank 8th in terms of population. That statistic helped illustrate in my mind just how big L.A. is and how it is often too easily distilled down to one industry or one frequently visited part of town. Everything Now helps to open up these places, and to help us all better understand the people who give them life. The book is unlike what one might expect from a story about a city, no less a story about L.A., but that is one of the reasons it’s so enjoyable. It’s unexpected in a lot of ways, and like L.A., it’s not as easy to characterize as you might think.

    Hope you enjoy our conversation. Some show notes are below.

    0:52  Coffee: Mudd 2.0 from How Long Gone.

    4:20  One Morning in Maine & Time of Wonder.

    5:30  Rosecrans’ newsletter: Meditations in an Emergency.

    6:55 The book is called: Everything Now.

    9:27 Los Angeles has the second greatest urban density in a metropolitan area in the U.S. behind New York City.

    10:33  New York Times Book Review.

    16:17  Betting on three horses to finish first, second and third in that exact order is called a trifecta.

    16:58 Luck on HBO.

    19:30 We looked it up and 30.2% of Los Angeles residents live alone.

    35:40 Types of Adventures (or fun).

    45:46 We looked it up. Los Angeles is second in diverse and endangered species in the U.S. next to Hawaii.

    57:27  Explore DTLA. The Last Bookstore LA. Tacos at Sonoratown.

    59:00  Our Malibu Beaches App.

    Thanks to my summer associate Max Arden for fact checking and annotating this conversation.

    The ACL Podcast is more of an add-on to the newsletter than a full fledged podcast. You can listen in Apple Podcasts or via Spotify directly if you prefer that to Substack. If you enjoy this edition, please consider subscribing and sending to a friend who you think would like this. I appreciate your support.

    Thanks to Al James for lending me his music. The song is: Hard Working Dogs by Dolorean.

    This is a public episode. If you’d like to discuss this with other subscribers or get access to bonus episodes, visit www.acl.news/subscribe

    • 1 hr 5 min
    The ACL Podcast 008: Jeff Raider

    The ACL Podcast 008: Jeff Raider

    Sometimes I meet successful people and I want to talk to them about what they consider the keys to their success. Maybe it’s for me to try to figure out just where I went wrong. Is my lack of success tied to my inability to better respond to emails? Ha!

    Jeff Raider is hugely successful but also just a regular guy. He’s a co-founder of both Warby Parker and Harry’s, two massive brands. The growth of those two businesses don’t seem to have changed him. Jeff is one of the most normal, kind and helpful people you will ever meet. He’s always willing to talk about opportunities or problems and there with advice if you ever need it. He is proof that being successful and nice aren’t mutually exclusive. I also don’t want to miss an opportunity to praise Jeff’s Harry’s co-founder Andy Katz-Mayfield — who is also an amazing person. It’s no wonder that they have built not only a solid brand, but a successful company filled with good people.

    At this point Harry’s has a suite of different brands out in the world. There’s of course Flamingo, plus the cat food brand Cat Person and now a haircare line called Headquarters. Like Harry’s, all of these offshoot brands are lighthearted and irreverent. All of it is created around good design and quality.

    So many companies talk about having a good culture but it is rarely true. At Harry’s it’s actually real and the reality does match the expectations. People love working there. Everyone I’ve encountered at Harry’s is smart and good to deal with. It’s refreshing to experience and it makes supporting Harry’s even more worthwhile. Listen to Jeff and you’ll know it’s not bullsh/t.

    I like to hate on all things DTC, but the Harry’s universe is just different. Part of that is related to Jeff and Andy, and part of it goes back to the culture. I wanted to hear more about how Jeff sees the world so for the podcast we spoke about life, business, DTC and yes, inbox zero. Hope you like it.

    The ACL Podcast is more of an add-on to the newsletter than a full fledged podcast. You can listen in Apple Podcasts or via Spotify directly if you prefer that to Substack. If you enjoy this edition, please consider subscribing and sending to a friend who you think would like this. I appreciate your support.

    Thanks to Al James for lending me his music. The song is: Hard Working Dogs by Dolorean.

    This is a public episode. If you’d like to discuss this with other subscribers or get access to bonus episodes, visit www.acl.news/subscribe

    • 45 min

Customer Reviews

5.0 out of 5
14 Ratings

14 Ratings

GeorgeK85 ,

Great podcast

Michael is the best.

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