If I can be vulgar for a minute…. Upon reflection, for over 6 years TimelessMan has focused on tailors, brands and manufacturers who are “no bullshit”. As a rule, they prioritise the quality of their product and don’t fabricate stories about their heritage, process or product to sell to an ignorant audience. Yes, everyone has to sell their product and communicating to an audience requires you position your product in the best light, but those who do it honestly, with the background focus always being on the product itself are the people and brands I like.
With all that out of the way…. I think I’ve found the least bullshit of all the no bullshit brands I’ve covered. For those not yet familiar, I introduce to you, Mike French and Red Rabbit Trading Co.
A few years ago, as a hobby, Mike started making mid-western (Native American style) jewelry from melted down old silver coins and jewelry in Albuquerque, New Mexico. At the time, he and his girlfriend were looking for an excuse to see Japan, so they waited for a trade fair and used the business trip as the guise for a holiday.
The pieces were very well received by the Japanese audience. For followers of classic menswear, you’ll probably be familiar with Ethan of Brycelands wearing (and stocking) Red Rabbit pieces. Ethan met Mike on this first visit and Red Rabbit has grown consistently since those early days.
Since the 50’s the Japanese have been obsessed with Americana, taking what is often an iconic American aesthetic or piece of clothing (think denim and American workwear), obsessing over it and making it better by adding their own unique twists over time.
The range from Red Rabbit comprises bracelets, rings, belt buckles, tie pins, money clips and necklaces, often inlaid with turquoise, beaten into shape and finished with a range of traditionally native American symbols embossed or etched into them.
It’s pretty much just Mike, at a bench, hammering away at old silver, with the overwhelming majority of pieces being custom made on request (like mine).
Some of the finer pieces are made from sheet silver, but the majority of Red Rabbit pieces come from old melted silver dollars and jewelry, as mentioned above.
The mid-western aesthetic is one I love. For most of us, the mid-west means cowboy movies, and the frontier. There’s a wildness and romance to the history of this part of the US with the land, clothing and history conjuring up a dusty, worn in feel to most things which emanate from there.
I’d been looking for mid-western items on and off for years, but pieces were either very hard to come across as vintage and extortionately expensive or new…. and extortionately expensive (a big part of the reason Mike started making things himself).
The no bullshit attitude comes across in everything about Mike and Red Rabbit. From the pricing, which is very fair, through to his attitude towards whether or not people buy his bracelets. He just makes what he likes, doesn’t put any spin around it and the products are solid enough to comfortably stand on their own two feet. If you like them, but them, if you don’t “OK, fine”. If a Red Rabbit bracelet was a person, I’d want to hang out with him.
I have a couple of criteria for buying bracelets and cuffs (though this extends into most things I buy).
- It has to, barring an unlikely event, last a lifetime. Most bracelets are poorly made and break quickly, or, at best, break within a couple of years. I don’t see the point in investing in something which I’ll wear every day, only for it to fall apart in a couple of years. I want my bracelets to last forever and to hand them down to my boys someday.
- It can’t be too sleek and refined. That’s not style to me. I like my clothes, my friends and my life to feel worn in, a little rough around the edges, but solid and authentic. So many bracelets are too polished or delicate. The look is affected and too perfect.
- It has to be authentic. Some random bracelet from some random shop seems pointless and I can’t make a connection with it. Who made it? Why did they make it? Otherwise it’s just a piece of metal with no reason for existing.
Mike’s work easily covers all three of these criteria and every time I see it now it makes me happy because I know I’ll still be looking at it in 30 years. It’ll have seen a bunch of adventures, received plenty of dings and scratches and, have my stories cast into it.
My cuff was custom made, based initially off a measurement of my wrist which I sent through to Mike. I also sent him a few images of other bracelets of his which I liked from his Instagram, along with some design preferences of my own. The large turquoise stone in the centre is flanked by two hawks (for my two boys) and underneath are the initials NLM (Noah, Luca and Mehri). I asked Mike to take some pictures of the process, which are posted throughout this article, to give readers a sense of how it all comes together. The price was $240USD.
In the not too distant future I’ll ask Mike to make me at least a couple more bracelets and cuffs (another for my right wrist and one for my left, because bracelets!) and my next request will be for a belt buckle. Having seen a few of his I’m really looking forward to having some of these made. They go so well with denim. Manufacturing times are also very reasonable, with around a 2/3 week wait at the moment.
I appreciate that bracelets and cuffs aren’t everyone’s thing, certainly not as many as I wear (currently 5 on my right wrist and growing), but this is where finding what you like, who you are and embracing it comes into play.
If you want something which will last you a lifetime, is excellent value and doesn’t pretend to be something it isn’t, then it’s worth getting in touch with Mike and asking him to make you something which you’ve helped design and which you can hand down to someone else someday.