Matt Hranek is a full-time traveler, explorer, eater, and drinker. He is also a part-time photographer, filmmaker, blogger, former men's style editor of Condé Nast Traveler, and occasional TV host. You may remember Matt from his Hang 10 with Birdie feature. Matt has 20 years' experience navigating airports, train stations, hotels, restaurants, and bars worldwide. He has channeled all that experience and his unique brand of joie de vivre into his latest creation WM Brown Magazine. In the recently published fall issue, Matt focused his camera on the Birdwell factory and shared his decades long appreciation for Birdwell’s commitment to quality craftsmanship. The article is shared with Matt’s permission for your enjoyment below.
I GOT MY first pair of Birdwells in the early '90's. As a landlocked kid in Upstate New York, I came late to the game to this legendary SoCal surf brand. Back then, there was only one way to order it: I remember like yesterday calling Birdwell to request a catalog to be mailed out to me (a very DIY illustrated Xerox number on yellow paper). I got hooked from then on and have bought close to a dozen pairs since then.
Carrie Birdwell Mann started making two-ply nylon shorts out of her home in Southern California in 1961. Her first customers were lifeguards in Newport Beach, but then word got out in the surfer community, and she got her first order for 100 pairs. She turned her home into a sewing room and store and officially launched Birdwell Beach Britches. Soon after, Birdwell moved to a factory in Santa Ana and has been there ever since. Their slogan "quality is our gimmick" still rings true: Hand-cut, hand-sewn details and a lifetime guarantee. In 2014, a group of longtime customers who consider themselves stewards of this brand they've loved and worn for so long, purchased the company. Everything is still handmade in California - most of it in that same Santa Ana factory - and they're maintaining the integrity of the product while evolving and growing the business in a smart and sustainable way. To quote a Birdwell team member, "You either love Birdwell, or you have never heard of it."
We encourage you to visit the WM BROWN PROJECT to learn more about Matt and where to find the magazine. We have enjoyed each issue and trust you will too!