We’re quite proud to have our watches in Context Clothing—a Madison, WI, store whose impeccably curated selection of quality menswear has earned them effusive praise from the likes of GQ and the New York Times. Not bad for a small store in a small town in the middle of Wisconsin. So how’d they do it? By focusing on “classic items made exceedingly well.” Or at least that’s what we learned from speaking with Ryan Huber, one of the store’s three owners.
We learned a few other things as well.
Could you give me a little background info? How do you, Sam, and Ben know each other? Are you all from Wisconsin?
When I was attending UW Madison, I got a job working at a local brew pub. Sam was the bar manager and my boss, we worked as bartenders together for years. We became close friends and constantly talked about opening a unique business together here in Madison—something sharp with a focus on quality production. Sam’s brother, Ben, had just moved back to Madison from Brooklyn and got in the mix.
How did you all get started in the fashion/design world?
From an early age, we’ve all had a fascination with things made the old way. It’s no secrect that some of the best manufacturing is handed down for generations. We found there was a growing number of guys across the globe looking for the same things we wanted, classic items made exceedingly well. We knew there was an opportunity to represent the short list of brands doing it right so we jumped in head first.
Your selection of clothes featuring classic American styles is impeccable. Is this an aesthetic you’ve always been interested in, or is it something that’s developed more recently?
Thank you. My grandfather was a golden gloves boxing coach from 1936 to 1986 and my father worked in the American auto industry for decades. Needless to say, I developed a nice little collection of hand-me-down vintage sport and workwear that I cherish. Sam and Ben’s father Frank has some of the most amazing tweed jackets and WWII era flight jackets. Our customers are like us, we are collectors of great things.
Your store is pretty famous. Is that something you expected would happen?
We are very fortunate that so many people have embraced what we do. When you’re located in a small city it’s wise to make some noise. There is nothing we love more than hosting big meals. This is an official open invitation to all members of the press.
What are some looks or products that you’re especially excited about for the fall?
Wisconsin’s own Russell Moccasin is making three classic styles using killer leathers which we selected from Horween. We also teamed up with Schott to create a motorcycle/flight jacket limited to 60 units. I get giddy talking about it.
Does your store have a philosophy behind it that you’d like to share?
It can be summed up in one sentence, “Welcome to Context, how may we help you?”
How did you find out about Shinola? Did you have any distinct thoughts when you saw our watches in person?
I can’t recall who introduced us, but we were instantly impressed. Shinola is our first watch line. It fits us perfectly. The proportion, materials and finishing details are well considered. Our core customers are fans as well. The bicycles are also knockout. It’s great that the frames are made in Wisconsin. We have bicycle manufacturing heritage and a strong cycling culture here in Wisconsin.