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Going Against the Grain...

What happens when two brothers take their appreciation for men's style to the next level? They create a men's focused brand, Against the Grain Designs (ATGD), of course. Not willing to settle for mediocre or uninspired, ATGD is placing their unique spin on what Menswear accessories can be. Raised in a family where fashion and style were celebrated, brothers Landon and James knew early on that men's fashion would be in their future. Initially focusing on wooden bow ties, ATGD has evolved to include hip timepieces and stylish sunglasses.

ATGD is a Chicago-based producer of innovative and quality menswear accessories. Under the motto of "naturally distinct", the message is about living life differently and going against the, ahem, grain. The logo, derived from an ancient east African symbol of freedom and independence, is a celebration of autonomy in style and thinking. Combined, the logo and motto create a strong identity around blazing your own trail and being a pioneer, which in today's society, is counter to popular culture.

Sitting on a patio in the West Town neighborhood, brothers Landon and James took me through the evolution of their brand. Older brother Landon was living in the Bay Area at the time and noticing what he calls, a "style gap", he wanted to create something sophisticated and unique. In the early days, ATGD focused on manufacturing and selling wooden bowties and sunglasses. At the time, wooden bowties were popular. However, noticing a shift in tastes, Landon made a decision to drop the bowties and focus exclusively on timepieces and sunglasses. Timepieces and sunglasses are two accessories that many style conscious men collect and add to their fashion arsenal over time.

By shifting to timepieces, ATGD challenged themselves to think outside of the box to identify a striking and exciting watch style. What separates ATGD from other wood watch companies is the dedication to carefully researched watch styles and creative thinking. Some competitors simply scroll through manufacturers websites and select existing designs and stamp their logo on it. For ATGD, this approach was unacceptable. Landon recounted that the idea started with wood. I wanted to feature as much wood as possible on the case. Many timepieces have traditional crystal displays, I wanted to highlight the wood. I wanted an almost completely wood face because I had a hunch that it would be a strong design and resonate with customers.

During the research phase, Landon discovered the jump hour design. Jump hour watches derive their name from their design—in which the hour indication is in a digit format displayed via an opening. Every hour the digit readout changes automatically – offering a visually exciting “event” that is great to watch. The jump hour is definitely an eye catcher. Understanding the jump hour operation, Landon determined that this design would allow ATGD to shrink the amount of space needed to tell time while maintaining the practical function of the watch. At this point, Landon and James believed a potential hit was on the horizon. The integration of the jump hour functionality allowed ATGD to do what no other wood wa