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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 watch company had done before; make an almost completely wood face. The design motif of the brand is to use natural elements – hence the tagline naturally distinct. This style fully allows the wood to be the main attraction.

To further confirm the choice of the jump hour style, on a serendipitous encounter, Landon met an older gentlemen with knowledge of the Elgin Watch Company. Elgin was a watch manufacturer based in, of all places, Elgin, IL that operated from 1864 to 1968. The Elgin Watch Company produced a version of the jump hour wristwatch in the 1950s. Considering the local heritage of the jump hour style and the quest for something individual, unique and remarkable, the choice was a lock. Next, Landon and James decided to produce an updated version of this stunning style for the modern man. They named their version the Dendro-Chronos, dendro relates to trees (nature) and chronos refers to time. The beautiful Dendro-Chronos features a round, wood case with a small opening for the clock, and a leather band. The watch is available in Maple or Walnut with 3 band colors cognac, black or red. The Dendro-Chronos is their best selling product to date.

The Dendo-Chronos is an avant-garde style. However, if you prefer a timepiece that's a little less bold, ATGD offers a more traditional style of wristwatch in metal and wood with an expansion band in Ebony and Silver or Mahogany and Gold. These watches appeal to those seeking a more moderate timepiece with distinctive details. In addition, ATGD offers their mainstay Helios sunglasses. These sunglasses are designed for individuals who want the look of a traditional aviator frame but also need to express their personality. The Helios puts a distinctive spin on a traditional favorite by adding exotic hardwood accents that are difficult to ignore. The fusion of both wood and metal creates a naturally distinct and modern design that lets you stand out on the landscape of style.

By now you probably realize the brothers have clearly defined roles within ATGD with Landon serving as the primary creative force while James focuses on day-to-day operations and sales. Both brothers collaborate on final designs. This clear distinction of roles is instrumental in building a strong, innovative brand while allowing each brother to focus on his individual strengths. Landon and James at ATGD are committed to offering high quality products that are long-lasting, authentic and modern.

Whether your style is boundary pushing or within the boundaries, ATGD offers something for the guy who wants to express his personality with panache and originality. Check out ATGD for naturally distinctive products to upgrade your style. Products are available online at

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