Back to Basics

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With a new breed of modern-classic menswear, Buck Mason distills dressing down to its simplest—and smartest looking—form.

Written by Jenn Thornton

Newman. Brando. Dare we say Wayne? These screen stars were among the brightest of their time, but they also set a new sartorial standard, making a plain t-shirt and jeans look like a million bucks. There is plenty of menswear in our world, but it isn’t always quality, and if it is, then probably not accessible. Guaranteed it isn’t the essence of quintessential American cool. Because it isn’t Buck Mason. 

Launched in 2013 by Erik Allen Ford and Sasha Koehn, California-born brand Buck Mason came at a time when “old norms were falling by the wayside, and men were really starting to join the conversation around getting dressed,” says Ford. “Men were hungry for high-quality basics that wouldn’t break the bank.” Modern cuts of timeless classics at accessible prices—exactly what Buck Mason is all about. Since setting up shop in a Venice Beach garage—which, while a practical decision, seems perfectly ideal for a menswear brand with both blue-collar and white-collar appeal—Ford and Koehn have scaled the business sensibly. “A big part of our value as a brand is that we have such beautiful stores,” says Koehn. “Every store feels like it’s your most tasteful friend’s house. We’ve expanded slowly, but that’s a reflection of our values –– we make simple products and we sell the hell out of them.” 

Buck Mason co-founders Sasha Koehn and Erik Allen Ford.

Buck Mason co-founders Sasha Koehn and Erik Allen Ford.

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That is, of course, the American way, but it’s really about American design, achieving a certain narrative, a la the Ralph Lauren Polo shirt.“ Affluence, luxury, sophistication, all of that was attainable through a moderately priced, pique shirt,” says Ford. “Our take on modern American style is to give people that narrative, be it the open road, or the spirit of the west, but to do it without the labels. Tee shirts, jeans, button ups—those are the classic American garments we’ve built our brand around.” Henleys, hoodies and great jackets too. “We develop very few new garments,” says Koehn. “We only have a handful of styles, so rather than chasing trends, we stick to a handful of core styles and try to get them absolutely perfect.” A perfect fit for sure.

In addition to bucking trends, the brand bucks the myth that men don’t care about what they wear. Make no mistake: “Buck Mason is for guys who care about how they look. Anyone can wear it,” says Ford. “That said, we also think that getting dressed should be easier. Some people replace their entire wardrobes with Buck Mason, other guys will supplement a t-shirt or a pair of jeans—either way, there’s an almost foolproof quality to our selection. You can mix and match anything, and it’s virtually impossible to look anything less than great.” Ladies included—Buck Mason’s flattering cuts have attracted a small but “tasteful cohort” of women who buy the brand’s t-shirts.

Duke looking effortlessly cool in The Searchers (1956). © John Wayne Enterprises / John R. Hamilton Collection

Duke looking effortlessly cool in The Searchers (1956). © John Wayne Enterprises / John R. Hamilton Collection

Who are the style icons that inspire their work? “The Duke, definitely,” says Koehn, “but Paul Newman and Steve McQueen certainly show up on our mood board from time to time for their timeless approach to style and simple wardrobe comprised of classics.” As for how they would dress Duke today? “We’d have to do jeans—something with a wider leg opening for riding, so probably the Standard Fit on the jeans, that’s our fullest cut. We really love the earth tones Duke wears in The Searchers, so we’d lean towards our ‘Rust’ colored Pima Curved Hem Tee. The Vintage Two Pocket would also be nice, any color, and the Denim Two-Pocket Field Shirt too.” For the everyman, Buck Mason characteristically keeps it simple: “Start with a t-shirt and go from there,” says Koehn.

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Buck Mason photos courtesy of Nicholas Maggio