2021’s Best Outdoors Giveaway — Grease Point Workwear, Misc. Goods Co., VSSL, Hikers Brew, WESN, Sarva, Red Hat Factory
Benjamin Antoni AndersenNews Reel
Normally I wouldn’t go straight up and call our giveaway the best there is, but this time, it’s not only us.
This giveaway has ended.
Together with a bunch of brands that we love, and that we think you’ll love too, we put together the Norwegian West Coast Explorer Giveaway.
Run time: 1st of December 2021, to 1st of January 2022.
Legendary Swedish family brand Sarva. Careful crafter of clothing locally made in Sweden. The name Sarva comes from the indigenous Sámi language.
WESN is our partner in hosting this giveaway, and we got to pick our most rugged, classic favorite — the Henry. A knife inspired by WESN’s own Swedish grandpa.
Sleek is the first word that comes to mind with VSSL. Beyond the clean lines and absolute minimalism, there is a very human core and an obvious obsession with product design. It shows.
VSSL have a sweet origin story to share with the world.
Shaped by a farm-life upbringing, Amos and his crew at Grease Point Workwear create by the mantra of beautiful, functional, and enduring.
Read their story in their own words here.
This entire giveaway is hosted by us as a part of the release of our new beanie model, the Westcoaster — inspired by the fjord-ridden Norwegian West Coast. That is why the giveaway is entitled: The Norwegian West Coast Fjord Explorer.
Dedicated to the wholesome task of providing the world with goodness, Misc. Goods Co produce good goods. Simple and clean.
Misc. Goods Co.’s origin story, is a great read!
Hikers Brew is exactly what it sounds like — coffee, roasted, packaged and branded with the hiker in mind… Or in this case, The Norwegian Fjord Explorer.
Criticism, what is that? How about a bout of pure fanboyage? If you’d like that, you’ve come to the right place. And if you don’t like it, what can you do about it? The wheel weaves as the wheel wills.
Update: After watching past episode 4, my fanboyage has unfortunately dropped to a meh level at best. The only reason I don’t go to outright criticism is because this is no review blog, and I probably won’t revisit this. The books are amazing, read the books!
Wheel of Time… There are only two book series in my life that cuts that deep — and if you’ve followed us for any time you know which one the other is. (A hint — it also involves a wheel, inside of a mind that also contains metal.)
Anyhow, we went to the premiering of the two first episodes of the Wheel of Time at Stockholm Film Festival, and saw the thing in its full cinema glory. And it far exceeded every expectation me and my wife had conjured up.
First of all, we came with the rather tempered expectation that it is an adaptation. You don’t grieve over the plot lines that are lost, you praise those they nail, in understanding that they can’t film it chapter by chapter (though some of us would have consumed every bit of that).
Casting — optimal.
Two rivers culture and architecture — whoa!
The attack on Two Rivers — it was shockingly emotionally impactful. Maybe because I was pretty tired and also in an epic movie theater being physically blasted by every sound, but hey.
Foreshadowing aimed at book readers only — yes! Give me more. More wolves. More Perrin and axes and smithies.
Yes, Perrin is my favorite guy. And that brings me straight to the “criticism”.
I won’t spoil anything, but there is this thing you’ll definitely notice with Perrin and his… altered relationships. It was the first thing that passed through my shield of positivity and caused a skeptical wrinkle on my nose. (My wife felt the same). But then I said to myself, hey let’s see why they did that change. (My wife unbeknownst to me did the same). Once the episode was over, I understood why they did it, and I applaud it as an immensely impactful way of setting up Perrins big future tool/weapon dilemma and character growth arcs.
Seeing that my wife came to the exact same conclusion, and went through every step that I did while watching, I can only conclude that these folks know what they’re doing, and they have won my trust for the future of the season.
But I’ll always keep the book in a separate category, and the series on it’s firm “adaptation shelf” — it’s the only way to not criticizes every change.
I hear you, loud and clear. Now, let me weave the threads of the pattern together for you. I have plenty of justification for allowing Wheel of Time into RHF Stories.
In the Two Rivers where our main characters are from, there is something called Two Rivers woolens. The place is known for frequent wearing of wool apparel. And that in itself should be enough — wool is after all our bread and butter. But there is so much more.
There is something about the Fantasy genre that caters directly to people like us. The sense of adventure, the esthetic of old rugged sturdy village craftsmanship. In the Two Rivers you’ll find thatchers, cobblers, smiths and knitters — all crafts that Red Hat Factory loves to celebrate.
And then the simple act of reading a book series of 14 books — it takes patience. The same virtue required to craft something with excellence and keep doing it.
It’s easy to make the connection why we love the Wheel of Time, and my final words would simply be — get an Amazon Prime account and give it a try. Then you might just find yourself being drawn into the longest written adventure tale you’ve ever consumed. 4,410 036 words over the course of 14 books plus a prequel.
Since childhood, I’ve seen the pom-pom as a completely natural addition to any winter beanie. Now that I’ve been delving into the history of beanies and their making for years, I’ve begun questioning the seemingly useless, dangling ball of thread.
When researching the history of the pom-pom, a wide variety of sources pop up. Historically armies have worn them into battle. To what end? Scaring their enemies? “Hey, yeah, I thought we’d put this ball of thread on top of our attire. It will rattle the bones of our enemies.”
tl;dr We made some Southlanders with pom-poms.
A pom-pom has been used to denote all kinds of rank, including marital status. The latter reminds me of a weird concept the Norwegian Tourist Union came up with, where people were supposed to state their “dating availability” by the color of their beanie. Red: Taken. Green… Yeah, you get it. Traffic lights and all.
At the root of all these sources we find a little statuette claimed to represent the norse god Freyr, and, you guessed it, it’s wearing a pom-pom. Even the gods wear it! And good for us, as a Scandinavian brand, we can claim it for our own.
There’s a nice little article overviewing the use of pom-poms in various historical and cultural contexts by Danil Zhiltsov. One thing that stood out to me was that while talking about the pom-pom on a traditional Scottish hat, Danil says that “they enjoyed their biggest rise in popularity during the Great Depression of the 1930s.”
It makes total sense. Who needs anti-depressants when you can just put a pom-pom on your headgear? And look at it — there’s a pattern here. It’s on the war attire as well. Conclusion: If you head into great darkness, wear a pom-pom to cheer you up.
When we were in the southern Norwegian mountains shooting some photos of our own take on the pom-pom beanie, I noticed some sort of soothing effect. As the ball rolled around on my head a slight massage occurred. Maybe this was the original idea, lost in time.
Now, let’s reel this article back in.
We’ve long drawn inspiration from Life Aquatic and Steve Zissou. One day we looked at this image, and Willem Dafoe’s pom-pom embellished beanie. And we thought to ourselves, maybe this ridiculous dangling embellishment from our childhood could be kinda cool.
So long story short (just kidding, we’ve already made it long), we made a limited run of our Southlanders modded with pom-poms.
I was 12 years old when I first came across a copy of The Fellowship of the Ring in the school library. Rarely has any piece of literature had such an impact on me — and anything that influences me, influences the brand I am heading.
The Tolkien rabbit hole is deep. It might begin with The Hobbit, take you through The Lord of the Rings, maybe even into The Silmarillion, and if you’re lost in the vortex, you might end up passing through 12 volumes of the History of Middle Earth, before you’re done.
Just kidding. You won’t be done yet. There’s always more to discover.
From the moment I saw Alan Lee’s iconic illustration of the gates of Moria — which was the cover art on that Fellowship book I found in the library — I was enticed into this vast universe. The poignant language, the ethos, the characters, the events — it has all deeply impacted me.
You might have noticed both subtle and less subtle references to Tolkien’s works around our page and in our social media. What is it that makes the tales of Middle Earth rhyme so well with Red Hat Factory?
If you spend some time in Middle Earth, you’ll soon notice that Tolkien was a lover of the wild, and rather reluctant to embrace the changes the industrial revolution brought about.
“How I wish the ‘infernal combustion’ engine had never been invented.”J.R.R. Tolkien
Sauron, the ultimate evil of the Third Age and the heart issue and namesake of the Lord of the Rings, is all about industrializing. Bending nature to his will rather than working in harmony with it. Using machines to mow down vast forests to fuel his machines — developing in his followers a mind of metal and wheels.
This subject could turn into a long winded political discussion, but I’m not heading that deep.
The idea is that the Lord of the Rings, through the intent and spirit of the author, conveys a love for the vast untouched wildernesses, as well as the simple undisturbed rural lifestyle of hobbits. It comes from a complex root system of beliefs, as do all convictions. But I’d rather just mention the branches.
The hobbit lifestyle is one of a classic farm life — inspired, if not almost completely modelled on the rural lifestyle of the English countryside, that seemed to slip more and more away though Tolkien’s lifespan.
“I am in fact a Hobbit in all but size. I like gardens, trees, and unmechanized farmlands; I smoke a pipe, and like good plain food…”J.R.R. Tolkien
There’s a lot to be said about health and how closeness to nature, and physical hard work in symbiosis with the earth seems to be the age old remedy.
Goop published a great article on longevity, and as a wool-peddler I just wanted to point out that among the earth’s longest living human’s, are shepherds. The benefits of wool has no end, it seems.
“Even as Silicon Valley and scientists all over the world try to crack the code for living longer and aging better, the best ways to increase health and extend longevity remain decidedly low-tech.”An article on Goop
A hobbit, therefore, would probably endeavor to enjoy the four hours it takes to knit a Red Hat Factory beanie, while chit chatting with their neighbor. A hobbit would wear handmade, because the infernal combustion engine driven massive knitting machine needed to do it mechanically would scare the life out of them.
Here I am, sitting in front of my very industrialized computer, writing an article on being in touch with nature. What’s the point?
We as brands do put some sort of message out there whether we try to or not — and though we are imperfect, and it will be, or come across as hypocritical at times, I want to advocate a simple lifestyle through our brand. Your life is not made better by following the latest fad — rather by seeking out and understanding timeless truths.
We believe that before trying too hard to keep up with the Kardashians, you need to wind down and be true to yourself. To enjoy what you’re doing — or do what you’re called to, some would say.
That is why we decided to tell the stories of fishermen, leathercrafters, climbers, painters and denim hunters, who all do what they do with great passion.
Not being able to travel to Norway due to Covid is hard on us all — especially as natives living abroad, missing our family. And for you wanting to visit: It’s after all the best country on God’s green earth (yes, we’re patriots). We put together a list of our photographic adventure trips to Norway, so you can feel like you’re there.
Not only does the Besseggen hike go down in our book of favorites, but the weather made for some great photos that I often return to flip through.
Maybe the most famous cluster of islands in all of Norway? On this family trip to Lofoten, we went with no photo equipment except our phones, but when the nature presents itself in such a way, even a phone can get some classic shots.
My good friend Asbjørn’s cabin, at an undisclosed location outside of Røldal on the western Norwegian coast. We spent several days there, and explored everything from waterfalls to mini-glaciers.
It’s the location of the first mountainous experience that blew me completely away. It has since become our go-to location when we are starved for mountains. The Lysefjord is only a four hour drive from my parents’ place in South Norway, and even the road across the mountains to get there is a sight to see.
Low quality photos, high quality trip. This day trip to the mountain road of Brokke–Suleskard was a highlight of the summer — rain notwithstanding.
Up, up, up. Anticipation is building. We’re only one ridge away from what we’re waiting for. Then we crest it, and the fjord spreads out far below us. Dots of summer clouds float above their own mirrored reflections, cast off the perfectly quiet, rich turquoise fjord water. We have arrived at the Pulpit Rock. And this, my first experience of Lysefjorden marked me for life.
I might be biased when claiming it as the most iconic fjord in Norway. Four hours of narrow winding mountain roads away from my parents’ home on the South Coast, this is the fjord closest to home for me. But hear me out.
Many fjords are gorgeous. Many are lush and green. But iconicity is something else. Sharp corners, barren rock, violent heights, make for features that stand out among the green lush forest that ride the lower slopes of the fjords.
From standing almost a kilometer above fjord level on a boulder stuck between two sheer cliff faces, to peering down from a 600m high plateau that protrudes like a triangle from the fjord wall, the Lysefjord offers some of the wildest, harshest vistas of Norwegian nature.
Put the iconicity to the test: Ask any Norwegian what Norwegian natural feature the two following icons represent, and I’m sure they’ll reply pretty quickly — Preikestolen and Kjeragbolten. Yes, those are the Norwegian names of the features.
The word fjord comes from the same root as ford, and originally meant the path you take to get somewhere. While I couldn’t find particular etymology on the place-name Lyse, in modern Norwegian it means light. I’d gladly stand corrected in if you have expertise on the subject.
I have gone the Path of Light five times at the time of writing this article — visited Kjerag twice, and the Pulpit Rock thrice — and through this article I want to bring you along to these locations, one by one. Let’s start with the triangular icon.
Height: 604m / 1,982 ft
Estimated Hiking Time: 2h each way
Difficulty: Pretty chill
If you follow any kind of travelgrams, or watched Mission: Impossible – Fallout, you can’t have missed it. The triangular, gigantic shelf that protrudes out of a straight cliff face plummeting 604m (1,982 ft) straight to fjord level.
“Every single time I go there I dream of falling the night after.”
Hiking up the north side of the west-to-east cutting fjord, the two-hour hike is a steady ascent until the fjord finally reveals itself. After staring into the alluring unattainable vista of the fjord, you round a corner and enter the plateau from the side (this is the most common route). The most daring of might want to stand on the edge, feeling that close brush with death, or dangle our feet as we sit down, death at a comfortable thigh’s length.
Like our good, fearless friend Keely in 2019.
If you want more pictures of the place, we put together a collection of Unsplash photos from Preikestolen.
The urban legend that belongs to the Rock, is the following: A gang of people grilling sausages near the plateau (very Norwegian thing to do on hikes). One sausage gets burned. They throw it over the edge. Their dog, too focused on sausage to think, follows it over the edge. Hopefully it’s all just an urban legend. I can hear the slowly fading howl in my mind, and it terrifies me.
The question of death toll often comes up when talking about a ledge-free 600m plateau that carries a jaw-dropping 300,000 tourists a year (roughly speaking — get exact facts somewhere else.) But despite this, there is only one recorded accident leading to death — not counting known suicides.
When you are at such heights, a primal fear awakens that you cannot experience by watching videos or photos.
Every single time I’ve gone, I dream of falling the night after. Or in the moments before I fall asleep I see myself leaning too far out and loosing my balance. When you are at such heights, a primal fear awakens (at least in most of us) that you cannot experience by watching videos or photos. You have to go there — and that’s the charm of it. All sense of adventure was not lost with the advent of social media. Being there IRL is something entirely else.
Height: 984m / 3,228 ft
Estimated Hiking Time: 2,5h each way
Difficulty: Very hard in the beginning, very chill on top
I still have strong memories from this trip. Getting up at four in the morning. Driving across winding mountain roads in one fell five hour swoop, then descending a bit to the starting point of the Kjerag hike. The music we listened to on that trip still awakens my wanderlust, the memory of driving below cliffs unfathomable and slinking down roads unknown, still makes me want to go and be overwhelmed again. To be lost in the grandeur of nature.
And also, while stuck in a passing herd, a cow licked the mirror of our car on one of these trips — oh, the sweet memories.
“First time I went there, my dad put one foot on the rock, then, quivering with fear refused for us to get out on it.”
This first time we hiked the Kjerag Bolt, we almost couldn’t find it. It was getting late in both the season and the day, and there were incredibly few people up in the mountains. And the bolt itself is not a protruding feature — quite the opposite.
Tucked in a crack 984m (3,228 ft) above the Lysefjord, it leaves you with a relatively small chunk of rock between you and the abyss. First time I went there, my dad put one foot on the rock, then, quivering with fear refused for us to get out on it.
Many years later (2020), me and my wife went there alone, and we had to do it. To step out on it yourself is one thing — to see the most precious person in your life do 964m high airtime between the cliff and the rock, is pure horror. But we survived. Even worse, the narrow rock ledge you have to step to get out there, is worn slick by all the adventurers that step onto the bolt year after year.
While the Kjerag Bolt hosts a lot less tourists than the Pulpit Rock — about 70,000/y — one might expect the death toll to be higher, given the narrow ledge one has to traverse to get out. But, first of all, I don’t believe 70k people actually step onto the rock. Secondly, if you do, you are immensely careful. Something that is proven by the clean round number of zero. Zero deaths from this rock.
While the Pulpit Rock is way more impressive than the hike there, the same is not true for Kjerag. Instead of coming in from the north, the Kjerag hike goes parallel to the fjord. It is an awe inspiring stroll on top of the world.
When you finally approach the Kjerag area, you must make sure to enter the rim of Nesatinden. From there you see the three iconic steps of the Kjerag Plateau, and a gorgeous open vista of the fjord. I saw BASE jumpers leap from the plateau both times I was there, so based on my experience there is a 2/2 chance you might see someone throw themselves off the cliffs like madmen.
Ever since that fateful drive across the mountains in ’05 — the one that cemented the mountains so deeply into my psyche that they can’t be uprooted — I’ve loved this road. It is a beautiful stretch of road, that goes from Setesdalen, east of the Lysefjord, directly westward across the mountains. It is narrow, winding, high, and best of all, full of free roaming sheep.
When the winter-closed Suleskard-road open, early each spring, there are these massive residues of snow left from the plows. And all over the mountains, there are patches of snow that stay all summer through. It’s a very eerie feeling, when for the first time, as a Norwegian child, you can have a snowball fight in July.
From where my parents live on the South Coast, this is the best road to take. One could take the coastal highway around, but understand this: There is a highway, and then there is a high way. We always choose the highest one. In 2019, when we drove the 41 km from Brokke to Suleskard, with our friends, we managed to get a few high altitude shots that I believe captures the experience quite well.
Walking on the top of the fjords, wind blowing unchallenged across the barren rock makes you feel alive. Photos can’t capture it, words can’t describe it. Make sure you don’t use this blogpost as a mere painkiller against your wanderlust. The lust is there to drive you outdoors so you can feel the burn in your muscles as you scale these mountains yourself.
If you have any questions or additions to this article, feel free to leave a comment, and we’ll answer to the best of our ability.
When I wore my red beanie cap to Tanzania in 2016, I admit I was more than just a little stubborn. Maybe a light cap to shade my eyes would have been a better pick. However, there is a good argument to be made for why a beanie is a great all-year-round EDC.
For some reason we tend to think of summer as this static 30℃/90°F cloudless state of being. But depending on where you live or what you do, this might be the case only half the time.
In Norway the weather is shifting pretty quickly, so we’re taught from childhood to be prepared for anything. That’s probably why I always throw my beanie cap in the backpack whenever I plan to spend the day outside.
A proper summer consists of midnight swims, cool evening strolls, scaling windy mountains where a sudden drizzle of rain takes you unawares. It is not all about laying in the sweltering sun working on your tan (something I absolutely hate personally — laying still is not my forte.)
So much of your body heat escapes through the head. There is a reason why a beanie is properly called a cap. You’re the thermos, the beanie is the cap. Whenever your beverage get’s cold, screw the cap on to preserve the heat.
When it comes to heat regulation, there’s nothing better than wool. Moist cotton beanies feel terrible in my opinion. If you’re going for the rough sort of summer — wet hair from midnight swims, facing the rain on a mountain top, sweating your way up a hill — wool is the best at handling moisture.
When I first stumbled upon Brent Underwood and his revitalization project at Cerro Gordo Mines, I quickly realized I wasn’t the only one who was drawn to this adventurer and his vlogs on the YouTube channel Ghost Town Living.
The weekly videos have become something I look forward to, and watch with glee — my 1,5 year old son in my lap, equally interested (at least for the first 5 minutes.)
Both as someone heading a brand that shares many of the same values, a basic human being, and a thinker, I find myself pondering again and again what it is that makes Brent and his abandoned ghost town so enticing.
Old things have a charm that can’t be reproduced. Time is the most valuable asset of all time. When you see wooden buildings carry over a 100 years of patina from wind, rain, storms and stray bullets — you know none of that can be reproduced any time soon.
“Time is the most valuable asset of all time.”
Well… in one way it can, but as soon as you discover it’s fake, the charm is broken.
Wrinkles are a mark of honor in my opinion. Whether it’s creases in our wooden floors from the patter of generations of feet, or whether it’s age and wisdom showing on our faces.
My parent’s house has a scar. Once when I was pretty young, I fell down the staircase, and smashed through the railing. One of the spindles broke, and though it’s now more than 20 years ago, it hasn’t been replaced. I don’t know why, but every time I see it I remember, not only the fall, but the good times of my childhood, and all the fun we’ve had climbing back and forth through the gap in the railing.
Wrinkles add history. And to see somebody care for and restore old and wrinkled buildings is immensely satisfying. Now, it will last, instead of time grinding it to desert dust.
Cerro Gordo has the wrinkles, and Brent Underwood knows how to appreciate them, with a contagious passion.
When Brent began broadcasting from Cerro Gordo, he pulled some epic monologues about longevity that hit home with me. Chatting about how startup business culture, often have become about how quickly you can grow your idea to a full fledged company, and sell it.
The idea of putting your heart into something so that you can sell it off to pursue your actual goals, have never rhymed much with me. There is something about the discrepancy between where you put your daily hours, and where you want to be that makes me sad. I want to build something that I’ll enjoy being a part of until the end.
“There is something about the discrepancy between where you put your daily hours, and where you want to be that makes me sad.”
To see something age, you have to own it. Whether that be your family, relationships, your craft, your company. Brent Underwood said that he’s not in it for the short term — he will probably spend his life at Cerro Gordo. And that kind of commitment wins my attention.
(P.S. Should you want to back out earlier, Brent, that’s ok too.)
I was both lucky and unlucky to experience the loss of a loved one very early in life. Death became a close acquaintance early on — one whom has been peeking over my shoulders almost every day since.
You who have experienced something similar knows that encountering death changes everything.
Memento mori, is an old latin phrase meaning remember your death. It’s about counting your days, so to speak, and spurring yourself to spend them well. What that means might be completely different from person to person, but it’s always worth talking about.
Growing up with that experience in the back pocket — or rather at the core of my being — I’ve often viewed the western culture I grew up in as shying away from death, rather than encouraging counting it into your plans.
Whether you believe in a life after or not, the idea that you have a finite time to make an impact, is only healthy, and might make you take some choices you wouldn’t normally take.
For Brent Underwood to be so frank as to speak out about this, he has my respect again, and it makes the videos feel like they have substance.
I don’t completely understand the psychology behind this, but there is an immense satisfaction in going back to the same location again and again, and slowly expand your knowledge of one area.
It’s like getting to know a person. First you learn their name and profession, but it’s not until you know their hopes and dreams, fears and history that you truly love them.
I guess I am the type that like to dig deep instead of broad sweeps. My favorite vacation location is Norway, my own country. There are untold secrets hidden in those mountains, and each trip just makes me feel like I could explore so much more. So I find myself back, again and again, driving old roads over, but expanding slowly into new branches.
Watching Brent go into every nook and cranny of Cerro Gordo overground, and also map out each of the myriad of mine shafts gives me a sense of peace. It’s as if I trick myself into feeling like I have a grasp over something in life.
Some think that perfectionism is when you like things “perfect.” That’s only the kind brother of actual perfectionism. The ailment with the same name, is when you have your eye on a flawless unattainable fantasy, and nothing is ever good enough for you.
“All of us can sort of see ourselves in Brent’s shoes, as he leaves the city to pursue a dream that he has little knowledge of how to attain.”
This is something that infests social media and the internet as a whole. And when we find respite from that — an experience of real humanity among all the edited perfection — it makes us feel right at home. All of us can sort of see ourselves in Brent’s shoes, as he leaves the city to pursue a dream that he has little knowledge of how to attain (his words, not mine.)
And then we’re able to peek in on the journey as he solves problems. After I’ve watched one of his videos I’m ready to go solve some problems of my own.
I think ultimately, it’s this transparent humanity that makes the channel so satisfying to watch, and will be the thing that I will strive for in my own life.
Things will always be in motion and under construction. “Complete” doesn’t exist, so we might as well learn to enjoy the journey as we each try to polish the little piece of the world that is given into our care — our family, our friends, our colleagues, our crafts and belongings.
Now, what makes you love Brent and the Cerro Gordo project?
Minimalism is the art of shedding excess.
Well. I’m not going to stay in the minimal typographical mode through this article. I am not a true minimalist. But I believe I can learn something from almost any lifestyle. When it comes to minimalism, there are a few things I as a midimalist want to emulate.
His garage is a wonderland.
When I, as a child, went there with him, there was no telling what I’d find. Below a stack of shoes from 1978, there would be a pair of beautiful old ice skates from the dawn of time — and I looked on them in wonder, wondering at how fast my dad could make those bad boys skid.
Likewise when I found a pair of jumping skis, I imagined his younger years when he flew almost a 100m through the air strapped to a pair of primitive planks.
Building a play cabin behind the garage was a dream, since old planks from old garages and sheds were stacked high in memory of former times, and I was free to use all of it.
I learnt that hoarding is wondrous — it’s an adventure.
Moving to an apartment, I went through a severe rebellion against the hoarding of my youth. When I was a child I had saved all my old toothbrushes for a while, because they had nice pictures of Disney characters on them. I cried when my mom told me to throw them away.
Hey! I was really young — don’t judge me. I was only 17.
Just kidding. (Or am I?)
Anyway. Enough tears shed over Unca Scrooge, printed on my beautiful orange toothbrush, hopefully not decaying along with all the worlds plastic in the middle of the pacific somewhere.
“Enough tears shed over Unca Scrooge, printed on my beautiful orange toothbrush, hopefully not decaying along with all the worlds plastic in the middle of the pacific somewhere.”
Moving around several times as a newcomer in Stockholm, Sweden, I quickly realized I don’t want much stuff. Stuff is something you have to carry. Deadweight. A liability. In extreme response to my upbringing, I wanted to throw away everything.
*insert maniacal gif here*
My wife however, as so often, helped me realize that we need some stuff. So now I have finally turned into a Midimalism. Neither a minimalist or a maximalist, but somewhere in the boring, gray, middle.
I don’t mind.
I watched a documentary on minimalism — in fact, it spurred this article. They put it so nicely, explaining that minimalism is most of all about appreciating everything you own.
If you don’t either need it, or deeply want it, don’t buy it. Get rid of the urge to just buy for the sake of buying.
This is something I’ve taken to heart. I find much more pleasure in, rather than buying a book series, buying one book. Then when I finish it, I reward myself with buying the next installment.
This way I enjoy my current book way more, and buying the next one becomes a reward that cost me something.
It is about focusing more on enjoying what you have than all the time looking for the next thing. And I think we all can agree that it’s a sad feature of human nature that we tend to look outside of our own four walls for the next kick, instead of celebrating what we have.
I am convinced (and it’s my experience) that the times we practice more gratefulness, for our family, our belongings, our friends, we are so much better off. And therefore it’s something I try, though flawed, to pursue.
Sorry, meme culture destroyed that heading.
If you’d ask my grandmother what has changed with the world during her almost 100 years — and if she was eloquent in English — she would probably talk about instant gratification.
More than ever, thanks to the industrial revolution, so many of us can have whatever the heck we want.
My grandmother has the same handcrafted table and chairs she’s had since she was newly married. They knew the one who made it (before buying local was a trend) and it cost them a lot. It is still in tip top shape. I admire that a lot — the gratefulness and care she, and much of her generation has for everything she owns.
That is why me and my wife love heritage objects. A set of plates from my grandma (once again, in tip top shape) from right after WWII, and it was handed to us with a story including the Rat Catchers and their hunting in the forest during the war to provide for their families (in risk of being caught and mistaken for part of the resistance movement), drama and resentment, kindness and willingness to give.
Our wedding rings that has been worn three generations ago and then refitted to us, is to us way more valuable than any new ring would be, because of the tie to our history that it provides.
I firmly believe in the concept of rather having one nice thing that I really appreciate and care for, than 100 that are meh. Things that have a history, or else that are made with such craftsmanship that they can be passed from us down into future generations.
When we designed the first model of our line, there was never a question around our chosen material. Wool was the one and true answer. Curly sheep hair is inseparable from Norwegian culture and the roots of the brand — but how, and why has it become so?
Norwegian children wear wool. It’s a thing. Parents buy it, sell it, hand knit it, and promote it. There’s nothing like a mom-made wool sweater, or even a pair of cold-resistant inner wool-trousers to get you through the -20℃ winters.
It is ingrained in Norwegian culture to such a degree that I never questioned its benefits before I was about a year into running Red Hat Factory. One day I realized that as a wool-peddler I should probably know a bit more about the specifics of why it’s considered so great.
I’ve heard it said time and time again, from the age when my mother forced my child-legs into a pair of light blue hand-knit wool trousers and sent me out playing in the snow.
Those pants itched like crazy — an issue longe since solved, more about that in the next section — but they sure kept me warm.
A practical, and maybe slightly nasty example from adult life, is this. When I’ve been having a fever, and woken up shivering in a cold pool of my own sweat, a standard set of a thin woolen long sleeved shirt + woolen long johns solves the issue. I can sleep through the night, and wake up in a nice temperate pool of my own sweat instead.
Yeah, I told you it was nasty. But that’s life for you.
So, why does wool stay warm even when wet?
You can get into a deep wormhole when researching this, but put super simply, wool is a complex structure, designed to keep sheep at an even temperature in a wide range of weather conditions. Without even touching on the science I don’t understand, it seems wool absorbs your sweat into itself, leading it away from your body, and then allows it to vaporize at a leisure inside of the wool, not touching your skin.
On the flip side, wool is also relatively water resistant from the outside. How does that work? Don’t ask me. Ask Google.
“I basically live inside a set of wool shirt and long johns the entire winter, and could not imagine anything that feels more natural.”
As you understand, I haven’t the faintest grasp on the inner workings of this, but I have a lifetime of experience enjoying the benefits. I basically live inside a set of wool shirt and long johns the entire winter, and could not imagine anything that feels more natural. And, as it turns out, from this picture my mom pulled out of the album — I have done so all my life.
One of our friends and Red Hat Factory beanie-owners said something akin to “I basically live inside of this beanie. It’s the first wool beanie I’ve had that doesn’t itch.”
The thick Norwegian wool I was wearing when I grew up was itchy — and that was the talk of the town among us children. “Hey, ma is forcing me into these itchy woolly hell-pants again.” But those days are long gone.
“Hey, ma is forcing me into these itchy woolly hell-pants again.”
Where does the itch come from, and how has humanity combated this great evil?
The thickness of wool grains is measured in microns (1‰ of a mm), and the infamous itchiness threshold is at 27 micron. While Norwegian sheep naturally produce a rougher grain, to withstand the wild mountain weather, there are ways to grind the wool to a finer grain size — so even Norwegian wool doesn’t have to itch anymore.
Another way to go, is to use wool from more temperate climates. We use wool from South America, where the climate naturally softens up he wool on the sheep, and it is below the itchiness treshold all-by-its-natural.
That was the headline of every single day of my life, living inside a full wool attire.
If you’ve used wool a lot, you’ve probably either heard or noticed that you don’t have to wash it that much. A bit of Googling shows that it consistency nails the top scores on low-odor tests. Many venture as far as to name it anti-bacterial.
We’ve already established, I am not a scientific genius, so I won’t venture into any advanced vocabulary, but fall back on my experience. The wool sweaters I wear on the outside, I rarely wash at all, and they never smell. The inner layer of wool — the long johns and long sleeve wool shirt — I wash more, but still much more seldom than other fabrics, and yes it’s absolutely true, they take a longer time to gain stinkage.
So, why does wool smell less?
Lanolin, also called wool grease, -wax, -oil, or -fat, is a grease that sheep produce, and that is mixed into the wool. The grease apparently protects the sheep from infections, and is used in a lot of skin creams and such. Sounds pretty rad to me, and makes me think wool just straight off kills bacteria — but that doesn’t seem to be the case.
“And there, deep inside of the wool, the bacteria are kept safely away from each other, so they can’t make more smelly bac-babies.”
One article I read said it’s not that lanolin actually kills bacteria, but the odor-killing abilities of wool actually come from the way it transports sweat away from your body, including all the nasty things that inhabit the sweat. And there, deep inside of the wool, the bacteria are kept safely away from each other and your skin, so they can’t make more smelly bac-babies.
So maybe, you should wash your wool occasionally — but not that often.
What if you were offered to buy an abandoned mining town? The price would correspond approximately to your entire life’s savings. For Brent Underwood the answer was yes.
In 2018, the marketing genius, threw his life savings into a pool with a few other investors and bought the historical town of Cerro Gordo, California. Among his partners, he alone is actively living in the mining town as they slowly restore it to former glory.
Cerro Gordo was one of the major sources of wealth for the Los Angeles region since it was started back in 1865, until it shut down in the late 1950’s. The first silver was found by a Spanish-speaker named Pablo Flores, who named it “Fat Hill,” a.k.a Cerro Gordo.
Such was the economic impact of the silver mines that in 1869 The Los Angeles Times called it the silver cord that binds our present existence.
Now the silver is long extracted, and lead and zinc as well. And the town is abandoned, crumbling, with many a mineshaft collapsed. But that is about to change. The silver of the 21st century, after all, is tourism, and once again these mines will extract ore.
I first heard about the mines in my YouTube recommendations, when a video named Day In The Life: Living Alone In An Abandoned Ghost Town popped up. I was intrigued (as the title intended), and with my 1 year old boy on my lap, we hunkered down and plowed though several of the videos in one go.
It is reality-tv that inspire one of the values we promote here at Red Hat Factory. Fighting back against the stress of our culture, and embracing the rest that comes with being completely absorbed in what you’re doing.
What is it that has such a draw about the Cerro Gordo restoration project? I think the idea of taking something once great, and slowly bringing it back to life is such a primal human desire. We are made to create and improve, and following others on their journey of doing so is immensely satisfying.
It also helps that the scenery is absolutely stunning, again and again.
And goats, quad bikes, mine exploration, along with the restoration itself. Can it get more inspiring?
I don’t know, but at least it can get more dramatic…
The silver mines hold a long history of hard work, success and tragedy. And recently another disaster became part of the 155 years of history. The American Hotel, which was a hallmark of the mining town, burned to the ground.
“Cerro Gordo is not a start up,” said Brent Underwood, and he claims he will die there. This long term thinking resounds deeply with me. From the beginning, Red Hat Factory, has been more than just a start up to grow and sell, and I relate to the feeling of wanting to stick with your passion through thick and thin.
However, I don’t dare to claim I’ll die with Red Hat Factory.
When the fire struck, I think the commitment showed. They will have to rebuild it from scratch, and winter is coming. But Brent refuses to sell and leave. With his goats and his score of kittens for company, he keeps working away at the place, all the while delivering reality-tv of the best kind.
Each video drops little bits and pieces of history, often based from things he discovers while scavenging the mining shafts.
A large part of life at Cerro Gordo, as I already mentioned, is exploring mines. The land is so riddled with shafts and tunnels, that Brent can literally head out on his huge property with no plan, and go look for signs of humans, and it leads him to a shaft. The trails of drinking bottles, tuna cans and metal pieces often lead us up to the gaping dark entrances, and in we go.
The amount of tunnels and shafts that crisscross subterranean Cerro Gordo is astounding. Kilometer after kilometer of undiscovered territory, just waiting to be searched for 150+ year old artifacts. Maybe it was just a can of tuna for the hungry miner of 1865, but for us it’s a treasure of history.
The main treasure he’s looking for is denim — and I know a lot of you Red Hatters love denim. If you find a pair of original 150 year old Levi’s jeans, they can go for quite the sums. Levi’s themselves, among others, will buy it back from the finder.
Lost jeans however is a whole another area to dive into. I am aware of the subculture of denim hunters — and if you’re one of them, please reach out to me and tell your story. The Red Hat community would love to hear all about that!
I, for one, am excited to keep following the journey of Brent Underwood and Ghost Town Living as the area slowly gets restored.
Here’s the video that reeled me in.
Watching a documentary about being to addicted to the screen is kinda paradoxical isn’t it? Anyhow… that’s what I did.
Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about how much of my life really is digital.
I like to listen to a podcast in the morning while I hang out with my son. I work with design and programming the whole day, and then often watch a screen or listen to some kind of audio in the evening.
It’s shocking at times to assess the time you put down on certain things.
Now, I think all-things digital are awesome. The screen can hold an array of great hobbies, or a job you enjoy. But as with all good things, too much isn’t good.
A couple of Saturdays ago, me and my family decided to take a digital off-day and drop both audio and screen time for the entire day. It was such a detox, and so much easier when we didn’t do it alone.
We (as a general culture) suffer from sensory overload all the time, and if we don’t get ahead of it, it can consume us. Doing a detox when you’re in a more busy period, is necessary, but can be hard.
I have at times done a few tweaks to my life that turned out helpful, and I thought I’d share them.
My Facebook and my Instagram (which I need for work) always have notifications turned off. Still I don’t miss a thing, because I check them. The difference is, I decide when it’s time to do it, not digital dings from my devices.
This helped me much more than I had anticipated.
When last summer came around, I was pretty stressed out, and I decided to delete both Instagram and Facebook. It wasn’t that I never would use them, but if I did, I’d have to install them first.
The amount of times I mindlessly took my phone up and swiped from screen to screen, realizing there were nowhere to go, was outright scary.
After that detox lasting about a month, I still use both FB and IG way less (months and months later).
It kinda got out of my system.
My mother loves knitting, as y’all know by now. Your knit products from Red Hat Factory may or may not have been knit on a roadtrip, on an airplane, during a family birthday gathering or my mom’s fun night out with friends. She knits till her hands burn, and then some more.
If you have a digital hobby, I believe it’s important to pair it with a physical one, because a screen is both a stimulant, and more straining on your eyes than you think.
Woodwork, reading or getting out in nature — whatever’s not on a screen — puts the eyes (and maybe even the soul) to rest.
Maybe it’s time to go on those hikes you watched on Instagram instead of just liking them?
You can read about a great hike in Norway right here.
Having a lot of ADHD tendencies, this one is the hardest for me, and I bet some, if not all, of you can relate.
I get an idea and act on it very fast. I’ll be sitting working on an article for Red Hat Factory, when an idea for a great Instagram Reel pops up, and suddenly I’m there, looking for material for that Reel. And the article… well, he is crying alone in my drafts.
It’s so easy to just pop open Instagram and start scrolling. What if instead you were intentional. No shame in wasting three hours scrolling through memes if that was what you needed. But randomly ending up in such a rabbit hole because you didn’t think before you picked up your phone, is worse.
I try to start my mornings (being self employed) deciding what to do and making a to do list. Thinking before I jump into it. And when it comes to new ideas for Red Hat Factory, I try to run them by someone else before deciding.
One of the best things I did after this summer was going though all my side projects and just shutting them down one by one.
“No, I’ll not do that this season,” and “this one has to go…” and “you must die. Sorry…”
It might sound like you’re killing creativity by shutting down creative side-projects, but if you have too many of them, it might be just what is needed.
In my case I shut down almost everything but Red Hat Factory, and work has been more refreshing than ever since then. All my stray ideas can be snuffed out instantly, leaving space for me to go through with the “non-stray” ones, and give them the time it takes to be done properly.
I am in no way a “chill out-guru,” but as you might or might not know, one of Red Hat Factory’s value statements is the following.
“Our aim is to honor handcrafting skills passed down through generations, and to reclaim that space of no-stress that gives a worker the ability to perform his or her best while enjoying the craft.”
So seeking out chill spaces is part of our core.
Speaking of staying with one activity at a time. I began (and finished first draft) of this article after beginning to watch a Netflix documentary about social media.
I got 10 minutes and 37 seconds in, before my mind started wandering, and this article came to life.
I could chalk it up to ADHD, but even if life’s various challenges are different for all of us, I still believe that we should play our very best game with the cards we’re given. And playing your best game requires putting as many distractions as possible aside.
Now, what are your best tips for decluttering our digital lives?
The red hand knit cap is the beginning and the heart of our company. Everyone from Jaques Cousteau to Kanye West wears them. But what outfits go well with a red beanie?
They are poster children for the red cap, and are mentioned a lot in Red Hat Factory articles. What all their iconic outfits have in common is the red/blue contrast, which is one of my personal favorites. I often wear a denim shirt with my red cap.
In nature, the red cap stands out, and that is kind of the point. Wearing military style greens with the cap is never a mistake. Especially if you’re out hunting and want to avoid being mistaken for a moose.
As you blend with nature, the cap pops even more.
It is yet another favorite for us at the Factory.
Yellow has become the iconic color for rain jackets. Red is the same for knit caps. Two bright icons together creates a colorful collision. Also, the rain jacket as a fisherman’s working wear, draws out the history of the fisherman beanie in your outfit.
Black and white are seldom wrong “color” choices when it comes to lending voice to other pieces of apparel. If you want your beanie to shine, why not go monochrome — white or black?
Here at Red Hat Factory we are much more interested in seeing what you can come up with.
How you integrate our caps into your style is way more fun than telling you how to do it. That is why we deliver our hand knit pieces as a long “sausage” of wool that you fold yourself.
After all, though it’s a corny thing to say, the best piece of apparel is actually confidence.
The third day in Røldal sees rainclouds traveling across the layered mountains to cover the valley where we are huddled up in the small red cabin.
Rain, however, doesn’t mean we need to abstain from adventuring. It simply means we must get dressed against the elements. And maybe also do what we decide to — make it a roadtrip.
There is a path Asbjørn knows that will take us through the township of Røldal, then up and up on winding gravel paths that dig deep into the mountains.
The Blueberry Valley it is called.
Rain hangs thickly in the air as we take the narrow gravel road from the cabin and head towards the township. Here we will buy some road snacks and then head right up into the mountains.
Snack packed, we go.
As we first crest the top of the winding road, we see a cabin. A small old mountain cabin, that probably has been used by shepherds at some time in history.
The rain is already way lighter.
The old faithful VW is on the road again, like so many times before. It makes for a spacious hangout while the rain occasionally comes pouring.
At the end of the gravel road, which runs surprisingly far up the valley, we have to leave the car. That does not mean we have to stop though. There’s a path following a river further upwards, and at the top are small snow patches, that I like to call tiny glaciers.
One of those become our target.
The glaciers are small compared to the mountainous surroundings, but in reality I can walk fully upright under the crest of them.
In the end we rest at the top and enjoy the view. A view that is far better enjoyed with a friend than alone.
In the end we are back. Hungry, and ready for rest, we start cooking while the darkness wraps itself around the tiny red cabin. Tomorrow it’s time for the return home.
All the pictures from this story, plus the other chapters are gathered under #rhfgoestorøldal on Instagram.
Also, all our Adventure Story pictures are found under the hashtag #rhfadventurestories.
He gets a lot of mention on Red Hat Factory. The legend, the sea farer — or more accurately, below-sea farer — the style guru for Red Hatters across the world, and diving equipment development pioneer. But was he also a megalomaniac? Let’s find out.
Born 1910 in France, his career first pointed him towards the air. He had completed mostly every step on the way to become a naval pilot, when luck struck him.
He broke both his arms in a car accident.
It broke him out of his current career path, and maybe it made him think twice. After that accident, he chose to pursue his passion for the ocean, for which he would devote his whole life.
“The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.”Jacques-Yves Cousteau
At the beginning of WWII, Jaques-Yves Cousteau and his wife Simone took refuge in Megève, a small village near the French Alps — not far from Mont Blanc. Here he met Marcel Ichac.
Cousteau and Ichac had one thing in common — documentary films. Ichac’s passion for showing inaccessible mountains to the public, and Cousteau’s passion for the depths, made for an interesting duo.
It began a long line of documentary releases, some of which made film history.
“Every explorer I have met has been driven—not coincidentally but quintessentially—by curiosity, by a single-minded, insatiable, and even jubilant need to know.”Jacques-Yves Cousteau — The Human, the Orchid, and the Octopus
In 1943, they won their first prize for a co-made documentary called Par dix-huit mètres de fond, or in English, 18 meters deep. It was filmed on the French Embiez Islands with no breathing equipment.
The camera was always with Cousteau, and his two main interests remained diving and film making through his life.
His most significant release was without a doubt The Silent World, which won an Academy Award for best Documentary Feature, and was the first ever documentary film to win an Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. The film was cut from 25 kilometer of film reel, filmed over 2 years, and brought the depths to the public like never before.
The desire to go ever deeper and unveil hidden depths to the public, drove Cousteau and his crew to ever greater lengths. The next film Épaves, or Shipwrecks, was filmed using the first ever Aqua-Lung prototype.
The Aqua-Lung is the invention that brought air-tank based diving equipment to the general public, and Émile Gagnan, a French engineer, together with our man Cousteau are credited with its creation.
The Aqua-Lung was not a completely new idea — few inventions are — but it came from a couple of other genius contraptions combined to maximize the time one could spend underwater.
Once again it was Cousteau’s desire to go deeper that drove the innovation forward. And it would be far from the last time.
“From birth, man carries the weight of gravity on his shoulders. He is bolted to earth. But man has only to sink beneath the surface and he is free.”Jacques-Yves Cousteau
For some years Cousteau worked with the brand new Underwater Research Group, which was created by the French navy to add force behind his endeavors to explore the depths.
His time within the group led him on everything from mine-clearing missions, to rescue operations, to spying endeavors across the entire world. All along, he pioneered underwater technology and explored further possibilities.
After a few years he left the navy and leased his now infamous ship, the Calypso. The lease was one franc per year — a mere symbolic sum — and the ship became his home base. A research vessel fitted for diving and documentary film making.
“The sea, the great unifier, is man’s only hope. Now, as never before, the old phrase has a literal meaning: we are all in the same boat.”Jacques-Yves Cousteau
It was during his time on Calypso, after years of experience and clout generation, that he teamed up with Jean Mollard, and they built the commonly dubbed “diving saucer.”
It was exactly what it sounds like — a flying saucer that could go to 350 meters of depth. The official name was SP-350 and the nickname, Denise. It could handle a crew of two, laying down, and was famously used by Cousteau to explore the wreck of HMHS Britannic.
Actually, the search for Britannic, which is a sister ship of the Titanic and the Olympic, began under quite interesting circumstance.
Jaques Cousteau was in Greece looking for Atlantis. Yes, that Atlantis — the legendary city, sunken in the sea.
He didn’t find the city, but during his time there, he was contacted by the Titanic Historical Society, who wanted him to search for Titanic’s lost sister. The Britannic had sunk at some unknown location while serving as a hospital ship during WWI. This one he did find, and its discovery began what would mount up to 68 manned dives to the wreck by Jaques and his team.
One of these dives, in Denise, happened when Jaques was 67 years old, and it became one of Cousteau’s deepest dives ever.
Astronauts actually owe a lot to Cousteau. He was among the first to spearhead a humane habitat in an atmosphere not fit for human life. Under the sea, he built a village, where him and his crew could spend months at a time.
There has been a Conshelf I, II, and III built and launched.
One of the shelfs even had a docking station for Denise.
Obviously, the adventurers were studying ocean life while they lived down below, but also, their living situation provided insight into how a different air pressure affected humans. Their hair and beards grew slower, but cuts healed quicker. It was an alien world, and they made it habitable in a whole new way.
The Conshelves are covered in much more detail in this brilliant Medium article.
“The best way to observe a fish is to become a fish.”Jacques Yves Cousteau
There is a Jaques Cousteau quote that’s circulating the internet. It’s pretty shocking, and after some research, it turns out it’s completely genuine.
“In order to save the planet it would be necessary to kill 350,000 people per day.”Jacques-Yves Cousteau
The quote in its context is just as bad as it sounds. Talking to UNESCO about what we could do to eliminate human suffering and disease, he replied that it was probably not a great idea to do, since for the planet to survive we would have to eliminate 350,000 people a day. (My understanding of the quote is that we should let nature run its course on the sick, and don’t interfere.)
Lightly perusing Jaques Cousteau’s life, you see an otherworldly, almost painting-esque adventurer, but if you dig a bit deeper, his humanity shines through, in all its imperfection. And as you’ll see, he was a man willing to admit to his shortcomings.
I am not a fan of holding a man to his mistakes, but this is a side of the picture that needs painting as well, if we’re doing the deep dive.
Many connect Jaques with a fiery engagement for nature — as we saw on the earlier quote — but for him to become the spokesman for mother nature that he became, a complete u-turn was required.
During the filming of The Silent World, Cousteau and his crew famously injured a whale on purpose, thus attracting sharks who ate the poor fellow — all for the movie shots.
At another time they used dynamite near a coral reef to study the species that come floating to the surface — something that to your modern ears may sound worse than the filthiest swearword.
However, later in Cousteau’s life he did a 180, and began speaking up for the ocean big time.
To such a point was his turnaround that he is said to have insisted on sharing the clips where him and his crew mistreats oceanic life to create great shots — instead of attempting a cover up.
Though he tried to dive ever deeper, he was willing to let his humanity float to the surface.
“Water and air, the two essential fluids on which all life depends, have become global garbage cans.”Jacques Yves Cousteau
In the beginning of his career, movie making seems to have taken the front seat, and the ocean was only a tool to be manipulated in ways to get the best shot. However, as his understanding of the ocean, and its relationship to humankind deepened, the focus turned.
His turnaround engagement resulted in the founding of the Cousteau Society for the Protection of Ocean Life, which still is actively teaching people across the globe about the ocean and its ecosystems.
The red knit cap that Jaques Cousteau wore became an icon, very much because of the man himself (and his crew, who also wore them). (Wes Anderson also had a role in bringing it to the next generation.)
After having spent most his life on sea, he slowly became a tv-personality and a household name. Through both film and tv he made his way into people’s living rooms, thus connecting the red hat with adventure forever and after.
The red hat has a whole story in itself, running back through the navy, but that’s a subject for another article. All we need to cap this article off (pun not intended), is a fantastic quote from one of Cousteau’s tv-appearances.
“The Calypso crew and I will be undertaking a series of voyages of exploration and discovery in all the seas of the world. We have few rules and no uniforms, only the right cap.”Jaques-Yves Cousteau
And so do we. The world is at our feet, and we have few rules — only the right cap.
Cousteau continues to inspire, not only for his hunger for the deeps, and skill in the craft of film making, but for his willingness to change as he went along in life, and to not attempt a perfect fasade.
Rough, sturdy and simple — the working class fisherman and his rough knit cap has ever been an inspiration for how we knit our products. But how deep into that history can we dig?
We already wrote a whole article about the Steve Zissou hat, and how that has shaped our beanies. Steve is a fictional character who draws his inspiration from red beanie wearing, submarine genius Jaques Cousteau. But what inspiration was he drawing on? — what connected beanies to the seafarer in the first place?
I’d love to come up with something deeply symbolic, but I think history is very simple — yet beautiful — when it comes to the fisherman beanie.
Imagine coastal society. It’s a time when most women are the keepers of the house, while the men are out providing for the family’s economical needs.
Say what you want about gender roles — I’m not here to discuss that, but simply to dig into history.
There are deep historical roots to why knitting is prevalent among women in Norway (where Red Hat Factory comes from) to this day. I know my mother learnt it from her mother, who again probably learnt it from hers — the roots stretch far back.
Those days were a time when the woman was tasked with actually protecting the household against the elements — and among the responsibilities was keeping her family warm at the onset of winter.
In our imagined little coastal society, not all the fishermen could afford a water proof sou’wester, so the next best alternative stood in line. Wool was readily available, and the property of wool that isolates even when wet made it a fine second choice.
So she knits him a beanie, tight knit because of years of skill (she has knit for every one of her seven kids) and full of care because she desperately wants her man to come home from the sea, today as every day before.
In this way the hand knit fisherman beanie represents a simple life of hard work and survival that most people through history has lived.
It is good to look at history for perspective, and maybe to gain some gratefulness.
Finding images of actual fishermen, wearing beanies is tremendously hard. The modern trend of the fisherman beanie has taken over image searches, pushing the black and white genuine photos aside.
Mostly whenever I find a picture of what we would call a fisherman beanie today, it turns out to be a modern day portrait, taken with a vintage style. The real pictures I’ve found however, reveals something very interesting.
It seems that people put whatever they wanted on their heads before heading out to sea. And that is just how we like it.
You might have noticed on the first picture, beside Cousteau, that the fisherman has an incredibly long beanie with a pom-pom at the end.
The style derives from fishing societies in Portugal, specifically the Povoan culture.
The culture was centered around fishing. Their legends and their religion — it all swirled around the sea, sea creatures and fish. Saint Andrew was believed to fish the souls of the perished at sea into heaven, and they avoided work on Sunday because of an old legend about a sea serpent punishing people who violated the holy day of rest.
Most importantly though, they wore the longest fishermen beanies the world has ever seen with pom-pom and all — and with that they sported the wildest sideburns known to man.
Deeming from the last illustration, the beanies were even red. And you know exactly how we feel about that!
When we set out to design the first ever Red Hat Factory model, we didn’t go looking for the spectacular. Quite the contrary.
Looking at products and heritage items we consider absolute classics, we noticed one commonality. The classic yellow rain jacket, rough worn oak tables, faded leather belts, the knives that my dad has hanging on his wall, that we have used on all my childhood adventures — they all share one trait.
From the outset, we knew we were making a product the old way — the way it’s been done from generation to generation. And wanting to also create a product that would be appreciated for generations, I let my mom take me back in time, showing me an array of basic simple knitting methods and their aesthetics.
I’ve learned through both design and writing, that the creative process often starts with a more bloated product, and then is slimmed down through the cutting off of unnecessary features.
I am sure a lot of you can relate that to your own work. We often over-design — then cut back.
For the first Red Hat Factory cap, we went through 5–10 different models, and model by model we dropped things. First the unique knit pattern along the edge, then the shaped panels that gave an approximate head shape to the product.
Finally, after hours upon hours of work, I dropped a final idea on my mother. “What if we just make the hat a tube, and let the owner shape it by wearing it.”
It sounds boring, but in all its simplicity, it actually worked best.
And the people loved it.
“The quality is amazing, and I know I’ll be able to use it for years to come!”Morten Furre, Australia
“Fantastic quality, durable and stylish. Each Red Hat has been hand crafted with love and attention to detail.”Greg Burkin, Canada
“[The Southlander] is by far my favorite – it’s quality top notch and unlike my other beanies it feels just perfect. Whether you’re dressed up and going out on the town or just heading to the store this is a must for any occasion.”Nathan Pearson, USA
“I am using the Southlander pretty much every day.”Asbjørn Østreim, Norway
“Like a good wine, this gets better with age.”Billy Chester, USA
We knew we had hit something.
Finally the first of what was to become the Southlander was off the needles, knit using the technique called ribbestrikk in Norwegian, and sowed together in an x on the top. Nothing more nothing less.
The tube shape makes it look small when you get it, but once it’s had some time to shape itself to your head, it becomes better fitted to you than any pre-formed shape could bring.
Also, since the cap is a simple tube with no defined edge, you control how you fold it. We have another article that dives deeper into possible folding styles.
From fishermen to carpenters, the simple, yet gritty style of a workman’s beanie has been a hallmark of the hard working craftsman.
Simple is classic.
When we first released the beanies to the webshop, the Southlander was simply named the Rounded. And paired with the simple design and the simple name, came a very simple sketched icon.
The whole brand was built and centered from the historic notion of the old beanie, knit by a wife before she sent her husband out on the sea to haul fish nets in the pouring rain.
While he is out fishing, the woman gets a business idea, and hastily she sketches down a few beanies with her pen. Then she sighs and peers out the window, wondering whether he will return today or not.
Little did that proverbial woman know she was planting the seed of Red Hat Factory to come.
That is the story behind the type of assets we use in the brand to this day. They have evolved a lot, but the style remains. Mom-made. Home made. Simple lines.
The North Cap was at first a failed attempt to cap off the beanie in a round fashion. It became pointier than it was supposed to.
When my quirky brother in law saw it, however, he loved it more than what I considered the final product. I soon realized we needed a second model. Based on the first, but with a touch of different, for the more explorative soul.
In line with the simple brand, we just named it the Pointy Tip.
Its base was, and still is, exactly the same as the Southlander, but it caps off in a peak rather than a half circle, making it the first choice of the ones who wants a basic cap, but with a slight edge to it.
It still is a classic though, and draws much of its inspiration back to the movie The Life Aquatic, which itself draws on the real life character Jacques Costeau.
A long time we only had two models, one color. And I refused every suggestion for additional colors and other products — very purposefully. I felt like if we were going to be the Red Hat Factory, we need to have at least a year, where we are just that — a factory of Red Hats.
As a side note, we aren’t really using a factory — it is true hand knit. But that is a different story.
The third beanie model, the Bay Bee, has a boringly simple history. When a friend, in our early days, asked if we had one for children, we said yes, and made a smaller version of the Southlander.
Not much more to say on that.
There is an interesting feature to the baby model, however. You know how I told you that the wool beanies are very small, and stretches a lot to fit your head. This is just how wool needs to be to properly fit you. On the Bay Bee, this makes the beanie fit from babyhood to 3-4 years old, but look very different at each stage.
You can see we stuck with the simple names, but you’ll notice, the following drawing is a little more polished around the edges than its predecessors. This actually inspired me to rebrand and rename all the beanies in turn.
Most our customers express surprise when they see the size of the new beanie. It is small.
Your average cotton beanie doesn’t stretch a lot, so what you see is what you get. A wollen knit cap will grow with you, and take its shape from your head. In the beginning, the hat can even be a bit slippy for some people, especially when your hair is newly shampooed.
Like a good pair of selvedge jeans, or a new set of leather boots, it needs to be worn in. After that, it will be your most trusty friend.
Many also express surprise at the lack of any brand assets on the cap. You get a Certificate of Authenticity upon purchase, and there will be stickers in the box — but the beanie itself is completely bare.
We chose this because of the history of the brand. Taking the experience of growing up with a knitting mother and bringing it to you. When she knit me a piece, there was no brand. It was pure, just a gift of love from a parent to a child, and therefore we keep the beanies pure.
Washing instructions are found on the web.
With the lack of brand, the texture of the beanie needs to stand out even more, and so it does. We chose wool partly for its features (isolates even when wet), but also a lot because of its look. Gritty and rough, connecting you with the hard worker on the seas a hundred years ago, the construction workers balancing the beams of Empire State Building when it came up, and the kind hands that knit it — stitch by stitch, with care.
The Red Hat Factory hand knit beanie style has multiple sources of inspiration, but one sticks just a little bit above the crowd. The Steve Zissou hat from Life Aquatic.
The Life Aquatic is a Wes Anderson movie from the early 2000’s, starring Bill Murray as Steve Zissou, a documentary film maker and oceanographer setting out hunting for the shark that ate his friend Esteban.
The movie is polarizing. Critics don’t care for it, but still it has a cult following. Say what you want about The Life Aquatic, but one thing it really has going for it. Style.
The film is a study in red hats.
First time I saw it, I understood a whole subculture of people worshipping the red hat. It’s just plain cool, and its cultural roots run deep. Each of the crew members in The Life Aquatic has their own style of hat, but they’re all red, and it creates a united front.
Isn’t that what we are looking for when exploring our style? Fitting in, but still maintaining our own personal touch? Because of that, the movie has been such a strong inspiration for our beanies. Each one wears it their own way, but they’re still united by color and quality.
While the Southlander, our first beanie model, wasn’t really inspired by Klaus Daimler’s beanie in the film, it is not that different either (sans pom pom). The decision to make the North Cap a permanent part of our collection however, was definitely fueled by a crisp image in our mind: The one of Steve Zissou pointing to the future, while the hat gloriously sits as a counter point atop his head.
The Life Aquatic itself draws a lot of inspiration from, and is in fact dedicated to, Jaques Cousteau. Jaques in turn is another great inspiration for Red Hat Factory. I actually first heard of him in conjunction to being shown The Life Aquatic.
Jaques was an explorer and adventurer — famous for pioneering diving equipment — and is well known for his tiny red beanie hat. The Life Aquatic pounces on this little red beanie hat and magnifies it in the movie.
I guess as a conclusion, I’d have to thank my brother in law Ben for showing me the film and exemplifying how cool red hats can be, thank Wes Anderson for making an aesthetic choice that impacted our product line, and the root of it all, Jaques Cousteau who turned the red beanie into a symbol of adventure and pioneering.
Slowly by slowly the family of beanies, knit caps, or toques are growing. Whatever you want to call them, they are what they are — a long thread of colored wool masterfully knit together into the shape of a head.
The word golden, instantly triggers the instant classic “Golden” by Cory Wong. Go give that a listen if you want something smooth and funky to brighten your day.
We are proud to present the next coloration of our one and only collection of products, the beanies. But also, behind the scenes, we are working on a whole new product. I’ll let you know what that is once the time comes, but you could, of course, also give it a guess in the Red Hatters Group. Maybe we’ll let it slip, maybe not.
Am I calling my own mother an old lady? Not really. But… it wouldn’t have been that bad. In our family age is something we try to honor and are proud of. Age is wisdom, and old age is when you’re entitled to more comfort and respect from those around you.
We believe that older generations have wisdom to pass on to the next one, and we have found a way to include more of that into Red Hat Factory.
“Old lady advice” or — the less flattering translation — “hag advice” is a saying or proverb that has gone from generation to generation. No one knows from when or where it originated, but everyone has heard it.
A good example came early this year, when my Grandmother suddenly exclaimed, as we were dining Norwegian lapskaus: “There’s a difference between daddy and the cat.”
I had to have it explained for me by my mom later that evening. The proverb had been said because I couldn’t eat the dessert (because of allergies). In this proverb I was the cat who’s not getting what’s served at the table. Not everyone should be equally treated — the worker is worth his pay, as they say.
These proverbs were more freely thrown around back in the days, and since we are all about Norwegian traditional knitting, we’ll throw another piece of Norsk culture into the mix.
From 2020 on you will get a handwritten note with a selected piece of old lady advice or an old Norwegian blessing, written in Norwegian with every beanie you order. It doesn’t get more primal than that.
The one in the picture is a classic Norwegian blessing, incorporating old fashioned humor, rhymes, and a reference to a classic toilet.
Spoiler alert: Some are more serious than others.
It is only a few generations since everyone had an “outside-toilet” (utedo). These usually stood (some still do, especially outside the typical Norwegian mountain cabin) on the edge of a precipice or wall, so the waste could gather up in some sort of tank, or area below. This was excellent fertilizer, so grass normally grew rapidly in the general area behind the toilet. This card says “may happiness grow, as grass behind the toilet.” In Norwegian, that rhymes.
If you receive a card, and want the translation and decipher the meaning, you’ll have to chat with us, and that’s just what we want — more connection with you guys. You’re the ones making Red Hat Factory an exciting journey, and we always love hearing from you.
The beanies we sell in store at MacLaren Barbers have been packed in modest slick white packages, with each respective logo stickered on the front. Because of an issue with shipping from Norway, we couldn’t use the same for our beanies through mail.
Now however, I have found some packages that work for international shipping, and we can finally deliver the beanies just as we wanted all along. It has taken some time, because this is a small family business, and many things have been higher on my priority list. But, here it is.
There is something special about finding a place away from the beaten track.
It doesn’t have to be the most astonishing place in the world, but it is wild and untouched, and for that moment it is yours alone.
Except of course, it isn’t completely yours alone. Because Asbjørn, the Norwegian cold-proof, forest-hardened legend himself is also there. And behind him is the view that opened up as we crested our off-path hill.
I remember we climbed up on the leeward side of the steep hill. And then, when we peeked over the top, discovering an entirely fresh view of the whole valley, the wind suddenly roared over us.
Speaking of roaring.
Earlier the same day, we were driving down the road towards the hill, and we passed one of the larger waterfalls in the area. The way it carves its way through the cracks in the mountains, and cascades down into a pool of crystal clear turquoise water, blew me away the first time I saw it.
Next time I saw it, it blew me away again.
After leaving the waterfall behind, we parked our car and hiked towards the intended hill, and when we came to the foot of it, we went off the path and followed a creek and occasional sheep-paths upwards.
Somewhere along the way, I stepped in the creek, and chose to walk barefoot for the remainder of the climb.
To me, being in nature is a lot about being alone, or only with the closest of friends, away from the noise. Normally I’m hyper-social, always wanting to be surrounded by friends, but to leave the beaten path to walk alone every now and then is necessary.
Taking a deep breath, I try to appreciate the small things as I pass. Not only the large obvious views, but how clear the water is. How green the grass is. How many shades of green moss there can be on a single rock. We even spotted a lemming peeking out of its hole on our way.
And then, whenever we turned from the details and looked up, there were endless hills and snow capped peaks all around.
Sorry to make you jealous, but this was one glorious day. And there are more like it to come.
All the pictures from this story, plus the other chapters are gathered under #rhfgoestorøldal on Instagram.
Also, all our Adventure Story pictures are found under the hashtag #rhfadventurestories.
It’s early, and I’m alone.
Soon I’ll be on the road, alone for a couple of hours first, then my old time friend Asbjørn will join me for the remaining 6’ish hours till we’re at his cabin.
It is time for the Røldal cabin trip, something I’m hoping will turn into a yearly tradition. It is an 8 hours drive today, but if we didn’t have to deliver a car on the way, it would take us only around 6.
As you have probably noticed if you’re a road worn roadtripper — six hours behind the wheel in good company is nothing.
If you know little about the Norwegian West Coast mountains, let this be your introduction. We’ll be heading slowly into unexplored territory, and derail from the tourist trails by the time this Adventure Story comes to and end.
You may follow the story real time on Instagram.
Those mountains in the distance are beckoning. They’re calling me to come to them, take a break from routines and gain some elevation. Hear the creeks call, and let the silence spur forth new vision and strength and invite to new conversations with my maker.
I don’t think one should put too much stock in the mountainous experiences though. I 100% believe true joy is found in enjoying every day life, working with something you like and investing in friendships. Something that takes time, if not necessarily effort. Also forgiveness, thankfulness, healthy eating, all that boring stuff that pays off so tremendously.
It is maybe not very poetic, but when the mountain’s beckoning call becomes too strong, I try to eat better, exercise, speak positive, practice thankfulness, take time off and hang with friends, pray – whatever I find that I lack. Then after I am a happy healthy human being again, it is way easier to actually enjoy the mountains when I’m there.
Also, road tripping and investing time with friends go hand in hand. The constant forward motion feeds my restlessness while the rest of me is focused enough for deep conversations.
I love the road. And the views that start flying by as we near the highest point of the trip.
After crossing the mountains during a muted but gorgeous sunset, at last we arrive. Under the ever present, mist covered, looming mountains, a small red cabin stands ready to host us through a series of hiking days to come.
There is no water or electricity, so we are going to read by candles, and fetch water from the nearby clear blue lake. A true disconnected experience awaits us.
Part II is coming after it’s finished running on Instagram. Follow me to come along for the journey.
All the pictures from this story, plus the other chapters are gathered under #rhfgoestorøldal on Instagram.
Also, all our Adventure Story pictures are found under the hashtag #rhfadventurestories.
There are actually more ways than you might think, and the choice is all yours.
Our models deliver as a tube that you are free to fold as you like, and the lack of any tags on the edges makes your freedom total.
One thing I’ve noticed through selling beanies all across the world — no one wears it the same, and that is the beauty of it.
With that said we have three basic ways of wearing a Red Hat Factory cap.
The difference between our two most sold models, is only in the very tip. The North Cap is joined tighter to make the tip more sharp. The Southlander, is smoothly rounded. Other than that, the main body of these two beanies are the same, and can be worn in an array of different ways.
The single fold might be worn either over the ear or behind it — in both instances it can be a good look. It is more common to wear the North Cap this way, since it makes the spike more distinct.
Remember, both your head shape and hair style add additional uniqueness to your beanie’s shape.
Probably the most common way to wear a Red Hat Factory cap across the world.
Sophia and Kevin are sporting two Southlanders,
I honestly can’t tell if this picture a roll or a sloppy double fold, but I like the idea of rolling the edge, as opposed to doing sharp folds. And I have seen it done, looking great!
Just to underline how different we are, and how the caps we wear shape to our style and head shape – here is a bunch of people wearing it their way.
Be like them – unlike each other.
The Olive Red Hat Factory beanie has been long expected by many. After all, Red Hat Factory’s roots are firmly planted in the adventure of the green-dyed outdoors, and it only makes sense to match that color in our wooly apparel.
We have been purposefully slow to expand, since the red knit cap, as the foundational idea of the company had to be there alone and have its time in the spotlight before getting any siblings.
Red Hat Factory is after all not just any beanie collection, but a parlor of carefully hand knit beanies that takes about four hours of meticulous crafting per piece. We don’t just want to drop something with no care.
In 2018, the color expansion started with a couple of grays, which are not really colors but what we like to call non-saturated versions of the red (wink wink), and then a few more bold Limited Editions. But now that Red Hat Factory brings in the first actual color into the base collection, what better color to come first than the green of nature itself.
Say hello to the Olive, available in all our models.