The humble t-shirt is perhaps the item of clothing we connect with the most.
The fabric, the fit, how it feels on our skin and most importantly the maturity and stories it gathers with each wear and wash.
Erik Allen Ford and Sasha Koehn, co-founders of Los Angeles, California, menswear brand Buck Mason, certainly appreciate the significance of a perfect tee — they spent more than three years developing one.
The friends and business partners tried 52 variations of the design before settling on their $35 Curved Hem Tee — which has since deservedly earned its place at the top of numerous “world’s best t-shirt” lists and in the closets of our Mr Feelgood co-founders.
They apply the same care to their entire line of classy yet rugged men’s essentials including henleys, shirts, sweats, jackets and jeans. And this year they have also been focusing on making the perfect face covering from the same quality fabric they make their tees. They are donating a mask to those in need for each one sold and are aiming to donate one million — with that figure currently standing at over 750,000.
Our co-founder John Pearson has been a big supporter of their brand since they launched from a garage in Venice, and has modeled for them on several occasions.
And he has found these two gentlemen to have the same integrity and authenticity as their product.
So we are delighted to today have Erik and Sasha as the latest subjects of our ‘Who The F*** Are You?’ profile — 20 questions that we think get to the heart of who we are — and to find out more about what drives that pursuit of perfection we can see in their work.
Who the f*** are you?
Erik: Isn’t that a great question that nobody ever asks. Let’s do this in stream of consciousness: A small town kid, really. I’m a curious person, and maybe a small town curiosity sits at the beginning of my definition. Growing up in the middle of nowhere with a pent up excitement to know what’s on the edge of town makes for a fun adult life. Anything you end up accomplishing, the people who become your friends and family… you appreciate them. My identity might be tied to an ability to link up with great people, like my business partner, Sasha and my wife, Leanne. I’m always so in awe of what people do. Like you, and this site. It came out of nowhere and it’s so good. How did that happen? That would never happen in Concordia, Missouri.
Sasha: Sasha Koehn, a husband, father, business partner, entrepreneur, and all-around midwestern guy who headed west nearly 20 years ago in a 96’ Honda Civic with some big hopes, bigger dreams, and a whole lot to learn.
How are you feeling right now?
Erik: Fantastic. It’s just shy of 7am and I’m drinking a cup of coffee. The wife and baby are still asleep. I’m in Pittsburgh now, but our team is in Los Angeles. Thankful for a little peace and quiet before the west coast wakes up.
Sasha: Excellent. Working from my home office. The kids are both taking a nap, house is quiet. Life’s good.
Where did you grow up and what was it like?
Erik: Concordia, Missouri, a farm town. There was basketball and there was farming, so I opted for basketball. If you combine the movies ‘Hoosiers’ and ‘Footless’, you’ve got my hometown.
Sasha: I grew up in Cleveland, Ohio and loved it, I had such a great childhood. Cleveland is a really humble all-American city, and a great place to raise a family. Growing up in a rustbelt town, you’ve always got a little bit of a chip on your shoulder, but just the right amount… that never really leaves you.
What excites you?
Erik: Lately, leadership strategy. Other people’s leadership strategy. I read this great book last year by Doris Kearns Goodwin about Abraham Lincoln called ‘Team of Rivals’. It really kicked off a new obsession with leadership and management. So this year I’ve been breaking a lot of the rules I’d previously set for myself, probably making a lot of mistakes, but I’m learning.
Sasha: Working with positive people who are constantly bringing new ideas to the table. Building out incredible teams is one of the best parts of what I get to do at Buck Mason.
What scares you?
Erik: That’s a heck of a question during these times. The inability we all sometimes struggle with to listen to other perspective with an open heart is a bit scary.
Sasha: Complacency. Not adapting and shifting with the times. Resting on your laurels. That’s scary.
What is your proudest achievement?
Erik: Tricking my wife into tying the knot.
Sasha: Becoming a father. I have a one-year-old daughter and a two-and-a-half year-old-son, there’s nothing like it.
What is the hardest thing you have ever done?
Erik: Starting a company. The early days of Buck Mason were a major uphill slog. We had no money, no connections and not much experience. We were alone with an idea and a hunger to succeed. What we learned is that it’s all about the people around you. We started asking for help and things started happening… you (Mr Feelgood co-founder John) were one of those people, who lent us a hand. Without you and hundreds of others like you, we’d be just another shoulda, woulda, coulda. It’s all about the people that support you along the way.
Sasha: Taking my two-year-old son to the hospital after he broke both his arms, nothing prepares you for that. Second hardest would have to be starting a company.
Who was your greatest mentor, and what did they teach you?
Erik: Jim Kolbo, he was my first real boss growing up. He didn’t tell you what to do, he showed you through his own action and humility. He knew when to give you slack and when to draw the line. You always knew where you stood with Jim, and integrity was at the heart of every conversation. I never truly understood what he was doing until I became a parent. Jim’s been married thirty years, with five successful kids. He’s a deacon at his church, and he’s never lived more than an hour from his hometown in rural Nebraska. He makes everyone around him better. I’ve never met a happier and more loving person. He’s a great example of making an impact right where you are.
Sasha: I was very close with the director of my High School. He taught me a great deal about compassion and how to say the right thing or nothing at all. That’s a lesson I’m still learning.
Who are your fictional and real-life heroes?
Sasha: Coach Taylor from Friday Night Lights, hands down. His locker room speeches on parenting issues – the guy is a legend. Speaking of legends… my dad. He’s a wood sculptor, and he and my mom worked out of our house all my life in a connected studio. I was always around their creative craft… I was carving wood before I knew how to write. Any ability I have to build and use my hands I owe to him. Once in a while, he’ll still tell me to measure twice and cut once… which goes way beyond woodwork.
What is your favorite item of clothing in your wardrobe?
Erik: A shirt we made a few years ago called the Draped Twill One Pocket Shirt. It’s the iconic button up of our era — and that mostly comes down to the fabric, it’s a proprietary cotton blend with just the right amount of tooth, structure and softness. Everyone’s tried to knock the fabric off, but it’s our secret recipe.
Sasha: A WWII chore coat that I got in at a thrift store. Second favorite is the Buck Mason Felted Chore Coat which it helped inspire.
What music did you love when you were 13 — and do you still love it now?
Erik: Billy Joel. My sister got the River of Dreams CD and I remember it blasting out of her bedroom. I was 13… and I started dancing. I actually didn’t know how to dance yet, sort of still don’t, but I love to dance. My daughter and I start our day off with Piano Man in the morning… she loves Billy too.
Sasha: My obsession with 90s hip hop stems from my 13-year-old self. I rarely listen to terrestrial radio in the car, but if I’m surfing around and land on 93.5 Kday in LA, I definitely get into it…
What is the most inspiring book you have ever read?
Erik: ‘Goals: Setting and Achieving Them On Schedule’ by Zig Ziglar. I like The audio tape. Zig’s aesthetic comes off as a little funny today — he’s classic bible belt self-help, but he’s absolutely wonderful. Zig can help you manifest anything. A close second is ‘Perennial Seller’ by Ryan Holiday. His writing gave us the tools and permission to try to build something eternal.
Sasha: Tough question. To avoid any recency effect, I’d have to go with ‘The Fountainhead’. I read it right after college and its characters and principles still seem to pop in my mind… man, Howard Roark, that guy just absolutely refused to compromise.
What is a movie that left a lasting impression on you?
Erik: ‘The Darkest Hour’. Churchill, man, c’mon.
Sasha: Any movie I’ve ever watched on an airplane, ha… for some reason, movies at 20,000 feet always strike an emotional chord, no matter how bad they are. But seriously, anything Christopher Nolan, he shocks all your senses. Always brilliant.
What is your favorite word or saying?
Erik: Timeless. It’s a word we meditate on a lot at Buck. How can we create objects and experiences that will live on and continue to serve people, year after year, decade after decade.
Sasha: Effortless — it’s fun describing style this way.
What do you want people to say about you at your funeral?
Erik: That I was a good husband and dad.
Sasha: That I left behind more that I took with me.
And finally, a quickfire five favorites …
Erik: Porsche 911, all of them.
Sasha: 1992 Porsche 911
Erik: KC Chiefs, all the way.
Sasha: Cleveland sports and/or any team Lebron is on.
Erik: Cheeseburger and fries.
Sasha: Grass Fed bone-in ribeye
Erik: Buck Mason 😉
Sasha: Uh, Buck Mason and all my Dad’s workwear hand me downs.