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Retail Realities: Standard & Strange in Oakland

As destinations for denim dudes pop up across the U.S., Oakland, Calif. is a logical place for another outpost. The city is already known for its high-quality, ethically sourced food, so it follows that people would begin seeking out premium, Made in USA clothing.

Standard & Strange is based in American-made menswear and is located on Telegraph Ave. When owners Neil Berrett and Jeremy Smith were first offered a retail space, they had a background in Made in USA, but this background came from manufacturing and selling cycling jerseys in Oakland.

They had, however, always talked about the types of clothing they would carry if they owned a store, and, making their product locally, they got to know a lot of people in the Bay Area garment manufacturing scene. In the process of manufacturing the jerseys, they learned important information about how to pick out shortcuts in production and how to give feedback on changing product details.

Knowing brands down to the details of production is important to Standard and Strange where the modus operandi is forming close relationships with its brands. Berrett and Smith take special pride in carrying brands that are not widely distributed, though this can mean that the process of signing brands is difficult.

A case in point is when the store started working with The Real McCoy’s, a Japanese brand that does vintage reproduction garments with incredible detail, down to recreated threads. The brand had no current representation in the U.S., and it took months of logistical work and discussions of missions to make the match. “We can be extremely patient,” said Berrett, “which I think is part of the reason we can work with some of the brands that we do”

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The store carries American denim brands Rogue Territory and Tellason, as well as Japanese favorites like Kapital, Momotaro and Pure Blue. They also provide leather goods, footwear and a selection of other brands with a deliberate purpose and quality manufacturing the Standard customer appreciates.

Forming relationships with these brands is part of what is making Standard & Strange more and more of a destination shop, attracting an audience of denimheads from San Francisco and Los Angeles who want to know about the details of the denim down to what yarn gauge was used.

All the denim Standard & Strange sells is selvedge and the majority is raw and sanforized. The store sells some unsanforized denim that they rinse themselves to pull out the shrinkage and better understand the fit, as the top block of the denim changes a lot after washing.

Berrett said that the store sells primarily by fit, and most of the best-selling brands have versatile fits for different body types. Price is secondary for the Standard customer, as he has come prepared to spend between 200 and 300 dollars for a quality pair of jeans.

Ultimately, the store’s dedication to the stories and minute details behind products attract customers to come to the store to chat and hang out. Like other successful physical retailers, Standard & Strange is benefiting from the clubhouse vibe. The owners are finding that customers are increasingly faithful to the store. If Standard & Strange doesn’t currently stock the item the customer is looking for, he’ll wait for them to order it rather than just buying it online. “More and more people are patient and want to support us,” Berrett said.