Look good, write well: 4 gifts for writers in 2014

New Year's Gifts For Writers

The biggest New Year’s resolution for writers (in 2014 and in previous years) is simply to write. Whether 80 words or 8,000 words, daily writing is essential – and it’s something a writer can only do for himself. But I know plenty of loved ones want to find the perfect way to show support of writers in their lives – and fancy pens seem to be the go-to gift. They’re beautiful and functional, but they’re also arguably one of the least practical, most-gifted items given to writers during the holidays. Anyone who enjoys writing – whether prose or correspondence – should own a nice pen, but no more than one really fancy pen is needed.

There are plenty of nice everyday objects that can help organize and inspire the authors and wordsmiths in your midst. As someone who writes and edits upwards of 3,000 words a day, I looked through Billykirk’s online collection and found four beautiful and functional gifts I think any writer would appreciate to start the New Year.

1. The leather journal holder. 

Leather journal holder

A welcome alternate to a book with blank pages, this journal holder adds a nice facelift to the notebook your friend is already working her way through. Sized to easily fit in a backpack, purse or satchel, it’s perfecting for jotting down ideas on a train, park bench or wherever inspiration strikes, and a pen will always be handy thanks to its built-in pencil-holding clasp.

2. The schoolboy satchel.

Leather schoolboy satchel

The leather schoolboy satchel looks important, but not pretentious. It has a timeless nostalgia, seeming to be something Hemingway or Anne Patchett would wear with equal delight. And it would look smart on anyone who aspires to be professionally creative. With compartments that can easily fit a portfolio or manuscript, a laptop and whatever magazine or book a writer is reading in a given moment, it’s practical – while also a nice way to dress for the job you want.

3. The pencil case.

Canvas pencil case

Great to stash in or on a desk, keep in a leather satchel  (ahem, see gift idea No.2) or tuck away somewhere with a reserve of those aforementioned fancy pens. The pencil case is a simple-but-handy gift, unassumingly stylish in worn-in canvas, which also helps absorb the mess of any ink leaks. Plus, someone in a writing profession is always the first person expected to have a writing implement on hand: He’ll always know where to find this case and look super on top of the pen situation.

4. The canvas iPad sleeve.

iPad sleeve in olive

While I’m admittedly not inspired by the thought of writing on tablets, friends are increasingly citing this as the journal of the future. Especially those working as on-the-ground journalists. Many of my friends who write have put iPad sleeves on their wish lists this year, and I think this olive one is a great option. While I also like the Billykirk version available in leather, the canvas one would nicely fit inside a larger satchel – and it still looks good as a standalone carry item.

These are great tools to add to a writers’ kit, and here are some reflections on writing to get pens moving and keyboards tapping in 2014:

 “The Getaway Car” (excerpt), by Anne Patchett, as posted by Byliner.

What’s in store for NYC Pop Up Flea (Dec 6-8): Q&A with Michael Williams


What if this year’s holiday shopping – and much of your personal shopping for the year – could be done in a weekend? That’s the thought behind menswear market Pop Up Flea. With its seventh installment set for this weekend in NYC’s Mercer Building, PUFs’ featured styles and merchandise are curated to fill every closet need, from shoes, belts and sweaters to carryalls and coats. The event unites stylish gents (and the people who shop for them) with an eclectic mix of designers over honest, well-crafted menswear. And the Flea is bigger this year than ever before. I had a chance to chat with Michael Williams, Pop Up Flea co-founder and creator of A Continuous Lean. Read on for what to expect at this year’s NYC Pop Up Flea this year, and Williams’ thoughts on why quality goods always go well together.

For the uninitiated, give us a Pop Up Flea primer: What made you and Randy Goldberg start this venture?

Billykirk Pop Up flea interview quote 1Randy and I were thinking about opening a store, but instead of opening a permanent store, we thought, “Let’s open it one weekend at a time.” Plus, people wanted to meet the designers behind the brands, not just merchants. It’s a shopping event and also a meeting place.

Each Pop Up Flea is a vehicle to get the word out about good designs, and the brands that were there in the beginning took a leap of faith to do this with us.

When the event started, it was sometimes associated with American-made heritage: Do you think that’s still part of Pop Up Flea’s culture?

It’s always been about the timelessness behind the brand. It’s not meant to be precious or to focus so much on where things are made – it’s about showing things that last.  We’re interested in showing that everything quality works well together. What would everyone want to wear, and what won’t ever go out of style?

We sort of think of it as, everyone good is there, and everything there is good. Good designs and good people. A lot of brands that come are friends of ours, and there’s a good natural selection of a lot of well-made things. We approach the vendor list asking, “What brands would we carry at a store?” It’s no such much a curation as how we would design our own closets.

If you only wanted to do one weekend of shopping per year, this would be a place where you could do it.

But you’re running the Flea a bit more frequently now: You just had your first London show, and this year’s NYC has the most vendors to date. How do you account for that growth?

Billykirk Pop Up Flea interview quote2There’s a lot of good stuff out there: It’s fun when you can get good brands and interesting people in one space. There’s something for everyone, whether you just come by or you’re there to shop. The London show was great.

For New York, we started with 12 vendors, and this year we have over 50 vendors. We’re really excited about the group we have. And 82 Mercer is classic open space, a huge loft: We’ve had an eye on it for quite some time and we’re finally at the point where it’s a big enough event to support it.

What can people look forward to at this year’s larger event?

We have some new vendors. Steven Alan is joining us for the first time, and New Balance and Shinola will be there. Shinola was with us in London – there is definitely some overlap. And we’ve also got some of the designers who have been with us since the beginning, like Billykirk.

I know this is Billykirk’s sixth Pop Up Flea.

Honestly, Chris and Kirk [Bray, of Billykirk] are the perfect embodiment of what we want Pop Up Flea to be – the way they’re involved in the company, their personalities. Having people come to the event to see their stuff and be able to meet them is perfect. The way they operate was part of what planted the seed for the event. We like what they make, we like what they stand for.

[See a preview of what Billykirk is showing at this year’s Pop Up Flea here.]

What are your plans for Pop Up Flea in the future?

We want to continue to expand and bring it to new places. We’re looking to add more cities next year, domestic and abroad.

Billykirk Pop Up flea interview quote 3

Pop Up Flea NYC is perfectly timed for holiday shopping: Any must-haves for someone shopping for a stylish guy at the Flea?

I try not to shop at all! All I do is talk about clothes. But one of the ways I manifest all of that is by organizing this event. Everything there is going to represent the strongest collection of brands you’ll find in New York City.

If you’re in the NYC area, check out Pop Up Flea Dec 6-8 at 82 Mercer. Full event details here, and be sure to say hello to Billykirk.

Inside look: Classic & limited edition trucker wallets

leather trucker wallet

The pioneers of America’s paved highways kept chained pocket wallets so they could travel freely, riding fast or picking up stranded trekkers and roadside pies, alike.

American truck driving

A moto driver told me his chained wallet is a matter of fashion, though it’s handy, but for 1950s truckers, chained wallets were essential. These highway travelers were generally called Knights of the Road, known for helping hitchhikers or drivers less adept at navigating the open pavement. Chained wallets meant no worries about losing some essential object during random acts of chivalry. They helped fuel the mystique and toughness that made truckers known as modern cowboys – men could be men, and still keep their cash together.

leather trucker wallets

Whether you’re looking for a chain or not, a trucker wallet should be built for the everyday uninhibited journey. No fuss, just sturdy, reliable and ruggedly good-looking.

Billykirk’s classic No.263-163 trucker wallet is made from American-sourced harness-grade leather, featuring a chain of dull nickel (nothing shiny), and a smaller version of this snap wallet has the same look, but is built to a metro pass-friendly size that makes it functionally modern.

I admit to preferring the unchained options, including the limited edition No.263 leather wallet in Olive – made from Argentinean leather with brass hardware, and a version in Tan Pebbled Grain from Chicago’s Horween leather company. The pebbled variety is ready-made with marks. Both are available online only while supplies last.

all-leather trucker wallets

Chained, unchained, pebbled or otherwise, they’re all designed for today’s urban frontier, whether you’re traveling by truck, train, bike or foot.

Seen (& heard) in Boston: Leather satchels for a stylish commute

Billykirk leather satchel on the Boston T

Fall morning T rides in Boston are typically full of scarves, tweed jackets, textured stockings and no shortage of leather satchels. They are less typically filled with chatter, as people attempt to wake up before 8am meetings. But one woman on my train didn’t refrain from complimenting a man for vintage-looking good looks. Here’s a snapshot and sound bite from a recent encounter during a work commute:

“Nice bag!”Leather satchel

“I’m sorry?”

“I like your leather bag: It’s really classic. Where did you get it?”

“I wish I had a cooler answer – I actually found in J.Crew. I had them show me how to use the shoulder strap. I liked that it was a little bit different. It felt old, even though it’s really new.”

“Yea, I see that.”

“I had a really expensive bag before, but to be honest it fell apart, and now I’ve had this one and it’s going strong. I looked into these guys, too, the designers, and they sell a lot of nice things.”

They do sell a lot of nice things… Including his leather schoolboy satchel  (available at J.Crew but customizable – and also available in black – through Billykirk).

Thanks to Anthony, who works in Copley Square, for letting me capture him on his way to work. Here are a couple of other items he mentioned to add to your Billykirk wish list:

Fall style in the bag: Seasonal satchels

Billykirk fall leather

Chris and Kirk Bray have been passing around the leather each fall since childhood days playing football. Whether you’re a sports fan, scholar, both or neither, there are certain autumnal images that are timeless.

We’ve handpicked some of the latest Billykirk collection bags (and an old favorite) that are perfect companions as the colder weather sets in. They bear the look of school bags and seasonal carryalls your grandparents might have carried, with modern American-made craftsmanship to handle the weight of your everyday travels.

1. Plaid Carryall

Medium plaid carryall

Tartans were traditionally worn in Scotland to symbolize clans and they were cemented as part of America’s back-to-school season iconography around the 1940s when plaid became a popular element of school uniforms, showing which school a student attended.

Plaid’s association to U.S. cool weather work dates back even further thanks to the legend of lumberjack Paul Bunyan (arguably from Michigan, Maine, Oregon or perhaps Canada – depending on who you ask).

New this season and available now, the blue and black plaid with leather carryall from Billykirk is suitable for school, work or play.

2. Small No. 164 Olive Waxed-Cotton CarryallSmall Olive Waxed Cotton Caryall

We love a rustic olive shade for the fall season.

This bag isn’t meant to bring to mind the guacamole American appliances of the 1960s (although they have their place in design). It’s a bit darker – more in the style of patriotic olive drab (OD), and a nice contrast to bright leaves in the transitional season.

The small carryall  shown is great to bring on a coffee run as you trade iced beverages for warm ones.  This version will be on line in mid-November.  Waxed for water resistance and whatever the autumn elements bring your way.  If you can’t wait until then we do offer the same style carryall in  an olive water-repellent material.  Find it  on-line HERE.

3.  The All-Leather Schoolboy Satchel

The predecessor of today’s backpack (first made famous by Shakespeare), you don’t have to be a schoolboy to appreciate a fine leather satchel. While they bring to mind (stylish) children heading for the classroom, they also make good briefcases and are a nice alternative to some other functional and fashionable cross-body bags.

Leather satchelBillykirk’s all-leather satchel in tan or brown Dublin is ideal for the autumn season. Hard-wearing – and also hard to keep in stock. We expect more of these in brown Dublin and the tan Dublin in a couple of weeks. 

You’ll find more fall bags and other seasonal accessories in Billykirk’s latest Lookbook. And please leave a comment about your favorite seasonal bags.