As a friend of mine said when they first introduced me to the Best Made Company in New York’s Tribeca: “It’s as if Wes Anderson went and created a concept store”. Essentially, Best Made is a camping supply shop, and what it sells is fundamentally prosaic, but it’s also so arch as to make it offbeat – just like much of the Texan auteur’s pleasingly contrived output.
The first time I visited the store on White Street, I bought a set of enamel plates ($38 each, second picture), each decorated with the points of a compass and the words “Seamless & Steadfast” spelt out in a smart sans serif font in a semicircle around a bold, tilted red cross. In case you’re unsure about what you’ve got, they also have the word “Enamelware” visible on the same side in the same size font. This might be the ultimate tableware for typography nerds. The same red cross design appears on a metal first-aid kit ($92) and small tumblers ($32). All of this would, of course, make for genuinely useful camping kit. Not that I’ve ever camped – or ever intend to.
Among the Best Made bestsellers are, somewhat surprisingly, its axes. There’s a whole wall of them, and en masse they take on a wonderful Donald Judd quality. There are myriad models and varieties within each style – the Hudson Bay ($275, third picture), Straight-Hold ($88) and Japanese ($174) – some with dipped handles and colourful stripes. I don’t own a garden or have an open fire, so I haven’t bought one myself, but six or seven similarly urban friends now have a Best Made axe hanging on the wall of their east London apartment. This is the axe as high art.
Elsewhere, in store and online, there’s clothing, including board shorts ($128) and chambray shirts ($148) and lovely retro-cool objects, like the German-engineered Cruiser Compass ($168, fourth picture), which has a box-fresh sheen to it but would pass muster in the art department of a 1940s period movie. As well as bags and belts, there’s a library of folding pocket knives. My favourite is the black-handled Japanese Higo Knife ($72) with “Courage” emblazoned in gold on the handle and a hand-hammered blade. It will never, in my possession, see any of the serious outdoor action for which it was first conceived in 1894 by blacksmith Sadaharu Murakami, but it gets admiring glances at every picnic.