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"The Allen Associates team has cultivated working relationships with some of the top business minds in the United States. The firm's An American Story, leads us to brilliant little nuggets of creative capitalism and culture.."

- Benjamin Stephens, Top 10 Creative Blogs You May Have Missed 

An American Story


— Authentic American Inspiration —



"Land was created to provide a place for boats to visit." - Brooks Atkinson

To be of this mindset one would certainly have to have traveled the waters of the world in a luxury no- four wheeled land transportation could ever think to. With this in mind, Mr. Atkinson must have glided the sea in a Chris-Craft.

Perhaps destined for nautical excursions based on his first two names alone, it was in 1874 that Christopher Columbus Smith began building practical hunting boats at the age of 13. A turnabout boat venture was born, with an eye on mass production and affordable vessels. By 1927, Chris-Craft and their mahogany powerboats had ballooned into the world’s largest and premier fabricator of refined aquatic transport.

Over the century, Chris-Craft shared a heartbeat with America. The manufacturer became the source of wonderment for vacationing families, from the Great Lakes to the Mississippi River. On their industry changing fiberglass yachts, harmless winks led to marriage, which led to divorce and the age old question (who keeps the boat?). When the Depression punched our nation in the gut, Chris Craft grunted too; when the second World War called for a team effort, the company put 12,000 vessels into the waters for our armed forces.

The trend continues today. In these trying economic times, a recreational boat is many things to many people. If the nautical adventurer is seeking a weekend fishing trip after a long and backbreaking week of clock punching, Chris Craft has him covered. If the Queen of England is looking for a shamelessly posh, customized yacht for a tea and cucumber sandwich affair, Chris Craft will provide the royal service. There are a countless stories in between- whichever way the wind blows, Chris Craft has the sails.

Just make sure to check in with the land dwellers from time to time.


Nythan James & His Bespoke Trunk Series

Designer Nythan James & Michael Allen at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, NYC

Stereotypes are quite the affliction to one’s identity, and prove to be an exacting stain to remove. In recent years, courtesy of the unreal reality fed to us all by networks that formerly showcased music, anyone west of the Hudson River might be inclined to believe that New Jersey is little more than a haven of intricately gelled coifs and overly tanned beefcake physiques. No cameras or editing were needed to blow this unmerited generality out of the water. All we had to do was look in house at our talented roster to prove what we knew all along-inspired design is unbound of imaginary lines or zip codes. The Garden State produced the man who has recreated the classic art of American craftsmanship with a worldly vision. The aforementioned stereotype can hit the bricks.

When we first introduced you to our collaborator and friend NyThan James, we summarized his talents with a simple phrase; NyThan James is a creative-period. Our favorite Jersey boy once again is backing up our boastful proclamation with the unleashing of his Trunk Series. How he takes something that was once fiercely utilitarian and turns it into something that is downright pretty is beyond our comprehension, but he pulls off this feat and we ask no questions. Much like Houdini levitating through the atmosphere, we simply gaze in awe. And smile.

NyThan designs the rugged, street ready Trunks one piece at a time, sourcing all leathers, fabrics and hardware personally. Brass, chrome, choice of seven color hides, James approaches each work with an unrivaled flair of individuality, an alliance between the inspired purveyor and his client. The Trunks, available in the 24 or 72 hour variety, are proudly American made, hand crafted by artisans in NYC.

Bespoke only. Timeless always.


Lawn Chair USA  

Before Steve Jobs, Xbox and the inventor of high def TV helped make fresh air extinct for many, times were simpler and in many ways better. Neighbors were friends, communities were proud to share a beer and argue the merits of gas versus charcoal grills. Lawns were a source of competitive one-upmanship and children ran through sprinklers and caught lightning bugs until either it was time for s’mores or another application of aloe vera to combat the impressive collection of mosquito bites. And when it came time to relax, no lumpy couch would suffice-only a lawn chair would do.

The world is cycling back to these days of wonder. The Fourth of July is turning into the seventh of June, the twentieth of May, and so on. Lawn Chair USA is helping spur the welcomed confusion of sunny days.

Only an American company could (and should) bring back pieces of what made us great, and Lawn Chair USA is proud to do so. A spin off of Waltrich Plastic Corporation, a leader in lawn chair webbing for over 40 years, the minds behind Lawn Chair USA were driven to revisit the iconic slice of Americana after noticing a demand to bring back the old fashioned lawn chairs. Upon recovering classic equipment and getting it into working shape, a proud satisfaction of the quality of the vintage chairs enabled the company to be formed.

The specs are: nostalgic styles, light aluminum frames and storage accessibility. The side effects include: family bonding, clean oxygen and an awesome tan.

Lawn Chair USA is making it cutting edge to go outside again.

Story, JMA


Rufus Shirts

April Singer Straten launched Rufus Shirts in Spring 2004, and began with the development of a classic dress shirt. By taking the traditional elements of Savile Row and stitching them together with contemporary American style, they created a unique look for the "updated traditionalist".

Ms. Singer's Q&A with Michael Allen

You launched in 2004. What fueled your decision? 

I started Rufus when I returned to NYC after living in London for five years. After visiting many men’s stores I realized that there lacked a happy medium in men’s contemporary shirting. It was either the classically boxy shapes of decades past or the very slim European cut which overlooked the more casual approach of American style. Prompted by the encouragement of my boyfriend at the time (now husband) I set out to create a brand that spoke directly to this underserved category.

What's the origin of the name Rufus? 

When I was living in London I met Brett Theodore Rufus Straten who would eventually become my husband.  Rufus means red in Latin and Brett was actually called Rufus when he was a child because of his red hair.  I admired his sense of style that reflected an eclectic mixing of current and classic pieces.

Tell us about the brand's value proposition.  

Rufus shirts are classic yet eclectic. Manufactured in the United States of exceptional quality European fabric, Rufus was born from the desire to have a quality fashionable shirt that will travel beyond this year’s trend.

Where are the shirts currently produced? 

The shirts are produced in Fall River, Mass.

Who's your target customer?  

We found our target customer to be men 30 – 50yrs old. Our guy is optimistic, self-possessed and embracing of color. The details are for the personal consumption of the man who wears a Rufus shirt.

Our shirts will never shout across a room, but at a conversational distance, a Rufus shirt will confidently exhibit all the assurance and style of the man wearing it.

Walk us through your distinctive design details, and of course those signature red cufflinks. 

The color red is used subtly through detailing. Red stitching on the shirt cuff buttonholes and signature red cufflinks come with all French cuff shirts. All shirts have contrast fabric on the inside of the cuff.

Our fit is classic American with generous shoulders and a fitted body. Darts down the back take out the excess fabric on the main line and the sides are shaped with out the darting on the casual line. We use a traditional cut away collar with a high neck stand and thick collar stays so it can be worn open and casual but also looks great with a tie.

Last but not least our stacked shatter resistant buttons add an element of fashion and distinction.

Assuming we had the power to confidentially grant you a do-over regarding the Rufus launch, what would it be? 

Honestly I don’t know. The stars all seemed to be aligned at the launch and the business has flowed since day one.

Are there any product line extensions on the horizon? 

We are beginning development of a jacket line to launch with Fall 2011. Expect clean lines and impactful Rufus details.

How do you envision Rufus brand evolving in the coming years? 

As we've become known as a preeminent shirting resource, a natural evolution for us would be to introduce new shirt fits and models. In addition to the shirts our plan is to design other categories to create a total Rufus line for our customer.

Having lived abroad and worked in the international markets for several years prior to launching Rufus, I look forward to launching the line internationally.

You can learn more about Rufus at


Fine Paints of Europe 

Don’t be fooled by the name. Fine Paints Of Europe is an American company that parralels many of us; nephews of Uncle Sam, with European roots.

It began with founder John Lahey’s frustration. Seeking high quality paint to use on his family’s eighteenth-century home, he was reminded of the depth of the colors and the gorgeous finishes he witnessed overseas. In search of European quality, he found no answers in stateside products. He discovered a culture within the industry that promoted price over quality-and he would have none of it. His quest took him to the mecca of paint, Holland, and their 300 years of mastery in the genre inspired him to start a company that catered to discerning American homeowners like him.

That vision has served Fine Paints Of Europe well. Since 1987 the company has forged an indellible bond with the American public that is both in our faces and unheralded. We’ll brag for them. The elite paints of Fine Paints Of Europe are a humongous source of pride, covering such important landmarks as the Mount Vernon Estate, the President Lincoln and Soldier’s Home Monument, and Dodona Manor. And while the Vermont based company initially serviced historical restorations, as witnessed above, the privately held brand has branched out into commercial and residential applications. Which means that now, even our three bedroom cottages and fixer-uppers can be treated to the same fanfare of a national treasure. And the aesthetic brilliance is worth every penny.

As they like to say, “There is nothing more expensive than cheap paint.”