In 1937’s An American Hunter, Archibald Rutledge writes of hunting game birds:

The spirit of the hunt, and the innate connection to the outdoors that comes with it, is what Rutledge so masterfully conveys through his words—and what Radcliff Menge hits the mark with through his outdoor apparel and accessories line, Tom Beckbe, named after the Tombigbee River in Alabama where Menge would go hunting with his grandfather during visits from Virginia.

The decibel of crackling leaves, sips of hot coffee at dawn, bookended by the brace of a celebratory bourbon at dusk. Your companions: not only a good dog, naturally, but your gear—as important to your hunt as they are to your mindset. Menge, an attorney in New York City at the time, realized that if he wanted the best jacket that he could also throw on top of a suit coat and not look out of place, he’d have to design it himself. And so, the Tensaw Jacket, a new spin on an old classic: wax wear with fine tuning, including a higher collar to keep out the cold, came into being. And into its lining? The hue of Alabama red clay that, in the jacket’s advent, was dyed in real clay until Menge started selling so many he had to switch to a fabric dyed to replicate the same color.

“We sold Tensaw jackets in two colors for two years in 2015 and 2016, and when I left practicing law in 2016 is when we started adding additional products,” Menge says, from his warehouse in Birmingham where the company is based. He added a women’s line last year. (Menge and his wife, Mary, who is part of the eight-person Beckbe team, also added a new baby and new puppy.)

The jacket that started it all expanded into more than just outerwear. Essentials (hats, gloves, bags) and sporting-lifestyle accessories (hat pins and flasks) followed. More functional field gear is slated for 2021. Their hallmark since the line launched in 2015 are the jackets, which are heritage pieces and wear much like the best stories that get told and retold—they get better with age.   

“I think there is a not insignificant group of people who are rediscovering the simple pleasure of being outside,” explains Menge. “I think we’ve all been forced into this situation this year where we aren’t going anywhere. We are tethered locally in a way that we have gotten away from in the past five, ten, fifteen years.” And now, at a time when substance matters as much if not more than style, whether in the field, your own backyard, or in middle of Central Park, what a happy landing place to find a balance between the two.

Photography by Paul King. Find Tom Beckbe locally at Rush Wilson Ltd, 23 W North St, Greenville. For more, go to rushwilson.com and tombeckbe.com.

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