My name is Chris, and I'm an English teacher from California based in Shenzhen, China. I also write about men's clothing and what I've learned from the artisans, founders, and gentlemen of the cloth.
Today I want to share an article I just wrote about San Diego's Lone Flag. It's founder, Sam Larson, started this shop in 2014 to sell raw denim and durable goods. I was able to visit his shop, look around, and talk to his staff. One thing of note is that this shop prioritizes collaboration projects with respected and lesser-known clothing companies. I love seeing this, as the quality control of those companies and small-batch orders of specialty shops creates for creative, well-executed, and loved items.
I hope you enjoy "Elementally SD."
Good denim is alive and well in southern California, and its southernmost outfitter looks over the Del Mar racetrack.
On my recent trip back home to San Diego, I made a point to revisit my city’s thread culture, which I would describe as Ready-to-Beach. Between surfing historic breaks and digging toes in warm October sand, we San Diegoans are spoiled blessed with miles and months of beachfront paradise. This endless summer of life is something we preach, breathe, and undeniably wear.
By most local standards, anything past a tired pair of jeans, a hoodie, and merch booth band tee might prove as superfluous as a second layer between lunch and dinner. Lone Flag, however, proves that I was either presumptuous or misinformed in my assessment.
A quick tour of the store’s interior reveal a hodgepodge of durable wear and wares. At the back, cuts from Rogue Territory, Railcar Fine Goods, and 3sixteen hang a curtain of deep indigo. To complement these, Apolis and Norman Russell provide shirting options of varying thickness and propriety. While most of these favor a more earthy, muted palette, brighter options provide due boldness, such as a wall selection of socks from Richer Poorer. Everything is finely tuned, impeccably displayed, and just too damn clean for their own good.
Such a laundry list of products would assume a fine men’s shop in Venice Beach; if San Diego, North Park at least. But in a strip mall in Del Mar?
“People have said that a lot” explains Keng Lee, shop manager. “But Downtown would’ve been too easy. We’re doing well here, and visitors often come from all over SD and LA.”
For denim aficionados and purveyors of top-quality goods, there’s plenty to love inside this brick and mortar. And if you look closely, you’ll notice that many of these pieces are exclusive collaborations. Following their first with Rogue Territory, Lone Flag has reached out and manifested shared efforts with shirt makers, leather smiths, and even chandlers to expand their line. This is as much a compliment to Lone Flag’s catalog as a general admiration for this approach.
In my journey so far, I’ve gathered that artists and historians of clothing hold fast to quality, superseding any attraction to the bottom lines of quantity. With a limited production volume, the best place for these craftsmen are specialty shops and small-batch stores, whose owners risk every personal resource to realize a single dream. From this, honest conversations between artisans their appreciators take hold, and naturally occurring elements made. It’s all part and parcel of the community that makes Lone Flag possible.
“Sam (Larsen, Lone Flag’s founder) asks for our input when he’s thinking of new designs,” adds Keng, who himself is a product of this concept of community.
For years, Keng was a worked at the nearby Starbucks, when Sam decided to open Lone Flag’s doors in 2014. Keng found himself a frequent visitor to the shop. When a business trip lent him the responsibility to mind the store, he traded his green apron for more inspired duds.
This store entirely shatters my preconceived idea of San Diego style, as many of these pieces were born and bred locally. Shades of SD block texted on wool baseball hats adorn the walls. Aloha Sunday adds additional color and cabana flair for the summer. And at the counter sit bags of James Coffee beans. This shop does not forget where it came from.
San Dieganos: wear that which makes you happy. Whether or not that includes Lone Flag’s offerings is fine. But when you have time, stop by. Keng will crack open a bottle of Stumptown on the house. Jacob is happy answer any curiosity between the Japanese kiln-fired sneakers and the vegetable-tanned wallets. And on the right weekend, grab a trim from one of Travis’ monthly shop calls.
Welcome to Lone Flag.