What you wear probably says more about you than you think. Whether you're a surfer, runner, skater or skier, chances are your brand of choice defines you.
For Brad Christian of Button Buck, a fresh-on-the-market kid's clothing outlet based in Northern California, his brand is for the kids who'd rather be hunting or fishing with their mom or dad but don't mind showing off a little swag in the process. As a former manager in the music business, avid bowhunter, and father of two little girls, Christian started the company with his wife Lauren to help wed stylish kid's clothing with their hunting lifestyle.
Eric Conn grabbed an exclusive interview with Christian, whose clothes have been featured in the short film Searching for West and Field & Stream.
Eric Conn: Why a kid's clothing line for the hunting and outdoor crowd?
Brad Christian: When we had our first child, being the obsessed hunters we are, we tried to go out and get them stuff that was cool and would blend in to their everyday surroundings, and we really couldn't find anything. As an entrepreneur by nature, my head started going and I just started designing my own stuff and talking to Lauren. I realized that the industry needs this, there's nothing really relevant to everyday life, especially living in California. You really see that difference here. We were at dinner the other night and my daughter said something like, 'Are we gonna shoot that bear?' The woman next to us was horrified, but the reality is, our daughter ate bear for dinner last night so it's normal for her. Our other daughter has the bear hide at the foot of her crib from that same bear, which Lauren and I hunted when we were pregnant with her.
And that's the thing, our kids and a lot of others actually live this stuff, so I wanted to create an authentic lifestyle brand that would honor them with a relevant style. Something they could relate to, grow up with and be proud of — that was my motivation. Other industries get this, and have killer mainstream-quality lifestyle brands for kids, but "wild kids" had nothing.
EC: For you this isn't just about kid's clothing, it's about the hunting lifestyle and passing that on to the next generation. Why is that so important to you?
BC: It's a passion of mine, something I'm very interested in. There really are two components. One, the personal desire to see my children love the outdoors. I mean, that's as a parent, just talking about Brad Christian, that is what I want to see — my children have a passion for the outdoors. So for me, any way I can expose them to hunting and the outdoors, to keep them around it, I'm going to use that.
Second — which is where storytelling through photography and short films like Searching for West come into play, and Sitka has done a great job showing that hunting is not just about a big overweight guy sitting in a deer stand with an orange vest and a rifle — they've shown hunting in a relevant light and made it more appealing to the world. I'm around people in California who obviously don't know a thing about hunting, wouldn't touch it with a ten foot pole, but when they see a film like that, they say, 'This is cool, I want to do that.' The story and style resonate, and the quality is what they're used to from the mainstream. In the same way, when my daughter can wear hunting and fishing inspired clothing in front of her non-hunting or fishing friends and now they want a Button Buck shirt, now we're talking. We're getting closer to people and to each other. The outdoors doesn't have to look cheesy or tacky. It's about being authentic and relevant.
EC:There's a lot in our culture that pushes kids away from hunting, like Disney, which casts hunting in a negative light. How do you pass on the tradition in the face of that?
BC: This is my life motto: live intentionally. I just live very intentionally with our kids. I make a point to do that. For me every chance I get to explain and enable them to live a wild life, I take it. I've been doing that since they were born. Yeah, I'm competing with Disney, who has spent a lot of money to get after my kids at an early age, but you know what, I live with them. So I can outdo Walt and Mickey and all of them. But it takes intentionality. If I just sit them down in front of a DVD player every morning and I don't talk to them, I throw in Bambi and walk away, then yeah, they're gonna grow up just like everybody else does.
EC: So you think a lot of it is a lack of parental engagement?
BC: Absolutely, 100 percent. I've seen that as we get engulfed in kid's stuff and have so many conversations with parents and what they're doing, I'll be honest, it's kinda sad. You see how selfish a lot of hunters are with their time. We all want to kill that big deer, so we run off to the stand by ourselves while our kid is left behind, instead of starting them out and doing what you can to be with them. All that does is guarantee you won't have a hunting buddy when they're old enough. I put a treestand in our backyard in a palm tree for my daughter, like 12 inches off the ground, you know, she thinks it's her treestand. I'm constantly involving them in what Lauren and I do.
For me, I'm passionate about my kids. I want to experience Alaska with my kids. I want to go in on a floatplane with them at the earliest possible age. I want to show them this life. So we also do things like take them with us to photograph wildlife and let them watch intriguing footage we're editing. We expose them to great stories that other guys like Jeff Simpson, Mark Seacat and other like-minded folks are telling through the lens. Why not, you know? They're cool, they dig them, and they're being exposed to another quality aspect of our culture from a young age.
EC: As a father with two daughters, what do you think about this 'girls with big guns' 'vixen-with-a-weapon' image that's popular in the hunting culture?
BC: As a dad with two daughters, that's a very loaded question. Our lifestyle isn't a novelty. With respect to the sexual parts of it, I think that idea comes down to the person before hunting, or big guns or anything else came into the picture, it's about what kind of person you are. The pictures you see, if it's some sex-symbol novelty, that definitely isn't something we're modeling because it's not something we're living. It comes down to my wife being a classy, great woman, and she's going to lead by example. That's what we're modeling to our girls.
But here's the thing, as somebody interested in being an ambassador of hunting for my kids and the next generation, those cliché, stereotypical things don't help. I believe when a culture — and I talk a lot about "hunting culture," just as there is a surfing culture or whatever — any time they lack relevant art, they're in trouble. It's a sign that a culture is dying. It's existing only for itself.
EC: Is it just about a t-shirt to you?
BC: As you see with our photography or first brand film, it's about promoting the joy of this hunting lifestyle in a relevant, fun, and stylish way. When you look at a lot of stuff on Facebook or whatever that's out there, it's just sad and depressing, like the only reason you'd take a child hunting is because you feel like you should or someone is terminally ill.
What I'm trying to show, like with a photo I recently posted on Facebook, it was in the mountains, it's a photo of one of my friends skipping rocks with his kid, and it says "raise wild kids by acting like one," and it makes it something you want to do, rather than something you're being guilted into. And if you can show people the outdoors in a beautiful way, they'll gravitate toward it. That's what we're trying to do with our kid's clothing, is to encourage folks to get outdoors and spend time with each other. We're trying to tell people, 'Your kids are cool, so go be wild with them,' but it's more powerful when you show them rather than just tell them.