I can’t explain why, when my grandfather died, the one thing I took of his was an old shirt - but it’s now my go-to shirt for lounging around the house and also looking super hipster by throwing it over a pair of leggings. Van Eaton Hart (fondly referred to as Poppa by us grandkids), was a Southern Jewish badass. He died on March 17, so St. Patrick’s Day is always a time to wear green and drink some Virginia Gentleman in his honor.
Poppa was a creative man with big ideas and a love of life. He took over his father-in-law’s dry goods business, selling everything from thread to buttons to denim. Back in the day, jeans weren’t fashionable - they were a working man’s fabric, worn by cowboys and lumberjacks. Poppa was one of the first people to market jeans as something to be worn by everyone. He made my mom and aunt model his stylish overalls, Polly-Alls.
Though in the end another Jewish man by the name of Levi Strauss did a better job of branding denim to a wider audience, my aunt recently saw a photo of Andrew Young wearing Polly-Alls in a Civil Rights march. Now that’s some Southern heritage to be proud of.
I like to think that Poppa would love sitting in the leather workshop, chatting with Cesar about leather and learning all about the production process. And I wonder what pieces of history our leather will witness.