Thomas Mark Heritage
"Heritage" is a frequently-bandied and oft-abused word in menswear these days, wielded by marketers trying to tap into a broader cultural yearning for "authenticity"—whatever that means—and nostalgia for bygone eras marked by quality in materials, construction, and design. They understand that for many of us who develop an interest in menswear, there’s often a desire to reflect that shared identity and appreciation for the past in what we wear—or at least, to fake it.
It’s kind of funny to me how something akin to pride still swells up inside me when reading and talking about Americana in clothing, even though I’m a naturalized American citizen. Although I was not born into that heritage, I’ve adopted it as my own.
However, as an African—born in Madagascar, and raised in my formative childhood years in Kenya—I sometimes feel a bit of a disconnect from the “heritage” most-often referenced in menswear. And there’s always a part of me that wonders how I can incorporate my affinity for the continent of my birth into my day-to-day wear.
So I enjoyed finding out about Thomas Mark Heritage yesterday, a new line of Africa-inspired men’s accessories with raw materials sourced from the continent. The collection features cotton pocket squares, bracelets, and cufflinks.
Most of the squares are made from beautiful Malian cotton batik, as well as one Kuba-styled print from Congo and a Tuareg paisley print. The bracelets feature beads from a half-dozen countries across the continent, and the cufflinks are made from Ghanaian baule beads.
One of the cool things on the Thomas Mark Heritage website is the ability to search for accessories by region; that’s how I discovered my favorite piece, the black onyx Nakuru bracelet. It’s the sort of understated, elegant jewelry I could actually see myself wearing, and it happens to be named after a region in Kenya I often visited as a child.
Thomas Mark Heritage was launched this week by Thomas Anthony, a Philadelpha-based designer and creative director. Originally from Pretoria in South Africa, Thom tells me he started Thomas Mark Heritage expecting that “there were other men from the African diaspora who are looking for a way to wear a piece of Africana as part of their classic modern menswear fits. The pocket squares and wrist beads are intended to do just that; they can add a little colour to your usual suit or sportcoat and dress shirt ensemble in a way that means something to you (and can be a conversation starter as well).”
"It’s been an interesting journey sourcing these materials from all over the continent, trial-and-erroring the beads for durability, working out the best way to add nice raised contrast edges to the pocket squares," Thom says. "The materials are all so beautiful that I try to basically stay out of their way—there’s not much you can do that will improve upon one of these richly coloured Mali wax prints, you know? I just add a little trim and try to stay true to what the artisan intended."
Thomas Mark Heritage bracelets start at $19 and pocket squares at $39. You can see all the accessories at www.thomasmarkheritage.com.