Regardless of whether you wear a suit or uniform at work, Marcus Hall wants you to look good when you step into his denim, Marc Nelson Denim. Hall, 43, takes this ethos from his grandfather, L.C. Nelson, who wore a uniform everyday to his job as a manager at Dempster Brothers in Knoxville, TN. Nelson may have spent his days in uniform manufacturing garbage trucks but when he stepped out of the factory, Hall says, he made the effort to look good in polyester leisure suits and patent leather boots. “He was just a sharp, cool, dresser” Hall says, “when he went to Vegas, he looked like a black mobster almost.”
Hall’s working class and fashion roots run deeper than his grandfather. Growing up, most of his family – brothers, uncles, parents – worked at the Levi’s factory on Cherry Street; just about a mile away from his current operation at 602 Randolph street. Hall remembers family and folks around the neighbourhood telling him, “Hey, you know I put the buttons on those jeans?” or “Hey, I did the zipper on those.” He also fondly remembers being inside the facility as a child.
“It was massive, there were all these huge washers and dryers and everything was so big” he said, “and then you remember that we’re in Knoxville and we’re selling this stuff to the world because everybody in the world wears Levi’s.”
Sadly the Levi’s plant closed in 1983, taking a lot of the vibrant community along with it. Hall said the closing affected car lots, restaurants and 24-hour diners in the community that serviced Levi’s employees. Hall hopes to revive some of that community when he moves Marc Nelson production to Knoxville next year.
The Marc Nelson building sits just on the edge of Old City in Knoxville, a neighbourhood of repurposed factories, coffee shops and restaurants that seems to be going through a revitalization of its own. Hall wants to contribute to Knoxville’s rejuvenation and make Marc Nelson a destination. While L.C. King will still handle some outsourcing, Hall will employ at least four locals to sew on his line. L.C. King will work on some non-selvedge base line denim and khakis.
Hall said the selvedge denim will be sewn in Knoxville. After experimenting with seams on the pockets and various shirts and accessories, Hall is excited about Marc Nelson’s renewed focus on a basic, five-pocket jean; especially in the American south, which can be a difficult market to educate. “I want to show them that there’s something besides Ralph Lauren, preppy, button-down frat boys or pure workwear, there’s something in between.” Hall said.
In addition to the cuts available online, Marc Nelson offers some of the most affordable custom work in the South East. Starting around $270, custom buyers can select rivets and buttons while scaling up to about $400 opens up some denim selection and pocket bag fabric. Hall hopes that his brand continues to grow and become an anchor in the community he watched fall apart when industry left.
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