Haberdashing: The Story Behind Finley & Brown’s Neckties

Runners Russell Brown and Steven Finley created a boutique neckwear company in Eugene last summer. Photo: Erik Van Ingena

Two professional runners bring an Oregon aesthetic to neckwear.

Stephen Finley may seem like an unlikely tie-maker but he’s a typical professional runner. After the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials came and went and he’d missed his shot to become an Olympian in the 3,000-meter steeplechase, injury was added to insult when he hurt his hip. Just like that, there was no summertime European track circuit. He was stuck in Eugene, Ore., without his Oregon Track Club teammates and the usual 25,000 students.

With no running and nothing else to do, Finley got a job making energy bars with his track club teammate Lauren Fleshman, the founder of Picky Bars. He spent the summer learning Fleshman’s recipe of entrepreneurship.

“I saw how easy it was to turn raw materials into a product,” he says. “It set the stage for saying, ‘OK, this is doable. Why don’t we try something?’”

Finley spoke with teammate Russell Brown, a 3:51-miler.

“Lauren genuinely cares about nutrition,” Brown says. “We wanted to do something that we cared about, which was Oregon.”

Finley and Brown decided they could bring an Oregon aesthetic to neckwear. Think vintage fabrics, repurposing materials and dressing down while dressing up.

Your typical tie is three or four inches wide at the bottom and made of silk. That was the first thing they discarded, opting for slimmer silhouettes made of cottons, flannels and wools trimmed from old, comfortable shirts and jeans.

Finley, who had sewn theater costumes in college, assembled the prototypes in teammate Nick Symmonds’ basement, where he was living at the time. At the Eugene Saturday Market in the spring and summer of 2013, Finley and Brown sold up to 25 ties for $68 each, every week.

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Thus was the creation of Finley & Brown, a boutique neckwear company started in Eugene, and now online and in Brooklyn, where they both moved last year.

“I think track is becoming more fashion-conscious as a group,” Finley says, pointing to miler Will “Dapper” Leer as the best dressed on the U.S. men’s circuit.

“I’ve worn them to weddings, out for dinner and drinks and to other formal events, like charity events and other events you’ve got to dress up for,” says Brown. “Since we started making them, I’ve worn them to just about every event you need to wear a tie to.”

The guys are still committed to running fast, but Finley sums it up best: “Both of us share the opinion that we run better when running’s not the only focus in our life.”

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