Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Sometimes, It Can Really Get a Bit Too Real ...

It’s easy to understand people thinking the story we tell of how and where our tarp products are made is embellished, or exaggerated. Great PR, yada, yada, yada, but hardly real, no matter what our name might suggest.
But nope. It’s all real, all right. And sometimes, like right now, even a bit too real.
Right around two weeks ago, our pending shipment of hats and several bag styles had begun its journey out of the remote little equatorial town where Real Deal Brazil products are handmade. Our stuff was crammed onto a little bus that typically leaves town about every two weeks to take local craftspeople and traders to a bustling Friday-night market in one of the big cities along Brazil’s booming coast. And when we have hat orders leaving the town, the bus carries those, too.
By about 5 a.m. on the day in question, the small bus, with its total of 10 passengers, had already traveled about 30 miles out of town, along terrible roads. And then things went all to hell.
Bandits. Real live ones. Four of them. With guns.
Their car, coming seemingly from out of nowhere, pulled up alongside the bus, the armed men yelling at the driver to stop. Instead, the young driver, an off-duty policeman, sped up in an attempt to outrun his pursuers. At least one of the bandits began firing at the bus, and after a couple shotgun blasts hit a side door, the driver pulled over.
The thieves beat the young man severely, in front of his mother, who was a passenger on the bus.
In a frantic note, Sharon A., who helps coordinate transport for us in Brazil, filled in some of the blanks for us on what happened next. Her English is pretty solid, but not perfect.
“The driver's mother was terrified because her son is a policeman who makes these trips on his day off,” Sharon writes, “and if the thieves discovered [that he was a policeman, they would likely have killed] the boy, it is common this happens.”
The gunmen next forced the wounded driver to maneuver the little bus to a nearby gravel road where they again pulled the bus over, this time into the woods. Another car, with another gunman, was waiting for them there.
“Then,” Sharon writes us, “they began to torture and steal everything of the people with threats of death if they did not give everything they had.”
The thieves yanked open a number of the Real Deal Brazil shipping boxes, stealing what hats and bags they could carry off in their cars, and leaving many of our products strewn in the sand. They also took passengers’ cell phones, wallets, purses, credit cards, personal documents and luggage, plus some other products being transported to the market for sale or barter. Sharon puts the total value of stolen items at 50,000 real (the Brazilian currency), or roughly $20,000.
Keep in mind that in this remote part of Brazil, most people are barely making a living. This was surely a devastating loss.
“After the raid, they arrested all people inside the van and took the key,” Sharon writes, meaning the gunmen locked everyone inside the van and then left them there. Fortunately, the driver’s mother had a spare key tucked in her clothes, and after the passengers had waited a few hours to make sure their assailants weren’t coming back, the frightened group ventured back out onto the road, seeking help. They didn’t ever find any.
“The police is on strike in their State,” Sharon writes, “and everything [there] is slow and difficult.”
Since day one of getting into this business, we’d heard how unsafe the roads in that part of the country can be, and that bandits were out there, and something like this could always happen, at any time. But in the more than five years we've been doing this, it never had. And after a while, we perhaps stopped thinking it ever would.
It’s a horrible reminder for us of the kinds of problems that can spring up out of nowhere in getting our products from Brazil to you, made better in this case only in that no one got irreparably hurt, at least not physically. It’s shaken us all up a bit, as you’d guess. And it leaves our current Brazilian transport setup in a very uncertain position at the moment.
So if you buy a Real Deal Brazil hat or bag in the next week or two and discover a little sand in it, consider it perhaps a kind of trophy, showing that your new RDB product has lived an even more exciting life than our products usually do.
Beyond that, we thank you for your patience if we're again temporarily out of stock on what you were hoping to buy.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Tales of Real Deal Brazil hats lost, and found

Our hat winds up in some pretty surprising places, no question.

There's the story of this guy, Shawn, from Kiowa, Kan., whose father gave him a Real Deal Brazil recycled-tarp hat after Dad fished the then-new RDB out of a Dumpster in Longdale, Okla. After seven years of constant wearing since then, Shawn sent his RDB, above, back to us for some re-stitching around the brim; once fixed, this trash-to-treasure hat will be bound back to Shawn's waiting head.

Not only do we think that's a really cool story, but Shawn’s much-beloved hat turns out to be one of our very first, a literal prototype, from 2008, with an oversized logo on the side; we're not even sure if we would have sold that to anyone. So how it ended up in Oklahoma, we'll never know ...

 And then there's the phenomenal story recently emailed to us, also from an RDB-wearing Sean, the scuba guy immediately above:

"I am from Pinedale, WY and often go scuba diving in the clear mountain lakes we have here. This past Sunday, I was diving at about 30 feet in Fremont Lake when I saw something that didn't belong. As I swam over to the irregular shape lying on the bottom among the rocks, I was surprised to find this RDB hat. I picked it up and put it on my head and immediately started to surface. It dried beautifully and one would never know it had (been lying) in the bottom of a mountain lake for who knows how long.

Inside the crown, you make the claim that you can do nothing to this hat that hasn't already been done. I would bet that this is the only RDB hat that has laid on the bottom of a mountain glacier lake at an elevation of almost 8000' and been recovered to be worn again. Only the hat knows for sure.

A big thank you to the person who was unfortunate enough to lose this great hat."

Also, a big thank you from us, to these two guys for sharing these stories!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

National Nude Day 2013: Several days late, and a couple of coconuts short ...

OK, for those of you who got here from Facebook, you can't say we didn't tell you what to expect. Coconuts. Actual coconuts.

Though truth be told, those really are some oddly shaped palm fruits, huh? Not that we're the kind of people to judge or anything ...

We've posted this picture in a slightly belated homage to National Nude Day, July 14. We missed this year's celebration entirely, not knowing such a day even existed, wandering around as we were amid all those other folks with their clothes on.

But we have faith these two island naturalists were naked that day, if they knew said celebration in honor of shedding clothes existed.

We're pretty sure the guy in our hat is Chester Elizondo of San Antonio, Texas, one of our longtime favorite RDB wild men. No clue on the identity of his buddy, though the two are seen, almost in their entirety here, in Puerto Rico, where Chet has gotten into plenty of Real Deal mischief in the past.

His April 2011 "exploration adventure" to several different Puerto Rican beaches, involving much "sun, surf, rum and fun," produced what may be our favorite photo explanation of all time, for the below cockeyed-hat shot he sent us back then:

"Ya’ll make one hell of a hat. I swam in that thing…buried it in the sand..stuffed it in my back pack…had sex in it…filled it with ice and used it as a small ice chest….at one point it was my loin cloth while I chased a chicken naked down the beach (not sure how I ended up naked…and the chicken was very very fast)…"

Notice any kind of pattern here? We're thinking it's probably pretty nakedly obvious ...

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Our hats on to Real Deal dads this Father's Day!

Longtime RDB pal Darin Gagne of Manchester, N.H., leads us all by example. So, to you fellow Real Deal dads out there: Rattle the bars on your cage today! Yawp your barbaric yawp! Do something that, if found out, will perplex and unsettle everyone who knows you! Real Deal it up and straight back down again!
You have our express permission to run amok today… right up until that point where you decide to call us for bail money. Because don’t waste that one phone call, is all we’re sayin’; we’ll simply pretend we’ve never heard of you, and then hang up suddenly. It’s our money, after all, and we intend to squander it on ourselves in Vegas.
Of course, you could just call Darin here instead. Cuz obviously, his example is what led you astray in the first place …
Happy Father’s Day!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Team Tallahassee rides again, with Real Deal Brazil sponsorhip, and RDB hats in tow!

Whoot, there we are! The Real Deal Brazil: proud sponsors of Team Tallahassee.
Sometimes, you’ve just gotta break your own rules.

We recently gave a modest sum toward Real Deal Brazil mega-fan Greg Bickford’s participation in Rally New England, a 1,200-mile fundraising drive supporting the nonprofit Camp Sunshine in Casco, Maine. This idyllic lakeside getaway for children battling life-threatening diseases, and for their immediate families, doesn’t charge people to stay, and includes onsite medical and psychological support.

The Real Deal Brazil is a small company, and we’ve had to make it our policy that we don’t do cash donations; it’s simply not something we can routinely afford. Yet with Greg, this is actually the second year in a row we’ve broken our own rule on that! Because how could we not? Greg is such a huge fan of the Real Deal brand, promoting us at every turn. And we’re big fans of his own efforts to turn his free time into a, no pun intended, vehicle for helping others.

Rally New England drivers start their trek July 22 in upstate New York, winding up four days later in New Brunswick, Canada. Each of the participating 85-plus cars is a team of two or more people. Last year, Greg’s Team Tallahassee – named for his current hometown in Florida, and maybe even a little for his love of “all things Zombieland” – was filled out by his brother, Chris; this year, Greg’s dad, Richard, is handling co-pilot duties.
Greg Bickford, right, and dad Richard, with their pre-sponsor-stickered Mustang GT:                          Team Tallahassee.
And again this year, Team Tallahassee is driving Greg’s black 2010 Ford Mustang GT, with a big white RDB logo to be prominently displayed on it, alongside those of other sponsors. But the Real Deal Brazil will be there in more than just logo: Greg and his dad will also be sporting our hats along the way.

Last year, Team Tallahassee rode in Rally Dixie 2012, a 1,300-mile fundraising drive supporting the national nonprofit Accelerated Cure Project for Multiple Sclerosis.

We’re not suggesting you should donate to Camp Sunshine via Greg’s team; this email is just an FYI of what we’re up to, and to say how proud we are to be even a tiny part of Greg’s efforts. But should you wanna check out Team Tallahassee’s fundraising site – https://www.firstgiving.com/fundraiser/team-tallahassee/rallynewengland – y’know, that would be mighty cool, too.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

'You guys make the best hat ... In the World!'

"The best hat ... In the World." Well, OK, then!

Sometimes we just have to share the nice stuff that people say.
And Real Deal Brazil fan Nathan Cantu of Lynchburg, Va., who sent us an email with that very same declaration of our awesomeness in the subject line, also included this:

"I love my RDB Hat! After my first summer working at a camp in Texas, I knew I needed a decent hat, but can't rock the classic Texas Stetson. A friend recommended the RDB hat, and after I realized it was "The Zombieland Hat" I knew I needed one of my own. It's stayed with me through the whole summer, and kept me cool in the sun, and dry in the rain! I love it! I attached a picture (above) of four of us at camp all geared up to go to battle with the camp property. During yardwork on a 100+ degree day, this hat was a God send! ...

Thanks again for making a great hat!"

The Real Deal Brazil. Not that we're braggin' or nothin' ...

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Real Deal Brazil hats go places, and do great things!

Serving meals to the homeless at a regional dump in rural Zacapa, Guatemala.

A lot of phenomenal folks are out there doing their Real Deal best to make the world a better place, with our hat proudly tagging along for the ride. And that fact just makes us grin, knowing we’re aiding in a tiny bit of the good, even if only by association.

That said, meet Real Deal Brazil hat owner and middle-school teacher Greg Crow of Charlottesville, Va.

Back in January, Greg took a trip to Zacapa, Guatemala, with 22 fellow parishioners from his church, The Point Church of Charlottesville. With help from Virginia faith-based humanitarian agency World Help (http://worldhelp.net), Greg’s group adopted a village, population 700, in this mostly rural area at the southeastern end of the country.

His group plans to help the village for the next few years with everything from clean water to food, education and more.

“We will assist them with their physical needs,” Greg wrote us, in sending the pictures you see here, “as well as minister to their spiritual needs.

Feeding a child at a Zacapa orphanage.
“I have traveled all over our planet doing similar work,” Greg added, “and have never seen poor and starving children like this. We ended up feeding children at (a) regional dump, because of the overwhelming need there. We couldn't just drive by (after seeing them there), and leave them with nothing.

“In fact, it was such an overwhelming trip that my wife and I are leading a (church) team back there in August.”

Want to learn more about Greg and his church’s efforts in Zacapa? They have a Facebook page; search Village Project Guatemala.

Sifting riverbed rocks and sand to make concrete for a Zacapa home-building project. 

Monday, April 22, 2013

Earth Day is our day, too!

Hello from near the top of the bottom of the world!

That’s Justin Cranmer, above, of Tucson, Ariz., wearing his trusty Real Deal Brazil recycled-tarp hat in, yes, Brazil! This spring 2011 shot finds Justin atop Tijuca Peak, which offers a sweeping view of sprawling Rio de Janeiro below. The mountaintop is literally right in the middle of the city.

Justin's verdant travel photo seemed in need of revisiting today, of all days: Nature’s grandeur smack dab in the middle of bustling human life, Brazil, us.

Because today is Earth Day, the day people of every stripe celebrate where we all live, and what we can do to promote continuing to live here. And by here, we mean the big here, the spinning blue-and-green ball of home. The elemental sphere following its set circular path in space, three back from the sun. That here.

Earth Day is all about throwing the world a bone, so to speak. Championing things that can help to preserve what's here, before it's gone and can't be replaced.

So you know Real Deal Brazil products are made from recycled stuff, right? People sometimes forget that, getting all caught up in how we also happen to look mighty freakin’ cool, all rough-and-tumble and Woody Harrelson in Zombieland, and like that. Yet the heart of our signature products is reclaimed old canvas cargo-truck tarps from Brazil, tough and weathered and kind of grizzled, and as unique as you are.

The recycling runs even deeper with us, though: Our classic hats get their shape from strands of heavy wire pulled from landfilled old Brazilian truck tires.

Then there's our hat bands, which include an assortment carved from old coconut shells, or those assembled from trash-bound bottle caps collected from favorite brews.

Reclaimed resources, handmade into resourceful products that look cool enough to forget they're pretty Earth-nifty, too. That, good people, is the Real Deal Brazil!

So we choose to think of today, Earth Day, as a little bit our day as well.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Big, Big Changes to the Real Deal Brazil Brand!

OK, just in case you stumble on this entry days after it was originally posted, please take a look at the day it was published before reading any further. That should give you a good clue to its seriousness. Or lack thereof ...

Some huge changes to talk about, folks!

Like so many small businesses, the Real Deal Brazil has had a hellish time in this sluggish economy. Add to that the outrageous spikes in recycled-tarp prices in Brazil, and shipping from the rural center of such a vast and often underdeveloped country, plus the various customs hurdles, which are, honestly, a money-suck, and it’s been really, really hard. And it’s only getting harder.

But we’re still here!

Still, if we’re going to continue past this, then going forward, fundamental changes have gotta take place. It’s that, regrettably, or close our doors. And we aren’t quitters.

After some serious research and lengthy negotiations, we’re finally at the point of transferring production to where we can afford to keep this thing up and running. So, to China we go! Happily, we’ve found a Beijing-area town that specializes in fabric goods and industrial sewing, and a small nationalized company that can take things over immediately, for a reasonable price, even with shipping considerations.

The hat photo at top is just a mockup sent by our new sewing company.
Fabric is having to change, of course, since they neither have recycled canvas truck tarps in China, at least not for sale, nor can we remotely afford to import them from Brazil. We are, however, very pleased with the fabric change we’ve selected: We think the purple is fantastic! It’s really individual and fun, and fits, we think, the spirit of our brand. The sequins you see in the photo are hopefully within our budget as well, but that detail isn’t set in stone yet.

Hat style will also shift a bit, to more of a classic fedora a la Indiana Jones, since that’s what they do best there.

And we won’t have to go up on our hat prices at all!

All Brazilian product names will stay the same. We don’t want to add any further confusion to the transition.

Bags will likewise be the same new fabric; beyond that, we don’t know yet about the various styles. It’ll all depend on what this company can manage.

We’ll start getting new product in soon, and will then start updating realdealbrazil.com. In the meantime, we’ll keep selling the remainders of what we have, until we run out. We wish we could discount the remainders, but honestly, we’re too broke for that.

The best of an unfortunate situation. So we hope you can get as excited for these changes as we've become!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Testimonial: A Little Exotic, a Bit Three-Sheets-in-the-Wind, a Trifle Oh-Behave, Yippee!

At the Real Deal Brazil, we really do get the best testimonials. That said, this just-received unsolicited review from former Oregonian Lito Croy, who now lives in Antigua, Guatemala, ranks right on up there with the one from the Texan who couldn't remember how he'd ended up naked on a Puerto Rican beach chasing a chicken.

Lito wrote us:

I figured it was about time to let you know how much I love my Original RDB hat. Let's just put it this way -- traveling through Mexico and working as a bartender in Guatemala I have been offered and turned down high tech gear swaps, muchos drogas, booze, exorbitant amounts of money, AND a threesome with two VERY attractive Swiss girls in exchange for my hat. Sometimes I have to drunkenly sprint away from hoards of hat-hungry gringo tourists just to keep it on my head. Needless to say, it's a good hat.

How's that for a review? Buy one.

How's that for a review, indeed!

So we asked Lito for a few pictures, since the original email contained none. Our hero (and really, who doesn't now kinda wanna be this guy?) sent the two you see here, from some of the Guatemalan bars he's worked at.

Lito's note that came with the photos:

We're very professional. The (top) photo includes the two Swiss girls previously mentioned. I had some more great shots but I got too drunk on my birthday and inadvertently donated my camera to some random Guatemalan. ...I hope they like looking at pictures of my weed plants.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

'Mythbusters' Geek Goddess Kari Byron in Zombie-Killing Real Deal Brazil Recycled-Tarp Hat

Some people we can’t help but wanna see wearing one of our hats. Cuz who can argue with a perfect fit, y'know?

Ron Perlman. Johnny Depp. Erica Cerra. That Dirty Jobs guy. And like that.

And way up high on that list: Kari Byron, the geekboy dream on Mythbusters, Discovery Channel’s veritable nerdfest of brainy coolness.

So late last month, we sent the fiery-haired Mythbusters host a note and a couple of hats, our compliments. We figured the package would come back to us, wrong address, refused, etc. But then, playing around online today, we stumbled across this Tweet from Kari: 

“Just got a Zombie killing hat in the mail! What a great gift! Thanks Real Deal Brazil.”

Oh, blush! Our little fanboy hearts goin' boom, boom, boom! Her Tweet, by the way, included the photo you see above. (Can you say: office poster!)

Here’s a version of the note we sent Kari, which will bring you up to speed on exactly why we sprang the Real Deal love on her now:

So when we saw that Mythbusters would be giving the drooling undead their due (in an episode tentatively slated for this spring), we got a little excited. We are, to be fair, a pretty excitable bunch here, though maybe even a little more so when the subject is zombies. Them lifeless brain-munchers been very, very good to us.

If you’re unfamiliar with the Real Deal Brazil … (allow us to) sum up: Recycled-truck-tarp hats handmade in rural equatorial Brazil and, most notably for many folks, worn with great aplomb by eco-minded actor Woody Harrelson in Zombieland, in his wildass character’s quest to annihilate the ravenous scourge of rotting meatbags and find spongy yellow snack cakes that might actually have zombie-making-properties all their own.

Consequently, our hat routinely surfaces in zombie-centric blogs and forums, and even in documentaries on zombie-this and zombie-that. We have become, you see, the world’s premiere zombie-killing hat. The absence yet of actual zombies does nothing to change that.

Thus, this package (you’ve just received). You folks are doing zombies. We kill-a the zombies. And like that.

Also, as Mythbusters watchers, we are united in the certainty that if there’s one person who would so rock our hat (besides Woody H., of course, and maybe the Queen of England; she’s tougher than she looks), it’s you. Your show’s plans for zombie mythbustin’ finally gave us all the excuse we needed to get mushy and gift-give-y, and send this along. We blushing fanboys do what we must.

We’ve included several hats of different sizes, in hopes one fits you comfortably; Mama always said to never assume a woman’s head-size. We’re confident you can find willing noggins for the others. …

So if this package actually reaches you, we hope it becomes the source of much hat-wearing joy, for you, and for anyone else you deem Real Deal enough.

Since we’re all so sold here on you wearing an RDB and lovin’ it, should we then never see any evidence to this effect, we’ll just pretend otherwise. Our world makes so much more sense that way.

What a great world. Cuz now we don’t even have to pretend!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

We're Now Increasingly Up-Top Down Under!

Not sure what's led to it all of a sudden, but we're seeing more and more orders from the opposite side of the world, from Australia, and New Zealand. We love it!

That said, here's a recent great note from one of our new Aussie buddies, James Dean. As in, yes, really, his name's James Dean. That's not him, above, by the way. We don't have a photo of James right now to share. So, then, things got kinda silly. Just be glad we couldn't find a shot of a kangaroo we liked is all we're sayin' ...

So this from James, who hails from Cessnock, in New South Wales:

Hi guys just wanted to give u a quick rave...first saw ur hat on woody in zombieland (man good publicity) and decided it was about time to get me one...in australia its what is known as bloody hot...well i got my trusty akubra (THE australiam manufacturer of hats...an aussie stetson if u will) but a man can never have too many hats in this country...well it finally arrived and...wow...sorry akubra all $160 of you...the tarp hat would have to be the most comfortable hat i have ever worn...in the bush it is just fantastic...light comfortable and bulletproof...i can throw in the the back of the ute and put tools on top of it and when its time to use it again...perfect...so thanks guys...good for the planet and good for my head and truly my go to hat for as long as it lasts...a long time i imagine...outstanding.

The Real Deal Brazil. Increasingly, it's Australian for cool ...

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

A New Year's Shout-Out From the Real Deal Brazil

The first day of a new year. No better time to stop and recall all our American brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, daughters, son, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends abroad, in service in hostile places, be they members of the U.S. military, military contractors, support staff, diplomatic corps, aid workers.

So as a never-frequent-enough shout-out today, we share this just-received message, and these four photos with fun descriptions, from one American military contractor and his buddy, dedicated Real Deal Brazil fans both, from somewhere in-country, Afghanistan:

Hello from Afghanistan!

My name is Randy Thackston. After 22 years of Military service, and my 6th year as a military contractor, I realized I needed some really tough protection against the elements, and the hazards of War. After some extensive searching, I discovered the Real Deal Brazil Original Tarp Hat. I immediately knew I had found the ultimate body-armor! I placed an order and received it at my Forward Operational Base within 9 days. When my partner Mike saw my new Original Tarp Hat, he knew that my survivability factor had increased by 110%, and he realized that the only way to survive over here to procure one himself. He did just that! Now for us, danger is just another day in the field. (Well, that’s pretty much every day anyway).

Thank you so much for the World’s most Awesome Headgear!

I’d like to share with you how my partner Mike & I, with the help of Real Deal Brazil, survived our close call with the End of the World.

-- Randy (Freedom) Thackston

Mike (Charger) Sircher
Undisclosed Locations, Afghanistan

Above, in Randy's words: "As you can see, my RDB Original Tarp Hat easily provides me with superior protection against the brutal Afghan sun, so that I can concentrate on more important things like having some fun on the 4th of July."

Above, in Randy's words: "Here you can see us watching the end of the world coming at us with complete confidence that we will most likely be among the survivors. Thanks to Real Deal Brazil ultimate head protection, we’ll be around to help repopulate the world. (By the way, that is 3, yes, 3 tornadoes coming at us, categories F2-F3, several miles out.)"

Above, in Randy's words:
"Even while facing imminent annihilation, Tarp Hats securely mounted, we face the end of the world head-on with confidence. (One F2 tornado nearly on top of us.)"

Above, in Randy's words: “Can you believe it? I got a text at the very last minute … Apparently ‘They’ decided to postpone the End Of The World (again) until 2020. I will be ready, my friends!”