The Resource for Everything Tactical Pants
Tactical Talk: Beej Cronin of Kitanica
In 1995, Beej Cronin founded the clothing company in Brooklyn with his brother Chris. Now based in Oakland, Calif., the outerwear line features USA-made gear such as jackets, pants and shorts that have been spotted on geek superstars like Mythbusters’ Adam Savage.
When he was 14 years old, Cronin taught himself how to design and sew by creating jackets and other clothing. His first designs were constructed to endure farm life. Since then, he’s moved onto heavy-duty, high-quality menswear. His latest addition to the Kitanica line is a 12-pocket tactical pant that packs a mighty punch.
As a sewer, designer and patternmaker, you could probably make just about anything. Why tactical clothing? What was the appeal?
Tactical clothing is designed for functioning in varied and physically demanding environments, and clothing in general is for protection and utility (although much of it tries its best to not be). Practicality and durability are characteristics that I want in what I personally wear.
I spent my younger years in farming, and you really blow through clothes in that line of work. When I first started making apparel, it was to hold up to the daily rigor of farm work. Down the road, the military fabrics and materials were an obvious choice, and the look and feel of these materials has an appeal of its own.
In 2008, there was a tactical pants boom when brands from Propper to Tru-Spec came out with lines specifically tailored for law officers and gun professionals. When did your line begin, and what sets your tactical pants apart from the competition?
I’ve been making utilitarian clothing since I started making clothes; our latest pants are perhaps the most tactically oriented design. There are a lot of companies in this area these days, so the selection is pretty wide. I’ve seen some really innovative stuff and some pretty unremarkable stuff.
Our line has a durability factor and aesthetic that stands out. The materials and construction that we use are as tough as we can get. Our look may be a little over the top, but I don’t think that making something that isn’t unique is really a thing worth making in this business.
We are really big on American manufacturing. All of our materials and findings are sourced domestically, our sewing is all done domestically as well, and this is a thing that very few apparel companies can claim.
It’s been about three years since the Adam Savage/Mark IV coat mania. Do people still seek out that coat just because he wore it on several MythBusters episodes?
Of course. Adam has a pretty big and loyal international following, and I routinely get requests making sure they are getting “the jacket that Adam wears on Mythbusters.”
In 2001, you shelved your company to go teach, are you back full-time now? When did you come back and why?
Yes, I am full time (maybe more than full-time). I don’t think this is the venue to discuss the state of the American education system, but in a nutshell, the “system” makes student success difficult to say the least. And I got frustrated.
I’ll be back someday, but I really love apparel and the time was right. I was doing a little in my leisure time, and people started tracking me down from the MythBusters connection so with additional interest from Chris and Len, we gave it another go.
We checked out your new PNT X.A pants and thought they were pretty sweet. Any other new products in the pipeline this year?
Thank you. Of course [there'll be new products this year]. We have a couple jackets slated for fall, and an LE version of our Mk I. We’re toying with the idea of doing some really small runs of some items, kind of test runs, which we can do as we are pretty self-contained.
We couldn’t help but notice that your price of $160 is much higher than a lot of tac pants out there. What are people getting for the extra cost?
In general, ours is a unique product, we make them in small lots out of the best stuff available. Some of it looks like costume kit from the movies but it is made of the real stuff and is totally built to last.
The patterns are crazy and have a lot of pieces that require a tremendous amount of sewing. There is almost 3 yards of fabric in those pants and probably over 100 separate pieces that need to be assembled (I haven’t counted because I don’t really want to know) and since this is done domestically that’s gonna have a cost.
What are some other things that are unique about Kitanica?
We outsource very little. All design, pattern-making, grading, sampling, sourcing is done in-house as is all of our jacket production. I don’t know of any companies that do what we do — making this type and level of apparel without a large team and/or outsourcing.
We are lean and mean — emphasis on lean as I do all the design and product development as well as production management and, when needed, production sewing. I love it all. My partners Chris (brother) handles the marketing and outreach and Leonard (cousin) manages our business office end. Without them involved, I’d be tinkering on stuff unknown to anyone in a basement in Oakland, Calif.