How do you respond when someone looks down their nose at you because of where you live?
No matter where you call home, someone is bound to snub you for it. But 6 years ago, Hamilton was still being referred to as the "arm-pit of Ontario." It had a rotten reputation, even from people who lived here. Today, though, I dare anybody to use that slur within 5 km of Jackson Square. You're liable to get chased all the way down King Street and back onto the 403.
There is fierce pride in Hamilton. But people like Max Francis were standing up for this city before it was cool.
Max is from Florida. He moved here 25 years ago because he was in love (not his words, but I'm assuming you have to have strong feelings for someone to move across a continent for them). But then he fell in love with Hamilton and its people (those are his words). Something powerful got a hold of him.
So powerful, in fact, it thrust him into an entrepreneurial endeavor that is now his full-time grind. Here's how he describes it.
"I was at an event in Toronto when several people asked where I lived. When I said 'Hamilton,' the look of disdain on their faces and the comments they made about Hamilton were intended to embarrass me, but instead, solidified my resolve.
I basically told them that I loved it here and wouldn't live anywhere else. I remember coming home and telling my girlfriend that I was going to make a shirt that said 'I love Hamilton' and wear it whenever I left the city. That shirt eventually turned into my company True Hamiltonian."
Max turned raw passion into a brand that carries a message of pride in our community. Sure, he sells clothes, but the fabric is a medium for the message.
"This community is an amazing place to live, work and raise a family. The clothing that we sell is just the vehicle we use to deliver that message."
"For me, the most rewarding things have been leaving my job to do this full time. Being asked to speak to high School and University kids is a huge thing for me. I'm a big kid person and I like knowing that I may influence one of them in a positive way. Watching this community embrace our message and spread it far and wide is pretty damn cool."
When he says "far and wide" he's not just using a cliche. "Hamilton is Home" can be seen on t-shirts all over the world. Most notably, the Arkells, a Hamilton indie-rock band, touted "Hamilton is Home" shirts when performing for the Canadian Winter Olympic team at the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics.
That was a highlight, for sure, but it's the subtler moments that count most for Max...
Joel Arndt: Any plans to work more with kids and teens in this year?
Max Francis: Always.
Written by Joel Arndt