Hook and Irons

Hugh Halligan's Masterpiece Revisited November 28 2012, 9 Comments


When we created Hook & Irons Co. we came up with the Signature Line as way to pay homage to the parts of the fire service that are historically significant-- the parts of the fire service that so many of us feel passionately about.   We brainstormed over so many things during those first days, but always, and without question, we were certain that we wanted to create a shirt honoring every fireman's favorite tool, the Halligan bar.

Hugh Halligan on right


Hugh Halligan is an icon of the fire service.  With FDNY, he rose to the rank of Deputy Chief and is remembered as a 'fireman's fireman' working on many of the busiest companies in the city.  But, he is known best for the tool he invented that is still carried on nearly every fire truck in America.  While today's versions may have been refined a bit, and are now built by different manufacturers, they are very nearly the same exact tool that Halligan invented in the 1940's.

The original Halligan tool was made of cross-drop forged from one piece of No. 4140 (high carbon content) steel, and weighed 8 ½ lbs.  This was a great improvement in strength and weight over its predecessors, The Claw and Kelly tool.   The standard bar was approximately 30” in length, with a 15/16” shaft shaped into a hexagon for grip.  The fork was a minimum of 6” long tapered into two well beveled tines.  Spacing between the tines allows for a gas valve to be shut off.   And stamped into the steel of the forks of the original Halligan tool was Hugh's signature and the letters  AM + DG.  Chief Halligan was a very religious man and it is widely believed the letters stood for  the Latin phrase , Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam or “for the greater glory of God.”  This phrase was a favorite of St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus.  Pope John Paul II routinely used it in his writings.  He would print AMDG in the top left of every page he wrote.   The + sign is widely believed to represent a cross.


When creating the shirt, it was important to us to include these elements into the design.  We used the original advertisements as inspiration and we picked colors that we thought were as hard-looking as the drop-forged steel of the Halligan tool.  The typography is chosen and inspired from the ad, as well as the slogan, "Yes! It is an Ugly Bar."  The ribbon at the bottom of the shirt (also taken from the ad) represents the Boston Fire Department who was the first to recognize the genius of the tool and put one on every single truck in Boston.


The genius of the Halligan tool becomes apparent in the hands of a skilled operator and when properly used – provide protection to the arms, hands, and body of the holder during forcible entry operations.  Pound for pound,  it is the best tool on any rig and paired with a flat-headed axe, the Irons are a Truckie's best friend. 

To this day, there are fire companies who still carry and use an original Halligan tool on their rigs.  Tools that are nearly 70 years old and still working to this day.  Yes, it is an UGLY tool! and yes we are very proud to offer Hook & Irons second Signature Tee--The Halligan Tee.



*All the research for this blog and the t-shirt were done on-line.  Information was gathered from a wealth of stories and articles, conversations and forum posts.  Thanks to Rob FisherIrons and Ladders, and Hugh Halligan's own article entitled, "The Halligan Tool" which appeared in a 1950 issue of WNYF for which most of this research was taken.  

Where We Stand October 25 2012, 0 Comments

Today, just over a month after the launch of Hook & Irons we have been overwhelmed by the support received from the firefighting community.  We've made connections and friends in ways we would've never suspected, and received help in the most unlikely places.  


Most surprising though is the support we've received from non-firefighters, friends of firefighters, and people who just appreciate the fire service.  The thing about firefighters is we are a tight bunch and can be pretty exclusionary.  Once we become firefighters and join the brotherhood those around us that we love often find themselves on the outside of our war stories and inside jokes.   They get a glimpse into our lives and our passion, but they don't necessarily get the 'invite' to be a member.

What we're discovering is that Hook & Irons Co. is for everyone who loves the fire service.  It's for everyone who respects the best of who we are and what our profession represents.  And when Digital Arts magazine interviewed Tom Lane about our brand we were blown away.  It's not just the firefighters that are H&I company members, but graphic artists, history lovers and people who just dig the designs, the brand, and what we all stand for.

And that is what makes us most proud.  If you'd like to read the article in Digital Arts, you can click here.

We Are Hook & Irons July 18 2012, 0 Comments

    Well, if you're here reading this right now, then you are proof that a couple of firemen, given enough time, determination and help can get anything done.  To put it plainly, we have no experience with web design, graphic design, clothing design or any other thing you might need to get a business off the ground.  What we had was an idea and the desire to make Hook & Irons happen.  The idea is simple.  We want to create clothing and accessories that truly honor the history and tradition of the fire service with designs that are simple, clean, and meaningful.  We thought that if we found the right people to help us create fashion-forward designs we could build a clothing line with timeless designs that we would be proud to wear.  

    We have been motivated by certain truths.  The first being that there are thousands of other firefighters out there that love the fire service at least as much as us, thousands that live the lifestyle every day, thousands that are proud of the tradition that they were hired into.  The other truth that gave us the confidence to 'put our money where our mouth is', is that we were both curious and dumb enough to see if we could pull this thing off.

    A benefit we didn't realize when we incorporated and started down this path was that Hook and Irons would give us a chance to throw a spotlight on artists, craftsman, firefighters and companies that we respect.  The first person that we found as much by coincidence as anything else was Tom Lane, our graphic designer.

    As we started looking through old fire ads and catalogs, pictures of antique fire trucks and monochrome photos of the 'old days' we knew that we'd have to find someone who studied and loved the hand drawn typography of the early 1900's.  Easier said than done.  Why should anyone hand draw their letters when Photoshop has thousands of fonts to choose from.  And with a few mouse clicks you can manipulate, stretch and warp those fonts in any way you want.  That's not what we wanted.  We wanted a logo with the personality of a hand drawn sign on a cobble stone street and the beauty of a hand built fire truck from the early 1900's.  We had gathered hundreds of photos and vintage ads and no one. . . .I mean no one got it.  Everyone wanted quick and easy, flashy and fast.  Then we found Tom.

    From our first conversation with Tom we knew we had found a true artist who was already doing exactly what we needed.  We gave him access to our photos, our motto, and the style we were shooting for.  A few days later, he sent us this photo directly from his sketch pad.


He had used that early 'gaslight style' that we like so much and to put it over the top, he had incorporated pike poles and the fork of the halligan right into the logo.  Needless to say we were more than a little happy--and impressed.  He had captured the essence of what we were hoping for on his very first draft.

    Things progressed quickly from there and within a week, he had created our mark and the other pieces needed to visually capture a brand.

From these sketches, a brand was born.  We are proud of the look and feel of Hook & Irons Co.  We think the imagery represents everything great about the fire service, and even though we are still in our infancy it is our hope that you come along with us for the ride.  Keep updated on Facebook with everything Hook & Irons by clicking here.