Ground Control’s Back to School Guide 2019

Ground Control’s Back to School Guide 2019

Wednesday, 07 August 2019

Hey, it’s the Ground Control Magazine Back to School guide 2019 edition! What a time to be alive. As always we’ll be bringing you some of the best stuff you’ll want to have this coming school year: some old, some new, all essential. Sure all of this stuff will make your school year much better but they’ll also help you live your best life. You might come to us for music, movies, TV shows, and media, and we know we blow you away every time. Now get ready to be blown away at a whole new level as you exercise your right as an American to buy the coolest swag. Don’t say we didn’t warn you!

Magazine Subscriptions

You know the drill. Let’s start things off with the essentials and that’s to live an informed life. You can do so by subscribing to some of the best news sources your dollar can buy. Pound for pound you can’t do any better than the Nation which has up-to-date reporting on events from around the world. They hold reporting to the standards it should already have. Then you have the Progressive for your more personal stories: real people and how their experiences affect us all. Their articles are short and sweet. Then, for the best music journalism (besides us, of course), there’s Razorcake. You’ll be up to speed on the best punk DIY music and culture and impress all your friends. Do the deed. You can’t go wrong.


Is there anything Kikkerland can’t do? Is there anything Kikkerland can’t make? The reason we’re so excited about Kikkerland is that we feel that after all these years we still haven’t been able to scratch the surface of all the nifty gadgets they have to offer. There are thousands of articles on their website, organized by applications, that will make your gardening, erranding, house living, cooking, and gifting better. 

What’s more, I’m always at a loss for what to gift my relatives, ones I just don’t know too well, like my inlaws. Kikkerland will make that easy by offering up some of the best ideas for just about any waller. But of course it goes the other way, too. What about that niece or nephew or teenager embarking on a new academic year of adventures? Kikkerland has cool pens, notepads, pencils, utensils, lamps, stationary, and all that you’re going to need, basics-wise, to have a successful year in school. And that includes the non-school gadgets, like electronics, which will make classes and studying that much more bearable.They’ve combined the aesthetically pleasing with the practical to a whole new degree.

Chances are there’s a thing or two or ten you’re going to love from Kikkerland,so stop wasting your time and start where it matters.

Dr. Martens

Reunited and it feels so good. Dr Martens were one of the companies we just loved working with in the past and we’re so glad we get to do so again. Why? Because in an age of absolutely butt ugly terrible shoes, Dr Martens has managed to make shoes that are classy and practical and that look good. What’s even better is that Dr Martens has figured out a way to keep things fresh by constantly adding and exploring new designs.

Let’s get real for a second: if you live anywhere in the north, you’re be a dummy not to get yourself a pair of Dr Martens boots. They not only help with the rain, sleet or snow, but they don’t look like terrible duck boots or Hunters. Only Dr Martens makes shoes that are comfortable and can handle weather that wants to keep you indoors. And their catalog caters to both men and women, so what are you waiting for?

But once you’ve gotten your boots, check out their regular shoe catalog for some fancy casual or formal low top shoes that won’t break the bank. No matter what you pick, you can rest assured that it’s going to be comfortable and stylish and that you’re going to be coming back for more. Few things in life are as essential as Dr Martens.

Vivo Barefoot

We’re so glad to be featuring Vivo Barefoot again because since we last tried them, we’ve gone from being fans to becoming absolutely obsessed with them. Take a peek around the gym and you’ll notice that more and more people are wearing them, and for good reason.

Where to begin with these guys? Vivo Barefoot offer a line of shoes in designs are both innovative and obvious. First of all it’s the minimalist design which is what first appealed to me. These shoes have a toned down style that actually makes them sleek and eye-catching, unlike the loud high-tops kids are wearing these days. Second, Vivo Barefoot shoes have a wider design and are very flexible so when you put one on, you’ll feel the comfort immediately. I was hesitant at first and only wore them with socks, but I got a pair of insoles (which are highly recommended) and now that I wear them barefoot they have become like a second skin on my feet. I just hope I don’t wear them out too soon because I’m going to be wearing these bad boys all the time, to any occasion. Speaking of which, the line that Vivo Barefoot offer ranges from hiking, to running, to exercise, to more formal workwear, and you can expect the sleek design and comfort across the board. And if you’re worried about getting your feet wet, you shouldn’t Vivo Barefoot shoes are designed in a way that your feet will stay dry for maximum comfort and action.

And that’s not all, Vivo Barefoot shoes (barefeet?) are made from recyclable waste material so you can actually feel better about yourself when you wear them. It’s a win-win-win. It’s going to be hard finding a better pair of exercise shoes.

Chaco Footwear

My relationship with Chacos is a long and storied one. I remember going on a hike with a friend who, for some reason, only brought sandals. “No, they’re Chacos,” she told me. ‘They look like sandals but they’re actually all purpose shows. Think of them as all-terrain tires.” I was both impressed and suspicious due to their hippy look. But I’ll be damned if my first pair of Chacos hasn’t completely changed my mind.

First of all, you have to remember that Chacos have come a long way over the years. They’ve expanded their models and looks and now have styles that fit the buyer a lot better. Of course, being a punk, I went with the black minimalist design. What sets Chacos apart from other pretend-comfortable shoes (like those Toes shoes) is that they actually are engineered to perform. To do that, Chacos contain a hefty and versatile rubber sole and a minimalist upper design to make them as comfortable as possible.

I’ll tell you there’s nothing like wearing your Chacos in the Summertime, doing yard work, going on a bike ride, and a hike all without having to change your shoes. With Chacos you’re getting style, comfort, quality, and a very versatile shoe. Chalk this up to an essential in any wardrobe.

Audio Technica AT-LP120XUSB Turntable

Look, if it’s one thing we know, it’s music. We are music lovers on the site, and it’s a big part of our lives. We are thinking about it constantly, so we’re always thinking about better ways to listen to it. With vinyl’s resurgence, it’s no wonder that phony imitators have taken the chance to try and fool their audience on what they need to be better music listeners. I’m talking all those terrible music playing devices, headphones, and record players. Let me tell you, there are some absolute clunkers out there that are all style over substance and will actually ruin your music for you. 

One lesson we’ve learnt over the years has been that, when in doubt, always look to Audio Technica. They make the best mics, both for professional and amateur recording. Their headphones and earphones are also top of the line and I’ll be hard pressed to find one that hasn’t been designed with quality in mind. So, as you can imagine, they also make some top notch record players, and the importance of a good record player cannot be understated. It’s like getting good tires for your car. It makes the whole experience better.

Probably the best turntable you can get on a budget is the AT-LP120XUSB, mostly because it sounds like a turntable that costs 4 times as much. That’s because Audio Technica knows what they’re doing. It has all the options you need for good sound, a built in preamp (which is optional), anti-skating, and speed options. It also allows you to play music from either a phono or USB port depending on how you’re playing your music. Again, just another option that is bound to come in handy. The AT-LP120XUSB was built to be a workhorse that will give you great sound every time for a long time and should be the default record player for those both starting out and wanting to up their game for their vinyl.

La Colombe

If you’re ever in Philadelphia, take a jaunt to Fishtown and you’ll be treated to one of the hippest neighborhoods in America. Not long ago it was considered one of the rougher neighborhoods in Philadelphia, but now it’s booming with specialty shops, restaurants, brewpubs, and record stores. At the center of it all is a veritable coffee palace, and that’s La Colombe.

Entering La Colombe is like entering a whole new world, designed for interaction lubricated by coffee. And with good reason, because La Colombe is quickly becoming our favorite coffee roaster. And even luckier for us, you can have their coffee at your doorstep with just a few clicks. I’m a dark roast kind of guy (even though I enjoy others brews if I have to), and trust me, finding a good roaster for that stuff ain’t easy. But La Colombe’s roasts are so low in acidity and full of flavor that their dark roasts are nothing short of a revelation. I highly recommend their Corsica, Monaco, or Louisiane with their fruity and spicy notes which taste great both freshly brewed and as cold brews. And speaking of cold brews, with this bananas Summer weather we’re having, La Colombe also have a variety of Draft Lattes varying from mocha, to vanilla, to straight up cold brew that are sure to quench your thirst and keep you energized. Do what I do, and for an extra treat, throw one of them in a blender with some ice to create a cool refreshing iced drink to beat the heat.

Sure, there are countless roasters to choose from, but you’re not going to find someone better than La Colombe.

Atlas Coffee Club

If there is one global equalizer, it would be coffee. It takes a certain sort of dedication to appreciate coffee, and a certain degree of appreciation to let it in your life so freely. We live in a wonderful time to be a coffee drinker. Good high quality coffee isn’t just ubiquitous, it’s also strong. As the Descendents used to say, you weren’t always able to get the strong stuff, which is why the bonus cup was invented (heaps and heaps of instant coffee in as little water as possible giving you the potent sludge that would fuel the greatest punk band of all time).

While most coffee remains local (which can be a very good thing), some companies have been lucky enough to expand nationally. In the case of Atlas Coffee, their reputation did the job for them. It’s not just that Atlas roasts a killer bean, it’s that they delivered the idea of artisan coffee to the masses.

Now let’s not kid ourselves, every human being needs some coffee in their life. If you’re a student, you’re going to be needing more than the average human being. And if you’re gonna be drinking a lot of the stuff, you might as well stick to the high quality stuff, the stuff you can actually taste. And that’s where Atlas comes in. Are you stuck in a college town and can’t be bothered to go out in the snow to get your coffee? Head to the Atlas website and check out their vast (and I mean VAST) collection of coffee that is available to order right at your fingertips. Their coffee from around the world is available in every conceivable roast style, is made fresh and delivered right to your front door. You’ll even get a nice little welcoming note with a map showing you where on the coffee belt your delicious coffee is coming from. Let’s be honest, you’re going to be pulling all-nighters in school, and Atlas is here to help.


Only a philistine doesn’t enjoy coffee, and only a fool wouldn’t recognize that we live in the greatest time for coffee. It’s become a meticulous art, with obsessive fans, contests and conferences. We are paying more attention than ever to our coffee, how it’s made, where it’s coming from and how we consume it. That’s great for us consumers. Not long ago, getting a good espresso or cup of coffee would take a little bit of researching. Now it’s become a niche market in each city finding the best coffee shops and even creating allegiances to them. Why else would they be selling shirts, hats, and tote bags of their shop? But while appearances might be important, what’s more important is what you put in your coffee.

Intelligentsia ranks near the top when it comes to coffee roasters. They’ve created a whole culture behind it and their approach should be commended. They care about where their beans come from, how it’s batched, and how it’s roasted. And they look cool doing it. It’s both style and substance. You can go on the Intelligentsia website and basically get the whole package. There are countless coffees to choose from, from different origins, roasting styles and blends. There are Intelligentsia recommended coffee brewing gear as well. And of course, there are the ceramics and apparel. You could blindly choose anything from their site and end up with a stylish high quality product. Few companies can compare to that.

Minipresso portable espresso machine by Wacaco

While we’re talking about coffee we should also talk about the Minipresso. Yes, a cup of coffee is always a good thing, but some of us need a little more. A potent shot that is thick and creamy. Some of us NEED espresso. I know most of the time I do. But, are you going to splurge on a $700 which is big and bulky and will take up your whole dorm? Nosiree. You need the Minipresso.

Available in a K-cup style and standard fill-it-yourself with espresso grounds style, the Minipresso is guaranteed to give you those taste espresso shots using the latest technology. What’s more, it’s portable (seriously tiny) so you can keep it at home if you want or take it to class, to the park, or to your hiking adventures. Easy to use (it’s the hand-powered function that makes it so practical) and full of flavor, the Minipresso is going to make you the life of any study group, that is, if you’re willing to share. Very very cool.

And Wacaco has also developed a Nanopresso with a higher pressure capacity if that’s you’re style.It’s as easy to use as the Minipresso and gives you all the flavor you’re looking for. Hey come in a variety of colors and designs so you can have your espresso in style, without all the fuss.

Felix Gray

You’ve probably noticed that online glasses companies are becoming a dime a dozen. Those days when you had to go into a Lenscrafters,do your checkup,and pick out glasses are long gone. Nowadays, we just go online, pick from a selection of frames, pop in our prescription and wait for our glasses to arrive. But along with that comfort also comes complications. There’s nothing like trying on your frames in the company of a friend to let you know if it’s something that fits or goes with your style.

A company who’s truly trying to distinguish themselves from the eye glasses pack is Felix Gray. It only took a single pair of their glasses to make me a convert. For starters, with Felix Gray you have the assistance of a professional who will guide you through the process of picking out glasses and find the best fit for you. They have this great system, when you put in your specifications, of asking you to take a selfie with an article known universal size so their professionals can determine whether it’s the right fit for you. In addition, Felix Gray lenses offer protection from computer monitor fatigue. If you’re like me, you spend a great deal of time in front of a computer (as I am now) and it’s quite a bummer when you’re geared up and ready to go, but your eyes just can’t take it. Felix Gray lens technology come with blue light filtering so your eyes will keep going longer which will make you keep going for longer. Another thing Felix Gray has is  smaller selection of tried and true frame styles which help narrow down the selection process and makes things easier on you. 

Like I said, it’ll only take a pair of Felix Grays to make you a convert. Their styles are unique and you’re just getting a better quality product with them.

Marpac Dohm Sleeping Aid

I know what it takes to get me a good night of sleep, and as a light sleeper that isn’t easy. A comfortable bed is essential, of course, but the right atmosphere is just as important. I sleep with ear plugs (which has its gross disadvantages) but I also need the right white noise. This is great when there’s a fan in the room or the air conditioner is on, but what about when the temperature is just right?

My only options were to point a fan away from me. I also tried a multitude of noise machines and, to be honest, it’s just not the same with a prerecorded noise coming out of computer speakers, or even worse, a phone. There’s a reason Marpac makes the best noise machines out there and that’s because they checked all the boxes. They make it sleek and affordable, yes, but also they kept it simple. The Dohm is what I need for a good night sleep.There’s an actual fan spinning in there which creates a natural sound that’s soothing. The dome surrounding it can be adjusted to equalize the noise to a whiter or browner noise, again all naturally. This all translates to a more natural environment and a better night’s sleep. Even my wife who is a heavy sleeper has found the advantage of sleeping with the Dohm.

Honestly, you don’t know what you’re missing if you haven’t tried a Dohm, and if you’re someone who’s been looking for a better way to sleep, look (and listen) no further.

Elemental Beverage Company

Boy what a Summer it’s been. It’s been hot. How hot? SO hot. And muggy as well. I’m someone who bikes to work every day, and I’ll tell you, there’s nothing I enjoy more when I get home after work, after being out in the sun, hot and sweaty, than taking a long drink of a nice cold brew coffee. There is really nothing like it and I suggest you try it. Yes, I’m a PM coffee drinker, and newsflash, it’s the best time to drink your coffee. In the Summer, there’s no other way to go. I even make my cold brew in a french press the night before and stick it in the fridge, so it’ll be ready and waiting for me the next day.

Those days might be over because now we have Elemental Beverage Company. And one thing we love about them right away is that they’re local boys from the next neighborhood in Watertown. These coffee geeks managed to make the tastiest cold brew coffee, with their patented snapchilled process to give you the smoothest cold brew you’ll ever have. That means low in acidity and full of flavor. I’m a person who loves cream in their coffee for the added smoothness and I’ll be damned if the tasty single origin brews they offer are already at peak smoothness. Just chill, crack open and enjoy. And if you can’t make up your mind, just grab one of their variety 6-packs. You’ll get a feel for coffee on a global scale done right.

Get a taste for what these new kids have to offer.

Field Notes

I’ll be damned if Field Notes didn’t give my life a much needed overhaul, all with the power of their notebooks. The art of notebook keeping and writing is not dead nor will it ever be, probably because it feels better than using a keyboard any day of the week. 

As a person full of ideas (albeit, mostly bad ones) I have a tough time organizing and prioritizing my daily tasks. Surprisingly, I’ve learnt that writing them down (even in list-form) does marvels to my productivity. The Field Notes notebooks can serve almost like a brain organizer which can be divided into compartments and subcompartments of thoughts, observations, ideas, work tasks, things to do around the house, and just shopping lists. I find that writing them down and giving myself the reward of crossing things off my list works as a great motivator.

And Field Notes knows to keep things interesting with all their new lines, thematic colors, historical event celebrators, and just cool concepts. Everything they do is so deliciously tactile: their pens, notebooks, covers, pencils, and stationary. It’s all made to be both aesthetically pleasing and practical. Something that’s rare these days. 

Get yourself some Field Notes and get organized in the best way possible.

Native Union

One thing we love about Native Union and why we keep featuring them is that we often forget about the important basics in our lives. It wouldn’t surprise us if you went through their chargers, cables, or docking stations and went, “Oh, I need one of those!” And not in a cute ironic way, but in a practical and functional way.

We’ve featured Native Union many times on our guides and they have never let us down. Their cables are durable and dependable but also adaptable and their universal cable offers adapters so you can switch back and forth between Apple and Android products: something that’s very useful in our household. Their docking stations are perfect for quick on the go charging: just lay your phone on top when you get home and it’ll charge quickly while still angled in a way that you can see the screen. Their cases are durable and look so good that they look more like notebooks than phone cases. And their new gamechanger the Belt Audio which connects a ? jack to the lighting plug on an iPhone. Think about what this means: you can now connect your iPhone to any auxiliary audio input and play your music to any audio device and even record through your iPhone. Why would you want to connect instead of using the aether? Because bluetooth can be a drag, that’s why! 

Native Union have really thought of it all and have impeccable style so you know you’ll get something you need and look good doing it.


We’re as surprised as you are that we’re featuring Mokuyobi on the column, but we’re just so in awe of their style and coors. Usually we shoot for the more subdued styles here on Ground Control: like your neutral colors, non-flashy garbs and classic looks. One look at Mokuyobi and it’s clear they’re the total opposite. Are we suffering from a fever dream? Does our clothing really have to match, when it comes down to it?

But that’s what attracted us to them in the first place: just how much fun they’re having with their clothes. And we all want to have fun with our clothes, right? As Japanophiles we can’t help but be reminded a little of Kawaii culture. Mokuyobi’s clothing are colorful, highly original, and downright happy. And with their wide range of articles, ranging from shirts, button downs, pants, backpacks, hats, socks and many many accessories, you’re bound to find something both fun and eye catching. And chances are it’s part of a matching outfit.

Mokuyobi knows there’s a kid inside all of us still trying to express themselves and now you can do that in style.


OK, we all need items to decorate our living spaces. It’s easy to default to places like Target or Ikea when you you’re looking for those aesthetic products, but that’s because you haven’t heard of Areaware.

It’s hard to describe what Areaware does, because I get the feeling they do everything. They really must be seen to be believed. Their products have such a sleekness to them and look so interesting, that half the time, you’re buying their products because you need them, and the other half of the time, you just can’t stop staring at them. They really catch your attention and are perfect conversation pieces. 

While most companies make homogeneous products, Areaware distinguishes itself by working with a slew of designers. The results are completely unpredictable and cool. Whatever it is that you’re looking for, you’re going to want Areaware’s take on it. From their spatulas, horseshoe magnet, classic nail bottle opener, beautifully carved letter wood blocks, jetblack playing cards, piggy banks, keychains, liquid flasks, decorative cubebots, or cushions, these products really are all over the place. We dare you to check out their site and not find a dozen products that you not just wanted, but that you never knew you needed. Buy them for your friends, and when you actually get them, you’ll realize you want Areaware all for yourself.


Maybe if someone told me you didn’t have to look like a total doofus while enjoying the outdoors I’d find the idea more attractive. I just wish someone showed me the cool camping products by Stanley, because the outdoors might try to kill me, but there’s no reason why I shouldn’t look good while it’s doing it.

No, but seriously, Stanley makes products that make the outdoor that much more bearable. But just because your friends have dragged you out into the outdoors, doesn’t mean your food and drinks have to fall prey to the elements (like ants and bears). Perfect for the campsite or as a way to pack your lunch so that it doesn’t leak all over your other valuable goods, Stanley’s Ceramivac Go mugs are sturdy and are designed tough to keep your drinks intact.

Sturdy doesn’t quite describe it, as Stanley ups the ante just a little more by making their storage containers practical and leakproof. Made out of strong stainless steel and plastic, you can be sure your colds will stay cold and your hots will remain hot. And honestly, it’ll take superhuman strength to break one of these guys. So rest assured, when you’re taking a break at work or on your hiking trail you’ll have perfectly preserved (for up to 12 hours!) goods that’ll get you through the rest of your day.

And if you’re me, you’re prone to bring a little hair of the dog that bit you and their flasks are practical, sturdy, and create that tight seal you’ll need to keep your valuables protected. It might be a long way to go, but there’s no reason you didn’t deserve that shot of gin at the end of the night around the campfire with your friends.

Comments are closed.