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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

2-26-24 PDF
February 26, 2024
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Student Veteran Founds Apparel Company

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While meeting with the Mass Media, Nathan Heilman ran into friend and fellow Writer’s Community member, Dan Connolly, who sported an Engage shirt. 

University of Massachusetts Boston student and veteran, Nathan Heilman, started his own apparel and lifestyle company called Engage last November, grounding it in a philosophy that values restraint and power. Recently the company began offering its t-shirts for women and men, beanies, and scarves at a store in South Boston.  

“I never found anything in the marketplace I wanted to wear. Engage apparel is high quality and a nod to the service without being ‘cheesy,’” says Heilman, who stands tall at 6’ 8’’ and weighs 240 pounds.

The Engage logo features a tank encased in brackets. The punctuation symbolizes having a tactical advantage; Heilman gave the example of a chess match. An old school diving suit over a set of tridents, skull-and-crossbones style, and an all-seeing eye with a plane inside the pupil are two examples of their t-shirt designs.

Heilman first conceived the idea for Engage two years ago. The designs are created by his artist brother, as well as local, Paul Woodworth, who does “3D pattern development work” for shoe manufacturer Reebok, according to his LinkedIn profile. Heilman sources the plain t-shirts from an organic and union-organized wholesale company in New York, ‘Royal’ apparel, and then applies graphics.

Engage products can be bought online(www.engageapparel.com) and at ‘Wears + Wares,’ a clothing store in South Boston. Heilman says the store recently reported sold most of the stock they were given. Currently a one man-operation, he hopes to soon expand Engage into a new rented space and hire a couple employees.

“My intent is to hire transitioning veterans. The number of veterans entering the workforce is a pretty high number – nearly a million downsized across the service branches,” says the tattooed and articulate Heilman. An English major, he writes poetry with ‘Warrior Writers,’ the UMass Boston creative writing club for veterans.

Heilman ended his 14 year long service with the United States Marine Corps last September after multiple deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq, and stretches spent in North Carolina and Japan. He worked on network systems security and engineering, both building infrastructure and coding. For one of his last projects, he improved the full-motion video signal between the troops and unmanned aerial vehicles, colloquially known as “drones.” He also helped pen the manual for operating the Marine Corps’ UAV’s.

When asked if he was happy he served, Heilman said, “I am definitely happy I served. I wouldn’t be where I am today [without it] – the phenomenal technology I was exposed to, the fact that I get to go to college now. I’m financially stable. I’m just in a lot better place.” Originally from Washington, he decided to join the military at age 17.

“It came down to why most people join the service – the economics of the situation. Recruiting efforts typically target impoverished areas and I happened to be in that segment of the population. I wanted a better future for myself.“
Through Engage he looks to collaborate with other veteran artists and companies, and supports the ‘One Million Goal.’ Founded by former Marine Garret Biss, the initiative aims to bring clean drinking water to one million people.

When asked if his brand glorifies warfare, Heilman responded, “No, and I don’t think there is anything glorious about warfare, personally. People who have actually been there will not think that way either. There is this misconception about how Hollywood portrays things and then there is the reality of it.”
“People want to go to school and they want to go do these things. Our designs are not about wearing guns or tons of skulls. We want to appreciate the service without it being about shootings or the sad reality of it.”