In 2023 Varusteleka turned 20, and it is time to reminisce! People often ask where were you when this and that little thing happened? Who could say – our recollection is also spotty at best, but luckily most events have left some sort of imprint in the fabric of history. We have listed a few milestones through the years both in good and in a few controversies, too. You gotta break a few eggs to egg a house, or whatever – the most important thing is to be right every time!
September, 2003. Varusteleka Begins.
Valtteri Lindholm founded Varusteleka in 2003. He was frustrated with the existing Finnish army shops and decided he can do it better himself. Valtteri borrowed a thousand euros from his friend, built a simple webstore and bought some military surplus from Germany.
January, 2005. The First Warehouse Rented.
Stuff began to pile up in the corners, so it was time to get proper storage space. This warehouse was also accessible for customers, if you knew to take the D stairwell elevator to the 7th floor, then take a left, through the fire door, a right, third door on the right, avoid the trap door, secret handshake, two and a half oinks, and so on…
January, 2006. The First Employees.
Solo entrepreneurship became a bottleneck for the growth of the business, but Valtteri was afraid to hire anyone. Finally he hired his friend Henri to help him while he was getting a new batch of stuff from Germany. When he returned, he noticed Henri had hired a helper for himself - another Henri. The current staff roster can be viewed here on our website
June, 2006. The First Shopping Cart. The first iteration of a webstore with a shopping cart came to life in July of 2006. You could put items in the shopping cart. And then buy them. Modern technology is wonderful!
A Proper Walk-in Store on Hankasuontie.
Our ambition was limitless – we blasted a brick-and-mortar store into existence. The first place was briefly on Atomitie, but later in the year we moved to Hankasuontie. These are street names in Helsinki. The current place of business is also on Hankasuontie but elsewhere.
In the olden days, warehouses were a bit more chaotic. Products did not necessarily have designated spots and were humoristically labeled, making it frustrating to attempt locating a product from the storage while customers are waiting.
May, 2007. A New Website. We erected a whole new webstore, where the available quantity of a certain product (even for different sizes) would be automatically updated. This feature works even in our current webstore most of the time!
October, 2009. The Move Begins.
Quite soon the big time store was found to be too small for our purposes, so we had to move. The next place was on Ruosilantie. That is also a street in Helsinki. At some point the move was also finished, and there was much rejoicing.
December, 2009. The First Epic Market Saturday.
Now that we had an actual, physical, big time walk-in store, the next logical move was to arrange actual, physical, big time events! Epic Market Saturdays are events that have combined all sorts of activities, entertainment, special offers, flea market action, and such. Here is the event page
for the 10th Epic Market Saturday.
April, 2010. The First Newsletter.
People just crave some processed meat products in their email, and we deliver! Nowadays there are many types of newsletters going out, and you can also have a taste if you’d like. Sign up
as a Regular Pig, and subscribe to the newsletter.
February, 2012. Varusteleka in Finnish Donald Duck Comic Book. We didn’t get the 2012 apocalypse predicted by the Mayans, but Varusteleka won the publicity game here in Finland by being immortalized in the most glorious publication of the Disney conglomerate. Yes, Donald Duck is the boss around here. Mickey Mouse is a nosy little imp, nobody likes him. Mickey always wins, succeeds, and comes out on top? Unrealistic! The real world is that you work in a margarine factory between stints of unemployment, all the while taking care of adopted kids as a single parent with all sorts of anger issues and unhelpful relatives.
April, 2012. Iron Sky.
Nazis on the Moon! Of course we had to collaborate by putting together some wardrobe for this groundbreaking Finnish piece of cinema. Raus! Here is a trailer
of the film on YouTube.
June, 2012. The Wifebeater Incident.
Not all people get humor, or on the other hand, take things seriously enough. We aptly named a sleeveless shirt in our store as "Vaimonhakkaajapaita", which means "Wifebeater Shirt" in Finnish. Of course when you put it in Finnish, it is a little edgy – too edgy for some people. So, someone made a formal complaint to the ethics committee of advertising, and there was some sort of an investigation, where in the end we were absolved of any wrong-doing. Domestic abuse is a real thing and on the list of things we should get rid of as humankind, but perhaps censoring a specific word is not the way to go. Besides, the best humor is often such that it might not be immediately recognized as humor – here at Varusteleka we do not dumb down things for our esteemed customers. And fortunately the years have gone by from that incident, and nowadays you can openly say anything without being bothered by all sorts of whiners!
December, 2012. The Birth of Varusteleka Brands.
We were already well beyond knee-deep in our ambition, so we had to start pushing our very own products. In their entirety, we came to introduce our brands Särmä, Särmä TST, Terävä, and Jämä. Eventually we had to downsize one of them, and here
is the obituary for Jämä.
July, 2013. The Genocide Beret Incident, Part 1.
We hurt people’s feelings again, because we put some letters and words together to form factual information. This time the ethics committee of advertising ruled against us – in their wisdom it is OK to call a wifebeater shirt a wifebeater shirt although there is no evidence that any wife-beating activities have been performed while wearing the garments in question, but when actual genocide has been perpetrated while wearing certain hats (by certain Serb military units) we sold as "Genocide Berets", it is not OK to say that. The genocide-beret-wearing Serbs have feelings, too. There used to be a Serb folk music video on YouTube where the berets in question were worn (apparently by the genocidal military unit mentioned earlier). It has since been taken down for hate speech reasons, and you can see the disclaimer here
. So, to recap: According to the ethics committee it was unethical for us to call these fine genocidal troops’ berets as "genocide berets", but then YouTube ruled that even their accordion music was a war crime. Whatever.
July, 2013. The Skrama Bush Knife.
Is it a knife? Is it a machete? A quasi-modern classic and one of Varusteleka’s bestselling products saw the light of day. Check it out
on our webstore.
November 2013. First Varusteleka War Flea Market. We've had our own separate staff flea market together with Epic Market Saturdays and we thought that why not make this an separate event. In addition, why not give our fans the chance to attend the event as sellers. And so it was decided to organize the first ever Varusteleka War Flea Market.
December, 2013. Assault Pack Launch.
We went ahead and revamped this classic with our own features and fine-tunings, and the rest is history. Almost everybody in Finland has this backpack now, but we are working towards absolutely everyone having it. Get
September, 2014. Make Arnold come.
We heard that Mr. Schwarzenegger is coming to Finland and we thought it would be epic to get him to visit our store. He did not respond to our personal video invite
, but we did meet him anyway in 2014.
January, 2015. Särmä Merino Hoodie Goes Online.
This thing was and is a hit – the Merino Hoodie is our bestseller year in, year out. Our staff whole-heartedly shares the sentiment, and this has become a sort of unofficial work outfit for most, all year round. The Särmä Merino Hoodie
can be found on our webstore, of course.
March, 2015. The Genocide Beret Incident Continues, Part 3. Fact no.1: If a law-abiding private company in the business of lawfully selling legal goods to customers even mentions genocide in relation to one of their products (or a few), the agenda must most definitely be to incite actual genocide or at least make a profit of one. Just like Spielberg with his Schindler’s List. Anyway, we had to write another public letter to address the ethics committee’s silly little tempest in a teapot. By the way, did you notice that we skipped one part of the Genocide Beret Incident? Well, who cares about genocides, anyway.
August, 2015. Common Jeans Launch.
We put up some nice jeans on August 27, 2015 – and they are still going strong, check them out
in our webstore!
September, 2016. M05 Liberation and the First M05 Product.
Our business skyrocketed to a whole new level when the Finnish government released the M05 pattern for free manufacturing by anyone. We started to do our own stuff in M05 Woodland, Winter, and Snow Camo patterns. Here’s a related video
on our Facebook page.
April, 2016. Bar Sotima Becomes Reality.
Our very own bar! The name "Sotima" contains a Finnish word-play involving the witty use of, eh, the nominal infinitive active illative case of "going to war"... Or is it the participle active agent? Are these even actual things? Who knows – Uralic languages such as Finnish go about them in mysterious ways. Anyway, this bar is a very practical way to drink some beer while pretending to work. We have been told a bunch of actual customers frequent here also. Here is the Sotima page
on our website, and here is a flashy, big production piece of video art
from the grand opening in 2016 (Facebook video link).
February, 2017. We Acquired "Inttistore" Surplus Store. To survive our level of ambition, we had to use a snorkel now – we bought out some of our domestic competition, because monopoly is what really drives those profits! Well ok, actually we just bought the inventory of a failed business, but anyway. There’s no article or post about it in English, so you’ll just have to take our word for it.
September, 2017. Särmä Women's Merino Wool Hoodie.
Things got so professional we took a deep dive into the world of Haute Couture. We have the world’s finest merino hoodies, wouldn’t you agree? Speaking of dives, it happened so that we eventually had to let go of this fine product. Sometimes, while the product is absolutely fantastic, the sales just don’t reach a level of sustainability, and we have to bring out the ol’ chopping block – it is sad but true.
October, 2017. The Unknown Soldier. We collaborated with the producers on this third film adaptation of a patriotic anti-war novel by Finnish novelist and Continuation War veteran Väinö Linna. Although very popular, the novel was also quite modern and controversial in 1954 due to its episodic structure and especially the realistic portrayal of war time events and people in them. This film was shot during 2016-2017, and the premiere was on October 27, 2017. It did quite well in the (Finnish) box office, as there were over a million tickets sold during its run. If your interest was piqued, the film is available on various streaming platforms.
March, 2018. The Circular Economy.
Eventually even our way of doing business reached a level of some maturity, and we devised this system of gear recycling for our customers. Properly made gear and clothes find new life with new owners, and everybody wins. See more information here
on our website.
July, 2018. The Current Walk-In Store.
The best walk-in store, warehouse quarters, and offices so far are now in full operation – along with a brand new Bar Sotima! There’s a photo album
on our Facebook page about the first day events.
August, 2018. The First Ever Finnish Brutality.
Tulta munille – fire to the balls! August 8-9, 2018 was the date of the first Finnish Brutality, the most brutal shooting competition ever done in Finland. Here is the Finnish Brutality
event page on our website.
August, 2018. What in the World is MGO?
After moving to the current place of business in July 2018, celebrations were in order! The Mega Grand Opening was quite mega! See the evidence for yourself in this album
on our Facebook page.
October, 2018. Many followers on Facebook.
Rockstar achievement unlocked. We clocked 100k followers on our Finnish Facebook, so we raffled off a perfect set of our brand products. A lucky somebody won! There’s a video
on our Facebook page.
January, 2019. No Beer Today.
Once upon a time there was a brief glimmer of hope to put real, actual beer and other beverages on our webstore, but the powers that be said a resounding "no". More often than not draconian legislation and frivolous bureaucracy crush fine ideas, there’s little you can do about that. The level of our ambition briefly receded to our brow. Here is a short film
about the incident.
July, 2019. That One Time We Sold Some Asbestos. Admittedly, there have been moments of slight tunnel vision and lapses in best practices. It so happened we once had to do a recall of some (surprise surprise) Soviet breathing-inhibiting relics which were found by our government research labs to contain… asbestos. We were foolish not to guess the Soviets putting lung cancer inducing substances inside filters directly connected to people’s lungs. Fool me once, shame on you – fool me twice, it was the Russians again. Truth be told, decades ago asbestos was a common material in filters also outside of the CCCP, but you can blame the Soviets for anything anyway, and you would be right – that’s their track record right there.
August, 2019. The First Lekafest.
We had already learned to swim in the yellow sea of our own ambition, so now we had to host our very own rock music festival! At this point it was only a 1-day event, but you never know how things will evolve… And then there was the small issue of worldwide plague pandemic, and all sorts of public events were swiftly put on hold. The first Lekafest was headlined by the Finnish metal act Mokoma. See the Lekafest photo gallery on Facebook.
April, 2020. The First Remote Military March.
The Plague was doing its thing, but marching will never stop! We invented this quite ingenious thing which you can take part in from all over the world. Although restrictions on public gatherings and such have since been lifted, the Remote Military March has evolved into a permanent, annual thing! Here is the event page
for VRMM 2023 on our website.
August, 2020. M04 Desert Camo Launch.
After the triumphant release of our M05 lineup, it was logical to do the Finnish M04 Desert Camo also. Just recently these things have become even more relevant, as the Finnish Defence Forces announced in May 2023 that the Desert Camo will be seeing a lot more action as they will start issuing M04 gear for combat training purposes at Finnish military bases, and not exclusively for operations on sandy foreign soil. See the launch video
on our Facebook page!
February, 2021. Remote Brutality.
After we did the Remote Military March, the next step was to go remotely brutal! That is, we realized you could also do some Brutality style stages by yourself at shooting ranges across the world, and share your sweat, tears, and glory by posting the videos online. We also had a little competition on this subject, and here is the results video
on our Facebook page.
February, 2022. The warmongering by the terrorist state of Russia.
Russia mobilized a major offensive against the sovereign state of Ukraine in February of 2022. While this is definitely not one of our milestones, it affected our business in a major way. Here is our Ukraine FAQ
on our website. Slava Ukraini!
April, 2022. The Inevitable Price Hike.
The cost of materials, manufacturing, and logistics had taken off on a mouth-drying upward slope mostly due to the pandemic – and the warmongering perpetrated by the terrorist state of Russia – so we had no chance but to adjust our prices. This news was received with generally understanding tones. Here is the announcement
on our website.
October, 2022. Operation Elossa Takas. Most of 2022 went by dealing with the effects of a new war in Europe, and this was one of the major aid operations we took part in. Operation Elossa Takas, "Come Back Alive", bravely transported goods to the warzone to help the Ukrainians, and we provided some assistance in the organizing efforts. Also a big shout out to everyone who made a donation – THANK YOU.
April, 2023. Project MEGA.
Make Europe Great Again! We launched this new program in April of 2023, which had of course been prepared and worked on in-house for a much longer time. The ancient oceans of our ambition had risen, shifted, dried out to salt deserts and plateaus of urea, and filled again for countless cycles – now it was time to really put the hammer down. We announced we are moving all manufacturing of our brand products to Europe. Here is an article
about it on our website.