Late last year, as I was plotting what to get my lovely wife for Christmas, I came across an Instagram post from Tangerine Boutique.
As we’ve mentioned before, Tangerine Boutique is a women’s clothing shop in Galveston, Texas, our hometown, only a couple of blocks from our loft. It specializes in a classic/bohemian aesthetic, with a fairly vigorous commitment to American made clothing.
The Instagram post featured an American made wrap skirt from Tysa, a Los Angeles-based brand my wife fancies. The print was called Roaring Twenties, calling to mind all things art deco.
I made the purchase, and waited for Christmas morning. Presents were opened. She was delighted. And may I say, she looks truly stunning in it.
Around these parts, our affection for Rancourt shoes is well known. A pair both of penny loafers and camp moccasins from the Maine-based company have a regular and treasured place in my shoe rotation.
So it seemed only natural that, in the market for another pair of slip on shoes, I would turn, once again, to the good folks at Rancourt.
I decided that my next pair would be Gucci-style bit loafers, every bit as classic at the penny and tassel iterations. It’s a style I’ve long coveted but one that, up until now, never had a place in my footwear collection.
I placed a custom order, paying the modest $25 upcharge for a split size request, and waited a couple of months for the shoes to arrive.
And arrive they did, more or less within the promised time span.
But there are two issues with these shoes. When I first tried them on, I was aghast at how tight they were. I did a little comparison against my Rancourt penny loafers, and the bit loafers were about 3/8″ shorter–despite being ostensibly the same size.
They’ve begun to stretch a bit after a few wearings, but they’re still too snug for regular use. I imagine the break-in period for these to be in the order of months rather than weeks.
The other issue is one of quality control. The left sole, before I even tried it on, looked a bit discolored and scratched. Now I realize that, after the first trip outside, that consideration is moot. I’d just like the soles to look pristine when I pull them out of the box.
At this point, our experience demands we knock Rancourt down a peg, from highly recommend to recommend with reservations.
A few years ago, we extolled the virtues of Palm Beach Sandals. At the time, that company was one of only two enterprises producing the classic resort sandal–the one popularized by Jackie Kennedy–in the United States.
Alas, they are no longer.
The only company remaining that can trace a direct line to the original sandals made for Jackie Kennedy is Tony Bonanno Sandals. Tony is a third generation sandal maker, grandson of the couple who made the first pair for Jackie Kennedy. A few years ago, he took over the family business from his father Stephen.
Palm Beach Sandals might object to this characterization, as it is still marketing a version of the sandal. However, I contend that one must make the sandals in the United States–as they were originally–to stake that claim. Otherwise you’re nothing more than a name doing a diminished legacy business.
In the same way I’ve been leaning hard on slip on shoes during the pandemic, my wife has been upping her sandal game. Here in the subtropics, a good pair of sandals is almost a year-round shoe.
So it made perfect sense to get her a pair of Tony Bonanno sandals for her birthday last month.
Yes, dear reader, these are everything we hoped they would be. They are impeccably constructed, beautiful in appearance and a perfect addition to a resort/summer wardrobe.
My mother was a notoriously sharp-tongued woman. Of all the derisive epithets in her arsenal, none was as cutting as “tacky.” To be caught wearing something tacky was to be instantly downgraded in her estimation.
As the proverbial acorn does not fall far from the tree, I often find myself calling out those things that miss the mark of good taste.
What brings this to mind?
Last month, I purchased a tandem of face masks from Rowing Blazers, one in a broad navy and mint green stripe and the other in a black watch tartan. I bought these particular masks because of their American made pedigree.
Here’s the rub: They came with labels prominently and intractably attached to the front of the mask. The front, dear reader.
While I can appreciate the occasional discrete logo on a shirt, the tag goes on the inside. Full stop. End of story. Either by intention or out of ignorance, to do otherwise is unquestionably gauche–tacky in extremis.
Maybe I’m not quite as enamored as others are of Rowing Blazers regurgitated Tommy Hilfiger-esque take on the Ivy style. Some have called it “streetwear meets preppy.” It’s a sort of post-modern trad, a melding together of diverse influences, and I suppose there’s some value in that.
Which brings us back to these particular masks. On one level, I regret having to give them a middling review. They’re comfortable, well made and, aside from the glaring billboard for Rowing Blazers stitched on the outside, aesthetically pleasing. But the issue with the tags is simply too much to overcome.
For quite some time, I’ve been a follower of the Richter Goods Instagram account. I’ve taken note of their interesting take on classic shirt styles, all made in San Antonio, Texas.
But, for a while, one was unable to purchase shirts from their website; this has since been rectified.
So I’ve waited patiently until a trip to San Antonio materialized.
With Hurricane Laura churning in the Gulf, a mandatory evacuation of Galveston Island became the perfect excuse for visiting Richter Goods in person.
Richter Goods is the brainchild of Mario Guajardo. He’s a native of Mexico City–and a descendant of native Texans–who relocated to San Antonio in 2001. In 2011, he launched Richter Goods, with a commitment to producing his wares in the Alamo City.
His shirts are classic, with a generous nod to the Western aesthetic, hearkening back to classic cowboy inspired clothing from the 40s and 50s.
It was a genuine privilege to have the opportunity to speak with him in person. While there, Mario offered me a shirt free of charge. I demurred. He insisted.
I’ve found that I tend to took at items we receive gratis with a bit more of a jaundiced, critical eye. But I can find nary a disparaging thing to say about this particular shirt. It’s cut in a classic 1940s style, with pleated front pockets. The fabric is a sumptuous cotton/wool blend, with a thickness perfect for shoulder season weather.
Many items in my wardrobe occupy a very specific space. So I admire those pieces that can do double or triple duty. This shirt is definitely one of those. It can be a shirt unto itself. It can be layered over a button down when the mercury drops. Or it can be worn untucked for a casual, shirt-jac look.
Allen Edmonds, can’t we go back to the way things were?
Don’t get me wrong. I’m no naysayer who thinks Allen Edmonds’ heyday is in its rearview mirror. What the company produces today is every bit the equal of its offerings from twenty or thirty years ago.
I pine for something different. I’ve been an Allen Edmonds customer for more than 15 years now, enticed by the company’s willingness to produce two shoes of different sizes for only a modest upcharge. My feet are a full size and a half different, so proper fitting shoes are a must, particularly with loafers.
Now, it seems, the company has put the kibosh on that offer.
During the pandemic, I’ve been leaning hard on slip on shoes, and I’ve looked covetously at some of Allen Edmonds’ loafers, particularly the Randolph penny loafer.
So I called up Allen Edmonds and got the bad news. The only solution was to buy two pairs, at a price too dear.
However, a solution soon manifested itself, in the form of a half off sale. That made buying two pairs a doable (albeit wasteful) proposition.
Within two days of ordering, they arrived on my doorstep. And, dear readers, they’re everything I’ve come to expect from Allen Edmonds–impeccable style, wonderful craftsmanship. Made, of course, in Wisconsin.
We’ve waxed rhapsodic before about the American made madras popover shirts from O’Connell’s Clothing. With the pandemic still in full swing, I’ve been bolstering the casual side of my wardrobe, so a return visit (virtual, of course) to O’Connell’s was well in order.
This newest popover is in the Gordon dress tartan, in my opinion one of the more refined options. It’s both exceptionally made and classically designed.
As a reminder, these are cut quite generously. I’m a fairly typical medium, and I always opt for a small in the O’Connell’s shirts.
In 2015, Brooks Brothers unveiled its last Black Fleece collection, the product of its much ballyhooed collaboration with Thom Browne.
By all accounts, I should have been an ideal candidate for Black Fleece. Much of the collection was made in the United States. And it hearkened back to the heyday of the Ivy look, with a bit of postmodernism wink thrown in for good measure.
But when I was in the market for their wares, I was a good stone heavier. Because Black Fleece cuts were fiercely slim, almost bordering on parody, they were a non-starter for me.
With a number of old Black Fleece shirts filling the ranks of eBay, however, I figured my narrower dimensions justified trying one out. I found a plaid oxford cloth button down in size BB2 with the tags still attached and pulled the proverbial trigger.
The BB2, I understand, was the Black Fleece equivalent of a medium. For the life of me, I can’t figure out on which planet this is a medium. I have shirts in size small that are a tent compared to this.
But still, it fits, albeit snugly, which I suppose is the Thom Browne Way. I certainly never would have paid full price for it. But the discount eBay affords makes this a reasonable purchase. And it’s an interesting modern take on the Ivy look.
Truth be told, we have a somewhat fractious relationship with Brooks Brothers. No company looms as large in the pantheon of the classic American style. But I would also contend that few companies has done as much to betray their American roots. So much of what Brooks produces these days is made in countries with scant labor and environmental protections. The few items still produced in the United States are the last remnants of a once inspiring legacy.
It’s not that we don’t venerate the company. Despite my desire to diversify the labels in my wardrobe (supporting various American manufacturers), I’ve owned, at various time, 11 pieces from the Bills Khakis. We’ve featured the company several times on this blog. And our Instagram feed contains several posts highlighting its wares.
But I think our affection is outpaced by its influence.
There’s probably no company in today’s menswear that’s done as much to keep alight the flame of American manufacturing. Without Bills Khakis, the classic menswear landscape in the United States would be a far different–and much diminished–place.
A few years back, Bills teetered on the edge of collapse. Its founder was removed in a takeover. It passed through a couple of corporate hands, eventually landing in the lap of NEJ Inc. I thought that heralded the demise of Bills as we knew it–a company, rooted in the classics, with a firm footed commitment to American manufacturing. My guess was that the company would be stripped down for parts, eventually becoming a legacy brand with manufacturing in East Asia.
I’ve never been more grateful to be wrong. To this day, Bills maintains a diverse range of menswear, all made in the United States.
I recently acquired a pair of its Parker shorts. They are everything I’ve come to expect from Bills Khakis: well-constructed, classic, American made.
Nearly 40 years ago, I acquired my first pair of camp moccasins–the classic L.L. Bean model, made in the United States. I wore them at least a couple times a week for seven years until they were literally falling apart, the upper and sole only held together by a liberal swath of electrical tape.
In the intervening years, a new camp moccasin never found its way into my sartorial orbit. I avoided them largely because my feet are a full size and a half different in length, making a slip on shoe a challenging proposition.
But I knew Rancourt as a viable option for folks with my sizing issues. Four years ago, I purchased a pair of penny loafers from Rancourt, and they imposed only a modest upcharge to make a pair with shoes of two different sizes. Those of you who have followed our companion Instagram account know that those loafers are among the most treasured items I own.
So, with the current pandemic placing a premium more casual styles, I decided to pull the trigger on a pair of Rancourt camp mocs: an 8E for the left and a 9.5D for the right. For a custom order, they arrived exceedingly fast, in less than a month.
They are truly outstanding–with the kind of craftsmanship I’ve come to expect from Rancourt. Comfortable right out of the box, they’re a perfect shoe for a walk about town (with face mask, of course).