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Rowing Blazers Mask

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.

Um, no

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.

Richter Goods

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 Randolph

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.

Impeccable craftsmanship

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.

More O’connell’s Madras

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.

Brooks Brothers Black Fleece

Sometimes, I’m late to the game.

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.

Bills Khakis

Bills Khakis doesn’t get enough love around here.

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.

Rancourt Revisited

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).

Libbey

There is nothing so ideal a capstone to a day than the imbibing of an evening cocktail. The cocktail can be celebratory. It can be restorative. It can be a bulwark against the quotidian, an expression of mood or an emblem of good taste.

My wife and I are ardent fans of cocktails, both in their classic iterations and in modern interpretations of the art. We often make them at home, relying upon the traditional conically shaped cocktail glass.

Increasingly, we’ve noticed the better cocktail bars we frequent leaning more toward the coupe glass. Most of us know it as an alternative to the champagne flute for sparkling libations.

But it confers a couple of advantages for cocktails, only one of them aesthetic. Where the traditional cocktail glass is susceptible to the drink sloshing out, the coupe glass does a better job of containing liquids.

So we sought out a set of coupe classes to add to our collection of cocktail paraphernalia.

Naturally, we wanted an American made version. Thus, to Libbey we turned, taking note of its Greenwich Coupe Glasses.

Libbey’s American made Signature Kentfield Estate All-Purpose Wine Glass is our go-to glass for most varieties of wine. A number of reviewers regard it as the best all around wine glass (see here and here), a well deserved plaudit.

Not everything Libbey sells is made domestically. But a number of its products are, including the coupe glasses we sought out.

Once the glasses arrived, we were eager to try them out. Our initial impression was quite favorable. They’re both functional and visually appealing.

I do have one small issue. If I had my druthers, I’d make the glasses just a bit smaller, as some cocktails, particularly those with three or fewer ingredients, have trouble filling the glass’s ample dimensions.

Otherwise, these are a fine addition to our bar.

Red Land Cotton

There are a handful of companies we patronize whose commitment to American manufacturing is all encompasing. They manufacture using raw materials sourced domestically.

Duckworth comes to mind, with its commitment to making outdoor clothing from the wool of sheep it raises in Montana. High Cotton is another example, with its made in North Carolina polo (sadly no longer available) which was crafted in North Carolina of cotton gown and woven in the Tar Hill State.

That kind of vertical integration stirs our hearts.

My wife and I were in the market for a new set of bed sheets. I had heard generally about Red Land Cotton as a source of American made bedding, but I knew little about them.

A quick search revealed that Red Land Cotton has an ironclad commitment to production in the United States. The cotton is grown in Alabama, spun and woven in South Carolina, finished in Georgia and finally sewn back in Alabama.

So we pulled the trigger on a set.

Red Land Cotton has four sheet set options: a basic set, a hem-stitched set, a lace-trimmed set and a ticking stripe set. We opted for the ticking stripe because of the visual interest it provides, especially when paired with a solid color blanket.

My initial impression is quite favorable. First of all, they look beautiful. The construction appears first-rate, and the sheets are reasonably soft.

Sheets are one of those items that wear out quickly. I can still remember from childhood the sets of worn out sheets we re-appropriated as Halloween ghost costumes, painting drop cloths or makeshift backyard tents.

But our Red Land Cotton sheets have a seeming durability that suggests years more use than a typical set. We’re looking forward to thousands of nights nestled in these.

Stars and Stripes Collective

Regular readers among you will know that, of late, a decent American made polo shirt has become something of our white whale.

In the past, the gold standard was the made in North Carolina pique polo from High Cotton. Although High Cotton is still going strong, with a firm footed commitment to American manufacturing, it no longer offers the polo shirt.

Another option was from Austin based Criquet Shirts. I’ve lost about fifteen pounds since my original Criquet polo shirt purchases in size medium, so I reached out to Criquet to purchase a few in small. By the time I was in the market for a less voluminous version, however, I found that Criquet had completely abandoned any pretense of commitment to making its clothes in the United States.

So color me surprised when I discovered that Stars and Stripes Collective, a Wisconsin-based retailer trafficking exclusively in American made goods, had a modest supply of the domestically made polo shirts from Criquet.

American made polo shirt from Criquet (purchased from Stars and Stripes Collective)

I follow Stars and Stripes’ exploits on Instagram, and I’m enthralled with their ironclad commitment to selling wares made in the U.S. They sell both online and in their shop located in Sister Bay, Wisconsin.

Stars and Stripes had its genesis in a challenge a couple made to one another. They resolved to buy only American made products for a few months. Those few months grew into years, and they began charting their commitment on social media. They graduated from social media partisans for domestic manufacturing to owners of their own shop.