L.L. Bean Boat and Tote

Our third post about L.L. Bean? Forgive us. We’re a sentimental lot. We remember Bean as a purveyor of products that, while not exclusively American, were mostly made on these shores and made to a high standard.

So the few American made legacy items that remain–boots and tote bags, for example–have a soft spot in our hearts. On my more optimistic days, I imagine those items will serve as a beachhead for a renaissance of American manufacturing in Freeport, Maine. When I’m feeling less optimistically inclined, I suppose that these are the last gasp of American production in a company that has all but abandoned its American roots. The latter is probably true. Once the genie of foreign production is out of the bottle, it’s nigh on impossible for companies to put it back.

Among the few L.L. Bean products still crafted in the USA, the canvas Boat and Tote bags have been a mainstay of home life for generations of Americans. Originally designed to haul ice–back in the day when your sole source of cooling was the ice blocks you bought from the ice man–their durability bespeaks that original purpose.

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Faribault Woolen Mill

Many of the firms we’ve featured are some of the most venerable in all of American manufacturing, some tracing their roots into the 19th century. Faribault Woolen Mill is no exception.

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As Faribault itself explains:

Founded on the banks of the Cannon River in Faribault, MN, the Faribault Woolen Mill is a living testament to American craftsmanship. Founded in 1865, the year Lincoln died and the Civil War ended, Faribault woolens are renowned for their comfort and quality. From providing woolen blankets for pioneers heading west to comforting our troops through two world wars, our woolens are woven into American history.

While Faribault is known primarily for its blankets, it also offers an impressive range of scarves. I recently had occasion to pick one up–in a gray micro herringbone. It won’t be deployed, for reasons of climate and comfort, until winter  insinuates itself in these parts. But I’m already looking forward to including it in my cold weather scarf rotation.

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High Cotton Redux

A few weeks ago, we featured one of High Cotton’s polo shirts.

And while much of High Cotton’s product line is geared toward the male of the species, a few items cater to the ladies.

To wit, the madras headband I recently purchased for Frannie. Like the polo, it’s made in the USA (in North Carolina to be precise).

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Melanzana

You step into Melanzana’s Leadville, Colorado storefront and the first thing you see are rows of fleece jackets and hoodies for sale. But, peering beyond the product shelves, you notice something out of the ordinary: workers at sewing machines making the company’s products. For it is here where all the company’s offerings are crafted.

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Manufacturing in Melanzana’s Leadville, Colorado store

In addition to being a clothing hobbyist, I’m also an outdoor enthusiast: hiker, backpacker and occasional mountaineer. So a good fleece–soft, warm, fast drying, able to insulate even when wet–is a vital part of my kit.

Yet fleece, in its various incarnations, has even infiltrated the world of classic clothing. No less an authority than True Prep, the sequel to the Original Preppy Handbook, noted the embrace of fleece in traditional circles.

Last week, my family and I were on vacation in Colorado, and early in the week, we made a day trip to Leadville, the highest incorporated city in the United States. Near the end of downtown, we came upon Melanzana. Noting that all the company’s products are made, as they have been for 20 years, in Leadville, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to purchase one of their tops.

Unadorned with pockets, velcro closures or other unnecessary ephemera, Melanzana’s products are the epitome of streamlined function. My Micro Grid Zip Top in a large weighs a scant 9.1 ounces, making it the perfect mid-layer for a cool-to-cold thru hike.

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It’s already been a worthy companion on three hikes: one on the trails outside of Salida, Colorado, one on the Colorado Trail and one on a climb of Mt. Elbert, the highest peak in the state.

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My Melanzana top and I on the summit of Mt. Elbert.

Just Madras

There’s no shortage of companies trafficking in classic American style. But some of the biggest names hawking that aesthetic–Ralph Lauren, J. Crew and Tommy Hilfiger–are largely dumping grounds for cheap, foreign-produced goods.

Call me a curmudgeon, but I believe that an American look deserves to be produced in America. This is true for several reasons: the preservation of American jobs, American manufacturing and American livelihoods being foremost among them.

But it’s also about context and authenticity: producing clothes in the milieu that gave birth to them.

Happily, companies like Just Madras have stepped into the breech.

Unabashedly preppy, Connecticut-based Just Madras offers a wide range of USA-made women’s and men’s clothing. It’s fresh-faced, clean scrubbed, a paean to perpetual summer, as evinced by the company’s motto, Where Summer Lives All Year Long. With heavy doses of madras and seersucker and a definably nautical sensibility, the company’s offerings would be at home in any prep’s closet.

I recently bought Frannie a pair of pink seersucker Bermuda shorts from Just Madras. They’re delightful, a beautiful shade of pink, and really the perfect summer knock-around short.

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