Recently, a new pair of trousers from the fine folks at Bills Khakis appeared on my doorstep. Although Bills began 25 years ago with a handful of khaki trousers, the company’s offerings have expanded far beyond the narrow confines of that corporate nomenclature.
To wit, these trousers, which have been made in a seersucker fabric with a narrower than normal blue stripe. They’re the flat front M2 model, which is the middle option in Bills’ slimness continuum, and are still made in Pennsylvania.
This is my third pair of Bills, and once I have cuffs installed, I’ll post some pictures of the trousers in full deployment.
A few months ago, we chronicled our purchase of Frannie’s first gown from David Peck, a Houston-based maker of high-end women’s wear. Well, Frannie’s formal has come and gone, and here’s her perspective on the gown:
David Peck, an up-and-coming designer of women’s high-end ready to wear and couture dresses, has recently appeared on my list of remarkable designers. David Peck is located in Houston, Texas, a place booming with fashion and culture, and all his clothes are made in a space off the main showroom in Houston.
I wore a purple jersey formal gown to my school’s formal, and I must say, I felt magnificent in it. The dress made me feel like a million bucks. I wouldn’t have chosen any other for that night.
Last month, I wrote about the excursion Frannie and I took to Hamilton Shirts in Houston. While there, I was remeasured (it had been a few years since my last purchase) and ordered four custom shirts.
Yesterday, those four shirts appeared on my doorstep, courtesy of the man in brown.
My favorite of the four is a pink and purple stripe (it looks more bright navy to my jaundiced eyes) with a contrasting white club collar. Nicolas Antongiovanni has this to say about the club collar: “The club, or rounded, collar…is the most antique looking of all collars, owing to its resemblance to the still, detachable collars that were ubiquitous in the years before the first World War.”
I read once that custom shirts offer the highest value proposition relative to their off-the-peg brethren. A good bespoke suit is somewhere in the neighborhood of three times the cost of a non-custom model. A pair of custom shoes can cost ten times as much as a pair from venerable makers like Crockett & Jones, Edward Green, Allen Edmonds and Alden. While a ready-to-wear shirt that’s Hamilton’s equal in materials and construction would cost nearly as much.
Of course, no vacation is complete without sampling the local thrift stores. I visited thrifts in Alpine, Fort Davis and Marfa, and while there I unearthed a couple of pieces of American made treasure.
The first was a bit of an odd duck. It’s a purple Prince of Wales check tie with an orange and green overcheck–100% linen, ideal for the impending warmer weather. The provenance is what makes it strange. It’s American made, from Burberrys (the name under which Burberry was marketed until 1998). Why a resolutely British firm would manufacture its wares on these shores I do not know, but there it was.
The other was a pair of Trafalgar silk suspenders, American made as well.
Much of what we consider classically American among clothing has a decidedly foreign origin. Brogues from England. Tweed and tartan from Scotland. Icelandic sweaters. The Weejun, with its antecedents among 19th century Norwegian fishermen.
Take India, for example. Seersucker and madras each derive from western appropriation of local Indian cloth. And they are today firmly ensconced in the Parnassus of the American look.
Ditto the humble pajama.
The pajama also hearkens to Britain’s colonial exploits in India. Originally an outfit worn by Muslim Indians, pajamas were heartily embraced by the colonial interlopers. Many returned from the British Indian Empire with their pajamas in tow, adopting them for sleep and loungewear.
So warmly embraced was the pajama that, by the early 20th century, it had rendered the nightshirt, the gown-like predecessor to the pajama, almost completely defunct.
Looking for a set of American made pajamas, I came upon Bedhead Pajamas, a Los Angeles based enterprise. Bedhead Pajamas are the brainchild of one Renee Claire, a native of Ontario, Canada. After college graduation, she bundled up her life and decamped to Los Angeles, eager to ply her trade as a dress designer. However, things eventually took a different turn. According to the Bedhead website:
In the late 90’s public interest in dresses declined and was replaced by sportswear and as Renee was delivering what she considered to possibly be her last collection of dresses to a local retailer, she saw a pair of pajamas in the window of the boutique and thought, “I could top that!”
That eureka moment was the seed that grew to become Bedhead Pajamas.
I recently purchased some Bedhead pajamas in cranberry with white piping. And they are a magnificent product. The cotton is much more substantial than my Derrick Rose PJs. The fit is spot-on. (Of note, I hover somewhere between a medium and a large in ready-to-wear clothing, so a large can often be tent-like on me, while a medium can be a tad snug. I ordered my pajamas in medium. So, if you’re deciding between two sizes, I suggest going with the smaller of the two.)
The only black mark on the register of my approbation is the waist. The website says these pajamas have a drawstring waist (which I prefer). Some of their items are shown as having an elastic waist. But these have both elastic and drawstring, which to me falls in the neither-fish-nor-fowl category.
Everyone can appreciate the virtues of a sturdy pair of boots. They offer protection against the element, support for the ankles and warmth in cold climes.
The venerable American work boot is predicted on a design aesthetic where form follows function. Like the pea coat, it’s engineered rather than designed, and that emphasis on durable utility is one of the secrets to its longevity.
Once the province of blue collar and outdoor workers, work boots have begun to insinuate themselves into the regular wardrobes of younger Americans–much in the same way that denim work trousers became part of the American teenager’s uniform in the 1950s.
Chippewa Boots are among the most esteemed of the boot makers still practicing their craft in the United States. Chippewa got its start in 1901, producing footwear for the hardy souls who toiled in the nearby paper and lumber industries. By 1984, Chippewa was purchased by Justin Boots. Justin, in turn, was acquired by Berkshire Hathaway in 2000.
For most companies, that kind of ping pong in ownership would have been the death knell for its commitment to American production. Some of the most venerable makers of American footwear have abandoned the communities from which they drew their lifeblood for the siren song of cheaper overseas production. Somehow, Chippewa persevered. In its own words:
To this day, Chippewa Boots have remained a true American Brand; representing integrity, heritage, and performance by preserving a domestic manufacturing base with our U.S. factories.
My son Andrew received a pair for Christmas. His are the Apache model, and here they are getting him through a rare Texas snow.