Break a man down into his constituent parts, and you get either the detritus from a Victorian abattoir or a cubist nightmare.
Or you get this:
This is your humble narrator, rendered in two dimensions.
The good folks at Hamilton Shirts were kind enough to give me a peek at my paper pattern. It’s the rubric by which all of my shirts are made, and it means that, in the truest sense of bespoke manufacturing, the shirts made off of this pattern–all of which are constructed in Hamilton’s Houston location–are made to fit me and me alone.
In recent years, Brooks Brothers has given us much to lament. Now only a shell of its former self, it has almost completely severed its American roots.
But once it was greatness incarnate.
It was aspirational. It was both traditional and innovative. And it was as definably American as any company out there.
Today’s Brooks Brothers is owned by foreign interests. Much of its wares are produced overseas, in countries with an extensive track record of worker abuse, environmental degradation and currency manipulation.
Neckties remain one of the few exceptions. They continue to be produced by union hands in the United States. And for that I suppose we should be grateful.
But part of me wonders how long that will continue. The lure of outsourcing has been particularly difficult for Brooks to resist, so I imagine that a time will soon come when even that meager commitment to American manufacturing evaporates.
Yesterday, I picked up a Brooks Brothers tie in a sage green silk herringbone. It’s quite lovely, a reminder that, at their best, Brooks Brothers ties rival those from some of the most celebrated Italian and English makers.
My one complaint is that it’s only 3.25 inches wide, which is the absolute lower limit for tie width in my wardrobe. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to find decent ties wider than that unless you go the custom/bespoke route.
Today, a man in a bow tie is something of an iconoclast, swimming against the prevailing sartorial current.
From time to time, the bow tie makes a bit of a minor comeback. But, like a man’s dress hat, the bow tie will never be the widely embraced garment it once was.
Still, there are some among us who have a fondness for the things. My relationship with them began on Christmas day in 1984, when I received, at my cajoling, a navy bow tie with red pin dots. My father, who had never been much of a bow tie man but who knew his way around a four-in-hand, worked with me until we got the hang of tying it.
In terms of manufacturing, the United States is in something of a bow tie renaissance. Of course, Brooks Brothers continues to be a reliable source of American made ties. But upstarts like High Cotton in North Carolina, Mo’s Bows in Memphis and Homan Briar in Pennsylvania have added their domestically-produced contributions to the marketplace.
Beau Ties is another voice in that chorus. It’s been around since 1993, when husband and wife team Bill Kenerson and Deb Venman launched the company in Vermont. For years, Bill had purchased hand made ties from a gentleman in California who eventually went out of business. After he died, Bill and Deb negotiated with his family, purchasing his remaindered fabric and his old customer list.
For Bill, Beau Ties was a second career. He launched the company at a time in his life when most people are settling comfortably into their emeritus years.
Over time, Beau Ties expanded beyond the part time confines of Bill and Deb’s home. A dedicated manufacturing space soon materialized, and they added employees as their customer base expanded. Yet, through it all, they maintained a commitment to making the ties in Vermont.
Eventually, they sold the business, but not until identifying a tandem of buyers who committed to keeping production in Vermont.
I recently had the pleasure of purchasing my first tie from Beau Ties. The silk is a beautiful bright slate blue with a pink neat pattern. It ties beautifully and was the deserving recipient of several compliments the first time I wore it.
Like many classic staples of a man’s wardrobe, the Breton shirt has military origins. In 1858, it was adopted as the official shirt of the French navy. Its contrasting stripes made the wearer easier to spot among the waves.
Over time, the shirt became more generally associated with French working men, especially those in seafaring occupations. By the 1950s, the shirt had insinuated itself into bohemian culture.
I recently purchased a long sleeve Breton shirt from Canard Shop, a New Orleans based purveyor of American made goods. We’ll have more on that venerable enterprise in a later post.
This particular shirt was manufactured in Portland, Oregon by Columbiaknit. Columbiaknit has been in business since 1921. In 1958, Holocaust survivor Jake Kryszek took ownership of the company. It’s been in the hands of the Kryszek family ever since, with an unwavering commitment to American manufacturing. In the elder Kryszek’s own words:
I never, never wanted to go overseas… I wanted my business and my employees, who were always my family to me, to remain in America. It was very important to me.
Columbiaknit manufactures a wide range of knitwear–from what I could tell, entirely of cotton. They’re probably best known as one of the leading domestic makers of rugby shirts.
I’m quite pleased with my shirt. It’s made of a robust 7 oz. cotton, with the open sleeves that are one of the hallmarks of a Breton shirt. From the measurements on the Canard website, I noted that the shirt has a slim fit, so I ordered up a size, as a Breton should have somewhat generous dimensions.
A few months ago, we penned a blog entry about the Bluelace Project, the shoelaces championed by the good folks at Flint & Tinder. They serve as a kind of pink ribbon for American manufacturing; you were them as a symbol of your commitment to buy American.
My son got a pair for Christmas. They’re shown here interlaced in his American made Chippewa Boots.
Many of the companies we’ve featured on Classic American Style are relative newcomers. Happily, they’ve embraced a vision for American manufacturing that seeks to reverse the outsourcing trend that has plagued apparel production over the past quarter century.
But there are a few whose history stretches back into the 19th century. Duluth Pack is one of those.
Duluth Pack was established by French-Canadian Camille Poirier, who came to Minnesota in 1870. By 1882, he had filed a patent for the original Duluth Pack.
Save for the modern touches of electricity and sewing machines, production of the company’s packs is largely unchanged from its 19th century origins. Rivets are hand-hammered. The canvas looks exactly as you’d imagine it did 130+ years ago, durable enough even for the needs of grizzled fur trappers.
And, yes, the packs continue to be made in their namesake city. Nary a hint of overseas production has intruded upon this venerable company.
As an added bonus, Duluth Pack offers a lifetime guarantee on all of its packs. For young companies whose existence is precarious, that might be a hollow promise. But, a lifetime guarantee from a company with the longevity of Duluth Pack means something.
So when Frannie’s backpack recently bit the dust, a Duluth Pack was the logical choice.
She opted for the Scoutmaster in olive drab. It has the leather strap/roller buckle closure that’s common to most of the company’s packs, an internal zippered pocket, cotton web shoulder straps and two side pockets.
Unsurprisingly, she sings its praises.
I do, however, have a couple of complaints. The first is the fact that the website does not indicate those color options that are out of stock (and therefore backordered). The result? If the color you’ve ordered is not available, you’ll receive a phone call, albeit a very friendly one.
The second is the shipping charge. Fifteen dollars for a single pack seems a tad exorbitant, particularly given the comparatively dear prices for these packs.
But those are small demerits for an otherwise fine product.