Kiel James Patrick Boat Shoes

The boat shoe occupies a special place in the pantheon of classic clothing. Pioneered in 1935 by Paul Sperry, it boasts a non-slip sole that allows the wearer to safely traverse salt water soaked boat decks.

Noticing his dog’s ability to run across the ice without slipping, Sperry set out to replicate the herringbone like grooves he found on the dog’s paws. He cut similar patterns into the bottom of his rubber soled shoes. The Topsider was born.

Now, of course, most of Sperry’s wares are produced overseas, and in less than savory locations. Obtaining a true American boat shoe means knocking on the figurative door of such companies as Rancourt, Oak Street Bootmakers and Quoddy.

Kiel James Patrick has recently thrown its hat into the ring of domestic boat shoe production. Most of us know Kiel James Patrick as the resolutely preppy maker of nautically-themed jewelry, although the company has broadened its product line of late to include oxford shirts, hats and belts.

Its boat shoes are made in Coastal Maine and they come in a variety of colors. Frannie’s–one of her Christmas gifts this year–are the Old Harbor Dock Brown. The nautical rope laces are an especially nice touch.

For an American made boat shoe, these are very reasonably priced. They retail for $165, although we got Frannie’s on sale for $119. Frankly, they’re much better than they have a right to be at that price point; I wouldn’t have been at all surprised for such a shoe to be at least $100 more.

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Criquet Shirts: Chamois Cloth Edition

Ever since the effective demise of L.L. Bean as a purveyor of American made goods, those of us striving to find a substitute for Bean’s chamois cloth shirts have been out of luck.

Frannie has one of the old American made versions, which she wears boyfriend style. But yours truly has been out of luck.

A few months ago, I received a marketing e-mail from Criquet Shirts, advertising its new made in Texas chamois cloth shirts. For a little while now, I had taken note of Criquet’s golf and polo shirts, although my affinity for High Cotton’s polo shirts diverted my consumer dollar away from Criquet.

But this was an intriguing proposition.

Had a company really reintroduced chamois cloth shirts, with American made bonafides?

Criquet Shirts was founded in 2010 by Hobson Brown and Billy Nachman. Friends since kindergarten in Manhattan, these two transplanted Austinites set out to recreate the kind of golf shirt that might have had a home in their grandfathers’ closets.

And, this morning, under the Christmas tree, I found their newest handiwork–a forest green chamois shirt–under the tree.

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It’s difficult to speak about this shirt without resorting to superlatives. The cotton chamois is sumptuous, more so, in fact, than I remember the original Bean shirts being. The fit is spot on–roomy enough to consider layering  but not so baggy as to be unflattering.

I have but one beef with Criquet, and it does not extend to the craftsmanship of their shirts. It’s the nature of their advertising.

This shirt is named the J.R. Shirt, presumably after Dallas arch villain J.R. Ewing. It claims to be “made in Texas for badasses.” Perhaps were a little stodgy here at Classic American Style, but rarely do we yearn to unleash our inner badass.

I find nothing in the shirt reminiscent of J.R. Ewing. They seem more New England than Texas, calling to mind the anonymous “summer millionaire” from Robert Lowell’s Skunk Hour, who “seemed to leap from an L.L. Bean/catalogue…” And for those of us who place a premium on such values as tradition, authenticity and craftsmanship, that’s a thing to be celebrated.

Coalatree

Hiking is one of my passions. Whether it’s a simple day hike, a multi-day backpacking trip or a mountain climbing expedition, there’s something inspiring about setting foot on forest and mountain paths and connecting with the natural world.

My primary warm weather hiking pants were nearing the end of their usable life; several encounters with thorn bushes and hidden strands of barbed wire left the pants nearly in tatters. So I set out to conjure up an American made replacement.

After a couple of Internet searches, I stumbled upon Coalatree, a company that styles itself as a purveyor of “eco-minded goods.” While I can’t vouch for the domestic provenance of all Coalatree’s prodcts, I did note that several of its trousers are American made, including the Trailhead Pants.

Made of lightweight recycled nylon ripstop, the Trailhead Pants are a perfect trouser for hiking when the thermometer is north of 50 degrees; they’re trim without being constricting and the nylon has a nice stretch to it.

While they haven’t gotten a full workout yet, I did break them out in a recent two hour walk along the beach. So far, so good.

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A Classic American Style Christmas List

With Christmas nigh upon us, we thought we’d highlight the American made items that populate our respective lists.

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One of the new chamois shirts from Criquet Shirts. Since L.L. Bean stopped making its chamois shirts in the United States, we’ve been hard pressed to find a suitable replacement. I’m eager to give this made in Texas version a try.

Socks from Dapper Classics. I can’t get enough of these. They come in virtually every color under the rainbow, in both cotton and wool, and are beautifully patterned.

A regimental tie (aka the repp tie) from Mountain & Sackett. I’m particularly fond of the Old Harrow Golf pattern.

A new pair of pajamas from Bedhead Pajamas. While my current pair is still going strong, a new pair would be a welcome presence under the tree.

A surcingle belt from F.H. Wadsworth. I’ve only recently become acquainted with these made in New York ribbon belts. They remind me of the belts I owned when I was Frannie’s age.

Frannie

I asked for the Willow hat made by BRICK Knitwear in Colorado. The fun Norwegian birdseye pattern is combined with what I like to call my spirit color, navy.

Kiel James Patrick makes a mean boat shoe. They incorporate vibrant colors into their American-made shoes, which is different from most other boat shoes I’ve seen.

Like my dad, I asked for some Bedhead Pajamas. It’s become somewhat of a tradition in our household to get pajamas for Christmas.

High Cotton Polo Shirts

I own two of High Cotton’s excellent North Carolina made polo shirts, and a few months ago I was in the market to add a third to my wardrobe. There’s something magical about these shirts: made with cotton grown in North Carolina, constructed by North Carolina hands and sold by a North Carolina company with a wholehearted commitment to the state it calls home.

They are, hands down, my favorite among the many polo shirts I’ve owned.

However, my trip to the High Cotton website was quickly derailed. The polo shirts were nowhere to be found.

Fearing the worst, i summoned my courage and contacted the good folks at High Cotton. As I suspected, the shirts were no longer being offered.

Apparently, a failure in last year’s North Carolina cotton crop doomed the company’s commitment to the vertical integration that is these shirts’ hallmark. High Cotton is considering resurrecting the shirts with cotton from Texas and California. But, for now, they are no longer available.

However, Patrick Hill, being the consummate gentleman that he is, offered to comb the company’s remaining few polos to see if a white medium was available. Happily, it was.

So, a few days later, this shirt appeared in my mailbox. The unseasonably warm temperatures predicted for later in the week will give me the perfect opportunity to give the shirt its first wearing.

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Bills Khakis, In Memoriam?

My e-mail inbox has been filled with the standard array of advertising this holiday season, with the usual entreaties from my favorite merchants to sample their wares. Among those, one company–Bills Khakis–seemed a bit more insistent.

The discounts being offered–anywhere from 50 to 70 percent–were enticing. But why was Bills, traditionally impervious to discounts of this magnitude, offering such steep price reductions?

Then, a few days ago, another e-mail arrived, this one putatively from the virtual pen of Bill Khakis founder Bill Thomas. In this e-mail, he apologized for recent customer service lapses and offered yet another discount on top of the already substantial reductions.

Not having purchased anything for Bills in a few months, I wasn’t privy to the customer service issues. But apparently they were so significant that it prompted an e-mail from Bill Thomas himself.

A little bit of Internet sleuthing revealed the reason.

Bills Khakis–in the hands of Thomas for the past quarter century–has apparently been acquired by Source Capital LLC, a private equity firm.

The Internet rumor mill has been rife with speculation. Is the company simply girding itself for an ambitious relaunch, with an infusion of new capital? Or is the seeming liquidation a harbinger of the company’s demise, with Source Capital trying to squeeze as much juice as possible out of a rotting fruit?

Apparently, Source Capital invested in Bills about a year and a half back, providing financial backing to expand the company’s product line. When Bills could not service that debt, its investor partner swooped in and is selling off excess inventory to recoup what it can of its original investment.

Some Internet observers, claiming inside knowledge, have suggested that the company’s staff has been reduced to a skeleton crew, struggling to fulfill orders from dwindling inventory.

Regardless, it’s difficult to see how this ends well for Bills Khakis. Either the priest is administering the last rites or the company will reemerge some time next year in the hands of a private equity firm, whose commitment to American manufacturing is questionable.

Miles David Atelier

T.S. Eliot once wrote, “In my beginning is my end.”

Ends and beginnings are part of an inexorable cycle. Such is the case in American business. The collapse of one enterprise often inspires, phoenix-like, the emergence of another.

Last year, we featured David Peck, the maker of Frannie’s first formal gown. David is a Houston-based designer who has carved out a commitment to manufacturing his wares locally. His aesthetic is firmly rooted in the classics, with healthy dashes of elegance and whimsy.

However, a few months ago, the cloud of bankruptcy fell upon his enterprise. Undaunted, he has reemerged under the name Miles David Atelier. In the same location. And with the same dedication to producing his line in the city he calls home.

He, of course, is not alone among designers who have weathered the rough seas of bankruptcy.

Frannie was so taken with last year’s gown that a return visit was in order. Her new gown from Miles David Atelier is in a beautiful midnight blue jersey fabric. It has a delightful shoulder treatment, with a Greek-inspired look. It’s sure to be a hit at her next formal later this winter.

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Darn Tough Socks

Yes, ladies and gents, we are mighty fond of socks. Particularly when those socks come in rich hues and vibrant patterns.

A recent jaunt to a discount store brought these socks from Darn Tough Socks into our orbit–red and cream wool with a delightful snowflake pattern. Frannie’s always looking for a good pair of socks to wear with her riding boots, and these were a perfect choice.

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Made by Vermont’s Cabot Hosiery Mills, Darn Tough Socks are guaranteed for life, ostensibly without conditions or limitations. As the company says, “If you were able to wear out a pair of Darn Tough socks, we’ll replace them. At any time.”

While we hope never to have to take Cabot up on this offer, it’s refreshing to know that their product has that kind of backing. Socks take more abuse than just about any other item in the wardrobe. It remains to be seen how well these will hold up to the daily life of a teenage girl, but we have high expectations.

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