Criquet Shirts Visit and Interview

For much of the day, we’ve been brushing up on our Caddyshack quotes. For someone who grew up in my generation, the 1980 golf comedy is part of our cultural DNA, so I’m reeling them off with laser precision.

Why Caddyshack? Well, my friends, we are on our way, road trip style, to visit Austin’s Criquet Shirts. And to visit a company whose defining ethos is the 19th hole, you’d damn well better be well versed in your Caddyshack trivia.

Some of you may recall that I received one of the company’s new chamois shirts for Christmas. It’s an amazing shirt, with its American made bonafides, so I’m eager to get a first hand glimpse of Criquet’s other offerings.

We pull up to the company’s South 1st Street Clubhouse. And there it is. A large mural featuring Rodney Dangerfield as Al Czervik, complete with Caddyshack’s last line. If you have to ask…

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Criquet co-founder Billy Nachman is there at the door to greet us. A bearded, lanky thirtysomething, he has an easy charm that belies his stewardship of a growing clothing company (with all the challenges that entails). He, of course, is sporting a long sleeve Criquet golf shirt. I too am bedecked in the company’s wares, with my chamois shirt layered over a Hamilton button down.

The store is modest in dimensions, but well designed. Outside, in the back yard, various golf accessories abound.

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Billy–an architect by training, whose skills have been transferable to shirt design–is as gracious a host as we could have hoped for. He talks about Criquet’s history, patiently answers our questions and candidly addresses the challenge of manufacturing domestically.

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Billy at work

Criquet’s been around for about six years now. Billy and his childhood friend Hobson started the company with a very specific goal in mind–to replicate and build a better version of the 1970s golf shirts–with the contrasting placket and stiff collar–that populated their grandfathers’ closets. They have dubbed this the Players Shirt.

When I was growing up, those were hey-you-kids-get-off-of-my-lawn shirts worn by the crotchety sexagenarian down the street. The pique cotton polo, classic though it is, was a younger man’s game.

And Criquet makes one hell of a pique polo–manufactured in the United States.

I’m still a sucker for a good polo shirt, and this one is as good as I’ve found, easily rivaling the High Cotton made in North Carolina polos that have, up until now, been my mainstay.

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Still, the 1970s styled golf shirts are the figurative centerpiece of Criquet’s collection. And I can’t deny that they are a well-designed product.

However, Billy laments the fact that there is really not a place available in the United States to make those shirts.

Many of the products Criquet sells–its pique polo shirts, its long sleeve button downs, its chamois shirts, its hats, its ties (a partnership with Pierrepont Hicks) and its printed t-shirts are made in the United States and to an excellent standard. But rampant outsourcing has made it virtually impossible for Billy, Hobson and the rest of the Criquet crew to produce its golf shirts–particularly the striped varieties–on these shores. The expertise is just not here any more. Criquet wants to produce as much as it can in America, but outsourcing has not, in terms of U.S. manufacturing capabilities, done it any favors.

Still, Criquet views its activity through the lens of corporate responsibility; many of their shirts, for example, feature organic cotton. In Billy’s words, they want to be “the Patagonia of shirts”–the kind of company that conjures trust by mere mention of its name. And he and Hobson know that trust is something that must be earned.

Billy and Hobson are not Austin natives, but they’ve quickly absorbed the local vibe. In many respects, quirky Austin with its affection for all things local has been the perfect setting for Criquet’s sartorial mission.

I have to say Frannie and I thoroughly enjoyed our visit to the Criquet Clubhouse. Criquet’s informal motto is “classic style meets forward thinking.” In their own words, “We look at classic country club style with a fresh set of eyes.” Most corporate mottos I’ve found are little more than bland marketing contrivance. But this motto genuinely seems to fit. Classic though its shirts are, there is something forward thinking, with a bit of youthful verve and insouciance, about Criquet.

Note: Although Billy offered the navy polo shirt I was so taken with gratis, I declined his very generous offer and purchased it myself, as is our policy on Classic American Style. However, he did offer Frannie a free Bill Murray t-shirt. That shirt, because it features Mr. Murray, was never offered for sale and was given out as a bit of promotion. We gratefully accepted it.

Brick Knitwear

The venerable wool knit cap. It goes by many names: the watch cap, the ski hat, the touque, the toboggan, the woolie cap and, in the British vernacular, the bobble hat.

Those of us who spend much time outdoors in the colder months know that it is an imminently practical garment–a sweater, of sorts, for the head.

This Christmas, Frannie received a woolie cap from Colorado-based Brick Knitwear.

Truth be told, we know very little about Brick Knitwear, other than these brief biographical snippets: it’s the brainchild of one Cara Martin, a veteran of several apparel companies who has branched out to start her own business; it’s located in Lyons, Colorado where I suppose they know a thing or two about how to keep warm; and all of the caps appear to be knit by Ms. Martin herself.

Her knitting concern is one of those enterprises we happily discovered on Instagram.

Frannie’s new cap is the Willow Hat, with a birdseye pattern reminiscent of the L.L. Bean Norwegian sweaters. As such things go, it’s outstanding in every way. The wool–a combination of superfine merino and cashmere–is delightfully soft. And the knitting is truly first-rate. I can imagine this hat serving as a trusted winter companion for years to come.

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Mountain & Sackett

1957. It was the year of Sputnik. Little Rock. The Treaty of Rome.

That same year, a small necktie making concern–Mountain & Sackett–came into being. It set out to create a tie on these shores that would rival the neckwear being produced in Great Britain.

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Over the intervening years, many of Mountain & Sackett’s brethren have descended into style’s graveyard. Those few who remain have largely given up on trying to make a tie with American labor.

Mountain & Sackett has largely resisted that impulse. Every tie Mountain & Sackett sells–with the exception of its Italian knits–is made by American hands, Many of those workers have been with the company for decades.

To my eye, the regimental ties are the highlight of Mountain & Sackett’s product line. Made of a  sturdy English silk, a double face repp weave, the stripes are oriented in the British down-from-the-left-shoulder fashion, instead of the right shoulder orientation Brooks Brothers favors.

While a number of ties in the company’s product line are a relatively narrow 3 and 1/8 inch in width, the regimental ties boast a robust 3 and 1/2 inch width and a 58 inch length–the necktie’s Pythagorean ideal.

I received my first Mountain & Sackett tie–a regimental in the Old Harrow Golf pattern–for Christmas last month. While it remains to be seen how well the tie will hold up over time, I’m already quite taken with it.

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Vintage Abercrombie & Fitch Tie

Say the words Abercrombie & Fitch to anyone under the age of 30, and they conjure up a particular series of images: racist iconography and business practices, contempt for the disabled, hypersexualized advertising and a reliance on sweatshop labor that, even in today’s environment of rampant outsourcing, shocks the conscience.

There are some of us who still remember A&F as a decidedly different beast, as a purveyor of truly classic clothes worn by gentlemen and ladies (and those who aspired to same).

A once venerable outfitter, Abercrombie was the place you went to buy equipment and clothing for safari, for the great hunting trip or for any outside endeavor that demanded well made clothing and equipment. Lindbergh was outfitted by the company before he made the first nonstop solo transatlantic flight. Hemmingway purchased a firearm from the store–the very gun, in fact, he later employed to slough off this mortal coil. Teddy Roosevelt, ever the outdoorsman, was repeatedly outfitted in A&F’s confines.

However, by the 1960s, Abercrombie was in decline; a period of diminishing profits, then growing losses began. In 1977, the company declared bankruptcy; a year later its name and mailing list were purchased by Oshman’s Sporting Goods.

By that point, A&F had become unmoored from its roots, although its offerings could reasonably be said to fit the classic mold.

Last week, on a brief trip to Austin, Texas, I found, in a local thrift store, a vintage Abercrome & Fitch regimental tie. The tie clearly hails from that post-bankruptcy period, but before the company was acquired in 1988 by Limited Brands to begin its headlong descent into the sewer of American culture, although its precise vintage is a little hard to pin down, primarily because it’s a classic stripe that would work well in any sartorial zeitgeist.

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Bedhead Pajamas, Christmas Edition

A post from Frannie:

This Christmas, my dad and I each got cotton flannel pajamas from Bedhead Pajamas. My pajamas had a blue world map print, and my dad’s  were a blue and white stripe. We both loved them! I loved how quirky and different the pattern was, and the top’s fit was excellent. The bottom was a bit big in the waist, but that’s my only complaint. My dad and I love how the fabric is warm enough for the ever-dropping temperature. Overall, the pajamas were a great find, and we look forward to more from Bedhead Pajamas.

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