It’s the thrill of the hunt. The possibility of unearthing buried treasure. The striving to breathe new life into other people’s castoffs.
Consider my most recent find.
For the past couple of months, I’ve been searching for a pair of Donegal tweed trousers, as a nine-year old pair of brown tweed trousers had finally given up the ghost. I found a few made in Brooklyn options, but none were available in my size. Bills Khakis had an option in their M2, but my size had long been snapped up in Bills quasi-liquidation.
Last week, I was at a local Goodwill, perusing the trousers. My technique is to look down and scan the hems. If I find an unfinished hem, I know two things: (1) I have found a pair of as yet unworn trousers and (2) I have found what is much more likely to be a higher end pair of pants.
Looking down, I noticed both an unfinished hem and the distinctive Donegal tweed mottling. I pulled the pants off the rack and, to my surprise, discovered that I had lucked into a brand new pair of the very Bills Khakis I coveted–all for the princely sum of eight dollars. They’re a size smaller than the Bills I normally wear, but a quick trip to the tailors to have the waist and seat let out will render things just as I like them.
There’s nothing particularly innovative about the Criquet Shirts‘ made in America polos.
And that’s exactly as it should be.
Criquet’s version has all the hallmarks of the classic polo shirt: three button placket, ribbed sleeves, pique cotton fabric. It is, by any objective measure, an exceptionally well made product.
I picked up my Criquet polo late last year, when we made a pilgrimage to Criquet Shirts’ clubhouse in Austin.
Having already worn the shirt a few times, I can attest to its charms. It’s a deep navy, one shade brighter than midnight. As such, it’s a perfect neutral, and it matches well with gray trousers, with khakis, with Nantucket reds and with white linen.
Fall River, Mass. was once the epicenter of a thriving American cotton industry. For the better part of two generations, a sizeable percentage of the cotton milled in the United States flowed out of Fall River.
Those fortunes declined in the years between the world wars, as mills relocated to the American South in search of cheaper (and often non-unionized) labor. Manufacturers swooped in to take over the vacated mills, but, over time, most of those enterprises relocated overseas in the same headlong rush to cut costs at the expense of workers.
Still, a few shirtmaking holdouts remained in one of these mill buildings. But, like many U.S. manufacturers, the last fell victim to the Great Recession and shuttered its doors in 2009.
Bob Kidder, a textile-industry veteran, stepped in to resurrect that last enterprise, which reemerged as the New England Shirt Company. He started in 2009 with with nine workers. Today, the company’s unionized workforce numbers more than 70.
The New England Shirt Company specializes in shirts of an exceptional quality, often made on vintage sewing machines. I first took note of the company when I saw L.L. Bean offer a few of its shirts. I was intrigued, but at the time I was sourcing all my long sleeved sports wear from Hamilton Shirts on a custom basis.
Since then, I’ve made a few excursions into off-the-peg sport shirts (Flint & Tinder, Criquet Shirts and Freeman Sporting Club). The New England Shirt Company has now been added to that list.
I purchased my shirt at Manready Mercantile during its second anniversary party. While there, savoring a cocktail, I noticed a few brightly colored shirts on one of the racks. Frankly, they were more prep than the urban woodsman aesthetic Manready usually favors. So I was intrigued.
I walked over, picked up the shirt and noticed both it New England provenance and its truly superlative construction. The fabric is a buttery soft pink, green and blue plaid cotton with a very subtle micro-herringbone weave. It’s one of those rare items–both classic and relentlessly unique.
The collar also bears mentioning. At first glance, it’s a standard camp collar, but upon closer inspection, I discovered that it was actually a hidden down collar, where the buttons anchor the collar down by button holes on the underside of the collar. A nice touch.
For a non-custom shirt, the fit is outstanding. The armholes are higher and the sleeves slimmer than I’ve come to expect from ready-to-wear shirts, and the back features a split yoke.
The well dressed table, whether for an informal evening repast or a multi-course holiday celebration, calls for placemats and napkins that are fitting for the occasion.
Recently in the market for both, I discovered that few sources remain for American made table linens. In my search, I came upon Mountain Weavers, a Vermont company that specializes in tablecloths, placemats and napkins in a homespun Appalachian pattern, which features small squares on one side and larger squares on the reverse.
The company’s wares come in a wide variety of color combinations. I purchased a set of both their placements and their napkins in a stone and cranberry pattern. The company recommends a cold water wash and line drying and suggests allowing for some shrinkage.
I know virtually nothing about Mountain Weavers, except that its wares are made in Dorset, Vermont. With a little Nancy Drewing, I discovered that the company is owned by one David Rihm. But additional information was equivocal. One source claimed the company began operations in 1954. Another suggested that it was established in 1960 and was originally located in Pennsylvania.
A number of online merchants feature the company’s products, and I purchased mine from the Olde Church Emporium. About that enterprise I can complement the promptness of their service while bemoaning their excessive shipping charges–$12 for a very light package sent first class.