Goorin Bros. Hat Shop

As my purchase was being rung up, I thought to myself, “Why are you buying this hat. You’ll never wear it.”

How wrong I was.

It was a dank, dreary day–cold and cloudy with a slight insinuation of rain. The day, in fact, right after the election.

Walking in New York’s West Village, I came upon the Goorin Bros. Hat Shop. It wasn’t on the list of stores I had planned to visit while in New York, but I can never say no to a hat shop. And so I entered.

I received a warm welcome. This was not surprising. Despite its reputation for dispensing with social pleasantries, I’ve found New York to be among the friendliest cities I’ve ever visited.

I was pleased to learn that several of Goorin’s flat caps (alternatively known as golf caps or newsboy caps) are made in the United States, New Jersey to be precise.

I tried on a few, and found one that was to my liking, both in shape and fabric. Called the Iron Bound, it’s a dark olive barleycorn tweed (Harris Tweed, no less) with a blue and orange overcheck.

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Still, as I was checking out, I was skeptical. It’s not that the cap was lacking. It’s truly a beautiful piece of headwear, and it has an easygoing, friendly style. But I’ve never been much of a cap man. I tend to favor the fedora, with occasional diversions into Homberg territory.

I’ve had the cap for a couple of weeks, so let me say this: My initial skepticism was ill-placed. I’ve already worn it five times, and it has a regular place in my fall/winter headwear rotation.

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Goorin traces its origins back to 1895, when Cassel Goorin began traversing the streets of Pittsburgh, selling hats from a horse drawn cart. Eventually, his sons Alfred and Ted (the eponymous Goorin brothers) took the reins of the family business. Under their stewardship, the business expanded. Diversions into skiwear kept the company afloat as the market for men’s traditional hats began to dry up. Today, the company has more than 30 hat shops across North America.

Taking Back New Balance

The news has been grim.

To add insult to injury, the election has emboldened white nationalists to co-opt one of America’s last remaining sneaker manufacturers, declaring them the “official shoe of white people.”

A little background: A few days after the election, New Balance’s Matthew LeBretton told The Wall Street Journal that “The Obama administration turned a deaf ear to us, and frankly, with President-elect Trump, we feel things are going to move in the right direction.”

Most of us can agree that it was impolitic at best for him to wade into partisan waters. A corporation that depends upon selling its wares to the general public would be wise to avoid partisan entanglements, particularly so soon after a bitter and divisive election.

But his pronouncement teaches us (as if we needed reminding) that words have consequences. And so it should come as absolutely no surprise that, in an election where the Republican nominee engaged in overt calls to racism (with policy proposals to match) that his pronouncement would, for many, place him and his company on the wrong side of the fence.

In the wake of his public relations miscue,  white nationalists have attempted to ruin one of America’s last remaining producers of athletic shoes, staining it by association with their vile and unconscionable beliefs.

To those goons, I have a simple message: You can’t have it.

I refuse to let New Balance fall into the hands of those who betray American values–those who teach a philosophy of hate, exclusion and violence.

But I also refuse to follow my fellow liberal brethren and consign my New Balance shoes to trashcan, toilet or flame.

Instead, I take New Balance back. I take it back in the name of tolerance, respect and diversity.

I take it back in the name of the New Balance workers–both those from established American families and those who are transplants to these shores.

I take it back in the name of all that is good and decent in this world, conjuring a passion for the moment when we are, in Lincoln’s immortal words, touched once again by the better angels of our nature.

So I’ve taken a page from the book of Pete Seeger, as fundamentally decent a human being as there ever was. Let his words remind us that there are ideals to which we all must strive.

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Mercer & Sons

Lovers of classic style are a particular folk.

The very nature of classic clothing suggests that some things should be immune to the vicissitudes of fashion. So those of us who venerate the classics don’t undertake change lightly; we lean hard on tradition.

Consider the button down collar shirt.

Finding a shirt with just the perfect roll–the ideal compromise between collar length and button position–is a challenging proposition.  Many bemoan the existing Brooks Brothers shirts; according to popular lore, the company tampered with perfection, and the modern version is a walking shadow of what it once was.

Nearly 35 years ago, David Mercer was among those who were aghast at changes in the iconic polo shirt (the button down shirt in Brooks Brothers’ nomenclature), particularly to the collar. But he turned his lamentation into action.

So, in 1982, Mercer & Sons began, resolving to produce a shirt with all the classic details: an unlined 3 and 7/16″ collar, offset cuffs, a six button placket. It offers shirts in all the classic fabrics, including oxford cloth.

Mercer’s customer service is legendary, and my experience is illustrative.

Yea though I count myself among the lovers of traditional modes of dress, I favor a slightly trimmer shirt. But everything I saw online suggested that Mercer shirts were voluminous about the torso, so much so that they’d be comically large on me. The measurements provided by the company reinforced that.

So I contacted David Mercer, and he offered a simple, but elegant solution. He would make a shirt for me with a 16″ collar and a 33″ sleeve, but with a body that normally accompanies a 14.5″ collar, which, based upon the measurements he provided, would produce a shirt only marginally wider than my custom shirts from Hamilton.

I ordered a shirt in a blue oxford cloth university (candy) stripe with a button down collar. About six weeks later, the shirt was on my doorstep.

The results?

Generally, quite solid. The collar is everything I hoped it would be, with a roll that is nothing less than sublime. I do wish the shirt had gauntlet buttons, and the buttonholes are a little ragged. But otherwise the construction appears first rate.

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As for sizing, the shirt is only slightly larger than my custom Hamiltons, and the shoulders are almost perfect, with the sleeve seam hitting at just the right point. I can easily see adding a few more of these to my shirt rotation, particularly because Hamilton is a little thin in the oxford cloth department.

While Mercer has moved several times since its inception (they currently reside in Bozeman, Mont.), its commitment to American manufacturing has never wavered.

New Union Clothing Redux

A few months ago, I posted on an emergent clothing enterprise,  New Union Clothing. Its initial offerings, as you may recall, are focused exclusively on shirts. They’ve had a couple of popups already at Houston’s Manready Mercantile, and they also sell their wares on the web.

You may remember that I was the company’s first customer. For my initial purchase, I chose a bengal stripe long sleeve shirt with a button down collar, a wonderful and classic choice.

Ever since I made that first purchase, however, a low devilish voice of temptation has rumbled in my ear. It was a difficult proposition to choose among New Union’s offerings, and an indigo cotton popover with a cutaway collar beckoned.

So I recently made amends and brought the indigo popover into my sartorial orbit.

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I’m not going to equivocate here. This may be my favorite shirt; if not, it’s easily in the top three or four. As with my previous New Union shirt, its design is exceptionally well thought out–a classic piece whose interesting details make it feel completely sui generis.

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One word of warning. Indigo dyes are notoriously unstable. I’m old enough where I remember when madras fabrics had to be soaked in a solution of vinegar; indigo dyes are no different. Even with that treatment, the shirt bleeds when washed, so my advice is to launder it by hand with gentle soap in cold water.