Stars and Stripes Collective

Regular readers among you will know that, of late, a decent American made polo shirt has become something of our white whale.

In the past, the gold standard was the made in North Carolina pique polo from High Cotton. Although High Cotton is still going strong, with a firm footed commitment to American manufacturing, it no longer offers the polo shirt.

Another option was from Austin based Criquet Shirts. I’ve lost about fifteen pounds since my original Criquet polo shirt purchases in size medium, so I reached out to Criquet to purchase a few in small. By the time I was in the market for a less voluminous version, however, I found that Criquet had completely abandoned any pretense of commitment to making its clothes in the United States.

So color me surprised when I discovered that Stars and Stripes Collective, a Wisconsin-based retailer trafficking exclusively in American made goods, had a modest supply of the domestically made polo shirts from Criquet.

American made polo shirt from Criquet (purchased from Stars and Stripes Collective)

I follow Stars and Stripes’ exploits on Instagram, and I’m enthralled with their ironclad commitment to selling wares made in the U.S. They sell both online and in their shop located in Sister Bay, Wisconsin.

Stars and Stripes had its genesis in a challenge a couple made to one another. They resolved to buy only American made products for a few months. Those few months grew into years, and they began charting their commitment on social media. They graduated from social media partisans for domestic manufacturing to owners of their own shop.

Red Wing Heritage

I’m not sure when I first noticed them.

A couple of years back, Red Wing stores started sprouting up in my region with surprising regulatory. A cursory Google Maps search tells me that 11 standalone Red Wing stores now populate the Houston metropolitan area.

Given Red Wing’s commitment to American manufacturing, that development warms my heart.

My wife and I had occasion to visit one of those stores last year. Followers of Red Wing’s Instagram page that we are, we took note of a post that featured a pair of women’s boots, the Clara, a model from the company’s Heritage line.

So, on our visit, my wife tried on a pair. We were bowled over. They looked both stylish and tough as nails–a rare combination in women’s footwear. Buying them was a no-brainer.

So far, she’s worn them with jeans, with trousers, with dresses and with skirts. All to wonderful effect.

I too have pair of Red Wing Boots: a chukka that calls to mind the original Clarks Desert Boots: tan suede uppers, rubber sole, etc.

Red Wing chukka boots

Red Wing got its start in 1905. The company grew quickly, so much so that by 1917 it was the principal supplier of boots for the U.S. military in World War I.

Today, Red Wing manufactures most of its footwear in two domestic locations: Red Wing, Minn. and Potosi, Mo. While the company’s commitment to American production is not complete (some models are made overseas), we’re grateful that it has largely stayed true to its American roots.

Dador Havana

We are dedicated partisans for American manufacturing. But our commitment isn’t predicated on a sense of national chauvinism. It’s instead a hunger for localism, a desire to purchase goods that are produced in the communities where we live, work and play.

That’s true as well for the countries we visit. While there, we seek out those enterprises trying, against the odds, to design and make clothing in a local context.

My wife and I recently took a trip to Havana, Cuba. We traveled to “Support the Cuban People”, one of twelve categories under which U.S. nationals are allowed to visit Cuba. We were intrigued by the possibility of interacting with Cuban cuentapropistas, local entrepreneurs who have taken advantage of the government’s slightly more liberal attitude toward small scale private enterprise.

Those enterprises take several forms. They’re casas particulares, rooms for rent in peoples houses, many of which are now listed on Airbnb. They’re paladores, privately owned restaurants with interesting takes on local cuisine. And they’re among a collection of burgeoning shops with a commitment to local production and design.

During Cuba’s “Special Period“–the lean, desperate time following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, its primary Cold War benefactor–domestic manufacturing of clothing went belly up.

In recent years, however, new voices have emerged on the Cuban style scene. The first was Clandestina, a clothing shop with slick, modern, playful vibe, the kind of enterprise you might find in the hippest corners of Austin, Portland or Brooklyn. Its name, in fact, is a play on the black market clothing shops–tiendas clandestinas–that popped up in the aftermath of the Special Period.

What really caught our eye, however, was a newcomer to the Cuban fashion scene: Dador. Established in 2018, Dador is the collective brainchild of three Cuban designers: Lauren Fajardo, Ilse Antón and Raquel Janero. The shop’s aesthetic is defined by a casual elegance, evocative of its island roots. Everything is produced in its upstairs workshop.

During our visit, my wife purchased a top from Dador’s Malecon collection. It’s an exceptionally well designed piece, made out of a horizontally striped blue and cream linen, with cap sleeves and red buttons down each side. Living in the subtropics that we do, it’s an ideal additional to her spring, summer and early autumn wardrobe.

I admire Dador not only for its impeccable sense of style and its commitment to local production, but also for its perseverance in the face of daunting obstacles. Despite the slightly more favorable entrepreneurial environment in Cuba, doing business there is still notoriously difficult. Depending on the caprice of governmental authorities, private enterprise can quickly fall out of favor, resulting in a regulatory crackdown that makes private sector economic activity all but impossible.

Against these odds, Dador has emerged. If you find yourself in Havana, I strongly recommend you pay them a visit.