Brooks Brothers Black Fleece

Sometimes, I’m late to the game.

In 2015, Brooks Brothers unveiled its last Black Fleece collection, the product of its much ballyhooed collaboration with Thom Browne.

By all accounts, I should have been an ideal candidate for Black Fleece. Much of the collection was made in the United States. And it hearkened back to the heyday of the Ivy look, with a bit of postmodernism wink thrown in for good measure.

But when I was in the market for their wares, I was a good stone heavier. Because Black Fleece cuts were fiercely slim, almost bordering on parody, they were a non-starter for me.

With a number of old Black Fleece shirts filling the ranks of eBay, however, I figured my narrower dimensions justified trying one out. I found a plaid oxford cloth button down in size BB2 with the tags still attached and pulled the proverbial trigger.

The BB2, I understand, was the Black Fleece equivalent of a medium. For the life of me, I can’t figure out on which planet this is a medium. I have shirts in size small that are a tent compared to this.

But still, it fits, albeit snugly, which I suppose is the Thom Browne Way. I certainly never would have paid full price for it. But the discount eBay affords makes this a reasonable purchase. And it’s an interesting modern take on the Ivy look.

Truth be told, we have a somewhat fractious relationship with Brooks Brothers. No company looms as large in the pantheon of the classic American style. But I would also contend that few companies has done as much to betray their American roots. So much of what Brooks produces these days is made in countries with scant labor and environmental protections. The few items still produced in the United States are the last remnants of a once inspiring legacy.

Bills Khakis

Bills Khakis doesn’t get enough love around here.

It’s not that we don’t venerate the company. Despite my desire to diversify the labels in my wardrobe (supporting various American manufacturers), I’ve owned, at various time, 11 pieces from the Bills Khakis. We’ve featured the company several times on this blog. And our Instagram feed contains several posts highlighting its wares.

But I think our affection is outpaced by its influence.

There’s probably no company in today’s menswear that’s done as much to keep alight the flame of American manufacturing. Without Bills Khakis, the classic menswear landscape in the United States would be a far different–and much diminished–place.

A few years back, Bills teetered on the edge of collapse. Its founder was removed in a takeover. It passed through a couple of corporate hands, eventually landing in the lap of NEJ Inc. I thought that heralded the demise of Bills as we knew it–a company, rooted in the classics, with a firm footed commitment to American manufacturing. My guess was that the company would be stripped down for parts, eventually becoming a legacy brand with manufacturing in East Asia.

I’ve never been more grateful to be wrong. To this day, Bills maintains a diverse range of menswear, all made in the United States.

I recently acquired a pair of its Parker shorts. They are everything I’ve come to expect from Bills Khakis: well-constructed, classic, American made.