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…
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.
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.
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.
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.