Last weekend, I was running a few errands when a fellow customer caught sight of me in my American made duds and declared that I was “a true southern gentleman.” Being the self effacing sort that I am, I demurred at his complement.
I am not, by my reckoning, a gentleman. Someday, maybe. But for now, I’m still a little too rough around the edges to call myself a true gentleman.
But even the “southern” part of his adulation felt a little off.
Truth be told, my affections lie north of the Mason-Dixon line. Although I’ve lived in the South for all but a few of my years, my family hails from our country’s northern latitudes. The values that inform my life–thrift, discretion, probity–were passed down from my Puritan forebears, some of the earliest arrivals in the Massachusetts Bay Colony.
And despite my superficial resemblance to a Southern gentleman that morning, not one stitch of my outfit was made in the South. Rancourt penny loafers made in Maine. My New England Shirt Company shirt made in Massachusetts. A Leather Man Ltd. motif belt made in Connecticut. Bills Khakis seersucker trousers made in Pennsylvania. And an Optimo Hats panama straw made in Chicago.
In fact, very little of what I own is made in the south. Of course my custom Hamilton Shirts are made in Houston. But I know of just a few others. Criquet Shirts made in El Paso, suspenders from The Cordial Churchman made in South Carolina, Boardroom Socks made in North Carolina, ditto my High Cotton polos. But I’d be hard pressed to conjure up any other non custom items from my closet that were assembled by southern hands.
The South has been particularly hard hit by the exodus of manufacturing jobs to foreign locales. And the North has always had a more vigorous manufacturing base, which, in isolated pockets, it has tried hard to retain.