We’ve waxed rhapsodic about the Breton shirt before. Once the favored shirt of French fisherman (owing to its contrasting navy and white stripes, which made it easier to identify a man overboard ), the Breton shirt has insinuated itself into the pantheon of classic clothing.
This is not an unexpected thing. Many items of working class provenance (penny loafers, Shetland sweaters, Norwegian, Icelandic and Irish fisherman’s sweaters) are favored by the moneyed classes and aspirants to same.
Yesterday, I made the trek into Houston to visit my friends at Manready Mercantile. Among the new offerings on the store’s shelves was a Breton shirt from the Velva-Sheen Manufacturing Co. It became the newest addition to my wardrobe.
Wait, dear readers, don’t I already own a Breton shirt? Indeed, I do. And the purchase of an additional version would seem to violate the parsimony I inherited from my Puritan ancestors. But while the ColumbiaKnit version was a fine shirt, it had two drawbacks. First the fabric was a bit too heavy for the warm, humid weather that predominates in Southeast Texas. And second, the previous shirt’s neckline diverged from the shirt’s classic iteration.
The Velva-Sheen version rectified both of those deficiencies.
Velva-Sheen’s roots stretch back to 1932. For generations, it was a thriving sportswear company, based in Cincinnati, Ohio, with a particular emphasis in licensed and custom apparel printing. By the 1990s, however, the company’s fortunes were in decline, and it became one of the unfortunate casualties of the outsourcing epidemic.
But the brand has acquired a new lease on life, recently purchased by the Topwin Corporation, which manufactures men’s and boy’s clothing in Torrance, Calif.