This missive is something of a postmortem.
Don’t get me wrong. Taylor Stitch as a corporate entity is still, by appearances, going strong.
Truth be told, it’s taken me a while to get around to finishing a post about Taylor Stitch. And, over that time frame, Taylor Stitch has shifted from a company that produced most of its wares in the United States to a entity manufacturing clothing in locales around the globe, principally in China. Rest in peace.
In the original post I was drafting, I suggested that Taylor Stitch was trying to be L.L. Bean, a brand, broad in its offerings with a strong connection to its home, in this case California. Sadly, that assessment has proven true, but in a way I hadn’t anticipated. It took Bean several generations to sputter largely into an importer of questionable goods from third world countries. Taylor Stitch has done it in about a decade.
You might think that shift, with its resultant lower costs, would translate into a less expensive product. But you’d be wrong. The clothes still carry the same not insubstantial price tag.
Reddit boards are legion with customers decrying this situation. They point out, correctly, that Taylor Stitch got its start embracing a laid back, California vibe, with American manufacturing central to that identity.
Once their website and their clothing tags trumpeted the phrase “Proudly Handmade in California.” Now they simply say, “Made in China.” I suppose we should be grateful for that level of honesty–both to list the country of origin as few others do and to admit that pride no longer factors into it.
Taylor Stitch representatives have weighed in, defending the move on quality control and environmental grounds. Never mind that investment in Chinese manufacturing undergirds a brutal regime with hegemonic views toward the United States. Never mind the fact that Chinese factories have been legendary in their fudging of information on their labor and environmental footprint. And never mind that the decline in American manufacturing Taylor Stitch indicts was hastened by the very outsourcing in which it is now complicit.
Are there challenges to sourcing from United States factories? Of course. But Taylor Stitch had an opportunity to be a part of the solution–to leverage its goodwill to raise the standard and capacity of American manufacturing.
I would be remiss if I failed to mention that a smattering of Taylor Stitch’s products are still manufactured domestically: blue jeans, a denim jacket, shoe trees. But the overwhelming majority are made in locations where pride slips on a banana.
I’ve purchased a few American made items from Taylor Stitch over the past couple of years, and they have been uniformly outstanding.
For my son, I purchased a pair of selvedge jeans. For myself, I purchased a pair of running shorts and two oxford cloth button downs. I even cajoled by brother into adding a couple of the shirts to his wardrobe.
Of the button downs, I should mention this (a mild rebuttal to the company’s claims of inconsistent sizing): Every Taylor Stitch shirt I’ve purchased or tried on in size 38 has had the same fit; no variance in sizing to be found. I suppose the anecdotal limits of my experience should not be used to judge the quality control across the board. But let my voice be one small bit of testimony in approbation of Taylor Stitch’s American made shirts.
My one issue with the button downs is the stinginess of the collar. But in today’s style environment of narrow widths and skinny silhouettes, that’s to be expected. It’s a design choice, not a deficiency in the manufacturing process.
At this point, with so much goodwill squandered, I’m not sure if Taylor Stitch can recover. If you’re willing to buy made in China goods, $125 is likely a price too dear for a shirt.
Unfortunately, the story is an all too familiar one: a company, once firmly committed to making its wares in the United States, has betrayed that commitment in a profound manner. The result is, to say the least, dispiriting.