Buying American #3Mon, December 17, 2012 - 9:03 AM
For years, I've been purchasing from Land's End and L.L. Bean, which generall make shirts that fit me well and are available in 100% cotton. They run $40-$50, usually, and they're all imports from Southeast Asia. (Land's End does have a Made in USA category now, though it doesn't offer dress shirts. See www.landsend.com/ix/UserSe...index.html )
So, off I went in search of American-made dress shirts at prices that wouldn't make me gag.
First stop, J. Press ( www.jpressonline.com/home.php ). It's an old New Haven/Yale clothier that's been in business since 1902 and makes most of its stuff domestically. List prices on dress shirts are $98, though they're sometimes on sale. So, just to test the waters, I ordered a pinpoint oxford in what they call "egg shell," which is to say an ivory off-white.
It came the day after I ordered it, surprisingly fast. It fits well, a little less square-cut than the Land's End/Bean, so the bottom doesn't blouse-out quite as much, not a bad thing. The fabric is substantial for pinpoint, but still smooth. I like this shirt a lot, though the placket button on the sleeve did break off within a week or two. Still, it's a good-looking, good-wearing shirt, made in America of natural materials, and I don't mind having paid a little extra for it.
Next up was Brooks Brothers ( www.brooksbrothers.com ), which makes some of its shirts in America. My company has different deals with all kinds of vendors, and we had a 30 percent off day in November. So I ordered two broadcloth shirts, each reduced to $55.65. That's pretty close to what I was buying, though I failed to notice that while the shirt was constructed here, the fabric was imported.
The shirts, one a burgundy stripe, the other ecru, are similar to what I'd been buying, perhaps a little better constructed. I like them too, but even with the price differential, I like the J. Press one better because of the fit and the domestic fabric.
I've seen some more fashion-forward USA-made shirts with $200 and $300 price tags. That seems ridiculous to me, a shirt is good for about 40 washings, so if you wear it every other week, it'll last 2-3 years. I can't really see paying $100 per year per shirt. For that price, you could probably do better to have them custom made.
On the other hand, if I can help keep shirtmakers in New Haven working at $98 a pop ($73.50 today, they're on sale), I'm all for it.
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Brooks Brothes used to make Civil War uniform shirts, too.No joke. And they wore out too quickly. The fabric, a wool offcast referred to as 'shoddy', gave us the origin of the term 'shoddy workmanship'. I hope your shirts last. They should, because they quit using shoddy after the Union Army quartermaster got upset with them.