Reader A.M. points us to this really interesting little article on Reddit, cataloging the moccasin manufacturers of Maine, and the Maine-style moccasin manufacturers of the rest of the country. They range from large (Rancourt hand-sews a thousand pairs a week) to small (like Wassookeag, whose mocs are pictured above).
(The author of the piece is a member of a new reddit community for shoe nerds: /r/goodyearwelt.)

Reader A.M. points us to this really interesting little article on Reddit, cataloging the moccasin manufacturers of Maine, and the Maine-style moccasin manufacturers of the rest of the country. They range from large (Rancourt hand-sews a thousand pairs a week) to small (like Wassookeag, whose mocs are pictured above).

(The author of the piece is a member of a new reddit community for shoe nerds: /r/goodyearwelt.)

Put This On Handkerchiefs

A few months ago, one of the most significant shirting shops in New York City closed. It sold only to the trade, and specialized in the finest cottons from England and Italy. They had to sell off their stock - decades of beautiful shirting fabrics.

Luckily, we got in on the action. We had the folks at the shop ship us a box of their finest stuff - all in lengths too short to make into shirts. Perfect, of course, for pocket squares.

The result is a limited-edition handkerchief collection. These pieces are made from the best cotton in the world and are hand-made, with hand-rolled edges, just like our other Put This On pocket squares, but they’re priced so inexpensively that you can use them to blow your nose if you want to. The squares are just $35 each, three for $95, or five for $125… but when they’re gone, they’re gone.

You can see the full selection here in our Etsy shop. Pick up a drawerful!

(Use code THREEHANDKERCHIEFS or FIVEHANDKERCHIEFS for discounts.)

Anyone who reads this blog knows how much I care about America, Americans and most importantly American Craftsmanship. That’s why I’m so excited about David Rees’ new book, How To Sharpen Pencils.

Rees spent nearly a decade in an uninspiring corporate drone job as an independent satirical political cartoonist. In 2009, he quit and dedicated himself to the craft of pencil-sharpening. Today, he’s a master of a dying art, perhaps the world’s foremost expert on bringing the inner beauty of a pencil’s sharpness out using a traditional straight blade.

He charges $15.

These shawl cardigans that our people at Archival Clothing just put out are just beautiful. Spectacular. Golden. Made right, and made in the USA. And a bargain at $180.

These shawl cardigans that our people at Archival Clothing just put out are just beautiful. Spectacular. Golden. Made right, and made in the USA. And a bargain at $180.

Q and Answer: What’s a Country of Origin Worth?
Greg writes to ask: I  was wondering if you could help with county of origin labels. Notably,  is there a way to tell quality from a ‘made in’ label?  For example,  I’ve seen labels that say “Assembled in America from  Imported Materials” and “Made by American Craftsmen” and “Tailored in  the USA.”  Are there any people looking for a good deal should watch  for? Avoid? “Made by tiny hands in a US protectorate,” for example?
Country  of origin has been a hot topic the past couple of years in the clothing  world.  The “Made in the USA” label has become almost talismanic among a  certain set, and buying clothing made anywhere else has started to seem  almost treasonous.
There’s some sense in this.  As American  clothing manufacturing has declined over the past thirty years or so,  we’ve been left with two types of domestic production.  The first is  artisinal - Alden or Oxxford or Filson make their clothes in the US  because they can control every aspect of production that way.  These are  high-end manufacturers who want to use well-established, veteran  workers.  That means a price premium, but it’s worth it to these  companies, which are looking for a way to distinguish themselves from  the high-end herd.  The other is companies who manufacture (or have  manufactured) clothes for the military.  These manufacturers, like Bates  or American Optical, are required by law to manufacture in the US if  they hope to get military contracts.
What does that mean,  quality-wise?  Most companies that still manufacture in the States and  are selling to civilians are manufacturing high-quality goods.  This  isn’t so much because of an inherent superiority of the American worker -  in fact we generally have a relatively poor reputation in that  department, relative to other first-world countries.  Instead, it’s a  matter of market forces that pushed low-end production overseas, in  search of cheaper labor.
So is “Made in the USA” an analog for  quality?  Not exactly.  In a contemporary context, it does have about as  much meaning as anything else on that tag, other than the brand name.   There are only a handful of factories that make suits left in the  States, and if your suit was made here, it’s likely of either good or  great quality.  However, I wouldn’t recommend anyone run out and buy  corrected-grain Bates policeman shoes just because of where they were made.
This  is especially true for older goods.  Many more clothes were made in the  United States in, say, the 60s and 70s.  This included some  high-quality clothes, but also many, many low-quality clothes.  When I’m  out thrifting, it’s rare that I don’t run into poor-quality clothes  with a Made in the USA label.  On older stuff, “Made in the USA” is even  less evidence of quality than it is on contemporary clothes.
What about other countries?
Probably  the best bet is “Made in England.”  The English garment industry has  had the same contraction problems as the American industry, but they  also have a much broader (given the nation’s size) tradition of  high-quality clothing.  There is some variance in “Made in England”  clothing, but it’s as close as you can get to a country of origin  standing in for quality.
"Made in Italy" probably represents the  broadest range of quality.  Italy manufactures the highest-quality  clothing in the world, but it also manufactures plenty of dreck.  It’s a  nation of highly skilled garment workers - and of low-cost, low-skill  immigrant laborers from Eastern Europe and Asia.  Luxury firms are also  notorious for assembling goods in Italy that were manufactured elsewhere  to earn a coveted "Made in Italy" label.
France is largely  comparable to the United States - less manufacturing than ever, not a  great tradition in the world of tailored clothes, but mostly artisinal  makers still in business.
Europe is also home to some low-cost  manufacturing centers, like Portugal and Romania.  These are nations  with almost no high-end manufacturing, but like other countries with  large garment industries, their factories are capable of a wide range of  quality levels.  I have Incotex pants that are made in Romania and are  as nice to my eye as those made in Italy.  It’s not a hand-stitched  suit, but it’s still a good product.
East Asia, and especially  China, is a region on the make.  Thirty years ago, the clothing  factories of the region were only capable of making the lowest-end  products.  Now, there are facilities capable of making decent stuff.  As  an indicator, though, that “Made in China” label still means that the  brand decided cost was the most important factor in their manufacturing  process, which is never a good sign.
The upshot is that if you’re  not choosing your clothes for moral or socio-political reasons, you’re  much better off learning about what makes a quality garment than you are  basing purchasing decisions on country of origin.
Oh - and “designed in XXX” means nothing, and “tailored (or assembled) in XXXX” means next to nothing. 

Q and Answer: What’s a Country of Origin Worth?

Greg writes to ask: I was wondering if you could help with county of origin labels. Notably, is there a way to tell quality from a ‘made in’ label?  For example, I’ve seen labels that say “Assembled in America from Imported Materials” and “Made by American Craftsmen” and “Tailored in the USA.”  Are there any people looking for a good deal should watch for? Avoid? “Made by tiny hands in a US protectorate,” for example?

Country of origin has been a hot topic the past couple of years in the clothing world.  The “Made in the USA” label has become almost talismanic among a certain set, and buying clothing made anywhere else has started to seem almost treasonous.

There’s some sense in this.  As American clothing manufacturing has declined over the past thirty years or so, we’ve been left with two types of domestic production.  The first is artisinal - Alden or Oxxford or Filson make their clothes in the US because they can control every aspect of production that way.  These are high-end manufacturers who want to use well-established, veteran workers.  That means a price premium, but it’s worth it to these companies, which are looking for a way to distinguish themselves from the high-end herd.  The other is companies who manufacture (or have manufactured) clothes for the military.  These manufacturers, like Bates or American Optical, are required by law to manufacture in the US if they hope to get military contracts.

What does that mean, quality-wise?  Most companies that still manufacture in the States and are selling to civilians are manufacturing high-quality goods.  This isn’t so much because of an inherent superiority of the American worker - in fact we generally have a relatively poor reputation in that department, relative to other first-world countries.  Instead, it’s a matter of market forces that pushed low-end production overseas, in search of cheaper labor.

So is “Made in the USA” an analog for quality?  Not exactly.  In a contemporary context, it does have about as much meaning as anything else on that tag, other than the brand name.  There are only a handful of factories that make suits left in the States, and if your suit was made here, it’s likely of either good or great quality.  However, I wouldn’t recommend anyone run out and buy corrected-grain Bates policeman shoes just because of where they were made.

This is especially true for older goods.  Many more clothes were made in the United States in, say, the 60s and 70s.  This included some high-quality clothes, but also many, many low-quality clothes.  When I’m out thrifting, it’s rare that I don’t run into poor-quality clothes with a Made in the USA label.  On older stuff, “Made in the USA” is even less evidence of quality than it is on contemporary clothes.

What about other countries?

Probably the best bet is “Made in England.”  The English garment industry has had the same contraction problems as the American industry, but they also have a much broader (given the nation’s size) tradition of high-quality clothing.  There is some variance in “Made in England” clothing, but it’s as close as you can get to a country of origin standing in for quality.

"Made in Italy" probably represents the broadest range of quality.  Italy manufactures the highest-quality clothing in the world, but it also manufactures plenty of dreck.  It’s a nation of highly skilled garment workers - and of low-cost, low-skill immigrant laborers from Eastern Europe and Asia.  Luxury firms are also notorious for assembling goods in Italy that were manufactured elsewhere to earn a coveted "Made in Italy" label.

France is largely comparable to the United States - less manufacturing than ever, not a great tradition in the world of tailored clothes, but mostly artisinal makers still in business.

Europe is also home to some low-cost manufacturing centers, like Portugal and Romania.  These are nations with almost no high-end manufacturing, but like other countries with large garment industries, their factories are capable of a wide range of quality levels.  I have Incotex pants that are made in Romania and are as nice to my eye as those made in Italy.  It’s not a hand-stitched suit, but it’s still a good product.

East Asia, and especially China, is a region on the make.  Thirty years ago, the clothing factories of the region were only capable of making the lowest-end products.  Now, there are facilities capable of making decent stuff.  As an indicator, though, that “Made in China” label still means that the brand decided cost was the most important factor in their manufacturing process, which is never a good sign.

The upshot is that if you’re not choosing your clothes for moral or socio-political reasons, you’re much better off learning about what makes a quality garment than you are basing purchasing decisions on country of origin.

Oh - and “designed in XXX” means nothing, and “tailored (or assembled) in XXXX” means next to nothing. 

It’s On eBay
J.L. Powell Buffalo Boots
To quote from the J.L. Powell catalog: “The patient, quiet folks who make the Buffalo Boots have calm natures that must serve them well in the great outdoors.”  I bet they also have sweet-ass boots.
Buy It Now for $150 (retail $329)

It’s On eBay

J.L. Powell Buffalo Boots

To quote from the J.L. Powell catalog: “The patient, quiet folks who make the Buffalo Boots have calm natures that must serve them well in the great outdoors.”  I bet they also have sweet-ass boots.

Buy It Now for $150 (retail $329)

Several folks asked what hiking boots I recommend for fall and winter wear.  Hiking boots are very fashionable at the moment, even for city wear, and I think Danner boots like the one above (the Mountain Light II) are beautiful and of exceptionally high quality.  They’re expensive, but they’ll also last forever.  If you can’t afford them, there are lots of vintage choices on eBay.  Just stay away from technical-looking stuff unless you have a technical application in mind and need all the technical you can get.

Several folks asked what hiking boots I recommend for fall and winter wear.  Hiking boots are very fashionable at the moment, even for city wear, and I think Danner boots like the one above (the Mountain Light II) are beautiful and of exceptionally high quality.  They’re expensive, but they’ll also last forever.  If you can’t afford them, there are lots of vintage choices on eBay.  Just stay away from technical-looking stuff unless you have a technical application in mind and need all the technical you can get.