American Apparel might be sinking, but American-made apparel is rising fast. As the spotlight intensifies on fast fashion’s dark side, domestically made goods are tempting consumers.
The prices of made-in-the-USA goods might not be as mouthwatering, but you don’t get the same craftsmanship or quality in a sweatshop. And you won’t have to wash off the smell of guilt, either.
In a country where people value their children only slightly higher than their prime rib, it’s no surprise that great leather is plentiful. Billykirk, a bicoastal leather goods company, makes classic leather and canvas accessories with an emphasis on tradition and quality.
“It’s not so much that [our products are] made in America (though we are proud of that fact) but rather made with integrity,” says CEO Chris Bray. Many of the brand’s bags, belts, shoes and wallets are handmade by Amish leather makers, a community famous for their precision and quality.
“We want our items to get better with age and be passed down through the generations. Sadly, we live in a throw away society and are mired in a fast fashion rut that does little to help our environment or foster sustainability and fair wages.”
The Schott leather jacket has appeared on most teenage bedroom walls, draped over icons from Marlon Brando to Bruce Springsteen and the Ramones. A brand that encapsulates the American dream, Schott began in 1913 when Russian immigrants, Jack and Irving Schott, started selling their unique leathers door-to-door.
The pair had a number of much-copied firsts, from inventing the leather motorcycle jacket to deciding that a zipper belonged on outerwear. The brand remains in family hands and over the ensuing century has maintained the same dedication to both American manufacturing, and Americana cool.
Japanese street style meets Cape Cod Kennedys is the signature of NYC-based brand Engineered Garments. Since 2004, designer Daiki Suzuki has rolled out a new take on military and workwear every season, with designs that put a new spin on timeless pieces and silhouettes.
The ‘Made In New York’ label in every Engineered Garments is no joke – the clothes are manufactured only a few flights away from Engineered Garments’ HQ in NYC. That’s flights as in stairs, not planes.
Raleigh Denim Workshop
Raleigh Denim refers to itself as an “art project/romantic adventure/punk diy/throwback American enterprise,” but all you have to know is this: Raleigh Denim handmakes all its jeans on vintage machines, relying on experienced jeansmiths, not automation.
“We launched Raleigh Denim Workshop in 2007 in large part to highlight American craftsmanship,” says co-founder and designer Sarah Yarborough.
“We design and produce our collections close to home, steeped in North Carolina’s rich textile and denim history, yielding super-high-quality goods and sustainable practices.” As well as the workshop, she also runs a flagship in NYC with her husband Victor Lytvinenko, where the pair sell mostly raw selvedge denim that they’ll happily alter for you right in the store.
New England, best known for its picturesque autumns, aggressive drivers and omnipresent Dunkin’ Donuts, was once hailed as the shoemaking capital of America. But now, only one factory remains: Alden of New England.
The interiors of Alden shoes are modelled after support shoes, but there’s nothing orthopaedic about the exteriors; a mix of classic dress shoe and work boot. Most importantly, its footwear comes Indiana Jones approved.
If you want the best suit in the country and aren’t afraid to drop some real cash, grab a ticket to Chicago. There you’ll find Oxxford Clothes, whose main business is bespoke suits made using methods that exist nowhere else in the US. Its tailors use old school techniques, hand stitching their suits without a machine in sight and fitting them precisely to your proportions.
And if you manage to get one of the brand’s one-of-a-kind pieces, you’ll be in good company; these suits have been worn by American greats like Clark Gable, Walt Disney, Joe DiMaggio and Jay-Z. An eclectic, but unfailingly stylish bunch.
Filson has been dressing rugged Americans since the late 1800s. The Seattle-based company outfitted prospectors during the Klondike Gold Rush, and its pioneering spirit continues to this day.
The brand is famous for its Tin Cloth and Mackinaw wool gear, which can stand up to even the toughest elements. Still produced in its hometown factory, Filson’s goods are made to last, but also don’t skimp on style and will suit you as well in the backwoods as your club’s back bar.
Very few brands have been worn by nearly every US President since the turn of the century, or dressed icons like Cary Grant and Gregory Peck. Fewer still can claim the invention of the seersucker suit. That extensive resume belongs to Haspel, a New Orleans staple and classic American menswear brand.
While the label originally sold only warm-weather gear to battle the bayou heat, Haspel now carries classic clothes for every season and regularly collaborates with other American heritage companies.
“When we launched the brand in 1909, the factories were located in the US, so it was natural to keep our manufacturing here when we relaunched in 2014,” says company president Laurie Haspel Aronson. “That’s part of the Haspel story. We are an American brand with an American heritage.”