Made in America: The USA's best menswear brands
17 February 2017 • 11:16am
The political turmoil in the US at the moment is so seismic, that to consider its effect on our wardrobes feels rather like nitpicking with Emperor Nero about his concertos while Rome burned. New York Fashion Week however, was rife with political protests about the new administration. (One concern is that the proposed Border Adjustment Tax could land US brands who manufacture and import from around the world with an extra 20 per cent tax – enough to put many out of business.) And yet, for all the new president’s talk about American manufacturing, much of his daughter Ivanka’s (now heavily discounted) range of clothing is produced in China. Trump’s own range of ties and accessories (for, somewhat remarkably, there is one) is manufactured in Shengzhou, sold on trump.com. It’s a shame, because there are a number of American brands that offer a certain dynamic style for men, while still supporting U.S industry.
Leading the pack is Brooks Brothers, the label that proves sharp (and relatively affordable) tailoring needn’t be the preserve of Savile Row; the majority of its pieces are made in Massachusetts, with other factories in N.Y and Carolina. It’s a matter of pride for Brooks Brothers that the nifty suiting outfitter has outfitted 39 of the 45 American presidents. (No word from the brand yet as to whether it has dressed the most recent, although it’s said his inauguration ensemble was by Brooks Brothers.) Alongside its classic Madison and Fitzgerald suiting cuts, the brand has also developed a range of suits in stretched wool that nod to the great tradition of American sportswear. While J. Crew’s credentials aren’t quite as clear cut as Brooks Brothers’ (it seems to produce its clothes in various locations), last year it unveiled an American Made range of clothing, and this month it is releasing a range of stretched fabric chinos, jackets and suits that look pin sharp but come with wrinkle-free materials for ease of travel.
Perhaps the biggest success story in the landmine arena of American manufacturing is Shinola, the Detroit based watches and leather goods brand which since 2011 has sought to provide jobs for the deprived American city’s populace. Despite the Federal Trade Commission last year decreeing that its watch output should be termed “Built in Detroit with important parts” as opposed to "Made in Detroit", it’s a feather in the house’s cap that it’s supporting local industry. All whilst making some handsomely rustic bags, folders and wallets.
So despite the fact Milan, London and Paris garnered the lion’s share of attention during the international men’s shows last month, New York as a fashion capital shouldn’t be ignored. American designers excel in making clothes for real people (as opposed to fanciful peacocks), as evident in the workwear of Rag & Bone and the soft-fit tailoring of Billy Reid. The American Dream might be questionable concept of late, but at least its designers are proving that solid, formidable style can come with a proud Made in the USA label.