Men's Clothing Forums banner
1 - 13 of 13 Posts

Premium Member
Joined
27,866 Posts
Alas indeed!

I bought my first Southwick suit in '71 at Paul Stuart. But as my particular build takes more kindly to darts and 2 buttons, I guess it wasn't officially trad. And several others followed down the years.

But irrespective of styling preferences, if you enjoyed a really nice natural shoulder, and I do, there was none better than Southwick, and only one equal in Norman Hilton.

Thanks for posting this informative obit worthy of its subject. 馃憤
 

(aka TKI67)
Bowtie
Joined
3,703 Posts
It is sad, but I read a piece on Google News this morning about the Bastian era at Brooks Brothers and a focus on restoring the classics. He clearly understands the details and the way they have to be to pass muster with the likes of us. He came across as committed to getting things right. However, the entirety of the interview was focused on colors and construction. In my view two other things were essential to the reverence I once had for Brooks, the word "Makers" and the fabrics. The role of Southwick was essential to the importance of that first one. Making those articles of clothing in the USA with a deep understanding of cut, drape, fit, and detailing was something Southwick truly "got." Unless Brooks finds a way to bring that back, in my estimation they are doomed to mediocrity. The same goes for whoever they used to make their shirts and other non-tailored clothing. As regards the fabrics, it is disconcerting that they do not proudly and conspicuously tout Supima cotton that requires ironing, grown in the USA, made in the USA. Bastian talked about making Brooks "Brooksier." It simply cannot be done without Southwick or its like. Yes, it is sad. It brings it home to read how the Southwick facility will be repurposed.
 

Registered
Joined
13,646 Posts
鈬 I think the challenge is the audience who 1. understand these details and 2. cares about them is shrinking fast. Most men under 40 (maybe even under 50) were never educated in Ivy/Trade (I know there are exceptions, but they are one-offs), so what gets them to know and care about it now?

I learned about Ivy/Trad clothes in the '80s / early '90s when I was in my twenties from the older guys at work who knew, and the salesmen at the Ivy/Trad stores who knew, this stuff. It was still important, at least on Wall St., to dress that way back then, but not now.

Within ten years of my start, most of it was gone or going. Few cared anymore about dressing Ivy, the older guys were retiring and the Ivy/Trad stores were closing even then.

Now the guys at work and in the stores who taught me are all gone and the need to dress that way is gone, so what will create demand at Brooks and others for a "3/2 natural shoulder" or an OCBD that needs to be ironed, in part, so that it gets the right collar roll?

I'm on your side; I'd love to see Ivy/Trad make some kind of updated comeback, but I'm not optimistic.
 

Super Moderator
Joined
3,213 Posts
I agree with @Vecchio Vespa and also with Faders' post above. To me, the long period -- almost two decades or more -- of globalization and outsourcing of clothing manufacture has led to a disappearance of American capacity for the sort of production that used to exist in earlier days, when there were good craftsmen who worked at larger-scale manufacturers like Southwick. The sad thing is that the skilled craftsmen who made those kinds of clothes have probably disappeared, or only remain in smaller tailoring establishments. If something like Southwick comes back, it will be on a foundation of retraining and recreation at the level of skilled craftsmen before anything on the order of a manufacturing operation can be undertaken in this country.

Fine clothes will always be available to those who can afford to pay high prices. But well-cut and well-styled items are going to be harder to find. We should be deliriously happy that a few places like O'Connell's or Mercer and Sons continue to offer the kinds of items we love at reasonable prices. Absent such firms, the only places where one might obtain quality classical clothing would be the second-hand or vintage market.

It's quite conceivable that the Asian countries might begin to produce classic clothing. At least for shoes, the Japanese, and more recently the Indonesians, have started to make fine, high-quality items. Hundred Hands in India are making high-quality shirts, although not exactly Ivy Style. There are Savile Row tailors who have been working with Indian craftsmen to create English-style suits to their specifications. But these are all going to cost much more than what Brooks Brothers used to charge its customers. There's no gainsaying the economic realities of our times.
 

(aka TKI67)
Bowtie
Joined
3,703 Posts
I agree with @Vecchio Vespa and also with Faders' post above. To me, the long period -- almost two decades or more -- of globalization and outsourcing of clothing manufacture has led to a disappearance of American capacity for the sort of production that used to exist in earlier days, when there were good craftsmen who worked at larger-scale manufacturers like Southwick. The sad thing is that the skilled craftsmen who made those kinds of clothes have probably disappeared, or only remain in smaller tailoring establishments. If something like Southwick comes back, it will be on a foundation of retraining and recreation at the level of skilled craftsmen before anything on the order of a manufacturing operation can be undertaken in this country.

Fine clothes will always be available to those who can afford to pay high prices. But well-cut and well-styled items are going to be harder to find. We should be deliriously happy that a few places like O'Connell's or Mercer and Sons continue to offer the kinds of items we love at reasonable prices. Absent such firms, the only places where one might obtain quality classical clothing would be the second-hand or vintage market.

It's quite conceivable that the Asian countries might begin to produce classic clothing. At least for shoes, the Japanese, and more recently the Indonesians, have started to make fine, high-quality items. Hundred Hands in India are making high-quality shirts, although not exactly Ivy Style. There are Savile Row tailors who have been working with Indian craftsmen to create English-style suits to their specifications. But these are all going to cost much more than what Brooks Brothers used to charge its customers. There's no gainsaying the economic realities of our times.
The price point for classic clothing is fascinating. For example Orvis Ultmate Khakis have been made in China and, I believe, other countries in southeastern Asia. They are beautifully made of heavy, must be ironed cloth and their cost is roughly in line with Jack Donnelly MiUSA khakis. A number of O'Connell's suits, including those last precious Southwicks, are priced in line with suits made overseas.
 

Super Moderator
Joined
3,213 Posts
They are beautifully made of heavy, must be ironed cloth and their cost is roughly in line with Jack Donnelly MiUSA khakis.
I have long maintained that when you get skilled workers overseas to produce these items, they create high-quality products, but those skilled workers need to be paid higher wages than those who are employed in large factories overseas to make cheap products. This applies to overseas production as well as home production. The question then is: Why not have Americans produce these goods, if the cost is not very different? At least we are employing more of our own people! If we do decide to go this route, it will take some time to retrain workers and find the craftsmen to help in this re-training.
 

Premium Member
Joined
27,866 Posts
I have long maintained that when you get skilled workers overseas to produce these items, they create high-quality products, but those skilled workers need to be paid higher wages than those who are employed in large factories overseas to make cheap products. This applies to overseas production as well as home production. The question then is: Why not have Americans produce these goods, if the cost is not very different? At least we are employing more of our own people! If we do decide to go this route, it will take some time to retrain workers and find the craftsmen to help in this re-training.
A worthy thought, but I think all the principles that pertain to the issue of labor arbitrage are more complex.

When we're discussing off-shore manufacturing we are generally talking about Asian labor markets, primarily China, and more recently India. While I claim no specific knowledge, my understanding is that the cost of living, and what is an acceptable material standard of living, tends to be less on average in either country than the U.S. Therefore, even the most skilled craftsmen in such areas typically require a small percentage of what an American or most European craftsmen of equivalent skill would demand. I know that's a broad generalization, and I'm sure there are exceptions, but that's how footwear companies like Yeossal from Singapore which manufactures in China, or Bridlen of India are able to make and sell shoes for a fraction of what it would cost to do so in the U.S., and in most areas of Europe.

But that only pertains to making fine quality goods, I have a belief that much of the U.S. has been brain washed over the last 15 to 20 to prefer junk, and even ugly clothes. Fast fashion has been a never ending drum beat of sophisticated advertising for a long time now. A finely tailored jacket? Out of date, something only old men wear. You're cool, wear T-shirts and jeans or cargo shorts! Then you look good! Even though advertisers will convince some they need to pay hundreds of dollars for a pair of $30 or $40 jeans, you hardly need skilled craftsmen to manufacture such goods.
 

Super Moderator
Joined
3,213 Posts
Therefore, even the most skilled craftsmen in such areas typically require a small percentage of what an American or most European craftsmen of equivalent skill would demand.
There may be some truth in this assumption, but it is also something that I think can be questioned. Yes, if you talk about the people who live closer to poverty, their standard of living and perhaps even their expectations, are substantially low when compared with what well-to-do Westerners or Americans might consider a decent standard of living or reasonable expectations. But consider: There is poverty in the West too, there are poor people in the US. Many of them eke out a living on a fairly terrible minimum wage, and their purchasing power for goods and services is quite bad. They manage from paycheck to paycheck, somehow. And the capitalist system takes advantage of this, especially in an environment where there is little ability to bargain, with fewer unions left (although the pandemic has caused a change in all of this).

As for purchasing power: In terms of exchange rates, since the dollar is much stronger than the renminbi or the rupee, it is tempting to think that converting rupees or renminbi into dollars might make us think that people may have to manage on a few dollars a day. But in those currencies, the amounts involved have greater purchasing power, almost similar in many ways to the dollar, at least for essential goods and services. I don't know about China, but I do know some things about where Indian salaries stand for the vast number of people who have become part of a middle class in the last three decades, with increased prosperity and a stronger economy, at least pre-pandemic. Their paychecks, compared with those in the nineteen sixties, say, are better by a very large amount -- like going from Rs 1000 to Rs 150,000 per month for a college professor, for example. So it may not be accurate to assume that the betterment that people in Asia might seek will always be incommensurate with what Americans might expect in their own remunerative scales.

A related but complex topic is the abandonment of jobs by Americans during the last year. This is an interesting phenomenon, and I think it indicates a realization by workers that they have been had! If you look at the income graphs for the well-off and the poor over the last five or six decades, you will find that median income is pretty much a flat function of time for the poor, whereas it is increasing steadily and then exponentially for the last couple of decades for the well-off. This is another phenomenon that seems to predict both change and conflict in our social and economic lives. Things are changing in many areas.
 
G

Consider the relative standard of living, and the variance between bottom and top in overseas labor markets. One always has to pay more for a better skilled worker, but in an area like Asia where the bottom tiers of worker make so little, even doubling their wage does not materially impact the wholesale cost of the good.

In the US, and the West in general, paying a wage demanded by a highly skilled worker may mean raising a finished price much higher than the market will bear.

The other issue is finding enough highly skilled workers to fill your plant. As others have pointed out, many workers have voluntarily left the workforce. Covid caused many changes, such as workers discovering they may be happier not working and earning less, than working hard, and not enjoying what income they earn.

I listened to an interview with someone who was forced to change jobs during Covid- from bar/restaurant to driving and delivery. The person was recently offered their hospitality job back, with a guarantee of much higher compensation. They declined the offer. The person acknowledge their income from driving was much less, but preferred the lower stress environment of driving, and the freedom to set their hours.

Numerous studies have shown that workers prefer more control over their lives, instead of higher wages if given the choice. That is also why many companies now include more "flex time" hours, and are more likely to offer a virtual work environment, instead of just raising wages across the board. The answer to the question of attracting skilled labor is complex and touches on so many more issues than just finding someone who can sew a great natural shoulder jacket.
 

Connoisseur/Curmudgeon Emeritus - Moderator
Joined
37,122 Posts
Consider the relative standard of living, and the variance between bottom and top in overseas labor markets. One always has to pay more for a better skilled worker, but in an area like Asia where the bottom tiers of worker make so little, even doubling their wage does not materially impact the wholesale cost of the good.

In the US, and the West in general, paying a wage demanded by a highly skilled worker may mean raising a finished price much higher than the market will bear.

The other issue is finding enough highly skilled workers to fill your plant. As others have pointed out, many workers have voluntarily left the workforce. Covid caused many changes, such as workers discovering they may be happier not working and earning less, than working hard, and not enjoying what income they earn.

I listened to an interview with someone who was forced to change jobs during Covid- from bar/restaurant to driving and delivery. The person was recently offered their hospitality job back, with a guarantee of much higher compensation. They declined the offer. The person acknowledge their income from driving was much less, but preferred the lower stress environment of driving, and the freedom to set their hours.

Numerous studies have shown that workers prefer more control over their lives, instead of higher wages if given the choice. That is also why many companies now include more "flex time" hours, and are more likely to offer a virtual work environment, instead of just raising wages across the board. The answer to the question of attracting skilled labor is complex and touches on so many more issues than just finding someone who can sew a great natural shoulder jacket.
Well said and IMHO you are spot-on with your assessment of post pandemic work place challenges....the arena will at once be more complex and also simplified. Is it too much to expect our priorities will be on issues of real importance, rather than on materials? I do hope such will prove to be the case. ;)
 

Registered
Joined
6 Posts
A worthy thought, but I think all the principles that pertain to the issue of labor arbitrage are more complex.

When we're discussing off-shore manufacturing we are generally talking about Asian labor markets, primarily China, and more recently India. While I claim no specific knowledge, my understanding is that the cost of living, and what is an acceptable material standard of living, tends to be less on average in either country than the U.S. Therefore, even the most skilled craftsmen in such areas typically require a small percentage of what an American or most European craftsmen of equivalent skill would demand. I know that's a broad generalization, and I'm sure there are exceptions, but that's how footwear companies like Yeossal from Singapore which manufactures in China, or Bridlen of India are able to make and sell shoes for a fraction of what it would cost to do so in the U.S., and in most areas of Europe.

But that only pertains to making fine quality goods, I have a belief that much of the U.S. has been brain washed over the last 15 to 20 to prefer junk, and even ugly clothes. Fast fashion has been a never ending drum beat of sophisticated advertising for a long time now. A finely tailored jacket? Out of date, something only old men wear. You're cool, wear T-shirts and jeans or cargo shorts! Then you look good! Even though advertisers will convince some they need to pay hundreds of dollars for a pair of $30 or $40 jeans, you hardly need skilled craftsmen to manufacture such goods.
I don't think the population has been brainwashed to prefer junk. I think it jas been brainwashed to prefer cheap (above all else). Look at Walmart... They buy old defunct brand names like Herman Survivors boots (aka the Timberland before Timberland) and just make junk in China for bottom dollar and slap on a brand name that we recognize from 50 years ago.
 
1 - 13 of 13 Posts
This is an older thread, you may not receive a response, and could be reviving an old thread. Please consider creating a new thread.
Top