Monday, March 22, 2010

Best in U.S.-made: Hamilton shirts

There are myriad dress shirts on the market at various price points. For a 100 percent cotton shirt, the cost can be anywhere from about $10 ready-to-wear to hundreds of dollars for bespoke, depending on fabric and workmanship.

In previous posts, I have touched on the value of natural fabrics as a criterion for selecting comfortable clothing. I will now cut to the chase: Where possible, go bespoke. Even if you can afford one custom-made shirt, it's worth the investment.

Reputable high-end retailers such as Brooks Brothers offer made-to-measure programs with swatch books of fabrics and reps ready to take your measurements. Feel their fabrics and you can quickly surmise that price runs proportionate to quality, from solid to better-than-that to even-better-than-that.

Other U.S.-based shirtmakers include Mel Gambert of Newark, N.J., and Ripley Shirt Co. of Dallas, which offer a variety of options.

Being based in Houston, I'm admittedly biased and have to go with the home team -- Hamilton Shirts. They've been making shirts since 1883, all on the premises. The folks who took my measurements got it right the first time, and subsequent shirts that I order will have the same specs on file. It's the only bespoke shirt that I wear. At this rate, I'll wear it out quickly. But I know where to go to get more.

Kelly and David Hamilton, the siblings who represent the current generation of Hamilton shirts, are down-to-earth people who oversee the company. While I'm sure they have a lot on their minds when it comes to running the business, the quality of the shirts made under their watch speaks for itself.

Make no mistake: A bespoke Hamilton shirt makes for a sound investment if you're someone who favors clothing made in the U.S.A. and can afford a customized fit.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Best in U.S.-made: Oxxford suits

Over the years, I have worn garments from a number of American designers such as Joseph Abboud, Bill Blass, Brooks Brothers, Hickey Freeman, Tommy Hilfiger and Polo Ralph Lauren. While I have usually found these brands to be reasonable in price, the fit is different among them. For example, an Abboud jacket is cut fuller in the body than a Polo jacket.

So is the fabric. The above designers likely will use 100 percent wool or 100 percent cotton, but the quality of the material varies (and so does the price).

That got me thinking about what is more important, the designer's name or how comfortable the clothes will be. The latter is paramount; some designers fit better than others on a given individual. Some fabrics perform better than others.

So I decided to go to the upper echelon of American menswear, which includes Chicago-based Oxxford, outfitters of U.S. presidents including George W. Bush, and many other notable people. Oxxford, like Brooks Brothers and Polo, offers high-end menswear, which also includes Western wear.

What makes Oxxford distinctive is the painstaking labor that goes into its garments. Suits are hand-stitched, the trousers feature a continuous waistband, and the jacket includes a "bellows pocket" on the inside, which expands when items are placed in it.

For more on how Oxxford suits are made, click here.

About 18 months ago, I toured the Oxxford factory and got to see firsthand how the clothes are made, from the selection of fabrics to the cutting of patterns to the stitching to the finished product. It's an impressive process that takes several weeks, but it's well worth the wait.

For these reasons, I consider Oxxford to be the best in American-made suits.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

My Review of Bills Khakis M3 Bullard Field Pants - Flat Front (For Men)

Originally submitted at Sierra Trading Post

Closeouts . Bills Khakis claims these M3 Bullard cotton field pants are so robust and well made you may be compelled to put them in your will. Numerous professional washes produce a soft hand and slightly faded look Made with hard work and American ingenuity in Reading, Pennsylvania Model #3...

Bullish on Bullard Field Pant

By StylePointer from Houston, TX on 3/16/2010


5out of 5

Pros: High Quality, Durable, Comfortable

Best Uses: Wear To Work, Casual Wear

Describe Yourself: Classic Dresser

Whether you wear 'em, kick 'em or shoot 'em, these trousers can take anything. The Bullard Field Pant has a casual, rugged look.
I usually get Model 1s or Model 2s, but the trimmer-fitting Model 3 fits well for me in a larger size. They're made in the USA, and very much built to last.


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Best in U.S.-made: Houston Rodeo wear

Every March, the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo is known for its cook-off and other local delicacies, rodeo activities, musical guests and its marketplace.

The exhibit hall at Reliant Park is huge. You can find just about anything in there, especially Western clothing. There are at least three must-sees at the Houston Rodeo exhibit hall, all of whom have custom-made capabilities:

-- M.L. Leddy's: John Ripps, a former Neiman's employee with at least 30 years of experience in menswear, knows how to put together a stylish Western look at the Fort Worth-based maker of fine apparel, boots and saddles. Oxxford is a major player in his inventory. I tried on an Oxxford silk-cashmere tan blazer that fit like a glove, one of his best jackets. The $3,640 tag represents the high end, not to mention made-to-measure options. For that kind of money, it's considered an investment in the best.

-- Shorty's Caboy Hattery: Here's a hatter who can make a 100x fur felt hat for under $1,000. Lavonna "Shorty" Kroger ain't so short in stature; if anything, she's long on experience. Shorty's range of hats reflect what customers want and how they want it. Shorty is a regular at the Rodeo, coming to Houston from Oklahoma City.

-- Old Frontier Clothing Co.: Larry Bitterman makes it his business to outfit Hollywood with his authentic Western styles reminiscent of what you might see in the HBO drama "Deadwood" or the older films that may include John Wayne or Clint Eastwood. Bitterman has an eye for detail and can cut a jacket for you at a reasonable price ($285 and up, depending on availability of fabric) using natural fabrics.

The Houston Rodeo continues through March 21 at Reliant Park in Houston.