Made In The USA, Affordably: Union House Underwear

Assembling the complete American-made work-from-home outfit at reasonable cost isn’t that tough: there are at least three legitimate choices each for T-shirt, pants, belt, socks, sweatshirt. Until, that is, you get down to the underwear. There are a few sources for USA-made boxers, but those of us who feel that our life might include a bicycle at any randomly chosen moment are probably better off with briefs, and those are in shorter supply. They’re also expensive when you can find them. Flint&Tinder will periodically do a run of USA-made briefs at Huckberry for about thirty bucks a pop. Ramblers Way has some very nice options at sixty-five dollars each. Why your humble author can justify an eight thousand dollar sportcoat, while blanching at $65 underwear, is a matter best left to qualified mental health professionals.

No matter. There’s a cheaper alternative, and I can report that it’s also a very well-made alternative.

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Made In The USA, Affordably: Genusee

If you’re wearing eyeglasses or sunglasses right now, do you know where they were made? Unless you made specific efforts to ensure otherwise, chances are the answer is “China”. And it’s not just the $5.99 Oakley ripoffs sold at every gas station; the vast majority of high-end glasses are also made in China, largely by the EssilorLuxxotica conglomerate. Even when they’re labeled “Made In Italy”, it often just means “assembled in Italy”, which is why Ray-Ban Wayfarers are “Made In China” when you buy bare frames for prescription lenses and “Made In Italy” when you buy a complete set of sunglasses using the same frames.

Finding non-Chinese glasses is an exhausting task. For more than a decade I wore about a dozen versions of the same basic frame, all made by ProDesign in Japan. That frame shape is out of production so now I have Silhouettes (Austria), Safilo (Italy), and Dillon Optics (Italy with USA lenses) depending on the day and the task. I also have a very good set of ROKA cycling glasses which to my sorrow are Chinese. If ROKAs were made in the USA I’d have ten pairs of them.

If you want a completely USA-made set of glasses, you have very few choices. Shuron makes a variety of vintage-looking frames here at a very competitive price, and… uh, I think that’s it. Until recently. Now there’s Genusee.

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Made In The USA, Ten-Dollar Hat Edition: Gustin

Many of my readers are already Gustin members. I’ve had some good luck with their stuff over the years, although the sizing can be a bit tricky. My “Japan Shine” blue jeans are far and away the best denim pants I’ve ever owned or encountered.

Gustin’s doing $15 Made In The USA knit hats for the winter. If you’re not already a Gustin member, joining with my total sellout referral link gives you a five dollar credit. I get five bucks as well. So it’s a ten dollar hat.

But wait, there’s more. Comment below, even if you don’t buy a hat. I’ll pick a random comment, probably by using the last two digits of the S&P or something like that, and I’ll give the winner a sixty-dollar Dearborn Denim credit from my last referral spree. And if I get enough referral credits to take some of the sting out of the purchase, I’ll use them to buy the Horween #8 L3 jacket. Everybody wins.

Made In The USA: Woobies MOD-1

There were 1,400 pairs of Vans skate shoes made in the United States last year. I now own two pairs of them: one in white, one in black. Unfortunately for me, they were so expensive, and so irreplaceable, that I have yet to lace either pair up. Yes, I know that’s ridiculous.

When I read about the WOOBIES MOD-1, however, I thought that I might have stumbled on an affordable alternative. The WOOBIES website and marketing materials are primarily focused on “first responders” and military types, but the phrase “skate shoe” does appear. And the price is right: $85, just a bit more than a set of Ultracush-equipped Vans Pros. So I ordered a pair. They’re produced intermittently so it took a while for the Mod-1s to arrive. So… are they a great alternative to Vans?

The answer, as Juan Peron’s advisors say in Evita, is… a qualified yes.

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Last Call For American Stretch

It didn’t work out. Last year, I told you how the nice people at Dearborn Denim managed to preserve their arrangement with Denim North America. Today, I got an email telling me that “DNA” had cancelled the arrangement. Dearborn has seven rolls of the fabric left; when they are sold, they will be purchasing from Cone Mills. You know, that Cone Mills. The ones who got moved to Mexico by their private-equity strip-and-sale.

If you want to try Dearborn before it’s too late, click here. You get ten bucks off, and I get ten bucks’ worth of credit towards my next Dearborn purchase. What’s next for the company? According to the email I received, they are going to work on creating their own denim in Chicago, “but it is at least a four year process.” Let’s hope they make it.

The last remaining denim mill in the United States is Mount Vernon Mills, which supplies LC King — but LC King pants are very traditional, stiff-then-shrink affairs. The Dearborn Stretch Denim was a different animal, very compatible with a bike-to-work or physical-labor lifestyle. I’ll miss it.

Made In The USA, Affordable (And Used) Edition: The $59 Wilberts, Two Years Later

Would you buy, and wear, a set of used shoes? I don’t think most people would, but there is a solid case to be made for certain used-shoe purchases. To begin with, it is often possible to get a nearly-new set of American-made dress shoes for half the price of Chinese department-store junk. Furthermore, if you pick the right shoe, you can get a pair of used shoes and a set of new shoes for 2/3rds of that shoe’s street price.

To demonstrate how this works, and to show you how to achieve footwear nirvana for the price of a two-top dinner and drinks at Applebee’s, I decided in January of 2016 to buy a set of used Allen-Edmonds off eBay and to see what happened next. My long-time readers know that I own close to a hundred pairs of dress shoes from A-E, Alden, Grenson, Crockett&Jones, Bruno Magli, Edward Green… with the exception of Ferragamo, Gucci, and TOD’S, I think I have an example of pretty much every high-end shoe out there. I don’t typically buy used shoes. As you will see, however, there was no penalty to my having done so, and over one hundred wearings later, I’m still feeling good about my purchase.

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Made In The USA, Affordable And Retail: Dearborn Denim

If you’ve been reading this site for a while, you know that I am very passionate about bringing you products that are Made In The USA. Unfortunately, in the current economic and political climate that means I’m spending a lot of time talking about remarkably expensive or extremely specialized stuff. One of my readers called me on the carpet recently regarding this. He suggested that we lay off the $250 resole services and $299 fidget spinners (both of which are, um scheduled for future articles) and focus on products that regular working-class Americans can buy without taking out a second mortgage.

He was, of course, absolutely right.

So today we have a new category: Made In The USA, Affordable. And I’m kicking it off with a new retailer that offers completely American-made jeans for just $59. You can buy Dearborn Denim online, but since I was in Chicago for another reason I decided to visit their retail location in the baddest part of town and see what the company is all about.

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