Archival Clothing - Made in USA

Archive for January, 2011

Archival Field Trip: Hub and Bespoke

January 31st, 2011

Last weekend we paid a visit to Hub and Bespoke in the Fremont district of Seattle, Washington. Unique among bike shops, there are no bicycles for sale at this stylish cycle boutique — just clothing and accessories . Co-owner Juliette, who has a background in product design and home textiles, stocks the shop with brands like Outlier, Nau, Ibex, Dellar and Vittoria. Her goal is to sell pants, sweaters and – yes – dresses that transition from bicycle to boardroom – pieces for men and women that are both functional and fashionable. You won’t find skorts with sewn-in chamois or high-tech “plastic” jerseys. Wool is the preferred fabric. One of her featured items is men’s wool trousers and knickers designed and constructed by Seattle seamstress Katharine Andrews. Juliette and her business partner Aldan are fans of Archival Clothing and we had a great time chatting with the two of them. We left a couple of bags at the store, and as you can see (below), they look quite at home there.

Custom covers for riding helmet style cycling helmets

Locally made cycling trousers and knickers from Telaio
Rain capes & Shaun Dellar caps

Vittoria 1976 Series shoes (spd compatible)

Brooks leather accessories

Archival favorite, Ibex thin woolies

A.C. bags on display

Difficult-to-source, knitback gloves

Business partner and great gent, Aldan

House musette

Archival Restock: Shawls, Caps & Bags

January 26th, 2011

We just took delivery of a new batch of multi-weave shawl collar cardigans by Centralia Knitting mills. We’re offering the shawls in two new multi-weaves: navy/black/gray and gray/black/white. We have limited stock of our original, gray/black multi-weave. We also received our order of solid and mulitweave cardigans in smaller sizes for women and slim gents. In a month or so, we’ll have our second restock of solid shawls in navy and gray in larger sizes.

These cardigans are truly stunning. I wear mine daily in lieu of a blazer. It’s now part of my signature uniform.

Here are a few new items in the AC web shop:

$10 buck, deadstock, Columbaknit cotton caps (factory direct)

Archival Manufacturing Field Trip – Columbiaknit

January 22nd, 2011

Lynn and I, guided by our friend Jordan, took a tour of the Columbiaknit facility in southeast Portland a few weeks ago.

Mothballed sewing machines
Industrial fabric washer
The 1920s era circular knitting machine used to knit our hats
A massive cotton knitting machine

It was a pretty amazing factory. Absolutely massive, since they used to have hundreds of workers making fabric and garments for major American sportswear brands who have since universally gone overseas. Listen, I know we flog the idea of domestic manufacturing enough on our site, but just seeing the difference of fabric and construction quality between Columbiaknit shirts and the overseas stuff… well, it’s no shocker that Land’s End hasn’t maintained its reputation.

Deadstock evidence of US manufacture

There’s an absolutely disturbing quantity of back stock in the factory. Unfortunately, most of it is in seriously spacious early 1990s sizes, built for an extra stocky rugby player. I’m 6’2″, 180 pounds, but a woman’s Medium was the nearest fit for me (very short sleeves and too-wide shoulders, though).

Bins full of giant rugby shirts

The factory is down to a half-dozen sewers, one knitting machine operator, and operating just a few days a week. We can’t tell you how excited we are to start more work with Columbiaknit – simply going through old fabrics to begin with, and working alongside Jordan to build on the simply detailed and well-fitting line that he began a year ago.

Our first project, aside from re-stocking our popular T-shirts and sweatshirts, is going to be a simple band-collar rugby shirt. The Columbiaknit rugby fabric has to be felt to be believed, and we’re all big fans of the classic rugby. Given the skyrocketing price of cotton and the vanishing numbers of skilled sewers, it won’t be easy – but we’re thrilled to begin work! In the meantime, if you’re a burly gent, there are roomy rugby shirts available directly from Columbiaknit for only $36. At 6’2″ and 180, a man’s Small is as good as it’ll get for now.

Like so many of my clothing obsessions, I learned about the durability of the rugby shirt through rock climbing, as it was popularized by Chouinard/GPIW in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Speaking of Chouinard, I’d love to see a progressive company like Patagonia move their cotton knits production to a place like Columbiaknit. Patagonia would be well-served to bring the responsibility that led them to use only organic cottons to lead them towards domestic knitting, cutting, and sewing. Like organic cotton, it costs more and it’s well worth it. The facilities are all in place – let’s make it in the States!

Shopping from the Future: Vanilla Custom Bicycle

January 20th, 2011

In April, I’ll be pre-registering for Paris-Brest-Paris. Although the Pencil was an early front runner, I’ll be riding my custom Vanilla lugged randonnee on the August 2011 ride. Acquiring the Vanilla was a bit like mail ordering from the future. I submitted a deposit in 2006 and took delivery in September 2010. The bike is a bit of a Rivendell remake (more Herzog’s Nosferatu, less Van Sant’s Psycho). I switched over from 650b to 700c tires, requested lighter weight tubing and integrated lights, rack and fenders. Sacha White, the bike’s builder, was kind enough to borrow a mandrel to give my front fork a nice, low radius bend (à la française).

Here’s an out-of-the-past preview courtesy of the Vanilla Workshop’s flickr photostream:

Photographed outside the Vanilla Workshop in Portland, Oregon.

Austere decaling. Only one panel on the seat tube.

Trusty Acorn Rando Boxy bag transplanted to the Vanilla.

Generator driven, Schmidt Edelux Headlight.

Son 20 front 32 hub. Lightweight for year round use.

Leather chain slap guard.

Updated views from an unusually balmy MLK Day ride:

January edition. Bar wrap and saddle have been updated.

Detail shot of simple lugs and Pacenti Paris-Brest crown.

Sacha special: custom handlebar bag rack with decaleur (not pictured).
For interested parties, here’s a short instructional film on PBP.

Field Report: Rucksack Behind the Blind

January 17th, 2011

AC friend Will recently took his Archival Clothing Rucksack duck hunting in the Willamette Valley. We’re thrilled to see our products in the field – please forward any pictures of bags in use, the harder the better.

Until we’re producing our own Horween game carriers (for slinging dead fowl), please shop from the Brady UK catalog c.1976.

Shopping from the UK: Chapman Bags

January 12th, 2011

It’s great to see all these new Chapman special collaborations and Japan special make ups. I’ve always viewed Chapman as something of a Carhartt to Brady’s Filson. Chapman makes terrific, UK-made field bags out of what the testers at the Montgomery Ward Bureau of Standards might designate as good or “economy” quality materials. For example, the rubber lining on my older Solway game bag is starting to crack and the leather is in need of repair. Brady, on the hand, uses top quality bridle leather, solid brass hardware and mil spec webbing–components that result in a premium price. The Brady line is small and focused on a few signature styles (the Ariel, the Trout, the Gelderburn, etc). Chapman, on the other hand, offers limitless variations on classic British and Fishing styles including bags made from linen and tweed along with standard cotton canvas drill. If you cannot afford Michael Palin’s $295 Brady Geldenburn , shop from the vintage Chapman catalogs below for terrific, economical alternatives.

Price Guide

Shopping from 1958: Montgomery Ward Denim

January 9th, 2011

I’m ambiguous about premium denim. I love brands like Rising Sun, Mister Freedom and Sugar Cane that manufacture jeans using historical patterns, vintage sewing equipment and top quality raw denim. I’m also attracted to denim’s labor intensive care requirements (akin to our own waxed fabrics). But truth be told, I hesitate to pay more than $200.00 for jeans. That’s a price point I reserve for Barbour jackets, Scandinavian knitwear and cold forged bicycle parts.

To save money, I’m shopping from the Montgomery Ward catalog from 1958. I’m looking for Sanforized, vat dyed jeans w/generous, functional pocketing. My preference is for a five pocket model with a high rise and wide, tubular legs. Although Wards offers denim for adults, I’m shopping the “sub-teen” department where clothing is made with extra sturdy materials to better accommodate “rough and tumble outdoor play”.

My favorite pair of denim is on the far right. Check out the front swing pockets and extra large rear pockets. I eagerly await the demise of slim fit denim. Here, that style is reserved for “slim, rangy boys”. Waiting for the day when companies bring back the tubular legs and full seat of Wards traditional “husky” fit (“cut extra full in waist, seat, thighs for top comfort”).

Cutting edge in 1958: plaid cotton flannel lined and water repellent denim. At $2.49, makes for an affordable alternative to the leading competing brand.

At Archival, we design products that will wear until they dissolve. We follow in the tradition of companies like Wards who offer a free pair of jeans if the double knees outwear the pants themselves.

Ladies, I’m sorry to report that there’s not much denim on offer at Wards in 1958. Wool skirts and plaid corduroy pants were the preferred fashions of the day. However, I can recommend a pair of cropped “play pants” in a nice, 9 oz vat dyed denim, “bartacked at points of strain.”

Archival Review: Left Field Ivy Crew

January 4th, 2011

Bing Crosby wearing a wide crew neck sweatshirt in Going My Way (1944)

In November, friend and AC supporter Bradley Bennett of CWAC emailed to see if we’d like to field test a Left Field Ivy Style wide crew neck sweater. Like our own Skookum shawl collar sweaters, the Left Field Crew is knit, cut and sewn in a single facility in the U.S.

While the Left Field crew is marketed to gents, it’s trim fitting enough that the women of AC were able to handle the review. Our test sweater came in size 36, the smallest available. Petite women and slim gents might petition Left Field for a size 34.
Here’s a detail view of the sweater’s most visually arresting feature — its vintage-style, wide crew collar. Wool and knitting expert Erin noted that the raglan sleeves were mostly likely seamed together with a sewn-on ribbed collar which she identifies as “very old-school athletic wear construction.”

Red stitching from the garment tag shows through the back of the sweater. Given our own history with red thread, I like this detail.

In addition to the vintage collar detail, the Left Field crew is most notable for its soft merino wool. The sweater is made from a worsted, Canadian merino yarn in a heavier than average gauge. Left Field no doubt sourced merino for its soft, itch free properties. Although I love feel of a soft merino, I do worry about its potential for pilling. My own preference is for a longer stapled wool yarns that exhibit both durability and softness.
Tester Sara wore the Left Field sweater to work over a Made in USA Splendid turtleneck. She deemed the sweater “cozy” and liked the fit, especially the long slim arms with ribbed cuffs. Coworkers admired the crew neck collar.

At Archival, we endorse clothing that is well made, best quality, locally manufactured and reasonably priced. The Left Field crew is currently on sale for $148 through the Left Field web shop. This is a good deal for a domestically produced, heritage sweater. I hope to see future editions of the Ivy crew made available in a more robust yarn. And our female testers would like to see the sweater offered down to a size 34 or 32. Otherwise, this sweater is a nearly perfect reissue of a classic style.

Archival Clothing Resolutions 2011

January 1st, 2011

Yesterday, I revisited our Archival Resolutions from last year. In 2011, I’m going to begin by focusing on resolution #9. I will tweak my signature uniform: Danish nautical on the top, cone denim and loafers on the bottom. I’m also taking a cue from #4 and plan to shop more often from myself. My first purchase will be a nautical striped Armor-Lux wool beanie that for some reason I haven’t worn in two years.

For review, I’m republishing our original resolutions:

1. Decide that quality matters and pay for it. In the end, it will save you time and money.

2. Before you buy, be selective. Scrutinize items for build quality, fit, finish, functionality and lasting style. If an item is not perfect, catch and release it.

3. Do more with less. Add a few key pieces to your wardrobe and wear them until they dissolve.

4. Shop from yourself and from thrift shops. Repurpose strategic items from the past.

5. Support apparel companies that manufacture their products in the US. Buy products still
proudly made in their traditional country of origin.

6. Contact manufacturers and let them know what they should offer. If you’re a woman and you love classic heritage styles, ask them to offer their products in your size.

7. Find out what products are manufactured in your region. Visit factories and publish reports.

8. Wear wool and linen year round. Experiment with summer weight woolens, and heavier linens.

9. Come up with a signature uniform. Wear it once a week.

10. Read historical newspapers and magazines. Learn about lost brands, fashions, and manufacturing traditions.

Kodak No. 1 Circular Snapshots via the National Media Museum flickr photostream.