21 April 2009

In Praise of 60/40

Since I seem to have pushed so many buttons by wearing jeans recently, I've decided to go ahead and push some more by openly admitting that I have no problem with an occasional 60% cotton 40% polyester blend in a shirt. So long as its nicely stitched and has a beautiful roll to the collar:
Another important detail is , of course, the magic words, "Made in U.S.A." Note also that though this shirt is cotton blend, it still requires the touch of an iron. This "no iron" business is really bothersome.Made by good old Hathaway (remember them?), who sadly closed up shop in 2002. It's a downright shame that a man can't get something as simple as a blue button down shirt made in his own country anymore.These old 60/40 shirts had a good cut, and didn't seem to 'shine' the way that really bad polyester does. I loved them back in the rock 'n' roll days. I could sweat into these things behind the drum set under the hot stage lights with nary a wrinkle, and afterwards they dried pretty quick, too. Way back, in Catholic school, all my uniform shirts were either Hathaway or Sero 60/40's. I miss being able to just go out and buy a bunch of these at a reasonable price whenever I needed some shirts.
The last thing I want to do is get all political here, but I honestly believe that one big step we could take toward fixing the economy in the long term would be to hire our own people to make our own stuff at home. Call me an old-fashioned crank, if you will, but I'm tired of having thrift stores be the only place for a normal person to find quality domestic goods at reasonable prices.


NKD said...

poly blend oxford are great with no wrinkles! bravo!

Anonymous said...

Does it really matter whether the shirt is made in South-East Asia or
in the United States by South-East Asian immigrants?

Or do you have a mental image of blond-haired blue-eyed workers in an American shirt factory?

Anonymous said...

How refreshingly honest it is to find someone who not only admits to wearing 60/40 OCBDs, but actually sings their praises.

For those who avoid 60/40 blends like the plague, in adherence to the natural fibre code of ethics, might I suggest that they take a look at their “all-leather” shoes and discover how many of the unseen components are synthetic. Are they certain that the thread used in sewing their “all cotton” shirts isn't a poly blend (if not all poly)? Do they realize that they “pollute” their fingertips everyday, buttoning the plastic buttons on their “100% cotton” shirts? And what about the synthetic labels on their “all silk” neckties?

The 60/40 blend OCBDS available today (from Land’s End, for example) are a distant cousin of the wash-and-wear oxfords of the 60s and 70s. They’re not stiff. They don’t shine. They offer convenience and economy.

Giuseppe said...

Anon. 11:50,

I don't care who made my things. But by purchasing things made here, I'm a ssured of a certain level of quality. Not to mention the fact that in the United States, it's likely that the workers are not children, and were not forcewd to work 18 hours a day without overtime, and maybe they were even allowed to use the bathroom.

In these difficult times, it would be nice to have the jobs back, and I see nothing wrong with making a concious effort to spend my money at home.


Read the link. People worked for Hathaway for 35 years, fed their kids on that job, and then lost it because some big company figured it would be better to make the shirts cheap and crappy. I don't like to spport that kind of business practice if I can help it.

Mateo said...

The old "made in usa" poly blends were really well done. I love the ones I find in the thrift stores. They must of had better poly back then than they make now.

I always thought that 80/20 cotton/poly would be the best of both worlds.

Anonymous said...

My father who is in his 70's loved Hathaway shirts back in the 60's they were quite popular.

I could never ever wear a blend shirt though. I even have a hard time for the no-iron cotton.

If you want a classic made in the USA blazer checkout the Anderson Little blue blazer.

Anonymous said...

Sorry Giuseppe,

That would mean that Lands' End would have to charge me at least $35 instead of the $19.50 that they now charge. I'm neither willing nor able to pay that.

Anon 11:50


yea cut out the chinese man

The Cordial Churchman said...

I'm always seeing Hathaway, nice looking button-downs at the thrift stores, but have avoided them b/c of 60/40. "Devil's fabric" I think I recall you saying. You did say, though, that sometimes you go ahead and deal with the Devil.

Maybe I'll give the Devil 40% of $3.49 next time I see a handsome Hathaway at Goodwill.

npmaslow said...

The other argument that could be made for US produced shirts is that as a nation we are (as of a couple years ago) one of the top 3 cotton producers in the world. It seems like it would be more efficient (logistically and ecologically) to go from field to mill to factory to store within one country.

That said, my current favorite shirt was made in Hong Kong of probably Chinese cotton. Fit is still key.

GK said...

Bravo! The made in the USA label is important for quality and knowing a little something about how your garment was made and how the employees were treated. A Made in the USA/Union Made label is the pinnacle.
O'Connells has some OCBD's made in the US (Haven't tried them, so this is not a testimonial) and of course BB has there Original OCBD made in the US (yes, a tad pricey).

For those to whom it matters (I am one) I don't think that we worry about the thread or labels or buttons (though ceramic and MofP are available) need to be all natural. It's just that companies often skimp when the blend materials or use overseas manufacturing.

When you find quality, buy as much as you possibly can of an item. I have missed out on far too many great clothes by not following that little rule.

Charles said...

I second your sentiment towards 60/40 blend shirts under the right circumstances. Quality, USA or Far East, was a whole different animal in the 70's and 80's.

The few non-iron shirts I own are not kept around for the aesthetic quality of the cloth but for their convenience. I will avoid purchasing anymore if possible.

I'll even take you one further and sing the praises of my vintage Jantzen cardigan made in the U.S.A. of 100% Spun Pak Orlon acrylic. Wears, feels, and is cut better than my J. Crew 100% lambswool sweater that was made in China. Not a preference, just an observation.

Young Fogey said...

"I honestly believe that one big step we could take toward fixing the economy in the long term would be to hire our own people to make our own stuff at home."

A-men! In addition to what Giuseppe said about working conditions, there's also the idea that by buying locally/domestically, we are helping ourselves by helping our own community/country.

Not to mention that stuff made in America outshines the cr@p made in China, Bangladesh, Cambodia, etc., and generally isn't poisonous.

Armilyn and David said...

I too would like to be able to purchase new affordable quality goods produced domestically. It's unfortunate that the last 10 years have been especially hard on domestic manufacturing, relegating the industry to producing products for niche markets like Japan. I was just noticing a casual leather belt that I purchased from Old Navy circa 1999/2000 made from "genuine Italian leather" and made in USA. I paid probably $20, definitely not more than $30 for it. I could never find a comparable belt brand new for that price today. Same with a bunch of dress shoes that I purchase from J. Crew and Barneys throughout the 90s, all made in Italy and all in the sub $175 range.

It's not about fetishisizing about some WASP factory worker sewing your OCBD in Maine. Yes, the odds are that the garment worker might be a recent immigrant. But that's not the point. It's about not losing the skills we had as a country. The old factory workers aren't getting younger, and unfortunately there is no generation to pass their skills on to, and that's a sad thing.

David getting off his soapbox now

Speedmaster said...

I'm in complete agreement w/ you on good 60/40 shirts. Lots of very nice ones out there and look good and hold up.

foolio_iglesias said...

To the poster who stated that it would cost more to produce said shirt:yes,it would,and I would gladly pay more.All that would really translate to, for me at least,is that I would only buy 1 or 2 ,not 3 or 4....

Andrew M. said...

This made me think, I can't recall one time I've seen something with the "made in usa" badge and it been of poor quality. The rest of the world, is another story. But then, I guess that's the whole point of this discussion.

Anonymous said...

Please help me understand how buying Malaysian-made goods from Brooks Brothers of Lands' End doesn't contribute to the American economy?

How about boycotting thrift shops, discount stores, sales, etc. and paying full-price so that you make a greater contribution to the American eceonomy?

Giuseppe said...

Shopping at thrift stores is a form of recycling, which is always good, and it helps cut back on wasteful overconsumption, also good. Plus, the money I spend in thift stores supports local church's and charities.

Anything so terribly un-American about any of that?

Anonymous said...

...and buying Malaysian- or Indonesian-made goods keeps the impoverished masses from becoming even poorer (and keeps girls out of the streets and whorehouses).

What better form of Christian charity than that?

The real question is: Is the American company able to sell his goods to the American consumer at a lower price by having them made overseas? Does he want to help American workers achieve a higher standard of living, or help the truly oppressed, truly miserable of the world suffer a bit less?

Giuseppe said...

The other question is:

How can anyone be even mildly offended that I prefer to buy American?

Companies that farm out labor overseas are just looking for ways to grow their profit margin, it's greed. Having your own employees and treating them like humans is expensive, besides, if the clothes aren't continually falling apart, we won't buy new ones. Therefore, quality is "bad for business" too.

Of course the issue is confused by the fact that buying cheap sweatshop goods from American comapnies is in many ways good for the economy. It's our wasteful system of over-consumption and throwing things away that is at fault.

thanks everyone for your comments. I love it when my humble posts can generate vigorous discussion.

Young Fogey said...

The last couple of decades have seen price emerge as the determining factor for almost every kind of purchase. No one stops to think about the consequences of always buying the least-expensive choice.

Now we see what happens when low price trumps all other factors:
* American workers--our fellow countrymen, whom we ought to care about more than foreigners--lose their jobs.
* Manufacturing jobs which pay well enough to support families disappear, to be replaced by lower-paying service sector jobs. With more people making less money, less money circulates in the US economy (or at least parts of it), and more public aid goes to people who were formerly financially independent. This either raises the tax burden or decreases the amount of public funding that can go elsewhere.
* Because one job no longer pays enough, both parents have to work to support their family. This decreases the quality of their lives.
* Both parents working means that children are raised by strangers instead of family. This also increases their exposure to neglect and abuse.
* Apart from the social costs, shipping production offshore increases our dependence on foreign countries for necessities, like textiles. While this is offset somewhat by multiple suppliers, it still exposes us to external risk.
* The focus on low price above all else also means that quality suffers. Most stuff in dollar stores is junk, because most of it is made in China and other Third World countries--countries that lack not only our quality standards, but also our safety standards and human rights standards. Many other foreign-made products--as well as domestic services--suffer from poor quality, because reducing quality reduces costs.
* Focus on low price means that illegal aliens have priced American citizens out of the market in numerous job sectors. This acts as a magnet for more illegal aliens--a huge social, legal, economic, security, and political issue.
* Focus on low price means that illegal aliens or foreigners are found in more and more positions--but they seldom provide service equal or superior to that provided by American citizens. The Mexicans who work at fast-food places are not more polite or efficient than American teenagers, and the Indians who do tech support are not more knowledgeable or helpful than American tech support personnel.

As for charity? Let us remember the phrase "charity begins at home." Let's help our neighbors, our communities, and our country first, and then worry about what we might do to help the rest of the world.

I hope that answers some of Anonymous' questions.

Anonymous said...

LE's 100% cotton and 69/40 blend ("Original Oxford") OCBD shirts are now available at $18, reduced from the already-low $19.50 price.

I can also spend $79.50 on a Malaysian-made OCBD shirst from BB.

LE is an American company and I am contributing to the American economy and the salaries of American employees by buying from them. The money I save still goes into the American economy by being spent in the U.S., since I, like many others don't travel abroad on shopping sprees.

Young Fogey said...

Anonymous, and everyone else who cares about price first, last, and always, said,

"It's all about me me ME!"

Less of your dollar goes to American employees because no American garment workers saw a single cent from your Lands End purchase. Your three sawbacks and three get spread v-e-r-y thinly among those who are the beneficiaries of your purchase.

Price is an important factor in purchasing decisions. It should not be the only one. If you can't see the inherent wisdom in buying locally and domestically, if you can't see how you help yourself by helping your fellow countrymen, then there's really not much more I can say on this subject.

Full disclosure: I am very happy with the vast majority of my numerous Lands End purchases--including some 60/40 shirts--and will buy from them again. I wish I could buy American-made shirts, but short of bespoke, there aren't any to be had.

Anonymous said...

Dear Young Fogey,

As a Republican, I thought it was patriotic duty to help American capitalists exploit workers in underdeveloped countries and not to give a hoot about the welfare and well-being of American workers.

Consequently, I will continue to think about ME, and shope accordingly.

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Anonymous said...


The is an eye opening book and may change the opinion expressed in your post (if you still hold it so many years later).