With the resurgence of “Made in America” in our menswear vernacular, many people are digging deeper to see who is actually working in the United States and who simply has a well-known American brand, but whose production is actually located overseas. Granted, some of these mega brands can’t shut down all of their foreign factories just to appease us. But the consumer does have some level of trust in a brand and hopes that they will at least make the effort to at least produce some of their products in the U.S.
Brooks Brothers, which celebrates its 200th anniversary this year, is the perfect example of an American business still making things in the U.S. Since the heritage boom began, Brooks Brothers was one of the first that enthusiasts ballyhooed. Founded in 1818 in New York City, it’s an iconic brand worn by everyone from Presidents Lincoln to Roosevelt (Teddy and Franklin!) to Kennedy — it’s also been written about by F.Scott Fitzgerald. They are also a massive company and much of their stock is indeed made overseas (in well managed factories that they own and control, which is another story altogether!).
But, one garment that Brooks Brothers has always made in America are their ties.
Over in Long Island City, 20 minutes from midtown Manhattan, ties have been cut, sewn and sent out for decades. We took a tour of the factory and were impressed by it on many levels. First, we were gobsmacked that we were the first journalists to visit; the factory has been here forever, but no other publications have examined it. Secondly, the enthusiasm of the staff was incredible. These are people who truly love their jobs. We had tailors who shook our hand with a smile, seamstresses who were laughing and posed for pictures, and we saw quality control managers with a bounce in their step.
A few other takeaways from the experience:
- Every retail (opposed to outlet) tie has some part of it made by hand.
- The company makes ties for many other brands we all know and love (we must keep that anonymous!). But it helps build the brand on the wholesale side and lets the other brands tout the “Made in America” angle too.
- Bow ties are actually incredibly difficult to make since they are so small and have so much construction. Brooks Brothers doesn’t charge more for bow ties though since consumers usually don’t understand “more money for less fabric.”
- Cummerbunds are also pleated by hand. Every one!
- Nothing goes to waste in the factory. We noticed the scraps from previous collections were used to tie up bundles of ties as they went through each process. They also use scraps to make key chains and other accessories that are beautifully finished.
- Brooks Brothers has a master tailor on premises who works on many custom pieces for wholesale and the military.
- Since 1935, Brooks Brothers has been tailoring uniforms for senior enlisted men and officers. They continue to do so and offer the “Dress Blue” uniform for Naval officers, as well as tailored dress uniforms available at the U.S. Naval Exchange.
Now that you know how they’re made and are ready to get yourself a Brooks Brothers tie, maybe you should finally learn how to tie that tie you just bought.