For all the ink that's been spilled over the Made In America movement, the reality is still a little grim. True American-made goods remain hard to come by, and most still use foreign materials. So what does it take to make an American product? For Philip Mershon of March + Held Co.—whose oxford shirts are now on Kickstarter—that meant following a "soil-to-sale" philosophy, ensuring that everything from the cotton seed to the sewing thread were native to the USA.
"We were told again and again that it was impossible," Mershon explains. Despite initial setbacks, the company found that domestic production meant they could be nimble—something that counts for a lot in the fashion business. The first break came when Mershon located a store of long-staple cotton oxford cloth. Brilliant white with a hefty weight, the fabric was ideal. "The properties are American," says Mershon. "It's tough, it's versatile and it's going to age well—like selvedge denim."
The next step was to find a cut-and-sew team. Based in NYC, the company was lucky enough to have talent from the Garment District at their disposal. Again, the challenge came down to raw materials. March + Held Co. had to supply their own sewing thread and buttons, because none of the sewers stocked American-made versions.
Design-wise, the fit aims to respect the proportions of the average American man without bagging. The secret sauce came together when the company tweaked a standard cut to have higher armholes, shorter sleeves, and a roomier collar. One of the happy accidents came when the team discovered women loved—and looked phenomenal in—the smaller sizes.
A few small touches of personality adorn the shirts. Contrast stitching lights up the cuff buttons and side hem, and a fanciful rocket takes off on the left breast. Why a rocket? "Rockets are for pioneers and pyromaniacs," says Mershon. "They're the symbol of achievement." Beyond making shirts, Mershon sees a future in brokering the fabrics themselves. "We want to market high quality, soil-to-sale fabrics for designers to use." This goal includes plans to commission broadcloth for silkscreen and block-printed patterns.
March + Held Co. shirts can be found on Kickstarter, where blue chambray ($125) and white oxford ($135) versions are available.
Images by James Thorne