Investment clothing affects how you will be treated and the money you will make. One of the harshest truths I learned in my early 20s was there is a distinct difference between how a beautiful woman and a well-dressed woman are treated. The first are often ignored or treated as objects at best, the second are given raises and power.
You will chase the power to control your life until you understand that it is not others who give this power to you, but you give it to yourself. This sense of respect should extend beyond a fancy watch or trendy shoes. There are a number of great guides for learning how to dress yourself for success, but it gets down to clothing is the background polish to help tell people to treat you with respect. My grandfather always liked to read Style Magazine for this reason. He would also window shop the stores in New York when figuring out what fabrics, trim, and stuff to bring back to his Brownhill stores in North Carolina to create his high-end clothing for clients.
There's a short list of textile companies in North Carolina that people say are the very best. Manufacturers and retailers often look for different things. JC Penny, which is at the top of most manufacturer lists for quality due to their rigorous inspection standards, falls at the bottom of the retailer's list. Most people view the company as having a very poor/cheap fit due to an over reliance on straight line measurements. This leads them to miss the basis of really great fit,
which is that great clothing is generally composed of curves that are not easily measured by factory inspectors doing spec work on a flat table. It has been and remains one of their biggest weaknesses as a retailer. In the US, Brooks Brothers consistently makes the cut for I would say the top 3-4 companies having some of the best staff, quality of workmanship, and business culture. If you are ever in North Carolina and want to blow your mind for quality, I suggest going to the Brooks Brothers Clearance Outlet near their plant at:
15 E Front Street
Garland, NC 28441
BROOKS BROTHERS, A COMPANY THAT UNDERSTANDS RESPECT
My introduction to the Brooks Brothers’ plant was more roundabout as I had the privilege to work with one of their old cutters, Jimmy, for a year at Tactical Assault Gear in Durham, NC. We worked in the product development shop. I learned a lot about lines and cutting from him. But that wasn’t my first exposure to Brooks Brothers quality. For years my grandfather and family members dragged me to their outlet stores to understand how a well-made suit is designed. Or what makes a really great dress shirt. Yesterday Brooks Brothers posted behind-the-scenes footage of their Garland plant as part of their annual service award, which lead me to want to talk about how amazing they are in the business this week.
Jimmy was a delight and one of the best-educated cutters I've ever met. He taught me an amazing amount. However, the time I spent with him also reinforced my opinion on how awesome Brooks Brothers treats their employees and how much training they provide their staff. Treating your staff with respect and giving them an education plus
opportunities to improve themselves is key to having a company that outperforms the competition. It's also incredibly smart as it tends to encourage people to invest in the same company for years or decades. This is where the sense of teamwork comes from. Most cutters specialize in just running Gerber machines; Jimmy also knew the mechanics to fix them, could work in Accumark, and had basic patternmaking skills like digitizing.
This was radically different from the way most local factories treat their cutters. Too often, only a basic minimum of information is provided and training relates only to a specific job task. Too many cutters are chosen for a strong back, with little consideration given to their computer skills or math abilities. The vast majority of cutters I've worked with do not have computer skills to back up their table work simply because they weren't given the training. Nash runs circles
around most cutters I've worked with.
IT GETS BACK TO RESPECT
Both guys can do several orders of magnitude above the work I've seen other cutters do. Which gets back to respect; both of these guys worked for companies that believed their employees need not just the basics, but to grow as far as possible to be part of a team. I don't know what the future holds, but I do believe that dressing well and educating yourself as much as possible will be critical for your long-term success.
Dara and Nash are two happily married craftspeople who love making practical beautiful things.