We’re suckers for heritage American clothing brands, the kind of labels that pander to those looking for a taste of America as it once was. These stores love to flaunt their craftsmanship, their history, and, most of all, the fact that their clothing is made in the United States. Unfortunately, that general theme has become so popular that the market for these clothes has become saturated with countless new brands popping up on crowdfunding sites and elsewhere, promising impeccable attention to detail and quality of materials. It seems like every day one of these companies pops up and attempts to squeeze into the niche, and it’s now tedious to filter through the ones that have just jumped on the bandwagon in order to find what’s worth buying.
There are a handful of genuinely American labels, however, that have stood the test of time because they’re truly red, white, and blue at their core, and they have the history to show it. Perhaps the best example of this category is legendary outerwear manufacturer Schott, whose modestly-sized SoHo store is located on Elizabeth Street between Prince and Houston.
If the name rings a bell, it really should. If, at any time in your life, you handled a pea coat while thrift shopping, there’s a good chance that it was manufactured by Schott in their New Jersey factory, where they’ve been designing and producing jackets and coats since the early 20th century. If you’ve ever seen a double rider style leather jacket, one with an asymmetrical zipper down the front, know that Schott not only created that iconic style, dubbed the Perfecto, but was also the first to put a zipper on a jacket at all — their creativity and ingenuity is a tactile testament to the cliché but very real American dream.
On top of the fact that Schott was founded in America more than a century ago and continues to produce some of the finest clothing found in this country, they’re also ingrained in so many facets of American life. The aforementioned pea coats that Schott still produces aren’t just military inspired; they’re the same pea coats that American sailors wore through much of the last century. The manufacturer engaged in a contract with the U.S. Navy during the Second World War and supplied servicemen with the same heavy melton wool coats that they now sell on Elizabeth Street, and they did so for a whole 60 years. The Perfecto jacket isn’t just a sharp-looking accent piece; it’s the same garment that Marlon Brando wore in “The Wild One” and that the Ramones wore in the above shot as they secured their place in the annals of punk rock.
It’s mind-boggling to think about how much more history Schott has than the younger companies trying to pass as “heritage” brands. Pick up a Schott garment, though, and the details and craftsmanship will dispel any doubts that Schott is the essential American clothier with enough weight behind its name to sew its label, emblazoned with the stars and stripes, onto every coat.
What’s your favorite American brand? Comment here or on Twitter @BillChangNY