Hello all! I've decided to start a blog on here after some sage advice from a friend to help explain more about The Rite Stuff, the process, and the thoughts and ideas behind the products. At first I was actually content to let others do the blogging (and I certainly don't want to take away from their readership!) but I know that it's good to hear things from the horse's mouth sometimes too.
At the time I was mostly buying new clothes, but was starting to get into vintage, and picked up this deadstock Sears Hercules from about the 1950s.
Let's go back to the embryonic stages of The Rite Stuff then: it was about one year ago, when Cold Summer/Kyle over on Superfuture posited the idea that someone should make custom, made-to-order workwear shirts out of Japanese fabrics but for Western guys. I liked the idea a lot and did a lot of mulling ("Mull, do a lot of mulling."-Costanza) about it. I knew that I would have to learn sewing, buy machines, move into a bigger place, and that it could take years before I'd make a shirt that would be good enough for someone to wear in public. The upshot is that I would make things by hand, myself and deliver a truly custom, personal piece to you. Who doesn't love a good one-man brand, right?
Still, I knew that being a one-man brand would also have its limitations. The really successful ones are chained to tables somewhere, making piece after piece with nary a vacation in sight. What's more, it's a tricky thing hiring others to work for you as a one-man operation; would you lose credibility? Will people buy from your brand but only if you make the piece and not the other person working for you? Would Levi's have become a world-conquering juggernaut if it was only Levi Strauss and Jacob Davis personally making the jeans? What if I want to make an array of products, from shirts to jeans, jackets, boots and more?
Making concerns aside, I also had to decide on one product to start with. Quick: if you could only take one long-sleeve shirt with you to a deserted island, what would it be? Personally, my answer was a chambray workshirt, and I knew the ones I liked best were ones with scalloped yokes and vent holes, a design that goes back to the 1910s and 1920s and Reliance Manufacturing Co. of Chicago, Illinois.
Pictured, a shirt box from a Milton F. Goodman shirt, named after the owner of Reliance Mfg. Note the patent date of Dec. 24, 1912, though that could just be for the logo and not the shirt design.
Scalloped yoke shirts, from the 1916 Montgomery Ward fall/winter catalog.
Chambray scalloped yoke shirt from the 1920 Montgomery Ward catalog. Note the unusual ventilation style that appears to be sections left open, rather than small holes.
A newspaper ad from 1922 that I got off eBay for the same shirt. This model was a pullover, which was quite common at the time. "Coat style" shirts, which we consider normal these days, with buttons going all the way down the front of the shirt, would only later become the norm.
What's with the double yokes and vent holes anyway? Good question. A 1929 patent by one John W. Champion explains that the extra layer of fabric served to provide extra durability. The vent holes work double duty, serving as ventilation to release heat and sweat in needed areas (the upper back and armpits) as well as to serve as a sort of anchor to hold the double fabric layers in place.
With all of this information it was off to the drawing board to come up with a sketch of what I wanted...
...oh yes, here we go. I called the shirt the Heracles as a bit of a send-up of the Hercules brand, but just using the mythological Hercules' original, Greek name. Idea in hand, now came the next step: making the shirt, but that's a story for another day. See you next blog post as I discuss working to get in touch with factories and travelling to Japan to meet John Lofgren!