A few days ago while watching baseball, I caught a political ad I hadn’t seen from Hillary Clinton. I figured it to be another vapid TV spot, so I completely zoned it out and got up to get a drink; though, I heard the words “New England Shirt Company” and my eyes immediately snapped back to the screen like lightning. The ad itself did very little to qualify what Hilary would do for small, American factories – it merely attacked Trump for his well-known use of foreign manufacturing for Trump brand clothing – but it succinctly underscored the vital importance of businesses like the New England Shirt Company.
The company, located in the Flint Mills textile complex (constructed in 1872) of Fall River, MA, has been making shirts for both men and women since 1933; according to their website, they are the oldest operating shirt manufacturer in the U.S. The Flint Mills area was once the leading producer of cotton textiles in the U.S. from the 19th century and onward, but its capabilities all but vanished in the upcoming century due to prevailing foreign competition. While the Flint Mills company itself too ceased operations in 1930, the New England Shirt Co. still operates out of one of the other mills, maintaining the historic legacy of both cloth and shirt-making in New England.
They have astonishingly managed to endure the turbulent times of past decades, continuing to produce high-quality pieces, shirts made by passionate artisans who earn honest wages while enabling a genuine bond between maker and buyer. The company doesn’t exist on the market fringe either: their products can still be found in over 150 leading American purveyors, including two vaunted institutions, The Andover Shop and O’Connell’s.
And it’s through highlighting their particular success that makes this ad resonate. I really don’t want to get into the nitty-gritty of the economic viability of either candidate’s plan for revitalizing American manufacturing, but it’s refreshing, regardless of your political stance, to see addressed what we fogeys incessantly lament: the lack of made in the U.S.A. clothing and the willingness of businesses (I’m looking at you Brooks Brothers) to ship virtually all manufacturing overseas. This isn’t a wide brushed platitude that every candidate conjures up; it’s a tangible message regarding the cultural and economic significance of businesses like the New England Shirt Co. We should applaud and support companies that make an authentic product here at home for consumers who appreciate reliability and excellence. As admirers of both classic clothing and honest business, it’s the right thing to do.
Please be sure to check out the New England Shirt Co. website here!