Throughout the 20th century, American sportswear cemented itself as the go-to wardrobe choice for casual outfits. Basic garments like t-shirts and sweatshirts, favored for their comfort, versatility and durability, proliferated into everyday wear. When the majority of American manufacturing was offshored towards the end of the century, the quality of these wardrobe staples began to vary dramatically — the fabric and construction just weren’t up to snuff.
Today, there are only a handful of brands producing quality basics made to last. Sure, their offerings are more expensive than what you’ll find at fast-fashion houses, but they’ll prove dependable, and lasting, in the long run. Here are three to know.
Lady White Co.
Gym T-Shirt by Lady White Co. $70
Founded in 2015, Lady White Co. shirts are made from tubular jersey (no side seams), and feature flatlock stitching throughout. “I was inspired by vintage sportswear and wanted to make products that embody that same level of function with quality fabrics,” said founder Phillip Proyce. “The details go as far as thread size, stitch per inch, and even what brand of needle is in the sewing machine.” Lady White Co. sources its cotton from Northern California, and mills and weaves it in southern California. “The most difficult part of producing in California is the labor costs,” Proyce said. “But, at the same time, that’s why we are making it here. Everyone touching our product is getting paid fairly and legally.”
National Atheltic Goods
V Pocket Tee by National Atheltic Goods $125
Based in Vancouver, British Columbia, National Athletic goods sources its material in Japan and produces its garments in Canada. Inspired by mid-century American sportswear, the brand’s V Pocket Tee is cut from custom-made seven-ounce Japanese milled jersey and features flack-locked seams, a single chest pocket and a V-front gusset. A vintage-inspired rayon label completes the detail-oriented throwback look.
Pigment Dyed Pocket Tee by Velva Sheen $69
Established in 1932, Velva Sheen originally produced tees, sweatshirts and other basics for schools, camps and the military. The company is now under the ownership of Japanese brand Topwin, which moved manufacturing from Cincinnati to Los Angeles. “We love the classic American styles and saw an opportunity to resurrect a storied American brand and do it in a way that honors the past and brings back the classic styles and craftsmanship of vintage styles,” said Hide Murase of Topwin. Velva Sheen garments are crafted using vintage construction techniques like tubular knitting and flat seam stitching. “American sportswear was made with simple technology by artisans who really cared about what they were producing,” Murase said. “The machinery was not yet computerized and required a great deal of hands-on work and skill.”