Off the bat, this post is a direct response to a question we get quite often on social media: “How can you justify charging what you charge for a simple T-shirt?” (For the record, those comments are never that polite...or coherent). Hopefully I can shed some light on why I feel our prices are not only reasonable, but understandable.
So naturally, let’s talk about steak.
McDonald’s Is Great Because It’s McDonald’s
It’s 2pm, you haven’t eaten yet, and you’re running on empty. Blood sugar dwindling, the golden arches appear before you. Five minutes and $8.00 later, you are eating a hot, generally good burger and fries. Without going down a rabbit hole of ethics, this meal, the McDonald’s product, fills a demand and gets the job done. And for that, it’s great.
It is not, however, a nice steak dinner. And it never will be, and that’s OK. McDonald’s is great because it’s McDonald’s. But what about when you want a date night, a celebration, or just to treat yourself? You want a nice steak, cooked the way you like, with the salad, the appetizer, the creamy potatoes, the wine. You simply can’t get that for eight bucks in five minutes. So you set aside your time and budget, and you enjoy a full restaurant experience with service, hospitality, community, and great food. Everything is more expensive here, from the wages of the cooks, to the cost of the ingredients, to the rent on the space. For that restaurant to stick around the next time you want a nice meal out, they need to charge you more, and it makes sense.
Premium, well-made clothing brands (like us), are the steakhouses. Yes, you can absolutely go to Walmart and buy a shirt for $9.99. And sometimes, that makes sense too. But we are here for when you want to live a little. When you want to treat yourself to something truly special, and something to hold on to for a long time. How many of those cheap shirts are still around a few years later? Do they make you feel good when you put them on? How about the five minutes at McDonald’s? A year from now, will you remember the burger you had? How good it was? Probably not. But you will remember that steak dinner, that date, that experience. Most of the time these low value purchases end up just that, with low personal value. At our higher value comes higher quality, and as thousands of customers have told us, you can tell the difference when you first put something of ours on.
Unlike the steak and wine, you get to experience the same feeling of value and quality over and over and over again with clothing. As we like to say, “we make stuff your kids will steal.” Years from now, the same clothes you bought and enjoyed can be cherished all over again by the next generation. That comes at a higher cost for us, and yes, a higher cost for you.
The Boots Theory
The boots theory goes something like this:
With $100, you can buy a pair of boots that after 10 years will still keep your feet dry. For $20, you can buy a new pair of boots every year. After 10 years, you’ll have spent $200 and still have wet feet.
While a $50 tee might seem expensive, we can almost guarantee it will become your favorite shirt in the rotation. If you buy five $10 shirts a year, after ten years how many of them will still be your favorites? Or will they have become hand-me-downs, or off to the donation bin? Five, ten years later you’ll still be wearing our shirt and it will only be softer and comfier. The price won’t be a thought anymore. For what it’s worth, we got an email last summer from a customer still loving (and wearing) his Goodwear crew neck that he bought in 1992.
Quality Over Quantity
We want things to last just like you do. We want you to buy our clothes when you can, and enjoy them for a long, long time. That’s just the way we’ve always been, because that’s the way it used to be. Part of being a 40 year brand is we’ve watched the evolution of the fashion industry, and seen companies change their ethos, always seeking higher margins and higher growth at the cost of quality. I’m sure you can think of some brands that used to be great, and now their stuff just doesn’t hold up. Go on Poshmark and see what Patagonia jackets from the 90’s sell for, Woolrich from the 80’s, 30 year old Levi’s. They are still around, still stylish, exceptionally well-made, and still valuable for all those reasons.
To the discerning eye, the true cost of cheap clothing is apparent. Manufacturers of inexpensive clothing have to compromise on materials, craftsmanship, and often ethical standards to offer consumers rock-bottom prices. This not only results in uncomfortable, ill-fitting pieces but also contributes to a cycle of environmental and labor exploitation. As I’ve said ad nauseam in other articles, your $10 t-shirt only costs that little because of rampant and frankly horrifying practices in other countries to facilitate these prices. You can read more about that here: The True Cost of Your T-Shirt
The biggest and most obvious drawback of cheap clothing is its durability, or lack thereof. Cotton is expensive. It’s labor intensive, demands a lot of farmable real estate, and is susceptible to all manner of agricultural problems (weather, pests, disease, etc). To skirt this problem, polyester became the de-facto material for all things fast-fashion. Usually blended with cotton, it drastically reduces the price of the fabric, and can be made in a factory. It’s a plastic, so washing and drying inevitably wear it out, ruining the fit and appearance, all while getting scratchier and more uncomfortable. The cotton it’s blended with is better, but as a blend it still suffers the same fate. Therefore, people often find themselves replacing their cheap clothes more regularly, ultimately spending more in the long run than they would have on a single high-quality counterpart. Aside from our Hemp Collection (which uses hemp to create a biodegradable polyester-alternative), we produce 100% cotton clothing. Not only that, we use a thick gauge cotton yarn in a heavy weight so over time, your clothes fit better and more comfortable - never wearing out. Like a good pair of boots.
The Price of Cheap
Just to reiterate, the humanitarian and environmental toll of fast-fashion cannot be ignored. Low-quality clothing is frequently produced in sweatshops using environmentally and physically harmful processes and materials. This not only exacerbates the fashion industry's massive carbon footprint but also perpetuates a culture of disposable fashion that generates excessive waste (i.e. millions of tons each year). The cost of rampant globalization is the lack of accountability and transparency. Large brands don’t own the factories overseas that make their clothes. They contract the labor out, so if the practices are inhumane? Well it’s not the brand’s fault. But the factory is forced to produce X number of pieces by Y date, and if they don’t, the business goes elsewhere and everyone is out of a job. It creates a culture of abuse and the taking advantage of the most vulnerable people in society - nearly always women and children. Remember the Uyghur forced labor scandal in China around 2019? Essentially slave labor was found to be used to produce clothing and other goods for up to 83 household name brands. A couple PR pieces and COVID as a distraction...what forced labor?
By contrast, premium items are often made with better materials, and in better environments. Typically in smaller batches, with more time spent and more attention to detail. The durability of these garments means that fewer resources are wasted in their production, and their longevity reduces the need for constant replacement. Purchasing fewer items of higher quality contributes to a more sustainable and responsible industry, as well as keeping jobs and opportunity at a local level. What happened with the advent of Walmart and all their millions of imported products? Thousands upon thousands of small-town Mom and Pop stores closed their doors forever, towns changed, communities splintered. Sure, you can buy whatever you need from Walmart for a low price, but the only jobs in town now are working there, for poor pay and worse conditions. The same thing happened when all the textile manufacturers moved out. The same thing happened when steel mills moved overseas. The list goes on.
The Comfort Factor
High-quality clothing is designed with care and attention, including superior stitching and carefully selected fabrics. As a result, they offer a level of comfort that can't be replicated by cheaper methods. To reiterate, we make clothing that doesn't just last longer, it gets better with age. That is due in large part to the fabrics we use. 100% cotton fabric is not cheap, and we even go the extra mile to insure all of our cotton is grown and harvested in the USA (we are a US Cotton licensee). We spin the cotton into a proprietary yarn, heavier and thicker than others. Simply put, we use more cotton to make a shirt than is “normal.” A dense knit of heavy cotton yarn makes a fabric that can withstand tons of abuse, literally made to last. It’s not just a marketing point, the durability is a by-product of the fabrics and techniques we use.
Beyond that, we knit our basics in a tubular body, with no side seams and less waste. But, this too is more expensive as the machines are more rare, and each body size has to be knit independently. It’s worth it though, as our shirts are more comfortable as a result, and again, more durable due to the lack of side seams that can fray, pull apart, or get scratchy.
100% Made in the USA
As a final note, and it sort of goes without saying at this point, all of our products are made entirely within the USA. Again, that starts with the cotton. We pay a premium at every step of the process to keep our supply chain domestic. Here are just a few places along the way we could cut corners to save money, but do not:
- We use US grown cotton (2-3x more expensive than imported)
- We spin our own yarn (instead of buying pre-spun or “standard” yarns)
- We knit our own fabrics (instead of buying bulk pre-made)
- We cut and sew 100% in the USA at a small-scale factory with ethical standards.
- We custom dye our finished goods with small, artisan dye houses
- We warehouse at a clean, ethical, and US-based location
- We pick pack and ship from that warehouse (instead of dropshipping)
- We use custom, environmentally friendly packaging
Between all these steps are the truckers and many hands that move the products around the US East Coast. If all of this was done overseas, we could save a pretty penny, but we won’t. The kicker is that is exactly what everyone else does, but they charge what we charge. Their cost per piece might be 1/10 of ours, and you end up paying the profits that go into the pockets of the suits. Meanwhile, no one along that supply chain ever sees the benefit of that mark up. Remember when inflation skyrocketed in 2021 and all the public companies made record profits? None of that made it to the folks actually working the jobs to create those profits.
But I Still Think That's Too Expensive for a Shirt
We cannot please everyone, but at the very least don't take the price of our clothing personally. Premium materials come at a cost. Ethical working standards come at a cost. Attention to detail comes at a cost. Making things in the USA comes at a cost. And running an independent family business comes at a cost. For all these reasons and more, the price of our products is never meant to be insulting, or exaggerated. We charge what makes sense to keep us going, and what makes sense for you. For the cost of a few trips to McDonald’s, we think a shirt you’ll have for decades is a fair trade (and way cheaper than a steak dinner).