By Beau Hayhoe
The epiphany that led to the start of Jacob Hurwitz and David Neill’s American-made company actually came from across the pond.
Hurwitz, along with Neill — one of the two co-founders of knitwear & outerwear maker American Trench — took a trip to London in 2009 with his wife. After picking up a British raincoat and returning to America, Hurwitz and Neill began to kick around the all-important question that formed the basis of their business: Why was no one making a standout raincoat in America?
There was a lag time in the company’s launch given the duo’s lack of experience in apparel, but a well-received Kickstarter got the company off the ground in late 2012. The Kickstarter also built upon the duo’s original focus on a rather unlikely way by offering the chance to fund high-quality, American-made socks. The campaign was a hit, raising nearly $20,000 — a hop, skip and a jump over its initial goal of $15,000.
The Kickstarter was such a success that wholesale retailers began to approach American Trench about stocking the brand’s socks — of which they offer a wide array of simple yet well-executed color schemes and patterns. And retailers have taken notice, as nearly 50 digital and brick-and-mortar (storefront) retailers now carry the brand’s socks.
The company’s approach to sock design is somewhat of a rarity in the world of menswear, where some companies have decided to go loud and bold with sock patterns — yet a more laidback approach can be a welcome change of pace for the discerning consumer. And keeping things simple harkens back to the brand’s original philosophy, Hurwitz said.
“David and I love deep saturated colors and patterns, but we aren’t super loud sock guys,” he previously told HighFashionLiving.com. “We like color, boldness and energy, but we also value restraint and resonance.”
And that restraint and resonance shows through in designs that might look too bold in the hands of another brand — its Fair Isle socks (which I wrote about for GearHungry) translate the classic pattern into different color schemes that might not work on first thought, but definitely merge in a pleasing way.
The understated approach to sockmaking — combined with exceptionally high-quality materials like merino and cashmere, usually found in luxury sweaters — has turned some heads. It took about a year of work, Hurwitz said, but a pair of American Trench socks made it into a suiting feature in the August 2015 issue of GQ.
“It’s great to see that GQ really does search for new brands, whether they can pay for expensive ad space or not,” Hurwitz told HighFashionLiving.com.
That the socks are restrained enough to pair with a crisp suit or eye-catching enough to wear with dark denim is a testament to the quality and thought that goes into each pair.
Working with family-owned sock mills in Pennsylvania and North Carolina reflects that approach, Hurwitz said. And the strategy behind the brand’s signature trench coat is almost admirable in its detailed take on domestic manufacturing.
“Making the trench was a beast,” Hurwitz said. “We chose to make a super-complicated product to start (with 70-plus) pattern pieces. It took two tries to find the right factory, and not with a lot of screw-ups and fixes. Pattern-making is not easy, nor is production. It’s a complicated business.”
But it’s one that others are sticking to, as well. American Trench is among a host of brands — companies like Taylor Stitch and Buck Mason come to mind — that are choosing to keep business practices within America while focusing on menswear staples. Such an approach has struck a chord with consumers, who seem to appreciate exceptional production on all fronts, whether it’s a T-shirt or an Oxford shirt.
“The best part about buying USA-made … (is that) it’s totally in alignment with the core principles of our country — freedom and liberty,” Hurwitz.
And it doesn’t appear as if the brand’s inspiring commitment to domestic, high-quality manufacturing will shift any time soon.
“Our philosophy can be summed up pretty succinctly — make the best you can make and do the best you can for the people around you.”
To learn more about American Trench, head to the brand’s website or check them out via Twitter.