Basic apparel of the highest quality
March 13, 2012 4:21 PM   Subscribe

Businesses that make basic apparel (underwear, t-shirts, socks, etc) of the highest quality and where you largely pay for the quality and not the marketing/branding - can you name a few?
posted by Foci for Analysis to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (36 answers total) 107 users marked this as a favorite
posted by scruss at 4:25 PM on March 13, 2012

I just tossed a pair of 12 year old Smartwool socks. And I wear them a lot, they wear like iron.

I've also been very happy with American Apparel t-shirts, much better quality than Gap and the like.
posted by fshgrl at 4:34 PM on March 13, 2012

Patagonia. Extremely well made, durable and comfortable. They also have a strong environmental bent which is great. They are painfully expensive so look for an outlet, especially on one of their big sale days.
posted by DrumsIntheDeep at 4:37 PM on March 13, 2012

This almost pains me to say, but for all the shit that they (deservedly) get for their CEO and general weirdness, American Apparel has the most comfortable t-shirts I have ever worn. Nothing else has ever come remotely close. I wash any shirts from AA (or companies that source their shirts) on the delicate cycle and that comfort has lasted for years.
posted by zombieflanders at 4:44 PM on March 13, 2012

Uniqlo undershirts have made me very happy.
posted by permiechickie at 4:49 PM on March 13, 2012

posted by donovan at 5:02 PM on March 13, 2012 [3 favorites]

I prefer Alternative Apparel to American Apparel just on quality, which is good because of the corporate ethics issues I have with the latter. However, the best quality t-shirts I have ever bought were from Cottonista and Hanro. OMG it's like the Hanro shirts were crafted by angels out of unicorns' hair or something, they are so magical. And super expensive, of course.

The Hanro underpants are equally transcendent.

For dress socks, the Paul Stuart socks are gorgeous and fun, and really well made. The toes are full-lasted, which makes them less likely to get holes in them, and they hold up well to washing and drying.
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:07 PM on March 13, 2012

where you largely pay for the quality and not the marketing/branding

I feel duty bound to point out that for any kind of massed produced clothing, the cost of the clothing will always be subordinate to the costs of marketing and branding. Only the tiniest of two-bit companies will be putting the majority of purchase price into clothing. The rest will go into branding, marketing, shopfronts, etc.

I'm not sure if you're just asking for good quality brands that aren't designer; there will no doubt be many recommendations for that.
posted by smoke at 5:27 PM on March 13, 2012

I can't link to it from my stupid phone but Everlane fits this description exactly.
posted by mattholomew at 5:33 PM on March 13, 2012

Seconding Smartwool socks -- I have two pairs from them that I wear all the time. They're ten years old, but they look and feel like new.
posted by Blue Jello Elf at 5:36 PM on March 13, 2012

Patagonia. Extremely well made, durable and comfortable. They also have a strong environmental bent which is great. They are painfully expensive so look for an outlet, especially on one of their big sale days.

Patagonia products are well made, and there are other good things about them too, but there is a HUGE brand markup on their clothing.
posted by OmieWise at 5:42 PM on March 13, 2012

James Perse shirts, so soft.

Levi's jeans.
posted by devymetal at 6:16 PM on March 13, 2012

Unfortunately, I don't think the quality of newly-produced Smartwool socks is the same as that of the 10+-year-old ones. I go through them in 1-2 seasons.

This is the thinner fashion ladies' socks, though, not the big thick fluffy ones. It's possible that that's the important distinction, rather than vintage.
posted by librarina at 6:30 PM on March 13, 2012

Seconding two items: Smartwool socks, omg. I cannot bring myself to buy any other kind. And Patagonia - right now I'm wearing a 12 year old shirt that you'd think was practically new. Same with Marmot.
posted by desjardins at 6:50 PM on March 13, 2012

Kirkland Signature apparel from Costco. Their men's athletic socks are much better than the best Champion socks. Kirkland ain't no generic store brand crap. Kirkland products often exceed brand name items, just like the socks.

Also, since Costco has a policy that profit margins must be beneath 14 percent on any item sold, you know you're getting the most bang for your buck.
posted by qsysopr at 6:57 PM on March 13, 2012 [3 favorites]

Smartwool (wool socks), Icebreaker (wool socks, briefs, and undershirts), Patagonia (long underwear and undershirts).
posted by introp at 7:21 PM on March 13, 2012

Kirkland Signature apparel from Costco.

Those are the best undershirts I have.

I have one printed American Apparel t-shirt (I don’t know if they’re all the same) and it is not that well made. Kind of comfortable, but thin, and pretty much falling apart after not very long.
posted by bongo_x at 8:44 PM on March 13, 2012

2nd on Kirkland socks and undershirts. Cheap, but very good quality.
A second 2nd on Levi's jeans, especially when you take into account how long they last.
posted by Gilbert at 8:45 PM on March 13, 2012

I buy all my socks at the Cabot Hoisery annual sock sale. They have a few brands like Darn Tough that may have some brand markup, but the locals can always get them at decent prices and they have a contract with the US Military so they have a lot of no nonsense styles as well. I have felt this was true of Redwing boots as well [made in the USA] but I have no independent confirmation about that, but the boots are terrific.
posted by jessamyn at 10:31 PM on March 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Thanks everyone for you suggestions. Hadn't heard about most of the companies mentioned so checking them out has been fun.

I will leave the post open for further suggestions so please share 'em if you got 'em.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 1:35 AM on March 14, 2012

smoke, you are totally right that consumers always pay for the marketing costs but certain brands tend to be extreme and produce very costly low/medium quality goods. Some designer brands are guilty of this but far from all, so I decided not to single them out.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 1:42 AM on March 14, 2012

Hey no worries, I just wasn't sure if that's what you were going for or not. In the spirit of the question, I would submit that Uniqlo business shirts - at least, the ones I bought in Japan compared to the crappy, non-Uniqlo business shirts I can buy here - represent tremendous value for very reasonably priced, 100% cotton clothing that is durable, and doesn't feel like hessian.

At the higher end of the spectrum, I'd like to second the reccy for Patagonia. I find "adventure" clothing in generally, but especially from Patagonia, Columbia, Paddy Pallin, and sometimes Mountain Designs - whilst prohibitively expensive outside sale times, and not exactly Fashion Central - is truly rooly some of the most hard-wearing and durable clothing I've had the pleasure to own. No stitches falling apart there. Patagonia, in particular as mentioned, has a great corporate ethos.
posted by smoke at 2:24 AM on March 14, 2012

Kirkland has some great stuff. I have good underwear and casual/office shirts that just keep going.

Helly Hansen - I have kit from them that is decades old and still performs well, but you need to find them on sales.
posted by arcticseal at 3:08 AM on March 14, 2012

Not sure if this counts, but Eastpak backpacks and bags are very durable. I'm very hard on these and mine has held up very well, surprisingly so for a fairly 'trendy' company.

I'm too clumsy to try Wolford, the brand everyone says lasts, but Marks and Spencer tights are very durable. I had one three pack that lasted me for about seven years.
posted by mippy at 7:26 AM on March 14, 2012
posted by dracomarca at 9:30 AM on March 14, 2012

2nding Red Wing Shoes. My dad's a farmer and wears their boots every day. I think he usually replaces his every 5-10 years. And they're made in the USA. Woo!
posted by jabes at 2:25 PM on March 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

Hey gang, based upon lots of recomendations here I got to looking around for Smartwool socks, found that Sierra has good prices on them (and I've had good luck with Sierra, too), bought three pair socks and used a code (BVU2274A) given me by cust svc there and it really knocked off a lot on the price out the door, three pair of socks (one pair imperfects but I've had good luck with Sierra, we'll see) for $32 and change.
I really got my inner sock dork on here...
posted by dancestoblue at 7:01 PM on March 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Decent Exposures -- I've only purchased bras but they also sell underwear, t-shirts, etc. The bras I have are fantastic.
posted by pupstocks at 8:04 PM on March 14, 2012

Tilley Hats are renowned for their durability.

I have the older version of this one. I'm pretty sure it will outlast me, and it's comfortable and looks good.

River trips aren't a problem because the closed-cell foam in the brim makes the hat float. It has a hidden pocket inside for whatever, and a chin strap inside so you don't lose it.

Honestly, if you're outdoorsy at all, you can buy a Tilley and solve your hiking hat problem permanently. You'll love your hat, and random strangers will compliment it.
posted by SlyBevel at 9:22 PM on March 15, 2012

Thanks for adding more recommendations!
posted by Foci for Analysis at 1:00 PM on March 16, 2012

This is a few days late, but Gold Toe socks. I have a pair that's more than 15 years old and still in better condition than many of my newer ones.
posted by bettafish at 3:21 PM on March 17, 2012

Oh yes, I buy Gold Toe socks from Costco and they are fantastic. I'm surprisingly enthusiastic when it comes to socks.
posted by arcticseal at 9:34 PM on March 17, 2012

Hanro underwear, particularly the womens' daywear, are very expensive, but very comfortable and worth the money.
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 8:46 PM on March 18, 2012

Follow-up on the SmartWool socks -- they came today, they rock, I've got these big galoot-y, wide size 13 feet and sometimes even XL doesn't work but these things (I'm wearing the ones I linked above as I type). So there's that.

And also seconding on Gold Toe socks, either dress or work, I had some of their dress socks when there was a time such that I needed dress socks and they lasted for-ever.
posted by dancestoblue at 6:43 PM on March 19, 2012

Yay for more suggestions! YAY!
posted by Foci for Analysis at 12:47 PM on March 23, 2012

This Hanro V-Neck Shirt looks great.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 12:51 PM on March 23, 2012

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