(Photos: Carol Kaplan)
The New England Shirt Company may be hitting stores for the first time, but its debut has been decades in the making. Born out of the Alden Street Flint Mills in Fall River, Massachusetts, the large brick foundry has been turning out quality tailored shirts for more than 80 years.
The label's founder, Robert Kidder, is an industry veteran with tours of duty at high end menswear brands like Hart Schaffner Marx. He was an executive at the company that owned the mill when it was decided that the factory would be closed down last year. That was when Kidder, who has as much respect and affection for the fine craft of shirt making as he does for the factory in which it takes place, decided to launch his own line and reopen the mill.
Shelburne Shirts opens the Flint Mill on Fall River's Alden Street.
The factory is producing 3 million shirts yearly.
Shelburne closes and the mill reopens as the Fall River Shirts company.
The factory begins making private label shirts for such brands as Nordstrom, Hickey Freeman and L.L. Bean.
After the mill is closed, Robert Kidder begins working on New England Shirt Co.
"It's exactly what you'd expect, you know, beautifully worn floorboards, the old wooden tables you just can't find anymore," he says. "It's basically been in continuous operation since the 1930s."
After securing the mill and machinery and hiring back a good amount of the union workforce, they were ready to start stitching up shirts the old fashioned way (and thinking about fit and finishes in more modern ways). "The wonderful thing about this place is that it's always made a great shirt," says Kidder from his office at the mill. "These people are craftsmen who have a lot of pride in their work."
The shirts themselves are made in two fits, classic and trim. They've been washed for softness and the collars come in a few different styles, from classic button-downs and club collars to an interesting take on the cutaway. "It's all single needle shirting," says Kidder. "A slightly modern version of classic American style—it's not fussy."
Rounding out the line this season, a set of pocket squares, ties and scarves cut from the same shirting material, along with a collection of waistcoats and trousers which have been hand-sewn by tailors in Brooklyn. At a time when men are looking for American-made goods with a sense of heritage, it seems like New England Shirt Co. has come along at just the right time.
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