• STYLE. COMMUNITY. GREAT CLOTHING.

    Bored of counting likes on social networks? At Styleforum, you’ll find rousing discussions that go beyond strings of emojis.

    Click Here to join Styleforum's thousands of style enthusiasts today!

The myth of declining quality

Aenonymous

Senior Member
Joined
Apr 24, 2018
Messages
643
Reaction score
2,928
I agree the term is sort of used generically. I think it’s more helpful to be specific.

It also helps when we are comparing apples to apples. To say that the quality of Cole-Haan shoes has gone down completely ignores the fact that it’s not even the same company any more. One cannot compare today’s Cole Haan shoes to those made in the 1960’s.

One could make an argument for Allen Edmonds which appears to be demonstrating a similar transition. Though the quality in this case relates more to blemishes and aesthetic oversights vs. the actual durability of the shoe itself.
Actually that's not true - it's gone far beyond blemishes. The materials in AE shoes are not the same as they were a decade+ ago, and they are not as durable as they historically have been. I can go into specific details if you'd like but the AE shoe today is not the same quality it was in the mid 2000's, which was not the same quality it was previous to that.

And you're correct that Cole Haan is not the same company it once was, however that's because it went down the road that AE and almost every other "American" manufacturer has or is traveling - cutting cost by cutting quality until there is no more quality left to cut, which eventually forces them into other categories of footwear that are less expensive to make and can still bring the company the profits they were previously accustomed to.
 
Last edited:

Shirtmaven

Distinguished Member
Dubiously Honored
Joined
Dec 26, 2003
Messages
3,535
Reaction score
534
Quality of mid priced and designer clothing has gone down due to hi-tech machinery. Any shirt from the TAL group which includes Brooks Brothers. Bonobos,and proper cloth, is mediocre construction. The garment is made as quickly as possible with out much thought or care by the sewing machine operator. The workers in those factories do not need sewing skills . they just feed parts into automated machinery. Low priced shirts made in the USA in the 50's onwards were also poorly made. While most of the traditional shirtmakers like Troy Guild, Brooks Brothers(made in Patterson NJ, and Gitman, the Brothers were running the factory, made excellent shirts with tight needlework
Today, computerized machinery, and technical fabrics makes sportswear better then ever.
Their will always be purist who will find and pay artisans to make things in the old ways.

The changes in fabric construction is another topic as well.
 

TomTom

Senior Member
Joined
Mar 7, 2012
Messages
149
Reaction score
123
British officers were required to buy their own uniforms and still are in some Army regiments. Not sure about the RAF NCO jacket. Maybe that tailor had a contract to produce uniforms? Maybe the Sergeant could afford his own?
He was from a middle class background and could very easily afford a uniform made.Plus we all forget that in those days they were tailors everywhere, especially in London where he was from, and therefore were not that expensive. Plus the discounts they would probably get as the RAF personel during the battle of Britain.
 

smittycl

Distinguished Member
Joined
Jul 13, 2012
Messages
8,850
Reaction score
12,619
Actually that's not true - it's gone far beyond blemishes. The materials in AE shoes are not the same as they were a decade+ ago, and they are not as durable as they historically have been. I can go into specific details if you'd like but the AE shoe today is not the same quality it was in the mid 2000's, which was not the same quality it was previous to that.

And you're correct that Cole Haan is not the same company it once was, however that's because it went down the road that AE and almost every other "American" manufacturer has or is traveling - cutting cost by cutting quality until there is no more quality left to cut, which eventually forces them into other categories of footwear that are less expensive to make and can still bring the company the profits they were previously accustomed to.
They outsourced most (all?) of their leather to the Dominican Republic I think. Some of their lower end shoes are completely made there now. Here is the descriptor from their mainstay $425 Park Avenue cap-toe Oxfords:

1620570897244.png


I noticed the qualitative decline a while ago having owned AE since the 1990s and shifted to C&J several years back.

EDIT: their cordovan is imported as well...
 
Last edited:

TimothyF

Well-Known Member
Joined
Oct 16, 2018
Messages
89
Reaction score
41
I also keep in mind that any bespoke maker working today has a vested interest in saying that quality has not declined, and may be better than before.
 

Hadleigh

New Member
Joined
Feb 28, 2021
Messages
2
Reaction score
2
Sadly I am old enough to have observed the decline in quality of men's clothing over several decades. It is said that Savile Row has suffered badly because of Covid. Not so, the decline in Savile Row has been directly paralleled to the decline in quality of the clothing produced. Equally, the shirtmakers of Jermyn Street have been driving down quality at the same time as driving up prices. One can get a custom shirt from Brooks Bros in Regent Street of better quality!
Even fabrics have not escaped the decline in quality. Where can one get a cashmere sweater that will last more than a season or two? Yorkshire worsted, once the finest in the world, is now woven thinner than a pocket handkerchief. As for tweeds, most are so loosely woven as to be useless for quality tailoring.
There are exceptions of course : I use two tailors who have maintained standards, and are kept busy. They will be, as discerning customers are willing to desert other tailors who have abandoned excellence and seek the quality to which they are entitled.
 

Shirtmaven

Distinguished Member
Dubiously Honored
Joined
Dec 26, 2003
Messages
3,535
Reaction score
534
@Hadleigh I guess you did not read my post.. Brooks Brothers, even custom is not high quality...Rtw Jermyn st is mostly made in large factories. Some good some not so good
Pink shirts the last year were made very well in a factory in India.
 

armcosmo

New Member
Joined
Oct 24, 2016
Messages
4
Reaction score
0
Quality for high end , especially true custom ( not factory made to measure ) has remained high, and prices are disproportionally higher. I think what we have seen on a broad scale is big brands squeezing out margin with more machine processes and newer and cheaper costing materials and findings. So that Canali suit that cost $1200 in 1988 is now $2500 ( all figured approx) with more fusing than originally. Maybe the fabric is on par in this case but there is less hand tailoring in current examples.
 

Aenonymous

Senior Member
Joined
Apr 24, 2018
Messages
643
Reaction score
2,928
They outsourced most (all?) of their leather to the Dominican Republic I think. Some of their lower end shoes are completely made there now. Here is the descriptor from their mainstay $425 Park Avenue cap-toe Oxfords:

View attachment 1607088

I noticed the qualitative decline a while ago having owned AE since the 1990s and shifted to C&J several years back.

EDIT: their cordovan is imported as well...
They didn't outsource leather to the DR - they opened their own factory there for handsewn construction initially, and then layered in cutting of materials and some welted upper production (I've lost track but they may have more recently done a bit of start to finish welted construction there as well).

"Fine imported materials" has been on the shoes for more than 20 years, in adherence to some law or regulation they were challenged on and so decided to not mislead anyone that the product was 100% American sourced (since at that time most of their leathers were coming from Europe - which would be true for anyone making better shoes). American tanneries don't typically produce calfskin - they work with cow and steer hide, so you couldn't make a finer true dress shoe with American leather if you wanted to.

Shell cordovan would be the exception of course, from Horween, which AE still uses - it's not imported (unless you know something I don't - not saying you don't, but I'm curious where that info came from if you have it).
 

smittycl

Distinguished Member
Joined
Jul 13, 2012
Messages
8,850
Reaction score
12,619
They didn't outsource leather to the DR - they opened their own factory there for handsewn construction initially, and then layered in cutting of materials and some welted upper production (I've lost track but they may have more recently done a bit of start to finish welted construction there as well).

"Fine imported materials" has been on the shoes for more than 20 years, in adherence to some law or regulation they were challenged on and so decided to not mislead anyone that the product was 100% American sourced (since at that time most of their leathers were coming from Europe - which would be true for anyone making better shoes). American tanneries don't typically produce calfskin - they work with cow and steer hide, so you couldn't make a finer true dress shoe with American leather if you wanted to.

Shell cordovan would be the exception of course, from Horween, which AE still uses - it's not imported (unless you know something I don't - not saying you don't, but I'm curious where that info came from if you have it).
Just me perceiving the decline in their quality over the years, seeing some of the low-end stuff made in DomRep, and their own website commenting on the "fine imported materials" which I view with great suspicion. I think they are likely just another American company with corporate overlords who demand cost cutting to maximize profit.

I mean, I could be, and quite often am, completely wrong.

EDIT: their Cordovan shoes also use the "Fine imported materials " descriptor. I've always thought that companies trumpet Made in USA. Seems strange that AE would not mention Horween if that's who they source materials from, right?
 
Last edited:

taxgenius

Distinguished Member
Joined
Mar 23, 2007
Messages
5,424
Reaction score
774
Fifty years ago I lived in Ecuador. Unless imported, all apparel and shoes were hand made, eg.
bespoke. Ironically, the upper class often favored high end imported machine made garments,
over the locally made bespoke. In the case of shoes this was an obvious choice. Local shoe makers
did not have training or standards of their European counterparts. The bespoke shoes they produced
were usually inferior to imported machine made shoes. And they tended to squeak!
My father is from Ecuador (Ambato) though he lived there 70 years ago. He told me that even pajamas were custom made as there were no mass produced ones.
 

rdaws

Senior Member
Joined
Nov 9, 2009
Messages
161
Reaction score
13
I was told that the suggestion was ridiculous when there are suits at JCPenney for $100 (not sure why my advice was solicited then). If the dollar had the same purchasing power now as it did in 1913, roughly 25x more, that $100 might have gotten her son a suit we'd pay $2500 for under present circumstances.
This seems like quite the misunderstanding of what inflation does. The purchasing power of a dollar applies not only to goods but to labor; so to suggest that she would have 2021 wages and 1913 purchasing power is totally incorrect. The median annual wage in 1915 was $687, roughly $18,000 today. A person making $18,000 isn’t buying a $2500 suit, just as a person making $687 in 1915 wasn’t buying a $100 suit.
 

BPL Esq

Senior Member
Joined
Sep 24, 2013
Messages
299
Reaction score
377
This seems like quite the misunderstanding of what inflation does. The purchasing power of a dollar applies not only to goods but to labor; so to suggest that she would have 2021 wages and 1913 purchasing power is totally incorrect. The median annual wage in 1915 was $687, roughly $18,000 today. A person making $18,000 isn’t buying a $2500 suit, just as a person making $687 in 1915 wasn’t buying a $100 suit.
My comment wasn't intended to be a comprehensive analysis and didn't actually suggest anything about her wages.
 

Frog in Suit

Senior Member
Joined
Apr 12, 2008
Messages
189
Reaction score
20
Sadly I am old enough to have observed the decline in quality of men's clothing over several decades. It is said that Savile Row has suffered badly because of Covid. Not so, the decline in Savile Row has been directly paralleled to the decline in quality of the clothing produced. Equally, the shirtmakers of Jermyn Street have been driving down quality at the same time as driving up prices. One can get a custom shirt from Brooks Bros in Regent Street of better quality!
Even fabrics have not escaped the decline in quality. Where can one get a cashmere sweater that will last more than a season or two? Yorkshire worsted, once the finest in the world, is now woven thinner than a pocket handkerchief. As for tweeds, most are so loosely woven as to be useless for quality tailoring.
There are exceptions of course : I use two tailors who have maintained standards, and are kept busy. They will be, as discerning customers are willing to desert other tailors who have abandoned excellence and seek the quality to which they are entitled.
I think that the current prevalence of light fabrics garments coming out of Savile Row is due to customers being brainwashed by the wool industry into believing that lighter is better, more luxurious, and heavier cloths are too warm to be practical.
There was a time (I remember being told by a tailor, in the late 80s, that he wore 16 oz cloths all year round !) when an 11 or 13 oz cloth would have been considered summer-weight. I don't know if I am exceptional but I can wear heavier cloths with no overheating as long as 1) I don't run or walk fast and 2) I don't carry anything.
Given lighter cloths, and all things being equal, of course garments will not last as long: an 8 oz worsted vs a 16 oz one? Guess which one you will leave to your heirs. Guess which one will be more profitable to the weaver.
 

dieworkwear

Mahatma Jawndi
Dubiously Honored
Joined
Apr 10, 2011
Messages
22,351
Reaction score
54,816
I think that the current prevalence of light fabrics garments coming out of Savile Row is due to customers being brainwashed by the wool industry into believing that lighter is better, more luxurious, and heavier cloths are too warm to be practical.
There was a time (I remember being told by a tailor, in the late 80s, that he wore 16 oz cloths all year round !) when an 11 or 13 oz cloth would have been considered summer-weight. I don't know if I am exceptional but I can wear heavier cloths with no overheating as long as 1) I don't run or walk fast and 2) I don't carry anything.
Given lighter cloths, and all things being equal, of course garments will not last as long: an 8 oz worsted vs a 16 oz one? Guess which one you will leave to your heirs. Guess which one will be more profitable to the weaver.
I realize you said "all things equal," but for what it's worth, there are durable fine worsteds. This famous post from JefferyD comes to mind. The suit is from Despos.




I once commissioned a suit made from 8/ 9oz wool gabardine. Don't like the way the fabric hangs, so I'm reluctant to purchase another suit made from a fine, lightweight cloth. But a friend who has a lot of experience with bespoke tailoring recently recommended Harrison's Super fabrics to me.
 

Styleforum is proudly sponsored by

Featured Sponsor

Favorite Shorts Length

  • Above the knee

  • Knee length

  • Below the knee

  • None of the above

  • Mid-thigh ("short shorts")


Results are only viewable after voting.

Related Threads

Forum statistics

Threads
461,471
Messages
10,013,465
Members
208,309
Latest member
Hjeeeeelm
Top