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The myth of declining quality

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Stylish Dinosaur
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Luxury groups buying up companies -- along with the subsequent proliferation of "brand names" -- did a big number on quality. It's easier to control quality where there is a flagship store and a couple of branches ... but when you get a store in every outpost ... forget it. The shelves have to be filled.
 
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Count de Monet

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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...
i won’t question the point of the overall decline in QC over the last 20 years. But, the shell is still Horween “imported” across the state line from Chicago. At least, the first five shell models I clicked on five minutes ago all said “Genuine Shell Cordovan leather by Horween®.”
 

Smlaz

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In most cases, if you look, you can probably find CM-type clothing items of similar or perhaps better quality than have been available over the past 100 years or so, but you will likely have to pay a good bit for them or have them made bespoke. The overall "decline in quality" is probably less related to poorer raw materials in many cases and more related to cost-cutting by offshoring production and cutting corners, the trend toward "fast fashion" and clothing intended to be in style for a few months and then be discarded, etc.

Some of the decline in quality is a result of people trying to improve their margins, but some of it is certainly a consequence of this:

View attachment 1604422

As the purchasing power of the U.S. dollar has decreased since its peak in 1913, fewer and fewer people are able to comfortably purchase well-made items at the prices they command. Having virtually everything made for us in East Asia by people who are barely paid at all, using very low quality materials and cutting all possible corners, is what allows more or less everyone in the US to have access to all sorts of things via Walmart or wherever that they could never hope to afford if made in the US. Manufacturers know that the vast majority of people just want something that's OK for as cheap as possible, so they make stuff that's just passable and keep the price down.

Among SF members, it is well-known that you generally aren't going to find good quality shoes or a good quality suit/sport coat below certain price points that seem outrageous to the average consumer. A secretary at a former workplace of mine asked for my advice about where she and her son should look for his first suit, as he had just graduated and become an engineer. At the time, I suggested a pretty basic navy suit in the $400-something range from SuitSupply, and she was aghast. 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. Throughout the 1930s-60s, more people (at least in the US) are likely to have had the purchasing power necessary to justify the widespread production of quality garments. Once that was no longer the case, the rational economic decision if you wanted to keep selling things to Americans was to figure out how to produce them much more inexpensively.

Similarly, you might sometimes see an old restaurant ad or menu and think, "Wow, I could get a steak dinner with two sides for only $3 in 1955." But that ignores that $3 then is approximately $30 now, and a huge portion of the population thinks that $30 for one person's dinner is crazy when entrees at somewhere like Applebee's or Olive Garden might be $8-10. Less purchasing power now, and changed attitudes as a result.
I’d been lucky enough to grow up with a Mother who was a retail buyer back when. She knew quality and taught us accordingly. She taught us that we must wear quality shoes above all, as the feet don’t like to be uncomfortable. After college I was sent to Chipp to have a suit made, and I had that garment for a long time. I still have a blazer of theirs. Fast forward 30 years and while I can specify fabric weight etc. I cannot go to Chipp now for the make. So I get a MTM garment that’s fallen apart in 5 years (shoulder seams popped, lining holes, buttons lost, etc. ) The price for the new blazer was the price for the suit 30 yrs ago. I learned my lesson, yes. I’m going to have to save my pennies and find a good traveling HK Indian tailor. Any suggestions?
 

smittycl

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i won’t question the point of the overall decline in QC over the last 20 years. But, the shell is still Horween “imported” across the state line from Chicago. At least, the first five shell models I clicked on five minutes ago all said “Genuine Shell Cordovan leather by Horween®.”
I went back and looked and you are of course correct. The Horween bullet comment was below the imported materials bullet comment. Weird marketing I guess. Huh.

Serves me right for not reading all the way through.
 

Aenonymous

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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?
It's just a general blanket descriptor they've been using for over 2 decades now on every shoe (because there are components in the shoe not sourced in USA). Horween is listed as the cordovan source in online copy and the Horween name is still stamped on the bottom of each cordovan shoe (visible online if you take a look).
 

smittycl

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It's just a general blanket descriptor they've been using for over 2 decades now on every shoe (because there are components in the shoe not sourced in USA). Horween is listed as the cordovan source in online copy and the Horween name is still stamped on the bottom of each cordovan shoe (visible online if you take a look).
Yeah, my bad for being careless. Never seen copy like that blanket descriptor and didn’t scroll down to see the Horween bullet comment. :brick:
 
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I have a few items I bought in the late 1970s and can still wear (I keep them to impress mysef that my 66 year-old body can still fit into what I wore at age 20!). Two of the shirts were made in South Africa, and both can still withstand machine-washing, but the impressive part is that none of the threads on the buttons or the shirt cuffs have come loose - on most shirts today after the first buttoning there's a loose thread starting to hang out, and after a year or so at least one button is barely hanging on (even on my Dolce and Gabbana shirts!) The other shirt is hand-painted silk that my parents brought back from Amsterdam to South Africa for my 21st birthday - as delicate as it sounds it looks as good today as 44 years ago. Then I have a very dark brown/black wool suit (ugly now, really) made in Poland that I was married in in 1980 that weighs a ton --- seems to be lined and interlined and with fat heavy rolled lapels, as if it were a kind of blanket --- but also could be sent to the cleaners and would come back with no wearing of the edges, lining or any discoloration and the stitching as taut as can be. Suits I have owned in the past two decades I have had to throw out because of worn areas and even small holes and tears (these include Armani, Hugo Boss and Zegna) after just a couple of years ---- but having said all that I am not sure I want to wear anything for longer than 5 years : I have 4 or 5 tuxes in my attic - the narrow lapel, peaked lapel, wide lapel, narrow tapered trousers, pleated wide trousers etc. just to keep up with the current cut at the time.
 

ValidusLA

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My primary concern when flying, besides safety of course, is leaving and arriving on time and getting my bags. Any semblance of luxury evaporates when going through the TSA cattle line and the subsequent humiliation of feeling like you’ve just arrived to the penitentiary.
Int Business Class, Pre Check, Global Entry.

For a few thousand more sheckles its almost like being human.
 

ValidusLA

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Luxury groups buying up companies -- along with the subsequent proliferation of "brand names" -- did a big number on quality. It's easier to control quality where there is a flagship store and a couple of branches ... but when you get a store in every outpost ... forget it. The shelves have to be filled.
100%.

Also a function of quantity. Some busy weeks my company ships almost 500k units. We QC abroad and in our US warehouse and its very very hard to catch everything at those quantities.

Many of our customers over the last few years have lowered their tolerances to 1% or below. We do our best, but its difficult.
 

leadbelly2550

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I haven’t purchased a pair of Alden shoes in a while, but the two pair I have, both shell cordovan and both purchased several years ago, are high quality.

I have basically stopped buying dress shirts from any of the sources i formerly relied on because the quality of fabrics and construction of made to measure has raised the bar too high - and they’re competitively priced compared to, say, Brooks Brothers’ ‘original polo’ revivals.

I’m not spending money on really nice suits these days because I rarely wear suits, but I’m happy that the older suits and blazers I have will probably take me into retirement as a result. They’re from Oxxford, Ermenogildo Zegna, Arthur Fox, Brooks, Corneliani. It’s true that Brooks Brothers’ suits, dollar for dollar, are a shadow of what they used to sell.

There are still high quality suits available if you’re willing to pay for them.
 

JFWR

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i won’t question the point of the overall decline in QC over the last 20 years. But, the shell is still Horween “imported” across the state line from Chicago. At least, the first five shell models I clicked on five minutes ago all said “Genuine Shell Cordovan leather by Horween®.”
There was a website that listed the suppliers for any company, which I believe may have been posted here but I simply cannot find it right now. I looked up AE, and d'Annonay is one of their biggest suppliers.
 

pendragon

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I have a few items I bought in the late 1970s and can still wear (I keep them to impress mysef that my 66 year-old body can still fit into what I wore at age 20!). Two of the shirts were made in South Africa, and both can still withstand machine-washing, but the impressive part is that none of the threads on the buttons or the shirt cuffs have come loose - on most shirts today after the first buttoning there's a loose thread starting to hang out, and after a year or so at least one button is barely hanging on (even on my Dolce and Gabbana shirts!)
My first introduction to custom made shirts came from working on a movie with Tony Curtis. Wardrobe sold off his costume after the shoot, and I picked up the shirt. It was at least two sizes too big, but I wore it for years, because it was just such a well-made piece. From a shirt maker in London that I can't remember the name of.
 

Jtchapman

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This is a very interesting thread. I have a few vintage pieces and others that are just shy of recent. In the case of proper vintage, like a 60s makers sport coat and a 50s Burberry's balmacaan, I feel there is a definite difference in quality from their companies current output, but from what I've seen the same quality can be had, albeit for a pretty penny more elsewhere. I have a few pieces from Anderson Sheppard in the 90s and I can't judge the modern stuff, but from what I hear of issues with the modern pieces, my vintage suits don't seem to have those problems. So I think, yes there is a decline, but then I'm basically echoing every other poster, pretty much.
 

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