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What is quality?

Lel

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First off, this is a long ass post and it's late, so it's confusing and I'm trying to pull an all nighter. Just to let you know. I've had this thought (question? discussion? issue?) in my mind for some time and I began to really think about it after the button fell off my BoO shirt and the sewing around the button hole began to unravel. To be honest, I didn't care much. I didn't pay retail and I sewed the button back on again, much stronger. What amused me is that out of all the American Eagle, Hollister, Abercrombie, etc, brand of shirts that I have a button has never fallen off. Now there are other quality issues such as fraying fabrics, faded colors, and even the tearing of the shirts. However these issues have come with time, after years of literally abuse and throwing in the dryer for up to two hours at a time, playing in rough activities, etc. Now I have just gotten these BoO shirts and I hand washed them and dried them on a hanger. I ironed them lightly, no starch, only steam. Now they have been in the drier for maybe ten minutes, but that's it. In both cases it was because I saw a loose strand and I pulled on it. Of course the button fell off, I yanked on a loose strand, that's what I deserve. But why hasn't this happened with my "lower quality" inferior mall brand shirts? And it got me thinking, what is quality? And does it justify the price that most SF approved brands charge? Is quality solely defined by durability? Or is it the effort involved to make the item? Or is it the skill of the maker? Yes, I know, BoO is not the epitome is shirt quality. But on SF it is generally agreed to be "good quality". So why is it that the buttons are falling off after little use and my Abercrombie shirts have no problems like this yet they are "low quality" according to the general SF consensus? Is it because of the country of origin? Yes, I appreciate Made in Italy/Japan/France/US tags much more than Made in China. However what does the tag mean? Many of us have read about the D&G(?) fiasco where they literally imported Chinese workers to Italy to have the tag or about how many luxury brands usually everything made in cheap countries and one final piece added on in Italy. I guess what I'm trying to get at is quality. Now me being me, I buy primarily because of fit. This is why I never buy button up shirts from brands I don't know. Even BoO was a leap for me, but I am glad. If I am paying above $100 for a shirt, why is it that the buttons fall off when my $40 shirts are still durable. Yes, the fabric is nicer on the 100+ shirt. Oh yes, MOP buttons, happy joy. But what use is that if loose strands is literally causing the shirt to fall apart? "Quality" cannot solely be defined by durability. I will never ever expect to play tag football in a suit and have it be in immaculate condition afterwards. However I do expect a shirt to at least keep all of it's buttons on or the fabric not to tear underneath a 1 year of normal wear. Why the hell am I supposed to trust my washer when a loose strand is all it takes for pieces to fall off? Ok, so what about longevity? While similar to durability, it's not quite the same. Longevity for me, is also the materials in question and how they hold up. My American Eagle shirts, for instance, are shit. After several years the edges are completely frayed, worn away, and eroded. Same for Hollister. In their defense though, I was absolutely brutal in their treatment (long times in dryer for extra shrinkage). So, I will see how my BoO lasts when I take care of it well. So then, how about the maker? Now having grown up around my sister and mother who sew a lot, and having to put on buttons myself, I can attest to what a wild card that "made by hand is". Shocking I know but sometimes it's better when made by machine. The question should not be machine made vs. hand made but rather whose hands are making these? I am no master, I just sew on buttons when they fall off. Anyone can do it. But I make sure they're extra durable, wrapping around extra times and putting in extra knots (crappy ones though) at various places. Now I will tell you, it's ugly. It's not exact. If you look closely, you'll notice that my work is sloppy and inaccurate. Several buttons I have replaced are slightly misaligned. So what's my point? At high end brands and bespoke, you can trust the maker. You know them. But what about the middle of the road? Street wear? Whose making the the clothes for W+H, Dior Homme, Ann D, etc? Another reason for this huge rant is that I always hear people mention quality. I find it funny that at Sufu in the Blackscissors, a company that does custom leather jackets, thread you find lot's of comments saying that the quality is nice, leather good quality, hardware, construction, etc. Yet in various other threads, hate threads and for sale threads, some people have made comments ranging from "mediocre quality" to "shitty". That's not the exact wording, but you get the idea. There's conflicting opinions of quality on a single brand. And this happens... enough. I don't know how to trust the opinions of others, and exactly how do you gauge the quality of an item? Sure I can pick up a suit from Walmart, and one from Oxxford and the difference is obvious. But that's opposite ends of the extreme. How about say a suit from JCrew against a suit from Jil Sander? I did not see the jacket get made. I might be able to tell by the fabric, but I'm not expert. So unless I wear them both over a long period of time, how can I tell? I guess my point with this paragraph is that sometimes the opinions of quality are conflicting and it's hard enough to tell an item online. It's tough because it seems that evidence of quality so you hear stories like CP desert boot ripping but never Clarks, and yet somehow CP is amazing quality? Now this isn't meant as an attack against SF approved brands or a promotion of brands like Abercrombie. These are just thoughts I've had for a while and wanted to share with SF because I feel a lot of insight can be added. I think about things like the Shades of Greige thread and how people complained about the "quality" there. Or how there have been several mentions of EG have buttons fallen off, but the brand is still worshipped. Or how Church shoes quality have gone down the drain. Brands that are large and established are easy to read. But smaller brands? How do I know what I'm buying will last me? If it won't fall apart? There's tons of anecdotal evidence of "I bought X at Gap, it fell apart in weeks!" Yet if you search you'll get tons of threads of quality complaints about "SF approved" brands. Even John Lobb! Read a thread about of a buckle strap snapped off. Now I am not arguing that quality is an illusion or a myth. It's easy to tell when you take a really inferior product and compare it to an extremely well crafted piece. However inbetween is a massive gray area that most people seem to be fuzzy on. Ok, I am nearing the end of my rant. It kind of meanders, and I'm sort of dishelved myself. However I would actually like to get a good discussion going about "quality" since the word is thrown around so much. So my questions to you are; How do you define quality, what are your personal experiences (either disappointment or gleeful surprise), and how do you gauge quality (fabrics, construction?).
 

bbaquiran

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It used to be that you could judge the quality of a shirt by the stitching -- how many stitches per inch, how straight the seams are, etc. These days with shirts being made by machine it's not as easy to say that one shirt is better than another.

Fabric aside, I like to think of quality as how much workmanship goes into the parts of the garment that aren't immediately visible or functional.
 

tagutcow

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I hear you. My S2A hoodie is the second most-expensive article of clothing I have, and it took all of two weeks for one of the button snaps to come flying off. Something like this has never happened with cheaper articles of clothing. Thankfully, S2A foresaw this happening, and included a replacement. Half the stitching around the neckline of a Drifter shirt came undone, and I had to get my mom to sew it back. I know Drifter isn't SF-approved, but it still cost $35, and I've never had that problem with $5 shirts.

So I think SF criticisms of brands like SFAM- notorious for not being the most well-constructed jean- can come off as a bit disingenuous. There was a big thread about how Nudies and APCs get holes in the crotch all the time, but the Levi's you buy at Macy's almost never do. Let's face it, we want to buy things that are stylish in design. Being indestructible would be of no benefit to a garment that's ugly.

You want good design, durability, and a reasonable price tag? Choose two.
 

Halcyon

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I'm faily new to this hobby, so I'll just add what I've observed. I, too, have been wondering what quality really means. I see a lot of posters here saying stuff like "Just got this Gap shirt but I expect it to fall apart in 7 weeks", and to be quite frank, I find comments like these inane and exagerated. I have a lot of cheap brands in my wardrobe that are probably not "SF approved", and I've never had any construction problems with any of them. I still struggle sometimes justifying the price of certain clothes, but to me the fit and overall design is what matters the most. I could care less about the brand. As long as I like it (and can afford it), I'll buy it. I will say, however, that a lot of the stuff I like happens to be higher-end, and what DOES justify the price is the uniqueness of it. I could try to look for a similar piece of clothing at Target, Gap, H&M, ect, and I will be unable to find it. I think I've just echoed what you wrote, but meh. It's late and I probably don't know what I'm talking about anyway.
 

Lel

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Originally Posted by bbaquiran
Fabric aside, I like to think of quality as how much workmanship goes into the parts of the garment that aren't immediately visible or functional.

Visible I can understand, but functional? How would you define functional? If there's extra stitching on the inside of a shoe for added reinforcement, then I can understand. But I can't understand how useless features could equal quality. I'd like to think that quality is more than doing things the hard way for the sake of doing things the hard way.

I can appreciate suit making done by hand in certain areas because it's an old art/trade but what about in streetwear?

I find it funny that selvedge is usually a nice detail and a sign of quality (I said usually, relax) and yet when JCrew released jeans with selvedge everyone's rushing to say that it's not that great. I can understand it traditionally and aesthetically but don't try and tell me that it means quality unless you're ready to back that up.


Originally Posted by tagutcow
So I think SF criticisms of brands like SFAM- notorious for not being the most well-constructed jean- can come off as a bit disingenuous. There was a big thread about how Nudies and APCs get holes in the crotch all the time, but the Levi's you buy at Macy's almost never do. Let's face it, we want to buy things that are stylish in design. Being indestructible would be of no benefit to a garment that's ugly.

You want good design, durability, and a reasonable price tag? Choose two.


Yes, designer brands tend to get a lot of hate. D&G, SFAM, TR, etc. I think that some is justified, a lot is not. For instance I think that many designer brands (DSquared, D&G, that vein) put out a lot of great outerwear that you simply do not find anywhere else. SFAM, you can argue that it's overpriced, and shoddy quality? Probably. But Diesel gets a lot of hate here too and from my understand the jeans are fairly well made and many of the comments I see are "My Diesel jeans have held up quite well over the past X years".

Originally Posted by Halcyon
I'm faily new to this hobby, so I'll just add what I've observed. I, too, have been wondering what quality really means. I see a lot of posters here saying stuff like "Just got this Gap shirt but I expect it to fall apart in 7 weeks", and to be quite frank, I find comments like these inane and exagerated. I have a lot of cheap brands in my wardrobe that are probably not "SF approved", and I've never had any construction problems with any of them. I still struggle sometimes justifying the price of certain clothes, but to me the fit and overall design is what matters the most. I could care less about the brand. As long as I like it (and can afford it), I'll buy it. I will say, however, that a lot of the stuff I like happens to be higher-end, and what DOES justify the price is the uniqueness of it. I could try to look for a similar piece of clothing at Target, Gap, H&M, ect, and I will be unable to find it. I think I've just echoed what you wrote, but meh. It's late and I probably don't know what I'm talking about anyway.

No, I understand. For instance there is a lot of "H&M quality is shit, it's disposable" but I have two pieces that have no problems with at all despite dryer abuse. No holes, broken zippers, or anything like that and they've been going on 2 years now.
 

TheDroog

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My take on Lel's original rant is that we make emotionally-based shopping decisions and then try to rationalize them with logical (yet arbitrary) terms like "quality" and "long-term value."

For example, you may fall in love with APC jeans (emotional decision). But then your conscience kicks in and says, Why pay $150 for jeans when I can get Levis for $30 at Macys? You then reason that APCs are higher quality than Levis and will last for several years (logical decision). Your conscience has been unburdened and the sale can now be made.

However, "quality" in this case is an simply an abstraction that you've conjured up to bolster your emotion-based decision. The fact is, Levis will last just as long as your APCs, maybe longer. Heck, a polyester pair of Dickies will last longer. There are several other factors in choosing APCs over Levi's -- fit, looking cool to people on the internet, feeling superior to bros who wear Sevens, etc. But these aren't good arguments for the left brain. Quality is, though, and that's why we try to keep tricking ourselves.
 

Get Smart

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yea I agree that a lot of talk about "quality" is trickery. You go on one clothing board and certain brands will be touted as "quality", then you go to another and that same brand is called "garbage quality"....in reality neither is right or wrong. they just bought into differing marketing views

I'm 1000% certain that, FOR ME, a pair of Levis 514 for $40, a pair of APC for $150, a pair of Nudie selvedge for $240, and a pair of Japanese repro for $300+ will all last the same and if anything I will grow bored of them before they actually fall apart. But someone that is riding a bike for 2 hours/day/5 days a week that might not be the case, so quality is def a vague concept where YMMV
 

Get Smart

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re: band of outsiders shirts.....I know I've said this before, but saying they're worth it for the quality is absurd. It's a cotton oxford shirt. with about $10 worth of MoP buttons (probably less at wholesale they get it for). construction is fine, nothing spectacular. Fit is good, but fit doesnt cost money to make.

I also notice that they dont really sew on the buttons that great. Diesel shirts, for example, have some of the best sewn buttons I've seen. Shit is strong and never popping off. On the topic of Diesel, their shirt fits are great, and if they made a buttondown oxford just like a BoO shirt, it'd cost $120-140 at full retail (as do all their l/s shirts), fit just as well, and have better sewn buttons. I have about 3 Diesel shirts and all of them are def "better quality" made than BoO, even being made in China. obviously aesthetics are a completely different thing...
 

Crane's

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Defining quality is not as easy as it sounds. Generally high quality means the finest materials are used and then assembled/manufactured to exceptional standards by highly skilled craftsman. It doesn't matter what the item is. It could be your house, a watch or your clothing. If the item is truly manufactured to the highest standards then one can expect that it will be durable with a long life expectancy as long as it is used within it's defined design parameters. For instance let's take two identical coats by Filson with the only difference being one is shelter cloth and the other tin cloth. Filson is known for making high quality clothing that lasts a long time so there's no arguing they know what they are doing and adhere to a pretty high standard of manufacturing. OK back to the coat. Shelter cloth is a lighter waxed cotton than tin cloth. Both coats are for heavy field use. Both are durable and will last a long time out in the field under extremely abusive circumstances. Guess which one will last longer? Obviously the tin cloth coat will. Why? The material used is heavier and therefore can withstand the environmental abuse a lot longer than the thinner yet very high quality shelter cloth can. Is there a problem with quality? Nope not at all, it's just a matter of material service life. Anyway this question of quality is much more complicated than it appears.

Another thing to keep in mind is a label and the resultant retarded pricing of an item does not mean it's a quality item! Caveat emptor is always advised. Granted there is some very nice high quality items out there under designer labels but there is a lot more junk out there than I care to see.
 

crosswound

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i see a lot of loose strands on what is considered to be quality clothes lol. a lot of my dry denim had loose strands on them brand new.

my band of outsiders oxford has a couple of loose strands too.
 

Get Smart

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I have a problem paying a premium for "abstract quality", like if the threading used to sew a garment is some hand woven shit that an old lady that's been making thread for 50 years has produced.

There are some things I would prefer to have machine made and pay less as a result than have it "hand made" and pay that premium which oftentimes will not have any translation into the final product's aesthetic or durability.

Maybe it's my imagination but it seems more brands are producing goods with this 'abstract quality' and the price point reflects it. but i dont think it makes a better shirt/jean/whatever
 

Crane's

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Originally Posted by Get Smart
I have a problem paying a premium for "abstract quality", like if the threading used to sew a garment is some hand woven shit that an old lady that's been making thread for 50 years has produced.

There are some things I would prefer to have machine made and pay less as a result than have it "hand made" and pay that premium which oftentimes will not have any translation into the final product's aesthetic or durability.

Maybe it's my imagination but it seems more brands are producing goods with this 'abstract quality' and the price point reflects it. but i dont think it makes a better shirt/jean/whatever


What you described is not abstract at all. A rare material is being used in the product. Rare hard to find materials describes the jewelry biz well. D flawless quarter carat stones are relatively common, find a 2 carat stone with those attributes and you'll be paying the price of a house to get it.

An abstract would be paying for the designer label.
 

Get Smart

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"abstract" isnt the right term, you're right

but paying for a 'rare and premium' ingredient that isnt going to realistically benefit my wearing the garment isn't my cup of earl grey to pay that premium for.

I can understand if it will enhance the garment's aesthetic, and would pay for that.
 

Oxnard

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Yeah I understand where Lel is coming from, I have a few BoO shirts and have had two buttons pop off, but even more alarming is that I have found various fabric defects (discoloration, bad stitches, etc.) Im not expecting the items to hold up forever, but as someone with a limited income for these kinds of items, I have to pick and choose carefully. Dont get me wrong, I love my BoO shirts, and the "overdyed Wine-colored batiste" shirt that I got from S/S08 is one of my overall favorite items, and I like it because of the fit and the fabric.
Honestly when I think of "real" quality items that are still being made, my mind immediately jumps to companies like Quoddy or Russell Moccasin, that still do much of their production by hand using the same techniques that have been used for years and years. Hell, just recently Quoddy hiked their prices close to 50% on some items because they know people will pay for quality(regardless of how abstract it is), and I know that I would be just as happy with my blucher mocs if I had to pay an additional $50 for them. I would almost rather pay a premium and get an item that is really well-made than something that is just expensive and fashionable (if that makes any sense), though these days its getting harder and harder to tell the difference.
 

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