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The “Badass” Oxford

February 28, 2011

When you infuse a heritage of tailoring, a prep school education in “Philly,” and three years absorption of San Francisco’s creativity-you get Barrett Purdum. His company Taylor Stitch is growing–modernizing the timeless oxford while converting denizens of the city by the bay to purchase the pastel garment. Purdum and his team are creating one of the best button-ups for men. It is “burly,” “badass,” and is tailored specifically for each customer.

The shirts will leave you feeling like a rebel with a new-found confidence, and never incongruous.

Interview: Barrett Purdum

Explain your personal style–how do you try to represent yourself with what you wear?

My personal style is unmistakably prep, but mostly classic and very simple.  I grew up in a preppy suburb of Philadelphia and had to wear a shirt and tie up until college, so I will always have a very solid understanding of prep, its subtle nuances and its different adaptations around the country.  I love color, especially brighter colors and pastels–which is where the prep comes in–but in terms of accessories and details, I keep it simple.

Since the seasons don’t change in San Francisco, every morning I put on a pair of jeans with a Taylor Stitch (TS) shirt or plain white T. Occasionally, I top that with an old Barbour bomber jacket I scored at a Scottish thrift store or with a few Irish Aran sweaters I plundered from my dad’s collection.

Have you changed your look since starting TS?

Once you start to make clothing, people start to pay more attention to what you wear. If you set a precendent of being stylish–people are always looking to see what your wearing. It becomes part of your every day routine and part of your persona. I try to keep it so simple. I don’t really want to have to think about outfits every day and I surely don’t want people always analyzing what I wear – so I go the opposite way. I do love colorful shirts though – lots of bright colors–bright checks. It was my facination with colors that orginally piqued my interest in custom shirts.

How important is a well-fitted shirt?  What difference does it make to have a well-fitted shirt instead of a billowy one?

A fitted shirt is important for balance. If you wear fitted pants and you have a billowy shirt your whole appearance is out of balance. Balance is very basic and very important concept–but so rarely understood by guys. When you look at someone, you don’t even conciously think about it, but your mind instantly makes a judgment about their appearance. The most important part of an appearance is that everything goes together and you avoid the feeling like, “I am out of place.” Dressing well does not take a lot of effort or money–you simply want pieces that fit well and compliment each other in size and color. If you pay attention to it–you will start to pick up on it.

Taylor Stitch seems to show respect for the past–especially with being a 3rd year generations of tailor. Explain the concepts of pride, craftsmanship, and quality and how it relates to TS.

Craftsmanship is the result of taking pride in your work and quality is an abstract feeling, an essence that your five senses naturally pick up when they touch and look at something. Price tags and labels aside, quality is something you are naturally drawn to. You could have 30 pairs of shoes on a shelf and you could pick up one pair–look at it–and instinctively know the level of craftsmanship that goes into it.

Our latest run of shirts–appearing this March–I incurred way more costs in order to make sure that we are producing the absolute best shirt made in this country. For better collars and cuffs, the shirt’s interlinings are all woven by a generations old mill in Massachusetts. Strictly using a woven interlining is a very archaic–but in the end this traditional technique beats out a fused collar. Woven collars will look good for a lifetime–while fused collars look like crap. Our thread is woven and dyed in the United States and its strength to weight ratio is incredible. The end-result being a much flatter and finer seam that is way stronger than it needs to be for a dress shirt. All of the buttons are natural corozo nut–cut from nuts that fall in the South American rain forest. Corozo buttons are created from a naturally occurring renewable source, they are stronger than plastic, and the edges are softer – thus they don’t cut thread and you will never lose a button from our shirts. Combine this with single needle tailoring and you have an impeccible shirt. When you take the time to think it through and make a product like this, you naturally have a lot of pride for what you do.

How did Taylor Stitch become more than then just idea–what were you doing before?

This is pretty funny question. Starting a company without any funding, you have to keep yourself afloat while pursuing your dream at the same time.  Since moving out here three years ago I have done home remodeling and construction, painting, door-to-door canvasing for a non-profit, I have sold Voice over IP phone systems, I have had a short stint as a gardener, I was a bouncer at a bar for a year–mind you I am 5’8 160–and over the past year I have settled into waiting positions at two fantastic restaurants that I love. The journey has been great, and I look back on each position with a smile.

Who is your demographic for your shirts and how do you distinguish yourself from other big brands like J. Crew, Ralph Lauren, or Brooks Brothers?

Our demographic is really wild. Our age range is like 28 – 50 and occupations range from waiters and cashiers to lawyers and investment bankers. Seriously. But that is how we intended the brand to be – very approachable. Our brand is San Francisco preppy, which is way different from East Coast preppy. Don’t think of it as light preppy though – like light beer and light cigarettes–neither of which are nearly as good as the real thing. The style might not even be called preppy so much as it is “East Coast kids living in San Francisco who have a keen eye for their surroundings and a certain respect for tradition” – it’s a long winded style, but that is how I would describe it.

The style of the shirts is more casual than Brooks Brothers – softer collars and cuffs with shorter point lengths, shorter tails, and trimmer cuts. Brooks Brothers shirts always scream, “I just came from the office.” What sets us apart from larger brands is fabrics and color. We use really soft fabrics with either standout colors or really interesting textures. The combination of the styling and the fabrics creates a shirt that is much more interesting and unique than what you would find at J. Crew or Brooks Brothers. You look at it with one glance and you know it’s not your average off the rack shirt.

You’re based in San Francisco, and are solely based there, why does Taylor Stitch do this, and how does it enhance the buyers’ experience?

San Francisco is really the main inspiration behind the brand. The city has such an effect on your being and mindset – in a good way. When you talk about great shirts, it makes people think of New York, Paris, London, Hong Kong and maybe Milan, but never San Francisco. But, there is nobody out there who is younger and more passionate about shirt making than us–and we love this city so much we could never conceive of living anywhere else. It is a completely unique shirting experience compared to anywhere else in the world.

The mantra of a close relationship with the customer– where they come into a store, chat, get sized, pick out the shirt– seems to be a lost craft. Could you elaborate on this concept and Taylor Stitch?

It all started with a love of custom shirts and that was how the company has supported itself thus far. The company will grow and you will see more types of shirting offerings and even shirts for women, but the custom program will always stay as it is. It is there for those people that love shirting as much as we do and revel in the process of choosing fabrics, and details: making purple oxford cloth shirts with french fronts and  english spreads or putting together wild colors with a traditional white club collar. Most importantly, custom will always be intimate and it will always be approachable. Whether you are an aficionado or a first timer, you are going to love the experience and you might even be like “Did I just get measured for a $300 shirt by a twenty six year old in red-vans and jeans?”

What are the most recent and exciting things happening with Taylor Stitch at the moment.

So much! We are leaving The Common at 1077 Mission Street and moving it 383 Valencia Street. We have a whole new stock of shirts coming in at a killer price point. We wanted to make the brand more accessible to more people so we are starting a TS basics collection at $95. In it will be the burliest most “badass” oxfords you have ever felt. I am really excited about those–all handmade in California. We will be putting out a short sleeve button up for summer–and a ladies button up as well. Other than that–you never know!

Taylor Stitch

One Comment leave one →
  1. March 8, 2011 10:03 am

    This is an awesome piece on a great brand that’s trailblazing through the scene. I look forward to purchasing on of their shirts from the new collection. Great interview.

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