Hugh & Crye Review: Better Fitting Menswear

Originally posted at The Modest Man on August 27, 2019

In this Hugh & Crye review, we take a detailed look at an e-commerce brand that takes a distinct approach to fit.

A HISTORY OF FIT

The landscape of menswear has changed substantially in the last decade. On the first go around, e-commerce sites led to the dot com bubble which popped in 2000.

Hugh and Crye tee
Photography by Anthony Bolognese

Years ago, marketing teams weren’t needed during good times but the Great Recession forced everyone to reassessed how they created value for customers.

Stack it high and watch it fly.

The old saying in retail was “stack it high and watch it fly”. This was the running trend of big box retailers since the 70s and they competed on price alone.

Millennials, which are now the largest percentage of the workforce in America, are far more diverse in ethnic, racial and religious background but also in body type.

Activities like CrossFit and Starting Strength have produced a generation of men with butts, hips and thighs.

At the same time, this group is demanding clothing be near skin tight but also comfortable. Such expectations have put retailers in a bind as foot traffic has slowed in malls, consumers are pickier and more price points sensitive.

The advent of smart phones and a 24/7 connection to the internet has pivoted consumers to browse and shop online without ever having to step foot in a store much less have to travel across town.

E-COMMERCE 2.0

The U.S. had a long-standing quota system when it came to the importation of textiles. That all ceased in 2005 which has allowed for the slow dismantling of control through a select few companies.

With decentralization in the garment manufacturing world, an astute business person can travel overseas and develop relationships with factories for production.

The trick is ironing out production issues before mass quantities are made while creating a streamlined website that can interface with a reliable third-party logistics company (3PL).

Such direct-to-consumer brands offer a better value because of the lack of brick and mortar overhead, however, there are many other costs associated with running a digital brand that keep folks out of the business.

Being able to keep up with fresh designs, turning inventory each season still prove that such an industry is not one for those looking to make ‘easy money’.

HUGH & CRYE

The company Hugh & Crye is a small business that was started by a few gents in 2008. Their goal was to solve a problem in the retail industry by creating a shirt that had a better fit and feel.

Armed with reams of data on men’s sizing, they developed 12 unique fits that span across a matrix of three height ranges (short, average, tall) across four torso builds (skinny, slim, athletic, broad). The result: a lot of happy customers.

Hugh and Crye button down shirt

What makes this company interesting from an e-commerce perspective is how they have grown the business with one original brick and mortar location in Washington, DC.

It’s the only city in the nation where the terms professional and transient are in the same sentence. These young go-getters find themselves in DC looking for the next career move but in the long haul, find themselves transplanted over the world depending on where their passion lies.

With that, relationships with Hugh & Crye that were developed in DC remain. H&C has customers in all 50 states and in several countries. That in itself should be a testament to the staying power of selling a product that is built to last.

THE REVIEW

Hugh & Crye has an interesting product selection and I wanted to try a little bit of everything just to get a feel for their offerings. The piece I found most unique was the popover with a banded collar.

Hugh and Crye short-sleeve collarless popover Indigo blue

This is the only shirt that didn’t have a height specification so I merely selected the Pampelonne ‘skinny’ model in Indigo Blue. At first, I wasn’t terribly thrilled with the shirt design buts its grown on me and when rolling the sleeve a few times, is quite light weight and comfortable.

Hugh and Crye henley placket

The second piece I tried on was Hugh & Crye’s signature t-shirt. It has their logo on the front and is a great throwback. I selected this in size Short-Slim.

Hugh and Crye t-shirt

Looking back, I would have like to have tried the Skinny version just to see how much slimmer it would be through the midsection but the shirt overall made for a great weekend warrior with jeans.

To give the review a little diversity, I brought in my friend, Chris Williams to try on a few pieces. He’s the same height as me at 5’7” but 10lbs heavier at 170 with slightly broader shoulders and bigger arms.

The first shirt we put him in was the Ogden button-down in Teal, size Short-Slim. H&C shirts are a better fit on Chris and probably couldn’t have been designed better by a custom tailor.

Hugh and Crye button-down collar Teal, white check brushed twill

In the shot we did together, I am wearing the Rock Creek in Short-Slim and Chris is in the Georgetown Short-Slim colored pink dress shirt.

Hugh and Crye shirts

As you can see, the length and fit overall are great. We both have the sleeves rolled up but those are also just right at about 32”. They placed the sleeve button in the right spot so the shirt sits nicely on your wrist and doesn’t ‘eat’ your hand, a common issue for guys with small wrists.

CONCLUSION: WORTH YOUR MONEY?

All of the pieces we received were made from 100% cotton but did not shrink much after washing and were very comfortable.

One part where I think H&C has nailed it is on shirt length. Tucked or untucked, the shirts looked and felt great. The ‘tail’ design was done just right so even the dress shirts look good worn casually.

The website offers a LOT of specs with various models (which are real guys by the way) and designs to see how the shirts would look on you. As blousy as the popover was in size Skinny, I do wish they provided the finished measurements but that’s coming from a perfectionist technocrat.

These shirts are by no means ‘the perfect’ fit but it’s about as close as its going to get for a retail shirt with a variety of options. H&C has added their monogram to various shirts, contrast details and reinforcing where it is needed.

Hugh and Crye shirt

I would say that their styles are both timeless and modern. Guys of all ages can wear these without feeling like they are out of their element.

The final word is that the sport shirts are a must grab. I have seen others such as the flannel in person and believe they are worth picking up. The popovers will appeal to a unique set of guys and they are growing on me.

Lastly, the dress shirt collection covers the basic colors and collar styles, but at the price point, I think this is a very crowded market and there are other options that might be better.

At minimum, it’s worth picking up a shirt or two after reviewing their fit page to find what is right for you. I know I’ll be wearing mine for years to come.

I hope this Hugh & Crye review helped you determine whether this brand is right for you. Leave any questions in the comments sections below!

CARL FRIEDRIK PALISSY BRIEFCASE REVIEW | WORTH YOUR MONEY?

Originally Posted at The Modest Man on May 22, 2019

Looking for a new briefcase? This detailed, unsponsored Carl Friedrik Palissy Briefcase review will help you decide if it’s worth buying.

Carl Friedrik Palissy Briefcase review

I work in the United States Senate and the days are long. Life on ‘The Hill’ as they call it can be exciting but also exhausting.

It’s a high paced environment that often requires me to take home important documents along with my laptop on a regular basis. The commute is a little over 30 minutes door to door and I am often standing or walking the whole time.

I needed a new bag that would work as hard as I do every day but without complaint. In comes Carl Friedrik.

Carl Friedrik is a direct to consumer brand that makes a slew of leather goods for both men and women. The company was originally named Oppermann which is the last name of its owners, Mattis and Niklas.

The rebranding also included a logo change to a ‘knife-like’ shape that resembles part of the letter “F”. While simple in nature, this logo finds itself subtly displayed all over through manufacturing details.

The products are made in Naples, Italy by a family owned business now in its third generation of management.

This is a review of their Palissy (slim) Briefcase, the second smallest of six briefcases offered by the company but the one I would argue offers the best bang for the buck when it comes to getting the job done.

Carl Friedrik Palissy Briefcase
Carl Friedrik Palissy Briefcase

Before digging into the details, let’s circle back on what ‘direct to consumer’ means.

The entire industry is shifting to eliminate middle men from the supply chain and that means good things for the consumer. As a former menswear retailer, I attended many trade shows in New York City.

Brands at the show are often selling goods with a smaller margin (roughly 30%) in order to give the retailer at least a keystone (100%) markup. Retailers need such margins to manage the costs of high overhead.

The Palissy Briefcase retails for about $600 but if it were to sell through normal distribution channels, you would find it at an independent retailer for no less than $1000. That is the first value add right out of the gate.

As of this writing, I have only had the briefcase for a little under a month and received many complements on it. The day the briefcase came in, I immediately left to fly from DC to Atlanta for the Menfluential Conference.

Out of the gate, the bag proved it could do both fashion and function but ultimately served as a no thrills workhorse.

FEATURES OF THE CARL FRIEDRIK PALISSY BRIEFCASE

Let’s look at the features of this leather briefcase, starting with the outside and working our way in.

EXTERIOR

The Carl Friedrik Palissy bag is about as clean as it comes. The first thing one notices is the exterior pocket where the contrasting nylon is exposed.

Typing with Palissy briefcase

In previous versions, this pocket had a zipper but the new easy open slip allows for quick access to keyswallet and other small items. During my first use at the airport, it really helped me empty pockets and push through the security checkpoint with ease.

Working for Congress, I enter security checkpoints daily so I find this simple pocket to be as helpful as the entire interior of the bag. Sometimes less is more.

The leather is Vegetable-tanned Vachetta leather by Artigiano del Cuoio. Tuscany, Italy. It is thick and hard but crisp as can be. I chose the color navy but the Palissy bag also comes in Cognac, Black and Chocolate.

For a small additional fee, one can upgrade to hand painted patina. The color is rich and the stitching is on point after up close inspection of every seam.

Since the bag is made in Italy, the size was designed with metric measurements in mind but the US standards put this at a width of 15.4”, height of 11.7’ and depth of 2.4”.

HANDLES

A lot of companies get this wrong as they try to develop something that is aesthetically pleasing without concern for consumer comfort.

Opening the Palissy briefcase

The human hand and its grip are round so every bag handle should be designed with that in mind. Across the product lineup, all of Carl Friedrik bags have round handles.

As a test, I carried a 12-pack of red bulls to work which loaded the bag down significantly but it did not bow out on the side and it glided with ease. The handles are firm, sturdy and put no unwanted stress on the hands.

A small detail I noticed is how the bottom of the handles are cut at an angle. This keeps them from rubbing against the top edge of the bag which will definitely increase the longevity. The hardware is custom nickel-finished with a minimalist look.

SHOULDER STRAP

An alternative to using in the handles is the included detachable 40mm wide shoulder strap.

Robert Ordway holding briefcase

The visuals on this are distinct because both the clasp as well as the leather attachment are both shaped in Carl Friedrik’s logo.

It’s a subtle design detail but something I really like. The leather strap is also reinforced on the inside with matching 220gsm technical nylon from Milan, Italy.

Now some folks may see this play as either too cheap or rugged but I would politely disagree. One can guarantee that nylon will last a long time without showing wear and tear. This is also something I haven’t seen on many other bags.

ZIPPER

The Palissy bag has a large Raccagni zipper which is made in Bergamo Italy.

Carl Friedrik Palissy Briefcase inside

It extends around the length of the bag and is super easy to use. I originally thought this was unnecessary but given the compartments inside, the ability to fully open the bag and access anything quickly is a plus.

The leather on the zippers is also in the shape of CF’s logo, adding to the list of small details I enjoy.

PALISSY BRIEFCASE INTERIOR

The best briefcases have enough organization without being over the top, and a durable lining that will hold up for years.

LINING

Like the inner part of the shoulder strap, the interior is lined with the same nylon. The bag I chose has a navy exterior so the interior color options were gray or orange.

Carl Friedrik Palissy Briefcase

Another thing I like about the overall Carl Friedrik product line is that lining options can be conservative or bold. That lends itself to making the bags marketable to a much wider audience.

Back to the interior, nylon is a great choice because its clean looking and will hold up over time as things are throw in and pulled out.

Other bags that go for pretty or a softer fabric are doomed to fail. I am not a fan of unlined bags because the quality of leather and construction doesn’t count for much if the bag has no functionality.

POCKETS

The nylon lining has a large side pocket on one side that can accommodate both sizes of the MacBook Air as described on their website. I think it’s perfect for this application.

Looking through briefcase

On the other side include two pen holders, three midsized sleeves and a larger zipper pocket for loose items.

In the center is a neat leather patch that is riveted on which includes the information: brand name, material details and numbering.

I opted to have my initials “RO” embossed here which is an add on. Embossing options include the colors silver and gold.

Based on my use, the pockets are just right for keys, passport holder, headphones and other small items.

The friendly reminder here is that it’s all about function and quick access to the things you need when you need them.

OTHER OPTIONS

On the website, one can choose to add a ‘Smart Holder’ for an additional surcharge. This is a leather strap that would attach the briefcase to the handle of a suitcase for easy transport at the airport.

Carl Friedrik Palissy Briefcase Smart Holder
Carl Friedrik Palissy Briefcase Smart Holder

While I think this is unnecessary given how small the briefcase is, the innovation and thinking ahead for practicality should be respected. On other bags, I would select that add on option without hesitation.

WHAT I DON’T LIKE

The leather is very firm and thick, a sign of quality but the navy shows scuffs and scratches very easily so it will require maintenance.

To some degree, this should be an expectation when owning high quality goods.

Robert Ordway at computer

Just like a car, it’s not going to run forever if you don’t take care of it. It should be noted that I am also extra hard on bags so use that as a metric in your purchasing decision.

For the price of the monogram, it doesn’t make sense to place it on the inside. This does give the company some cover that if a bag were returned or damaged, it wouldn’t have to be entirely replaced.

I do believe if someone wants to personalize an item, they want it out in the open where they and others can see it.

The leather strap is really not needed other than making the bag handsfree. The briefcase is so small it will never be heavy enough to warrant shouldering it.

The buckle placement is also pretty close whereas on the other bags they are near the end. I have no intention to use the strap and quite frankly, it’s too beautiful and robust for a bag like this.

I would consider it mandatory for the other bags sold by Carl Friedrik. This is a tricky spot as the Palissy is bigger than a portfolio but smaller than a traditional briefcase.

BONUS REVIEW

My old 2012 Macbook Air was slowing down and becoming unreliable so I purchased a new one just before the end of 2018.

While it fits comfortably in the side sleeve of the Palissy Briefcase, I sometime pack it in a bigger duffle for longer trips. This led me to purchase the ‘Walton Macbook 13’ sleeve.

Carl Friedrik Palissy Briefcase on desk

It’s made of the same leather as the Palissy and I opted for chocolate to experience a different color. The leather is thicker than most sleeves and it will take time to break in as my computer tends to get stuck in it.

The minimalist design is clean and I opted to also have this embossed with my initials near the opening.

MY RECOMMENDATION

A saying my dad once said years ago was, “Son, you get what you pay for.”

Although we were near the bottom end of the working class, my dad still took pride in buying craftsman tools because they were made in the USA and guaranteed for life. Men should treat their clothes and accessories the same way.

The Palissy (slim) Briefcase is by no means inexpensive at $600+ but this is a luxury good made in Italy that should last a lifetime and priced far below other market competitors.

During my time in retail, I have always tried to retrain the customer mind to pivot away from price and toward price per use.

A cheap $100 bag that falls apart at the most inconvenient time and requires another trip to the store isn’t benefiting anyone but the trash hauler that will put it in a landfill.

I travel lean and mean which is what this slim briefcase allows.

LARGER OPTIONS

At roughly 2.5” thick, it wont carry a ton so if you’re that lawyer always taking home binders and the like, I suggest upgrading to the Bolton and for overnighters, the Palissy 25 Hour.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Lastly, my dad said, “Son, if you are going to do something once, do it right.”

If you’re just out of college and just landed the first job, this bag might be out of your price range but if you’re a seasoned veteran looking to invest in your future, this is the right move to be ‘one and done’.

I look forward to updating this review down the line to report on its performance and sustainability.

RIBBEDTEE REVIEW: MADE IN USA UNDERWEAR & UNDERSHIRTS

Originally Posted at The Modest Man on May 20, 2019

In this RibbedTee review, we find out if the made in the USA underwear brand is worth your money.

Robert Ordway wearing heanley shirt
TMM contributor, Robert Ordway, wearing a RibbedTee undershirt under a henley | Photography by Anthony Bolognese

Undergarment. It’s not the first word that comes to mind when one thinks of fashion.

In fact, for many years, such unmentionables served a very strict purpose: to protect the wearer from outer garments which were usually stiff, hard and abrasive to the skin.

Coal miners in denim
Early 20th century West Virginia coal miners in heavy denim, wool and twill. These guys neededdurable undergarments! | Source: Timeline.com

Today, such garments like the undershirt are optional and underwear serve more for reasons of hygiene. The days of 1800s Levi’s denim rubbing the skin off your leg are long behind us.

There has been much debate as to whether one should wear an undershirt with dress shirts, turtlenecks or other garments.

SHOULD YOU WEAR UNDERSHIRTS?

Historically, men did not wear undershirts with a dress shirt. In addition, there is no empirical evidence that an undershirt will prolong the life of a dress shirt.

I will still make the case that not only should one own a deep bench of undershirts, they should invest in quality pieces that are built to last.

First and foremost, an undershirt can help keep one warm in the winter with an extra layer of insulation.

RibbedTee undershirt
RibbedTee undershirt

While it seems counterintuitive, an undershirt can also keep one cool in the summer if made from the right material. For those who sweat often, this shirt can be your first line of defense to stay dry and it will keep that dress shirt from developing sweat stains over time.

The undershirt also provides protection when dealing with starched or other abrasive fabrics that may chaff or be scratchy.

Lastly, if you’re a hairy man, an undershirt will keep those hairs in check and keep them from popping through the dress shirt. Have I made the case yet?

WHICH UNDERSHIRTS SHOULD YOU BUY?

If you’re in the market for an undershirt (or several), what should you buy? It would seem that because the shirt provides no fashion sense and merely serves a workhorse, you should just pick the cheapest item to get the job done and move on.

I believe undershirts are the most underrated garment in your wardrobe.

Having owned many cheap shirts, I will not ramble on about the poor fit and the abrasiveness of the materials I’ve encountered. These same shirts wore out fast and quickly found themselves in the trash.

RibbedTee undershirt and boxer briefs
RibbedTee undershirt and boxer briefs

In this part of your closet, you need a work horse, not a show horse. Function should always trump fashion and investments always pay for themselves. Price equals quality and quality equals price, there are no substitutes.

While there are many brands on the market today, we are going to review the online, direct to consumer brand, RibbedTee.

RIBBEDTEE REVIEW

RibbedTee was founded in 2008 by Mike and Kim Schwarz. As stated on their site, the company’s mission is to “create the world’s most comfortable and best fitting undershirts, educating along the way, and help people in their personal journey to challenge the status quo.”

RibbedTee review

To put it succinctly, I think they deliver on their mission darn near 100%.

MADE IN THE USA UNDERWEAR

While garment manufacturing has declined to about 3% of what we wear in the US, RibbedTee proudly manufactures in Los Angeles using other locally owned companies.

Buying made in the USA underwear and undershirts may not be important for everyone, but if you’re a fan of American manufacturing, this brand gets major bonus points.

For this review, I tested four shirts and three pairs of underwear.

RIBBEDTEE UNDERSHIRTS AND UNDERWEAR

Here’s what I received for this review:

Undershirts

  • EVO TENCEL (94% TENCEL / 6% Spandex) – $32
  • CoolWear Supima (100% Supima Cotton) – $18
  • Retro Fit Tri-Blend (50% Polyester / 38% Cotton / 12% Rayon) – $18
  • MicroModal (50% MicroModal / 50% Supima Cotton) – $29

Underwear

  • G3 CoolNylon Boxer Briefs (86% CoolNylon / 14% Spandex) – $30

Each item I received was individually wrapped and branded with the slogan “Hello Skin, Meet Comfort”.

No doubt the hand is the first thing one notices after opening the package. In fact they have a nicer feel than the majority of retail non-undershirts!

RibbedTee only has one style of underwear (the G3 Boxer Brief), and I picked up three out of the five colors: black, grey and red.

RibbedTee G3 CoolNylon Boxer Brief grey
RibbedTee G3 CoolNylon Boxer Brief in grey

Note from Brock: These G3 Boxer Briefs are, hands down, my favorite underwear right now. Definitely worth the price, in my opinion.

The shirt collection is far more diverse and I needed to test several pieces to truly understand the difference. I chose all V-neck styles because I dress up for work in the US Senate but also wear sport shirts with an open collar and no tie.

Robert Ordway business formal style

The EVO TENCEL shirt can stretch more than 2x in both directions. It also feels very cool to the touch and has a deep V neck.

RibbedTee EVO TENCEL Undershirt
RibbedTee EVO TENCEL Undershirt

The Retro Fit Tri-Blend came in a heather grey. It has the least elegant hand and seemed comparable to other shirts on the market.

It is also the lowest price point on the site at $18. This one was shorter than the rest and would look the best worn as a stand alone with jeans or khakis.

The CoolWear Supima has a ribbed knit, and I think this shirt is the best value at $18. It has a similar ¾” collar as the Retro Fit but has a better feel and seems more like an undershirt.

Lastly, I reviewed the MicroModal which is similar to the CoolWear, but the blend definitely makes it more durable and absorbent.

RIBBEDTEE UNDERSHIRTS FIT

When it comes to fit, us men of modest height (I am 5’7”, 155lbs) find most shirts are too wide in the shoulders and too long in the arms or torso.

RibbedTee CoolWear Supima v neck undershirt
RibbedTee CoolWear Supima v neck undershirt

With a 40” chest and 17.5” point to point in the shoulders, I chose a size small across the board and these couldn’t have fit more perfectly. It should be noted that all of these shirts have stretch and they feel near invisible under other garments.

G3 BOXER BRIEFS FIT

With the underwear, I selected a size medium. While the waist measures 26” when laid flat, the CoolNylon has no problem stretching to my 33” waist and 40” hip, yet there is no feeling of compression.

Historically, I have not worn boxer briefs because they tend to bunch up on my thighs but these stayed in place all day. The waistband is only ¼” high and there is double fabric over the center which covers the crotch.

Ribbed Tee undershirt and underwear

While the underwear do not have any trademarked technology such as a pouch like 2UNDR or thigh divider like SAXX, I found these to be extremely comfortable to wear and very cool on the skin. It was almost as if I wasn’t wearing anything at all.

THINGS I WOULD CHANGE

What is entailed here is merely personal preference and is highly subjective in the review. I personally don’t care for the ¼” waistband on the underwear.

RibbedTee G3 Boxer Brief

Aesthetically, they don’t look sexy and it’s easy to pull them up too high. I would like to see a bigger waistband with more aggressive branding. RibbedTee is too modest.

Note from Brock: I find the thin waistband to be very comfortable and appreciate the subtle branding.

Personally, if one is going to buy this shirt, I would encourage them to upgrade to the TENCEL. To me, it’s a far more exciting shirt as its cooler and a few inches shorter for just a few more dollars.

FINAL THOUGHTS & RECOMMENDATION

I bought my first suit in 2006 as a finance major in college and landed my first clothing job in 2009 at Brooks Brothers followed by JCrew in 2011. Having owned a menswear retailer, I’ve seen hundreds of brands at trade shows from New York to Las Vegas.

I must say, RibbedTee represents the best undershirts I have ever worn. As a direct to consumer brand, they are able to cut out the middleman and offer a higher quality product at a lower price point.

Plus, RibbedTee is one of the only brands committed to making made in the USA underwear and undershirts, which is very cool.

RibbedTee underwear
RibbedTee underwear

No, undershirts aren’t sexy. But you need them and should spend as much as you can reasonably afford on quality over quantity.

RibbedTee has taken a well-rounded approach to offering a few options to market to a wider audience when it comes to fabric type and fit.

I wholeheartedly support family owned businesses that are interested in profiting by creating value for society, building long term relationships and promoting community.

There are a lot of digital brands in the ‘race to the bottom’ marketing of today but if you’re going to take a risk, RibbedTee is one online company that is sure to impress.

You won’t be disappointed.