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How American Giant created the best sweatshirt known to man. (slate.com)
43 points by nivektric 1663 days ago | hide | past | web | 58 comments | favorite

The real innovation was getting Slate to run the infomercial.

All the author did was list a bunch of items that apparently make American Giant great, but there was story or thesis to the post.

All of the remarks regarding quality like slim fit, 100% Cotton, side panels with stretch are not unique to American Giant. These have all become "standard fare" for most of the market who would buy a $75. Nor are they somehow unique insights to a former industrial designer.

Made in USA has become a trend (.. or maybe just a fad) in the apparel industry, for a variety of reason and direct to consumer is nothing groundbreaking.

I've heard of American Giant, and I'm sure there are some valuable lessons from them, but it baffles me how shameless the post is.

seriously, I can't figure out how this isn't a commercial post

WHY is this the "best sweatshirt known to man"?

The article doesn't provide any information about American Giant's manufacturing or retail processes except that it's all done in the US.

It does if you read the whole thing. Here's one reason listed:

Why is this hoodie so amazing? First, it’s made of heavyweight cotton. Most other sweatshirts on the market today are made of some kind of blend, usually cotton and polyester.

Some speculative numbers at the end of the article:

> * American Giant pays the factory about $25 to $30 each, and then it sells it to you for $60 and up. Compare this to a model under which you’d buy standard sweatshirt at the mall—say, this $58 Levi’s crewneck. The department store likely buys that shirt from Levi’s for about $30. Levi’s, in turn, pays the factory about $12 to $15 for it, and the factory likely makes it for $6. So you’re paying 10 times what the shirt costs to make, and Levi’s is earning $18 per garment. With American Giant, you’re paying five times what the shirt costs, and American Giant is earning $35. Since there’s no retail middleman, everyone does better under the American Giant model—the clothing company, the factory workers, and you.*

Seems like a lot of cost-savings are actually from throwing out the middleman.

Also, I doubt this is the best-sweatshirt known to man...There must be better ones out in mass circulation. $80 is not very much for a heavy-duty piece of clothing...In NY, high-end stores sell plain white crews for as much as $200 (though admittedly some of it has to do with superficial branding).

I'd expect an upscale mass-produced hoodie, in terms of durability, comfort, look, and neat features, would be at least $200, if made in America.

> I'd expect an upscale mass-produced hoodie, in terms of durability, comfort, look, and neat features, would be at least $200, if made in America.

May I ask why? where's the cost coming from?

Assuming great quality US grown organic cotton; best quality YKK zips; US minimum wage workers; good quality control; distribution and taxes - I still can't get it to $200 without huge markups. (There's nothing wrong with huge markups. Added value is great if you can get it.)

I gotta say American Giant gear is pretty great. I am a big made in America fan and when I first heard about them I bought one of their half zip sweatshirts. Order number 212 or so. Came with a signed thank you card from the CEO. The quality is excellent and the look is classic with a great fit. I actually just received my Black Friday order yesterday, the day that Slate article came out. They were out of one of the colors I ordered and I got a hand written note from one of their customer service people. Great stuff, great customer service, great story. Go get some of their gear.

To the naysayers: I'd buy it. Would have bought it then and there but they didn't have my size in stock. I would gladly pay $80 for a garment that looks good and lasts more than a couple years - especially if I don't have to go to the mall to get it! When they get my size in stock and I get my order I hopefully wont be disappointed.

This article is an interesting read, and fits well with the recent theme of insourcing articles on HN.

However, the author gushes so much about the quality of these shirts that the article feels like advertising. Does anyone have any experience with the brand? Are their products as good as the author makes them sound?

Their web site says free shipping both ways and satisfaction guaranteed, so not that hard to find out.

This has all the hallmarks of a "PR" story along the lines of: http://www.paulgraham.com/submarine.html

High quality clothing is not a revelation, but direct-to-consumer internet clothing operations are a great business. Bonobos (http://bonobos.com) started out with this model (but now does sell on other outlets), and Everlane (http://everlane.com/) is doing an awesome job bringing extremely high quality basics for a very reasonable price by only selling through their own site, and owning the whole thing soup to nuts.

American Giant might do fine, but high quality online-online direct-to-customer clothing stores is not groundbreaking.

Can't browse Everlane without signing in with facebook or making an account.

What a great way to put people off. The "shop now" button just brings to login window again.

the 'esc' key is your friend :-)

ESC + timing. You have to click "shop now" and before the facebook/login prompt comes up, you need to ESC.

Off-putting to say the least. I don't expect high-quality brands to force a membership check before I even examine their products.

The jewelry company I work for has sold its manufactured profits wholesale for thirty years, but has started selling direct. The profit margins are, of course, higher.

An $80 sweatshirt? That's considered a "made in the usa success" ? Are they remotely serious?

Put a 10 year replacement warranty on it and maybe.

Otherwise I am sticking to my $8 sweatshirt.

You're not the target audience for this thing then =P.

I tend to agree, but spend a few hours on Fifth Avenue in NYC, or even on sites like gilt.com and you'll see that there is a huge audience (including lots of men) who spend serious money on clothes.

I don't know a thing about the product, but the market is definitely there.

You're right, though $80 for a sweatshirt most certainly does not qualify as serious money for clothes. That's Banana Republic level, designer lines from someone like Neiman Marcus on the other hand can cost $500 (and still appear hideous).


Is this the future of "made in america" - only products targeted to the well-off will be attempted like $80 sweatshirts and overpriced apple computers?

I thought the high cost of fuel was supposed to bring manufacturing back here because of shipping costs, but apparently all it's done is bring record profits for fuel companies to export fuel from america.

Apple computers are definitely not made in America.

EDIT: Whoops, nevermind! Hadn't seen the news.

People said that about their t-shirts too. I think they're over $20? I bought one anyway and it's my favorite shirt. It's just a thick, soft material that's great to wear. Of course, I promptly bought a second one after that success, in the same size, and it was so big I was swimming in it.

In the article, they mention:

> But there is really no comparison between American Giant’s hoodie and the competition. It looks better and feels substantially more durable—Winthrop says it will last a lifetime.

But I don't know if that's a legally binding statement of any kind. (Though I imagine that if I bought one, and it fell apart, and I made a big-enough stink on a blog, they'd send me a new one just to shut me up.)

I wonder about that also. None the less, if they don't offer an actual life-time warranty, they might look at a retailer like REI who accept returns unconditionally. Yes, they're not the cheapest 'outdoor' supplier, but when you take back your ragged tent or whatnot, they've always, well, so far, come correct.

I'm up for a new hooded sweatshirt. I plan on giving myself one of these for xmas. My 40 dollar versions from Gap, etc, usually last two years, so if this lasts 4, I'm even, if more, I'll be more than happy and would not feel 'cheated' out of the 'lifetime' statement.

That statement is made by the Slate blog not by American Giant, so no its not legally binding. And if you don't like it, return it for free.

"Looks," "feels," and "says" make them statements of opinion.

$80 is about £50.

Here are some t-shirts at that price. (http://www.bbcicecream.eu//category/t-shirts)

I don't think there's anything other than the logo to make them that expensive. There's no fair trade or made-in or organic or anything else. Just a logo.

I know, it's crazy, better quality things costs more.

The title of the Article misses the real innovation. The real gem of the article is telling the story of how manufacturers now go direct to public via the internet, thereby cutting out he middlemen.

I am an advisor to a company that enables this very model, and it works very, very well. Essentially we provide the website, marketing, customer service, and logistics from manufacturer-to-customer.

It appears that is what American Giant has found as well. Good for them.

You know, things don't exist in a vacuum.

I don't have time to get into specifics, but there is a REASON why channel sales exist. There is a reason you may sometimes want to outsource this to people who specialize in marketing, customer service, or logistics.

As these companies you advise grow in size, you will see why. I'm not saying you don't provide value - I'm sure you do. I'm just tired of hearing this on HN - that a startup can do it all and all these other companies are fools that aren't in on the secret.

Agreed -- channel sales work where you don't have that expertise (ie - government, oil-gas, etc). However, my points addresses direct-to-individuals is where this model works well.

I think you read more into my comment that was really there. We certainly are not a fit for every manufacturer out there. But this much is true - Like it or not, the internet beat a path to the manufacturers' door. Many of them are still not prepared to handle that. It never fit their model. That is where we fit in.

If the customer is already st your door, then why not capture the sale? Why send them off to a re-seller? That is a bad consumer experience.

Seriously, and especially for clothing, where actual, physical, retailers can add a huge amount of value. This company may indeed make great stuff, but no way I'm gonna buy clothing I can't touch and try on first...

Direct might be good for repeat orders for stuff that tends to wear out like socks, but if their sweatshirt lasts forever ... :]

I know it may seem strange to pay top dollar for a hoodie, but here in Boston a high quality, durable, and warm garment that you can take with you anywhere is a real comfort.

My current hoodie is the Katahdin Iron Works Heavyweight: http://www.llbean.com/llb/shop/51722?page=katahdin-iron-work...

It retails for a similar price and was worth every penny. The AG hoodie is not designed for such cold temperatures, but I would probably be getting one if I lived in NYC (and may still get one anyway, as a liner or just for warmer temperatures).

Definitely. I've got that same Katahdin and liked it so much I bought one for my daughter. It's got those little mesh/velcro pockets inside the pockets to keep your keys and such. A little warm for Dallas where I live, but when it's really cold I've loving it.

This is how the website looked in February: http://web.archive.org/web/20110207234611/http://american-gi...

> It looks better and feels substantially more durable—Winthrop says it will last a lifetime.

who needs a sweatshirt to last a lifetime? when was the last time you wore a 10yr old piece of clothing outside of your own house?

you buy $79 hoodies/shirts for the brand and current trendy design, not to pass on to your children.

I wear a lot of 10 year old clothing out of the house. I have a DAKS suit jacket which I'm wearing at the moment. I have some ties from 1970 - 75. I have shoes which are at least 5 years old, and which I expect to last significantly longer. (Dr Martins do a range called "For Life" which would last even longer still.)

Some good quality wool sweaters (bretagne or faroe) can be expensive, long lasting, and without current trendy design.

Most modern clothing is not made to last. See also cstross's comment about clothing cost and quality here (http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1622503)

I happily agree that 'added value' is mostly nonsense in the form of brand names or trendy design, and not in excellent quality materials and manufacturing.

I've never worn a 10 year old piece of clothing outside of my house, because none of the clothing I've bought has been durable enough to survive even 5 years.

Based on the article (which does seem biased), these sweatshirts are a throwback to the days when you would buy things and expect them to last. The fancy Kitchenaid standing blenders used to be durable as hell and just keep working. The newer ones are made a lot more cheaply, and while they last longer than some other kitchen appliances, they're a far cry from their original model... without any significant improvement in features.

Our manufacturing mindset was originally about durability and quality. Cheap labor and cheap materials led to a shift into replaceable, cheaper goods. But as materials/labor get more expensive, hopefully we'll see more of a shift to making quality, lasting goods again.

Since you asked, and because it's ridiculous, and because it's rare to have such a great opportunity to mention it: I have an T-shirt/undershirt that I still wear that I've had and worn since 1994. It was written on as an activity at camp and signed by a number of friends, one of whom died of cancer when we were still kids. I love wearing that undershirt. I'd have lost track of how old it was if it didn't say 1994 on the front.

I'm about to turn 21, but I've been about the same height and weight since I was 11 years old. Two years ago I tried a new pair of sneakers, otherwise most of the clothing I own are gifts from the holidays (a sweater, slacks, work boots). The rest is clothing from when I was in middle school or just things from my father's or grandfather's closet. When I do buy clothing, I want it to either be incredibly inexpensive or something that I'll never have to replace. I could care less about branding or design if it still fits well and looks right.

I have owned and worn several pieces of clothing for more than ten years. Some styles are just classics. I find it odd that one would deride a company for attempting to produce a quality product.

I see most people argue the fact that something can be of quality or that you technically can wear old clothes. My point was, current modern fashion empires (Zara, HM, etc.) are popular because they offer fashionable items often of random/poor quality (notice 'because' not 'despite'). Buy cheap, look good for the season, throw it away. One or two levels higher you got all the Tommy, Polo, Lacoste, etc. where you upgrade for the brand and better quality (I know it's still slave labor, but the quality is better). People buy clothes to look good, and buy the ones that look good in their affordable price range. It's how it works, and somehow I believe people wanting to buy a hoodie 'for lifetime' are a vast minority, especially in the hoodie target group. Yeah, I own a jacket which was cool 4 years ago, is cool now, and maybe will be still cool in the next 3 years if I don't destroy it, but durability is IMHO a weak selling point for an newborn apparel company who positions itself in the price range of the lower-end designer brand clothes.

I hope I clarified my opinion a bit, I'm not against quality, I just doubt it will work in the long run for the reasons above.

Have you ever HAD something that was built to last. Its freaking amazing! I actually have one of those old american made sweatshirts that my dad gave me and ive been looking for someone to make a quality sweatshirt like that my whole life!

Need aside, I want most things I buy to last a lifetime.

Exceptions are for things like food and toilet paper.

You're not the target audience. I'd buy a piece of clothing that would last 10y

I'm not sure what makes me more upset, the fact that this hoodie costs $80, or the fact that this very kind of story is eaten up by desperate wannabe 20-somethings that are brainwashed into thinking that they deserve the "very best."

I think everyone deserves the very best. Why don't you think so? And how did 20-somethings come up?

Personally, I'd rather pay $80 for a hoodie that lasts 10 years than $8 for 1 hoodie a year. Less waste, less exploitative labor, shorter shipping distances (not riding a cargo ship from a Chinese/Taiwanese/etc factory), and a better looking and feeling garment.

I guess you don't have the concept of value and just look at dollar amount alone for everything in your life. I guess Coke should still cost 5 cents huh...

The only problem with this company is that all their stuff is out of stock!

> When you wear this hoodie, you’ll wonder why all other clothes aren’t made this well.

And then I'll realize that it's because I'm not going to pay $80 for every piece of clothing I own.

I'm surprised they are only doing men's clothing. There seem to be far less men willing to pay for well made or high end clothing than women even though (from my experience), they tend to wear the same clothes longer.

Then again, even I don't really understand the quality difference of clothes made at discount places. How long will an Old Navy sweatshirt last? Or pants?

Women don't care as much about quality because they're more concerned about fashion. There's no point in buying something that will last 15 years if it'll be out of style next year. Thus, the more successful approach right now is that of very up to date fashions combined with mediocre quality and sold at an affordable price. This is what Zara is doing so well and why its founder is one of the richest men in the world. Other examples are H&M and Forever 21.

I don't find $80 exactly expensive and I'm sure that's a nice product. Yet, it's amazing how prone to simple manipulation people are. You see, that's just a hoodie.


"He also used heavy-gauge thread for all the seams, creating connections that won’t fray."

First, who doesn't? Second, heavy-gauge threads are not more or less expensive than regular, this isn't thread count.

"He’s making clothes entirely in the United States, and he’s doing so at costs that aren’t prohibitive"

$80 for a zip up hoodie is prohibitive. Make it $30 and we're talking. That's still almost double what you'd pay in Walmart or Old Navy, but if it's good, I'll take it. $80? No way.

It's not really prohibitive. I currently have 6 hoodies with logos on them that were over $50. Most of them are snowboard companies, 2 are colleges. I've probably owned another half dozen similar ones in the past.

I enjoy wearing them for reasons that have nothing to with function. Does it keep me any warmer than one you get at Walmart? Of course not.

There are certainly people that will pay $80 to make a statement that they wear 'the best possible' clothing.

"Since there’s no retail middleman, everyone does better under the American Giant model—the clothing company, the factory workers, and you."

Everyone except the retail workers.


They add no value whatsoever.

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