Always Be Faithful to Quality – that’s the motto you will see all over at the Oxxford Clothes factory in Chicago. And it is true, they are one of the very few large scale tailoring
operations worldwide that produce a considerable number of hand made suits that are at least en par with tailored bespoke garments. In the US, Oxxford stands for the very best in garment production, and most clothing aficionados will already be familiar with the company. Very few lucky individuals have had the pleasure of experiencing the epicenter of top notch American tailoring. Therefore, I would like to take you on a factory tour of this remarkable 96-year-old company. Please note, this article was co-authored by Gentleman’s Gazette reader Frank Morganti. Thank you Frank!
Oxxford – The Softest Suit Money Can Buy
In Alan Flusser’s second book “Clothes And The Man” (published in 1985) there is a section in chapter two entitled, “The Distinguishing Qualities Of A Well-Made Suit”. Flusser proceeds to describe the various features found in better quality suits, such as fully canvased jackets, handmade buttonholes, and fine materials. In addition, he wrote the following: “In most cases, the softer the feel of the suit, the better it is. One might try putting one’s hand on the chest and squeezing the cloth. If it is soft to the touch, chances are it’s not only a fine fabric but of quality manufacture. Perhaps the easiest way to experience the feeling of wearing a hand-made suit is to try on one manufactured by the Chicago clothing firm of Oxxford. While the design is for the older man, it is the finest quality ready-made suit manufactured today.” Now, since then, many things have changed. While it is true that you can find Oxxford suits with a very American sack suit cut, there are a number of cuts that also appeal to the young gentleman. But what exactly is it that makes an Oxxford suit so special in today’s day in age?
Essentially, they stand resolutely by their motto and they produce a wonderfully soft, hand sewn garment.
Oxxford Clothes History
Founded in Chicago in 1916 by brothers Jacob and Louis Weinberg, who wanted to set the bar high for suit manufacturing from day one. It doesn’t matter if the suit is fully bespoke, made to measure, or ready made – any item that comes from Oxxford is handmade. Throughout its existence, the firm has clothed the rich, the famous and the infamous, such as Al Capone, Cary Grant, Joe DiMaggio, Walter Cronkite, and various U.S. Presidents, to name a few.
In 1930, the brand was first introduced to the shoppers of Neiman Marcus, and to this day it is one of their biggest accounts. Even back then, Oxxford was only reserved for the very best. If you had a clothing store you didn’t go to Oxxford, Oxxford came to you!
Oxxford was originally spelled Oxford with a single X. It wasn’t until 1949, when they federally registered the name “Oxxford” as a trademark, that the two X’s became a unique part of their brand identity. In the mid 1990’s Exxon Corporation sued Oxxford Clothes when the manufacturer began using the interlocking “XX” in their design, which Exxon had ever since the early 1970’s. Eventually, Exxon won and Oxxford employs only the side by side X’s in their name.
Interestingly, fully bespoke options didn’t arrive at Oxxford until the 1990’s. Today, their suits, sportscoats and overcoats are sold only by the finest department stores and haberdashers in the United States, and to an additional few selected customers around the globe. Oxxford is currently owned by the Individualized Apparel Group, that also owns brands like Gitman Bros., H. Freeman and Holland & Sherry. They were previously owned by the old American standard, Levi Strauss & Co.
The Oxxford Factory Chicago
The Chicago headquarters of the company is not really a factory in the traditional sense, but much rather a multi-story artisan’s workshop, where garments are meticulously basted, sewn, and ironed by many skilled workers. Oxxford prides itself on the quality they put into their suits, and when you are in the factory, you can see it at every step of the production. The cutting is done by hand, as are many other steps like basting, ironing, pick stitching, and buttonhole making. In the past, many suit manufacturers would to make a suit the way a personal tailor would make them. Oxxford seems to be the last producer that follows this traditional methodology. When I visited the company’s headquarters in January, I could feel the heat immediately upon entering the work area and I can only imagine what it feels like during the summer.
First, I started my tour at the top floor, were all the garments are cut. This level is full of patterns, cloth and very long cutting tables. Everything is labeled to make sure the correct customer receives the right garment. I was surprised to see not only the custom patterns, but also a range of RTW patterns in stock.
The next floor down, I saw a beautiful Glencheck Coat with a light blue overcheck that was about half done. The lapel buttonhole was already sewn, but the sleeves were absent. One of their master tailors showed me the house specialty, the natural Oxxford shoulder, and how it drapes so beautifully.
Subsequently, I saw all the stages from the lining to the buttonholes, canvassing, sewing and ironing. Everything looked just as it would at a tailor’s shop, including the quaint clutter, just on a grander scale with specialists in each discipline. In order to guarantee a proper workflow, everything is mapped out, and each employee understands the process.
Eventually, I was introduced to their head cutter Rocco Giovannangelo, a friendly, 72 year old chap who once worked for Caraceni and came over from Italy 50 years ago. Although he is way past retirement age, he still shows up every day and has done so for years, because he loves what he does.
Once I was finished in the jacket department, I advanced to the trousers level, which was very interesting. Pants are often neglected in conversation next to the jacket, but Oxxford pays great attention to details here. Just look at the beautifully sewn lining with a hook, so you can hang your trousers in a locker when you are at the gym, for example.
One of Oxxford’s hallmarks is the one- piece waistband on the back of their trousers. A single piece of cloth is used to construct the waistband and pocket, whereas most trousers are made out of two pieces. Just look for yourself in the picture. The advantage of this method is an increase in comfort when wearing the trousers, especially when you carry something in your pocket, because the weight is distributed more evenly throughout the waistband.
Overall, I had a very informative visit and I am glad I got the tour. What do you think of Oxxford clothes? What is your favorite garment from them? If you enjoyed this factory tour, your may also be interested in the Regent factory tour.
Don’t forget to check out the video and picture gallery below! You can find more information on their website.