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Friday, August 23, 2013

T-Shirts Made to Fit From Pickwick & Weller

Posted By on Fri, Aug 23, 2013 at 11:40 AM

click to enlarge ALEXANDER GEORGE
  • Alexander George

At a time when enterprise millionaires are wearing holey jeans instead of French cuff shirts, the idea of the working professional t-shirt makes sense. Pickwick & Weller was founded by three men with a shared frustration for how, despite the clothing's ubiquity in their industries, no one had really managed to make a t-shirt that was both comfortable, and congruous with the casual aesthetics of a Bay Area startup. For the moment, forget that one of those three men is famous t-shirt-wearer and startup investor Ashton Kutcher and focus on how they've made a $30 shirt that's better than anything you could buy for three figures in a Post Street boutique.

Ryan Donahue, one of the three founders and a veteran San Francisco graphic designer whose former employers include a nascent PayPal, thought of the t-shirt as a personal essential that should be made with the same precision as any other daily staple. "I think about what I use everyday," he says. "My laptop, my iPhone, jeans, and I wear a t-shirt everyday."

Even if you're an advocate of t-shirts that come in a vacuum-sealed ten-pack, it's difficult to not become enamoured of their creations. For example, the exceptionally soft modal fabric, which is typically used in women's clothing, is woven into some of the men's shirts to make something that moves smoothly around your skin. But even the most basic cotton jersey t-shirt has a tactility I've only felt in a 1980 Linda Ronstadt concert tee I found in the back of my dad's closet.

click to enlarge ALEXANDER GEORGE
  • Alexander George

Besides P&W's textile quality, at least one of their fit options will hang in a flattering shape without making you feel like you're trying too hard. For men, the shirts come in Slim, Modern, or Classic fit, the latter of which has the boxy aesthetics of an Ivy League button-down.

Like other clothing services, P&W manages to make fabrics and cuts of surprisingly high quality for the price -- men's shirts start at $26 -- by eschewing the typical retail structure and putting that capital towards the goods themselves. Save for geographically-specific fabrics like cashmere, the shirts and even the textiles are cultivated and assembled in the United States. It turns out Bakersfield produces incredible cotton.

Right now, you can order the shirts online, or stop by the one-room SoMa shop for a fitting by appointment -- it's less pretentious than it sounds; they don't have enough people to keep the shop open full-time, so they schedule to have fitters when you want to come in.

For the English majors, the name comes from the 1836 Charles Dickens novel The Pickwick Papers. The latter half of the title is for the character Sam Weller, who arrives at the tenth chapter of the serial's installments. "That was me," Donahue says. "I just liked the way the names sounded together." They have a worn hardcover copy on a table in the shop next to the fitting rooms.

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Alexander George

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