A Very Personal “Our story”
When the factory fell silent and the lights went down, people said we were finished. But we went home that night. Mixed a stiff drink and commiserated with friends for a moment. Then we did the thing Americans have done after nearly every setback in our history. We got back up, dusted ourselves off and got back to work. Because, frankly, keeping jobs here in America is just too damned important to give up on.
You see, during the COVID-19 shutdown 2 large scale sewing factories here in America shut down for good. As management for one of those factories, we lost our jobs too. Some say these lost jobs will never come back. That it’s time to move on from the idea of America as a manufacturer. But that’s an answer we won’t accept.
Because a factory isn’t just a collection of machines and capital expenditures to be optimized for ROI. It’s a family of people depending on each other. And a P&L isn’t just a spreadsheet to be juggled to maximize shareholder wealth each quarter. It’s the livelihood of the shop owners, farmers market growers and community members who support that factory. And an order isn’t just revenue. It’s a promise made to a customer who is counting on us to deliver.
So we’re starting over. A brand new company - building on a dream our family has been pursuing for 4 generations.
2 Family Trees – A Shared Pride Of Craft
Great grandpa Harry settled in the Bronx after emigrating to the United States in 1898. Gifted with a trade and armed with sheers and a sewing machine brought from the old country, he soon set up his tailoring shop on 173rd St. just off the Grand Concourse.
His son, Mel, stricken with polio as a child, had a terrible time walking due to the disease. After graduating from school in 1932, and in need of a way to earn a living, great grandpa Harry helped Mel open up a shop of his own. This shop was also in the Bronx but located a few blocks away. Like most businesses in the city at the turn of the century, the customer base was geographically defined within a few blocks of the stores. In nearly every photo of Grandpa Mel showed a measuring tape around his neck. And everybody in the neighborhood told me as a kid, what great shirts he made. It was said with admiration. I took the compliment with pride.
On the other side of the family, Grandpa Hy started making hats and caps in 1933 and grew into a large-scale manufacturer. In the early 90’s this hat and cap making factory is where we, the present generation, began our own garment manufacturing careers. One of us went into operations and sales while the other learned the office and how to manage a family business. Together we learned how to make and sell garments as a private label manufacturer. We made for all the top brands in menswear… and then we didn’t any longer.
By the early 2000’s about 80% of our customers were no longer sourcing domestically, and by 2006 we no longer had a family business. But manufacturing was still in our blood. And we were lucky enough to find roles in another operation – at least temporarily.
But the call to have our own company back, to make garments that make a difference in our community kept calling to us.
Our Call To Liberty
To us, America has always been the land of dreams, freedom and opportunity. What better represents that then calling ourselves Liberty Shirt Co.? It’s a bootstrap effort in the fine American tradition: We’re taking out loans, taking on credit card debt, pulling in favors, accepting family donations and all.
And we’re putting back into motion, the mechanism that allowed our family to prosper - so that others can as well.
American Pride. Every. Damn. Stitch.
We hope you’ll appreciate the small batch craftsmanship of our limited launch collection. We hope it harkens back to your days when getting dressed up meant putting on a Ralph Lauren or Brooks Brothers oxford button down or grudgingly wearing a white shirt because you had to wear a tie.
Our first two shirt collections capture that iconic American style. And we hope they will bring back memories of your freshman days, times at the beach and that youthful sense that no dream is too big, no ambition out of reach. When you take your shirt out of the laundry, still slightly damp to hang it in an effort to avoid pressing it, we hope you will put it to your nose, inhale deeply the wonderful smells which will bring a flood of memories from your younger years. And we hope that in a few years your Liberty shirt will have that same patina as your favorite oxford of the 80’s with it’s fraying collar and smells that are redolent of your youth.
And when you button on your new Liberty shirt remember: You’ve just made a pledge to help America rise up – by keeping pride, craft and, most important, jobs, right here.