Few brands ever achieve real cult status – the kind that develops on its own accord resulting from pure consumer appreciation and/or fascination. Such love, and obsession, directed at a product or company must be rooted in the unique quality of the goods offered, restriction of product access – either deliberate or unintended, and legitimate functionality.
American Giant is one of those companies, and one we profiled a few years ago. This maker of classically inspired workout wear attained and maintained cult status because its hoodies and other gear are simply some of the best you can buy, end of story. Stock also tends to run out on occasion due to the small-batch domestic production. Founder Bayard Winthrop is a leading mind in the world of made-in-America clothing, and he took a legitimate risk when he launched American Giant well before the transformative athleisure trend kicked off in the world of real-world fashion.
The fact that we are discussing sweatpants and hoodies is not really the point. The standards and philosophy by which this clothing is designed, made, sold, and branded is the lesson here. It should be noted, however, that even the influential WSJ Fashion page is touting the rise of the workplace, dressed-up hoodie.
When he launched American Giant in San Francisco, Bayard’s expressed goal was to create the best iconic American workout clothes possible. He wanted to pay homage to casual athletic wear that no one made anymore, basics like the crew neck and zip hooded sweatshirts, beefy tee shirts, and heavyweight sweat pants. He also wanted to make them domestically, and price them fairly. As an serial entrepreneur and manufacturer, Bayard knew exactly what he needed to do and how to do it; of course that did not mean it would be easy.
With monikers like “the greatest hoodie ever made,” firmly attached to American Giant, we cannot forget that success was never a foregone conclusion. Luckily, the timing and products were spot on and the results very much speak for themselves.
As the American menswear culture has become more aware of quality and provenance, details, and construction, customers pay more attention to the fine points of how products are made. Even small items are viewed as investments. At the same time, the lines between formal and informal wear continue to blur and high/low fashion options are far more prevalent than even a few years ago.
Casual wear is scrutinized with the same unflinching eye as is tailored business clothing. In such an environment, American Giant has thrived. Its smaller runs and word-of-mouth advertising have propelled the brand to must-have status. And, the brand’s very reasonable price points – US$89.00 for the Classic Full Zip sweatshirt – add to the attraction.
While technical workout wear is an excellent choice for most athletic endeavors, sometimes, a simple pair of sweatpants and tee shirt are all you need. And, while performance fabrics and body-hugging designs convey a certain A-type view of exercise, classic gear like American Giant’s tones it down and keeps things simple.
The Classic Pullover sweatshirt and its streetwise sibling the Essential Pullover sweatshirt are two variations on this timeless design that works in the gym or on the street. We were especially surprised at comfortable and relaxed the Essential Pullover as a knock-around top. The loose design and slubbed, lighter weight fabric makes it go-to choice as an easy layering piece.
Equally fantastic are their sweatpants. Thick, soft, and comfortable, they more or less beg you to lay around the house all day – when not running steps of tossing around a medicine ball, of course. The Classic Sweatpant is constructed along the same lines as the Classic Pullover; hearty and substantial. They sort of envelope you and make you feel like the Gipper could stroll around the corner any minute. Three pockets and a beefy drawstring at the waist provide simple detail elements.
The Essential Sweatpant take those timeless cues and tone them down for street wear or lounging. As with the other items in the Essential family, these bottoms are still build AG tough, but designed for relaxed and casual wear – something very much front and center in the menswear world.
While we certainly love a bespoke suit from Jon Green, made to order footwear from the folks at Paul Stuart, and a nice Bull+Moose necktie, when it comes to dressing down and grabbing a (hoppy craft-brewed IPA) beer on Friday night, American Giant is our brand of choice.