Cardinal Virtue: A Guide To Nantucket Red Pants

There’s still plenty of summer left, and so new contributor Mawuli Grant Agbefe has rounded up a sampling of the red trousers currently on the market. Agbefe hails from Chicago and graduated from Baylor in 2014. He is currently working as a debate coach. Follow him on Instagram @The_winterwhitehouse.

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When we’re children we learn our primary colors. We slowly acquire more colors that we know and love. I was an adult before I could comprehend what Nantucket Red was. It looked pink at first. However, when I compared it to an actual pink pants, I realized it was something more glorious. As I washed the trouser sporadically and the fades happened, I discovered it was an actual shade of red. My question then became: what do you we do with the imitators? Those brands that proffer preppy-pinkish-impersonating-Nantucket-reddish pants. There is a lion’s share to choose from in both shorts and pants.

The original, pictured above, is a trademark of Murray’s Toggery Shop and goes for $94.50.

The Chatham Chino company has its version for $89.50:

Brooks Brothers sells casuals pants in a pinkish/reddish cornucopia; light pink, rose, red, and brick. It would be unfair to call the light pink an imitator of Nantucket Red. The Clark fit Supima cotton trousers in colors red and brick are both on sale at $64.80. The lightweight stretch chinos from Brooks in Rose are currently on sale for $39:

Vineyard Vines names their reddish/pinkish pant lobster reef. Can’t fault them for it: looks like a close ringer for Nantucket Red. Currently priced at $98.50:

Even the Wisconsin-based retailer Lands’ Ends gets in on the preppy pants game with their version called nautical red. At first glance it’s markedly darker than the bright cheery pink that the orginal Reds are when first purchased. Currently on sale for $59.95.

O’Connell’s calls its version weathered red and they retail for $108.

J. Press’ version is called “stone chino red” and is on sale for $60:

Then there are the pants that are different enough that they have their own color, yet non-preps confuse them with Nantucket Reds all the time. I’m referring to salmon pants, which are pale pinkish orange to light pink. I thought that Murrays Toggery shop was the only store with the legal authority to sell pants known as “Nantucket Red” but I might be in error because it seems like Polo sells a color known as Nantucket Red. Macy’s version is currently on sell for $49.99:

Castaway Clothing (family relation of Murray’s) sells a pant in hurricane red which for $88, which looks cranberry with hints of purple: 

Finally, if you’re searching for something that still from the island, check out Nobby Clothes Shop. Its version is called Breton reds and they sell for $89.50:

Now the only question is whether you can wear them in the fall. We’ll save that for another post. — MAWULI GRANT AGBEFE

15 Comments on "Cardinal Virtue: A Guide To Nantucket Red Pants"

  1. Nantucket reds are a marketing gimmick. They are neither made on Nantucket (usually made in China), nor are they red (closer to pink).

    There used to be a story about how someone on Nantucket wearing khakis fell into a cranberry bog and invented Reds, but the story is false. Probably they are derived from Breton sailors who made pants from sailcloth which was initially red but faded in the sun and salty sea breezes.

  2. I was vacationing in Nantucket two weeks ago when I bought a pair of M-Crest shorts. They were pricier but made in the USA.

  3. The only legitimate “Nantucket Reds” are the originals from Murray’s. The rest are imposters.

  4. I have both a pair of Reds which my dear mother bought for me on Nantucket several summers ago, as well as a pair of ‘cheapie’ knockoff brick-colored shorts I picked up at a discount store.

    I love the Reds for their style & authenticity, although: a) I had to have the crotch taken up because they were enormous and droopy even in my correct waist size; and b) they don’t get worn much here in the swampy Maryland summers because they are, in fact, a heavier weight, canvas-type fabric. I’ll also admit to a fetishistic bent to preserve them, both in color and in wear, which I guess is silly on my part.

    The shorts, on the other hand, are a super-lightweight poplin material perfect for hot, humid weather, and get much more wear. Although I’m also conscious that I’m wearing a knockoff item.

  5. I have a pair of Murray’s M Crest pants and shorts in their “regular” line. Both are great but I wear the shorts all the time and the pants for special occasions (mostly because they’re a trim cut). I haven’t found a true non-Murray’s equivalent but I am interested in trying Breton’s version. On Martha’s Vineyard, Brickman’s sells a version that I’m also interested in trying. https://www.brickmans.com/

    I wear my pants all year – even around the year end holidays though less frequently than in the other three seasons. They’re my most comfortable pair of pants and I’m more at home in them than I am in a suit (which I wear almost every work day).

  6. @Mitchell S.
    I, too, suspected that the “original” originals were a sun’n’salt faded Breton red….which LLBean, of course, used to have all the time and now doesn’t, when I want some.

  7. Well, I stand semi-corrected: LLBean DOES carry a “Breton Red”, but it’s not the dark color I associate with the name. It’s a “Nantucket” knock-off.

  8. For years, I had assumed “Nantucket Red” was merely a name that Polo came up with for the faded red color, and now I find that Murray’s uses the same branding. Huh. And Mitchell S, your explanation of the origin of the color sounds pretty much accurate.

  9. Vern Trotter | August 2, 2018 at 9:29 pm | Reply

    I have three pair that I bought about 25 years ago at Murray’s. They are getting pretty ragged and I have been thinking about one new just to see if they are the same quality. I saw a post on Murray’s site saying they were not. They were of a heavy material, sailcloth, that has let me wear them year round, as we all should just like folks on the island.

  10. Just an FYI – Murray’s has registered the federal trademark “Nantucket Reds”. Hence all the other iterations of the name that are out there.

  11. A reader emailed me this:

    As anyone who actually spends time “on island” will attest, the only Nantucket reds are those from the Nobby Clothes Shop on Main Street. The reds from Murray’s might have been the first to the market, but their fit and finish is no longer the standard for reds. The reds from Nobby age and fade beautifully. Those from Murray’s are more like canvas than cotton. I like Murray’s for lots of things (for example…great selection of Lacoste shirts, Smathers & Branson belts and Castaways shorts) just not their reds. By the way, the Nobby summer sale commenced today and I jumped on a couple of items.

  12. Charlottesville | August 3, 2018 at 11:18 am | Reply

    I cannot swear to it, but my recollection is that Brooks carried a version of these in what they called Breton red in the 70s and 80s. They were darker, heavy cotton twill rather than the canvas-like duck cloth, but they faded to something like the more familiar Murray’s color. I had a pair, and I am pretty sure they came from Brooks. I believe that the color must have come from the sun-faded red sailcloth of Brittany, as Mitchell S. says above. You can find a representative picture of the sails here: http://www.brittanytourism.com/to-see-to-do/beaches-and-seaside-activities/traditional-sailing-ships/voilier-l-indomptable . Probably adopted for fisherman’s trousers by the Bretons, and later brought back to Nantucket by well-off Americans who had picked them up on their travels abroad, but I could easily be wrong. I bet someone like Mr. Boyer would know the exact history.

  13. Charlottesville,
    There’s no one like Mr. Boyer.

  14. Charlottesville | August 6, 2018 at 3:37 pm | Reply

    Ben – Rem acu tetigisti or touché as our fencing champion host CC might say.

  15. Sadly, Nobby is closing after this season. They have had everything on sale all month and will not reopen after closing this fall. They were in business for over 80 years.

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