Hardwick Files For Bankruptcy

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In another example of the high cost of manufacturing in the US, Hardwick has filed for bankruptcy after a federal pension protection agencey ordered the Tennesee-based comapny to replenish its underfunded retirement plan.

Founded in 1880, Hardwick is the oldest privately held clothing manufacturer in America. Ivy Style has discussed the company as the maker of Crittenden Rawlings’ recent updated Ivy sportcoats, and we featured a gallery of vintage Hardwick ads about a year and a half ago. — CC

24 Comments on "Hardwick Files For Bankruptcy"

  1. I just checked out the gallery link and the first comment registered.
    “Hard wick indeed!!!!” Hilarious. Boy did they play the female card in their ads!

  2. The clock is ticking for American clothiers. The horn blows at midnight.

  3. I find it hard to believe that a firm/factory that only produced Ivy style clothing could have survived until 2014, so I assume that they also manufactured trendy clothing. Am I right?

  4. Lafcadio,

    “Hardwick Clothes has sold every type of men’s garment imaginable, including jeans, dollar pants, knicker suits, even convict stripes and leisure suits.”

    Ivy Style or basically the 3/2 roll is only a very small part of what they do and most of this seems to be primarily at special request by AAT members via MensSuitSeperates.com.

    It does seem that the days when a family (privately) owned and operated clothing company could be successful are dwindling.

  5. I wore an OTR Hardwick suit until about a year ago. I loved the color. A cross between government grey, and bureaucrat blue, it was very versatile and conservative. My go-to on many an occasion. I tried very hard to replace it with a better fitting MTM but cannot find the color/fabric anywhere. I hate to see another American company busted.

  6. Looks like they are just restructuring their debt. Latest news is actually pretty positive:

    http://www.clevelandbanner.com/view/full_story/24452267/article-Hardwick-gets-debt-approval

  7. I would say that Hardwick could do a much better job of marketing themselves, particularly as one of the few remaining “affordable” US-manufactured suit makers. Even the MensSuitSeparates.com website is awful.

  8. A.E.W. Mason | February 24, 2014 at 3:05 pm |

    Thanks for this update. I guess I’m not paying attention. I also just learned that late last year Samuelsohn purchased Hickey Freeman.

    @ Squeeze. I take it you’re not kidding. So, what do you think the landscape will look like in another 10 years? For example, do you think that Southwick will survive as a Brooks Brothers asset?

  9. Could be a moonscape.

  10. So poor little Hardwick Clothes was beaten up by the big bad Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation. Sorry, but this situation has NOTHING to do with “the high cost of manufacturing in the US.” The agency (which is not tax-funded) usually works out a loan for the underfunded pensions it takes over. My suspicion is that Hardwick officers managed its defined benefit pension plan imprudently, and, when they woke up to the huge unfunded portion, their choice was to freeze benefits to some or all of past/present employees per the Pension Protection Act in 2006. Lo and behold, the US economy crashed a couple of years later, and the company sought help from PBGC to fund the unfunded. Probably Hardwick filed as a distressed company thus allowing PBGC to meet the benefits, which the agency will recoup from the company (along with the annual termination fee per pensioner required by the PPA). When they realized their stupidity (we had NO idea you had to pay PGBC back), they filed BK 11 to reorganize, and yet again elude the unfunded pension liabilities.

    If the company survives its asinine management w/o a sale or break-up, I have only cold contempt for the “family” owners, who probably should have retired to Florida during the third generation- not the fifth of Pres. Tommy Hopper (Gee, we’ve always paid our bills, how could this happen?). My sadness is for those middle-aged female employees shown in the “Cleveland Daily Banner” pix (Yeah, let’s give ’em the “hard wick” haha.) Well, Hardwick Clothes is in Tennessee after all. With crystal clarity, I am reminded of how vulgarly David Corbin (Corbin Ltd.) behaved towards his employees- clearly not his father’s son. Really “hard” to feel sorry for American clothing manufacturers with these sterling examples.

  11. Alden and Southwick seems to be busier than ever. Thriving, even.

    Anything can happen if you let it!

  12. But, David Corbin was an Ivy Leaguer, Princeton and Harvard. America’s best and brightest, our leaders, our betters, WTF! :-)

  13. Best, brightest and….ruthless?

  14. Let’s not shed too many tears.

    Thirty years ago, there was no phoning up a Dave Mercer to order an Oxford that maybe even exceeds Brooks in quality.

    Maybe other makers will learn that a maker-direct-to-customer approach is precisely the way to go. Rancourt will expand their offerings as the years go by, and somewhere out there somebody is figuring out how to do with jackets and pants what Mercer and Rancourt are doing with shirt and shoes, respectively. Maybe somebody already has.

    Educated buyers have led the way. How many tie manufacturers sell directly to customers? I can think of half a dozen.

  15. You are right S.E., we have a lot to be thankful for. My concern comes when these companies are no longer satisfied with that portion of the market and attempt to scale. It never turns seems to turn out so well.

    Also, when I said family owned I was not referring to holding companies like Retail Bran Alliance even though I am very glad that they are keeping Southwick alive.

  16. @ Bebe — thanks for the perspective.

    @ Oxford Cloth Button Down — Speaking of companies expanding their market share and losing their soul, Filson is starting down that road. I’m returning a briefcase that is falling apart, revealing that parts of it were made with bonded leather, which means no leather at all.

  17. If what I’ve heard and read is true, J. Press began as small, family tailoring business–meeting the sartorial needs of a small community. Undergrads and alums. I am going to venture a guess that the quality control back in those days far surpassed what’s possible when a spectrum of manufacturers are doing most of the manufacturing and tailoring.

    At the very least, a special relationship is beneficial. A nested manufacturer. Not unlike what Brooks has with Garland and Southwick and, historically, Alden. When the retailers and marketers have that kind of control over the product design and manufacture, the possibilities are endless.

    The internet has opened up a world that was unknown to a customer 30 years ago. I bet my Mercer and New England Shirt oxfords rival the oft-exalted Troy, and I can ask Rancourt to replicate a Weejun in shell cordovan that will far outlast the old Bass 734’s. By decades. Southwick during trunk shows is a lot of bang for the buck. That seamless Shetland crewneck maker in Scotland deserves more attention.

    When a maker takes control of retail operations, amazing things can happen.

    When retail becomes part of the mix, I worry a bit. I remember when Bill’s Khakis and Quoddy were much more reasonably priced. But the quality is still there, I guess.

  18. The trick to produce clothing in America is to find a niche and stay small.

  19. A.E.W. Mason | February 25, 2014 at 3:01 pm |

    I don’t know that it’s a better world today, but it’s certainly different. Fifty years ago you didn’t need the internet to acquire the kind of quality discussed here. That you need it today (the internet) is the sad product of quality, taste and restraint having been forced underground by cultural “complications” that make the mind boggle. Back then you could be reasonably assured, even if it wasn’t Brooks or Press or Chipp, that certain standards in material and workmanship would be met. (Sorry, I meant “workpersonship.”) Get yourself a tweed jacket sold by Jordan Marsh or Lord & Taylor or B. Altman circa 1962, take it to your tailor and have him (or her?) take it apart. Chances are you will discover that it will be as well made (or even better made) and made with as fine or finer a fabric than what you acquire today from Southwick or Samuelsohn.

  20. I can still find the basic items that I wore 50 years ago: chinos, OCBD shirts, tweed jackets, navy blazers, penny loafers, striped ties. My guess is that this may not be the case 50 years ago, so readers in their twenties are advised to stock up.

  21. @ A. E. W. Mason — Ah, B. Altman, Fifth Ave. corner of 34th St.! I bought a wool herringbone sport coat there in the late sixties and wore it for over 40 years. I still regret giving it to Goodwill. Not smart.

  22. What a shame and disgrace. IMHO the high cost has been the ridiculousness of offshore trade and all this social media thinking and garbage presuming it was going to bring anyone quality and sales. Retail is THE final nail in the economic coffin many are learning the lessons they couldn’t see coming.

  23. Can anyone speak to the quality of Nettleton shoes, a company founded in Syracuse NY in the nineteenth century and now based in Saint Louis?

    The Ben Silver catalog arrived in today’s mail. They’re now selling Nettleton cordovan wingtips for $1,500, twice what Aldens cost.

  24. We already have a post prepared. We’ll run it next.

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