Work Shirt & 19 Century BD Shirt
by Engineered Garments
Welcome to "DEEP DIVE," where we explore the captivating narratives behind Engineered Garments' iconic pieces. This edition highlights two foundational products: the Work Shirt and the 19 Century BD Shirt, each representing different aspects of American style.
In 1999, as mass production led to the decline of American manufacturers, Daiki Suzuki founded Engineered Garments to preserve American craftsmanship and offer a personal interpretation of the beloved Made in USA products that had captivated him in his youth. Growing up in Japan, Daiki developed a deep fascination with American-made clothing, fuelled by books, catalogs, and magazines. He felt a profound sense of akogare (憧れ), a Japanese term encompassing yearning, admiration, and wonder, towards iconic pieces like US Army Fatigues, Filson Mackinaws, and Pendleton Board Shirts.
The Work Shirt and the 19 Century BD Shirt were born out of Daiki's vision to unite two essential facets of American style - workwear and Ivy League fashion. While historically separated by class, they found a harmonious connection under the Engineered Garments banner, becoming timeless symbols of American sensibility that appear in every collection.Engineered Garments began in the original Nepenthes New York office on Sullivan Street, drawing from Daiki's vast knowledge of American clothing acquired during his time as a buyer in Boston, New York, and San Francisco, as well as his collaborations with companies like W. C. Russell Moccasin Co. and Gitman Bros. Despite lacking formal design training, he possessed an intimate understanding of the details that defined American classics, such as the stitching on a Rockmount western shirt or the era when the M65 jacket was without epaulets.Due to limited resources, Daiki sourced textiles from "jobbers," small-scale wholesalers catering to independent designers. Overcoming initial challenges with factories unwilling to handle his intricate sewing work, he found partners and established production in Manhattan's Garment District.
Daiki introduced the Work Shirt during the brand's second season. When it debuted in 2000, most Americans still considered work shirts as a tool restricted to manual work. Daiki wanted to make something authentic but fashionable and scoured reference pieces before settling on a 1942 Reliance chambray work shirt with asymmetric pockets, recommended to him by a friend.
Initially designed for manual labor, the chambray work shirt, often called "blue-collar," combined affordability and durability through cost-saving construction techniques. Engineered Garments Work Shirt retains the essence of the 1942 model, featuring a plain soft front placket and straight collar. The one-piece yoke, while economical, was thoughtfully stitched with a curve to reduce stress on the shirt. This no-frills approach allowed for swift and cost-effective production in factories.
Practical details included button-close asymmetrical front pockets, with the right breast pocket featuring an integrated pencil slot and the left side "mountain" pocket specifically designed to hold a pack of Lucky Strike cigarettes, providing easy access without unbuttoning while preventing sweat damage. The patented cuff design allowed the shirt to tighten around the wrist without requiring costly pleats or gathering, further enhancing efficiency. Reinforcement stitching on the elbows and collar increased durability, while fish-eye buttons added a unique touch.
The Work Shirt stands out due to its three types of stitching: flat fell single stitching on the hem, placket, and pockets; triple stitching on the sides, armhole, and back yoke; and double-needle stitching on the collar and cuffs. This intricate process preserves manufacturing techniques from over 80 years ago, resulting in a Work Shirt with a wholly American aesthetic born from functional design.
19 Century BD Shirt
In 2002, Daiki introduced the 19 Century BD Shirt, Engineered Garments' take on the classic white Oxford Cloth Button Down (OCBD), closely associated with Ivy League style. He drew inspiration from renowned brands like J Press, Brooks Brothers, and Boston Prepatory Company during the design process.
His breakthrough came when a vintage dealer gifted him an authentic Brooks Brothers button-down shirt from the late 1800s. This vintage piece differed significantly from modern Oxfords, featuring a construction for tucking in, only five front buttons with the placket ending at the waist to leave the lower half open, and a banded collar to accommodate disposable collars.
The Engineered Garments 19 Century BD Shirt cleverly incorporated these vital vintage style elements into a modern shirt, emphasizing refined tailoring techniques that made Oxford shirts popular among the elite. The label on each 19 Century BD Shirt proudly displays "Single Needling Tailoring," which refers to a method leaving one row of visible stitches on the outside and two on the inside, ensuring a clean, neat, and highly durable seam. Although more time-consuming and costly, this technique guarantees superior quality. Including a gusset at the base of the side seam reinforces stress points and enhances the shirt's durability.
The shirt features an extra piece of cloth on the arm, reminiscent of shirts from the 1800s crafted from narrow fabric rolls, requiring an additional panel to achieve the appropriate width for the base sleeve. The two-piece yoke on the back allows for more stretch than a one-piece yoke, showcasing Daiki's attention to detail and dedication to preserving ingenious tailoring techniques from the past.
While these nuances may go unnoticed by the casual observer, they contribute to the profound narrative behind the 19 Century BD Shirt, conserving the clever tailoring techniques of a bygone era.
Celebrating American Style
The Work Shirt and 19 Century BD Shirt pay homage to different aspects of American style. The Work Shirt celebrates the ingenuity of workwear, representing the affordable, high-quality garments that fueled the nation's economy. On the other hand, the 19 Century BD Shirt revives the refined tailoring seen in Ivy League style, with delicate dress stitching, luxurious construction, and meticulous details.
While these items reference existing designs, Daiki Suzuki's visionary touch elevates them beyond mere replicas, making them classic yet refreshingly new. Engineered Garments embodies Daiki's dream of a country where people proudly wear Pendleton shirts, Levi's jeans, and Alden boots. In a landscape where many American heritage brands have succumbed to conglomerate buyouts, leading to overseas production or the loss of traditional craftsmanship, Engineered Garments stands as a testament to the enduring spirit of American craftsmanship, kept alive through the vision of one man and the dedication of the Garment District factories.