When we first started Yellow Hook, our goal was simple: to create the finest neckwear in the world, created the old fashioned way. We feel we’ve perfected that art and for the past year have been trying to nail down how we can do that with shirts. Ties are an easier proposition to hand craft. They’re smaller, require less manpower and also require less of a capital investment, which for us was an issue.
We didn’t want to start Yellow Hook owing anyone anything, so business loans and personal loans were completely out of the question. As public school teachers here in Brooklyn, we weren’t trust fund babies playing with an inheritance either. We had two very young children in day care and a mortgage on a Brooklyn apartment that was already a stretch for us. But we managed to sell a few things we’ve accumulated (expensive bottles of whiskey, a few pairs of cordovan shoes and some high end designer clothing) and formed a foundation on which we would build Yellow Hook.
Now that we’ve been successfully running the business for over three years, we’ve managed to keep the philosophy of paying cash for services and raw materials and we’ve grown incredibly. Our first collection of ties numbered about 40. Now our Spring and Summer Collection numbers close to 500 and we began exploring the idea of expanding into something other than ties. The next natural step was shirting.
We travelled around the country on our recesses from school to visit many of the American shirt manufacturers that were out there and were willing to work with a young startup who wasn’t willing to go into debt to start a business. Many of these manufacturers had incredible set ups, with extended teams of employees from salesmen to seamstresses and some of them were truly impressive. But it wasn’t until this January that we found the perfect “fit”.
Nestled in a hideaway only 13 miles from our Bay Ridge apartment was the perfect manufacturer for our shirts. Not so much a manufacturer, but a shirt laboratory. There was no cutting machine, or computer pattern drafter. There weren’t rows and rows of machines, and the square footage was something that could closely rival our two bedroom Brooklyn apartment. But what there was was a clear love and desire for hand crafting shirts, one at a time, just the way our ties are made. In three short months we’ve worked closely with the team there to design and tweak three shirting styles. The first was a classic Neapolitan Spread Collar. The second was a rebirth of a classic, the American Button Down. But the third is where my heart was, and honestly, what I’ve been desiring for the longest time…the PERFECT DENIM SHIRT.
As you read in our last post, we are absolutely in love with the fabric of denim and the way it moves, the way it ages and fades allows the wearer to be an artist simply by wearing it. It contours and hugs the body until it becomes one with you, and it takes time to break in. Each wash and wear allows it to tell a slightly different story than the last, until you’re so far along, you’ve forgotten how the story started.
With everything else Yellow Hook, we wanted our shirts to have some sort of connection to the past without being stuck in it, and our denim shirt is no different. A few years ago, we absolutely fell in love with vintage French Workwear. We picked up a really cool vintage French Workwear book titled “La France Travaille”. Part of a series that was published in 1932, it depicted the life of French workers, in this case, fabric weavers. Inside were about a hundred photograph of these hardworking men and women in their typical blue work attire shearing, weaving, dying and finishing their cloth. What they were wearing spoke to me. It was so understated, so utilitarian and so beautiful, and it became my goal to use these images to inspire a modern day version with a Brooklyn twist.
Here’s a great example of why we think Vintage French workwear is so cool. Like great denim, these work jackets look better with age and wear. And the coat is very utilitarian, pockets for what the workers needed to do their jobs. Today, these “needs” have changed as the workers who we think will enjoy our shirts are carrying around smart phones. When dressed casually, I find it difficult to find a safe place for my oversized smart phone, so I figured I wasn’t the only one. Because of this we decided to design one of our shirts with a special chest pocket that can hold an oversized smartphone safely, without it falling out even if your chest is parallel to the ground.
We’ve also designed it with a traditional pen or pencil pocket as well.
We’ve also tweaked the pattern a bit by making it an inch shorter and adding a vintage touch without our front placket stopping after the fifth button so the shirt can be worn out or in comfortably and stylishly. We feel this design detail works nicely with the two different pocket details we’ll have on offer.
Our second pocket style also has a vintage feel. We’ve found that the rounded pocket detail is aesthetically pleasing but couldn’t fit it in with the larger offset pocket, so we figured we’d give another pocket style a go and this was it. Two rounded and symmetrical rounded flap pockets adorn the from of our shirts mimicking the contours of the wearers body. It’s a natural look that we love and we think you will too.
We’ll discuss some of the more technical details in a further post, but know these bad boys will be ready to go soon. We’ll be debuting two this Spring and once our final prototypes are done, you’ll be the first to know.