At Noah, we talk a lot about buying smarter and buying better. There is almost nothing that supports this belief more than our Practice Cloth items. It’s no secret that we are tremendous fans of Patagonia. The first garments they sold were rugby shirts. They sold them to rock climbers who (let’s be honest) put their clothes through a lot more than the rest of us. We’ve been so impressed with the vintage Patagonia rugby-weight items we’ve come across in our travels that we promised ourselves that we would produce nothing less than that level of quality when we had the chance.
A vintage Patagonia rugby shirt in our office from the 1970s. It's at least 37 years old.
Climber Malcom Daly wearing the shirt in the 70's.
So why does this top cost $88? Let us explain. Although it may look like a basic tee, we can assure you it is not. Typical graphic t-shirts are made of run-of-the-mill materials that weigh between 5.5-6 oz. Our Practice Cloth is an 8 oz., highly constructed, dense jersey—made from the world’s highest grade cotton, and grown in the USA. The unique knitted construction of rugby weight fabric, originally intended for use on the field, guarantees that it can withstand the combative nature of the sport—or multiple wears for years to come.
Most people might think making an item like this is easy. This is only true if all you want to do is slap a graphic on a pre-existing blank, most of which are made outside of North America, and are made of less-than-substantial fabrics. Making your own however, is a different story entirely. Once you get into the logistics of creating your own fit, choosing colors and garment treatments that aren’t readily available, and essentially design a garment from the ground up, everything changes. And factories that are actually cooperative usually ask for an astronomical minimum order. Their reasoning is that huge orders make it worth their while to develop a new fabric, even for a simple jersey. They’ll also inform you that there will be minimums for custom dye lots, meaning that beyond black and white, custom colors will require larger orders. This is just unsustainable for a small label. As we mentioned in our previous Breaking Down The Cost piece, Anatomy of a Jacket, we produce far fewer of these items than most companies, due to the size and the nature of our business.
Fortunately, we have developed a great relationship with the factory that currently manufactures for us here at Noah. For over a decade, we’ve witnessed the quality of the craftsmanship and can attest to the long lifespan of this company’s work. We’ve been lucky enough to work with a producer that is structured to accommodate small quantities. They can also create the fits we are looking for at quantities that are acceptable to us. But this comes at a price—literally. They are a North American producer, which means they are subject to laws ensuring they pay well, offer insurance to their staff, and must offer reasonable lunch breaks and holiday time. All of this adds up when competing with factories that are not subject to these requirements.
We are willing to accept the higher cost to us in order to get the quality we want, and not contribute to poor working conditions. We are incredibly proud of the garments made with the Practice Cloth and stand behind them 100%. We're pretty certain that years from now, when you reach for a practice cloth top, you'll agree.