Review: Anderson-Little "Classic Blue" Blazer
Anderson-Little was relaunched last year by entrepreneur Scott Anderson and father Stuart Anderson, following years of changing corporate hands and finally closing down altogether. The rights were obtained in 2008 after Scott discovered there was no copyright claim to his family's business. Unlike many American companies now, their focus is on making an affordable garment right here in the United States. Anderson-Little, founded in the midst of the Great Depression in 1933, was the innovator of the factory direct outlet model. This allowed them to pass on the savings to the customer. (Scott wanted me to note that the so-called "outlet malls" filled with cheaper made and irregular goods are nothing but impostors.)
Today, customers are just as important as they were back then to Scott Anderson. To that end, he makes sure you get the right size by including fields for height, waist measurement, and weight on the online order form. If he sees any discrepancy with the size ordered, he'll call you himself (which is why a phone number is requested) to make sure you have been measured correctly. When you call customer service, a real person answers and fields your questions 24/7. Scott himself answers from time to time! He also once invited a customer who'd gotten the wrong size to come over to try some on in person, being that he lived right nearby, guaranteeing his money back if they couldn't find a properly fitting blazer. It's this level of care and attention to detail that sets their customer service a notch above many, if not all the clothing companies I've dealt with.
For the blazer I was to review, he called me to make sure a 40 long would work with my waist size, which he claims is more important than the chest measurement, and height. To his credit, it did fit quite well. It was also great fun listening to him describe his business goals and history of how the new A-L came to be. Scott also told me about how this type of business is important in the economic times we're in. In particular, he wants the average man to be able to afford a blazer for job interviews. The decision to make a navy, two brass button blazer as the first garment was arrived at because it makes a good "foundation garment" as he calls it. Sound logic. It's inexpensive, goes with almost anything, and is wrinkle-resistant. Parents may find this a good option for their teenage sons going to homecoming dances. The average man who just needs a coat and tie could use it to attend informal weddings. The business traveller might even use it to stay clean pressed in a cramped airplane, either on their person or just tossed into an overhead compartment, retrieved right before meeting their associates. Personally, I think college students could wear it instead of a t-shirt and cargos to the local Olive Garden. Their girlfriends, who actually put some effort into what they're wearing, deserve much better than that. While I don't condone wearing distressed jeans, untucked shirt, and square toed shoes like the model on the website, I suppose it is a step up. Scott was actually surprised that most of his customers are in the under-35 demographic rather than older men who have grown up wearing clothing from the original incarnation of A-L. I suppose there's hope for my generation yet...
The blazer arrives inside a wide, square box. Wider than you'd expect. This is to keep it in shape, folded once in half, for its trip to the customer. Wrinkle-resistant is the operative term, after all. The box is purposely easy to open -- fool proof -- and includes a hanger. I even got a personal note from Scott himself! The packaging is an answer to all the garments he's received "looking like they were crumpled into a ball". Now, on to the blazer itself. It was comfortable to wear, but I found myself longing for the higher, smaller armholes I've seen on vintage coats (including some from Anderson-Little back in its heyday). It would allow more freedom of movement and help banish the myth that all tailored clothing must be uncomfortable. But, I digress.
The cut is neither too boxy or slim, though still definitely American. This is probably not for those who wear tight coats that pull at the waist button with drainpipe trousers. The 40L fit almost perfectly, leaving just enough cuff showing on my shirt. Some taller guys in my chest size (I am 6'1) might find the sleeves a bit skimpy however. One of the few drawbacks I found was that the lapels and sleeves were quite flat when it arrived. I recommend a re-shaping if you know how to press coats. I also felt that the included clear plastic hanger didn't do it justice. [Note: I've received word from Scott that they've replaced them with better hangers at the factory due to my suggestion.] The shoulders seemed a bit lumpy and misshapen until I hung it from one of my wooden suit hangers overnight. This proves, once again, that good hangers are a must for tailored clothing. I also wish that the left lapel had a flower hole. While it turns out that A-L garments didn't have them in the past either, I still feel it lends a more finished look.
The wrinkle resistance works pretty well; the coat still looked good in the back even after watching a play for two hours. This is where coats generally get wrinkled the most from sitting down a long time. The fabric, while a polyester/wool blend, doesn't look like it to all but the most trained eyes. It was also surprisingly light and breathable. I'm not really a fan of polyester, as are most clothing enthusiasts, but the properties of the fabric (which was carefully selected and custom dyed by A-L) fill a niche for people who need an easy-care garment that dresses up or down easily. Surprisingly enough though, it has more stitching and less fusing than many competing coats in the same price range, even those made of 100% wool.
The Anderson-Little "Classic Blue" is a great value for the money, especially for being made in the U.S.A. If you want an easy-care blazer for travelling or your first piece of real menswear, it can't be beat. It doesn't hurt that the customer service is also exceptional. Now, if only they started making suits...
(Sadly, my low quality photos don't do it justice.)
Update: 7/24/2012 -- I wish to clarify, since this is the most viewed post on Nouveau Vintage and one of the few reviews online, that I did not receive material compensation for this review. The blazer was sent to me, I reviewed it for the purpose of giving an honest critique and sent it right back. I still stand by what I said in this review today. I only say this because there was a small kerfluffle at a certain clothing forum where baseless accusations were thrown at the reviewer of the garment.
Since my review Anderson-Little have switched to subtle, antiqued brass buttons rather than the shiny ones seen in my pictures above. Also, they seem to have made the button stance a little higher, with the bottom button as much as an inch above the pockets. I respectfully submitted to Scott Anderson that a lower stance is preferable and works on more people, so I hope it will be taken into consideration.
In other news, they have since come out with a version of the blazer in black fabric with silver buttons. The silver buttons are also available separately to add to the navy blazer if you are so inclined.
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