"New England is quite as large a lump of earth as my heart can really take in." - Nathaniel Hawthorne

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Reds; Nantucket Reds From Murray's Toggery; What to Wear With Nantucket Reds; and Alternatives

Reds

Reds, such as Nantucket Reds, are an iconic style and color of pants. 
Probably long before Murray's Nantucket Reds were invented, the red pants of choice of yachtsmen and crew, were of course the 'real' Breton Reds. Long ago I picked up a pair of these classic yachting pants while sailing the Channel Races. The pants, after a while, turned a fabulous washed out red that could only be achieved by being on the ocean (not counting the Nantucket fast ferry). They were soft, the right degree of "baggy" and worn by just about every blue water sailor. (Comment, skiwithapro, May 28, 2013)
As to the choice of pants: Murray's are, sadly, now made in China, but at least as of last summer, they were still the heavier sailcloth. In my experience, the Chinese products fade less quickly. (The ones in the older color on the shelves at Murray's are almost certainly unsold pleated pants.) I'm a customer of the Nobby shop and enjoy shopping there, but it's simply a different product. Think cocktails, not clamming; garden parties, not golf. I own both and use them for different purposes.(Comment, February 14, 2013)

Sources of Reds include:
    A true prep knows that the only place to get Nantucket Reds is from Murray's Toggery Shop on Nantucket because they are the original. Anything else is a rip-off. (Comment, February 15, 2013)
    The Nobby pants (I am guessing made in the US by Berle) are very nice, a little thinner and probably more suited to casual wear and warmer climates than the actual Reds, which despite color problems are more rugged though still a good choice for casual wear in the right environment. (John G., March 20, 2014)

    Nantucket Reds

    Nantucket Reds are the famous pants sold by Murray's Toggery Shop <http://www.nantucketreds.com/>. The standard Nantucket Reds are now made in China, but a new line - M Crest - offers a Made in the US version.


    A palette for Nantucket Reds
    Nantucket Reds change color with age, salt, and sun.  Women's new canvas Nantucket Reds behind; slightly seasoned Women's poplin Nantucket Reds in front.
    I've been asking relatives in my family how they remembered buying Nantucket Reds back in the day, and all the old timers agreed there was a time when the pants were *not* "pre washed". When you bought them, they were stiff as a board and over time they faded to the red everyone loves. There was a period when they started pre-washing the reds. Was in the late 80's? 90's? when the trend started and *everything* was "prewashed". Ever since then, the Reds have gone downhill. I've stopped buying them. I'm intrigued by the Made In America line, but, still pre washed. I guess I'm old fashioned. I like breaking clothes in. They last longer. (Wasp Decor, March 19, 2014)
    I remember when Reds were, well, really pretty well red. They faded to that marvelous, soft, pinkish color over time and a hard life. I'm not sure I understand the appeal of pre-abused clothing. I like to do the abusing myself. :)   (Jennings and Gates, March 21, 2014)
    We always bought our "reds" at the Holmes Store in Northeast and dragged them behind the boat to soften and fade them. (Katahdin, March 21, 2014)

    What to Wear with Nantucket Reds

    One of the most frequently asked questions  is, "What should I wear with Nantucket Reds?"  For most,  the palette is very narrow: blue, white and natural.  Stay away from pink and red, and green is difficult.  Then use motif belts to add some color if desired.

    While this is limiting, here are a handful of possible pairings.

    (Note:  Belts are from Leather Man Ltd.)

    With Striped Button Downs and Code Flags




    With Navy or White Polo Shirts




    With Seersucker

    With Oxford Cloth Button downs


    With Norwegian Birdseye Crew neck Sweaters
    With Wool Aran Crew Neck


    Selecting and Tailoring Nantucket Reds

    It was time to buy another pair of Nantucket Reds. While the Men’s pants seem fairly straight forward to buy, the Women’s fit is a bit trickier.  On the originals, the waist comes up higher than is comfortable for some.

    This left Poplin Low Rise pants. Although the rise is, as the name suggests, lower, it is by no means too low. In fact the fit in the waist turned out to be very comfortable, and the front pockets nice and deep.

    If only they were US made instead of in China...
    From the knees down, however, it was a different story. They were very long,  too much fabric; and the bottoms flared out.  The solution is to take them to the local seamstress to have them shortened and the legs taken in from the knees down.


    This is how they looked straight out of the bag.
    The result worked. Next,  breaking in until they achieve that perfect Nantucket Red pink.
    I've had half a dozen pairs over the years, but I can't bring myself to wear them anymore. Not even ironically. The last pair I got at Murrays (a long time ago) were cut horribly -- stove pipe legs, about as dumpy and frumpy as one could (not very happily) imagine. I had them tailored (legs pegged, actually) which improved them, but since I've (ahem) "outgrown" them, on the shelf they sat for a number of years before I finally bit the bullet (or the red in this case) and said adios and off they went to the Nearly New Shoppe where I am sure they were scooped up for $1.50 by a sterno drinking bum who looks better in them than I ever did. BTW a great source for them super cheap is the hospital thrift shop on Nantucket, where they have dozens and dozens of pairs in various states of wear to choose from for $5.00 a pair or so! (Reggie Darling, February 15, 2013)

    M Crest collection

    Here is how a member of the Murray family responded to our inquiry about their US made Nantucket Reds M Crest collection:
    Our M Crest collection currently only consists mainly of Men's items in Nantucket Red (such as our new slim fit Nantucket Red pants (unfinished only) and shorts (with a 7" inseam)). It also offers Nantucket Red bow ties and neckties, a Nantucket Red bow tie and cummerbund set, Nantucket Red pocket squares, and a Nantucket Red sport jacket. These are all done in collaboration with Corbin and are all Made in America! We make sure that every item in the M Crest collection is Made in America. We also have the M Crest Nantucket Red canvas tote bag with leather handles, made in collaboration with Leatherman/Eliza B.   
    The M Crest comes from our Murray family crest, which my grandfather had developed with an artist. The M represents M for Murray of course, and is Red as an ode to Nantucket Red. The lion represents his zodiac sign, the Leo, which truly was a reflection of his outgoing and vivacious personality in life and in business. The scallop shells represent life on Nantucket, and the blue background reflects the ocean that surrounds us here on Nantucket. We make sure to include this M Crest label in each item in the M Crest collection.   
    The first items we designed and started selling for the M Crest collection were the slim fit pants and shorts - as a response to our loyal customers asking for Reds with a better fit that were made in America (similar to the very first Reds my grandfather sold). We are very proud of their success, and have enjoyed expanding the line to include more items for men, and eventually ones for women and children.  

    Other Nantucket Reds questions:

    Q:  When is the correct time to wear Nantucket Reds/Breton Reds?
    A:  While summer is traditional, many think of theirs as three season, as long as they can comfortably go sockless.


    Q. Should you cuff Nantucket Reds?
    If the Nantucket reds have cuffs, I wouldn't worry about it, but I wouldn't get cuffs on them myself if I were buying a new pair. I get cuffs only on wool grey flannel trousers and on summer-weight grey wool trousers. (JR Comment, September 28, 2013)
    I prefer them uncuffed. Easier to roll up and they dry faster. If they are just "for show" with a navy blazer, go for a cuff. It's what all the other folks do at the yacht club.  (Comment, September 29, 2013)
     A quick answer: Strictly speaking, it's best NOT to cuff Brick/Nantucket/Breton Reds or any other trousers ostensibly meant for shipboard wear as "turn ups" could catch on cleats and other objects. (Katahdin, September 29, 2013)
    One can see both on-island, but the clear majority are not cuffed (particularly of the thicker, sailcloth Murray's Reds). Personal preference to some degree, but I agree with the comments on cuffs being a bit more formal. I think Reds are made to be used, not just worn, so I would go without cuffs. (John, September 30, 2013)
    No cuff for reds - they are too casual, in my opinion. (Emily, September 30, 2013) 
    Cuffs are original to casual pants and are almost entirely absent in men's formal pants and trousers.  (Anonymous, October 2, 2013)