Monday, June 8, 2009

Kirby Allison's Hanger Project

Too few men, alas, pay enough attention to what they wear, and even fewer pay any attention to caring for the things that they wear. It is perhaps a sign of the inexorable decline of modern society that clothing is viewed by the majority of the male population today as either an afterthought or else as something vaguely effeminate, right up there with champagne, riesling and poulsard.

For those who do realize that they way you appear to others actually matters, the world of men's dress is often a frustrating place. True style has been largely supplanted by fashion, to the point where most people are unable to distinguish between the two. The concept of proper fit has become even more elusive than the understanding of a wine's terroir. The quality of available garments is rapidly declining from mediocre to downright appalling, meaning that simply procuring a well-constructed, properly fitting article of clothing often necessitates custom tailoring. And dammit, you just can't get any good hangers anymore.

Fortunately, Mr. Kirby Allison has stepped in to address this last dilemma. I guarantee that the majority of men, even those who do think about what they wear, rarely stop to consider the seemingly innocuous object that faithfully bears the burden of supporting their clothing day in and day out. That is a grave mistake. As with wine, clothing needs to be stored properly in order to maintain its optimum condition, and nothing could be easier than hanging a suit on a properly contoured wooden hanger—ideally, one from Kirby Allison's Hanger Project. This is the Rolls-Royce of hangers.

"The whole project stemmed from the frustration of how impossible it was to find good suit hangers," says Allison. "Everything is either plastic or cheap wood. We wanted to create the best hanger for the best clothes—no compromises. Something that would make a meaningful difference in keeping jackets looking great. No more creased trousers and collapsed, limp jackets."

What makes Allison's hangers different? First of all, they're contoured rather than straight, and not just a little contoured, but radically so, adhering much more closely to the natural curve of the shoulders. Your jacket is designed to lie on the contoured outlines of your body, and unless your hanger follows similar lines, the jacket will be pulled out of shape when it is hung. "The most important characteristic of our hangers is the support they lend to the garment," says Allison. "Proper support is essential to protecting the work that went into creating a jacket. Without proper support, jackets quickly lose their shape." This photo shows the hanger from above, to show you how pronounced the shape is, as well as how generously flared the shoulders are—at a whopping 2.5 inches in depth, the shoulders are five times the size of the industry's average.

Second of all, these hangers are sized. Width is important because of how the hanger supports the shoulders of your jacket—too short and it doesn't hold up the shoulder; too wide and it extends into the sleeve, stretching and potentially damaging the jacket. Allison's hangers come in three sizes—17 inches, 18.5 inches and 20 inches—ensuring a proper fit. I'm a small guy, small enough that a size 36 coat purchased off the rack needs to be taken in. The 17-inch hanger is an unusually small size (most commercially-available hangers are between 17.5 and 19 inches in width), and it's just about the maximum width possible for my jackets.

Third, these hangers are crafted with a keen attention to detail. Made of solid, responsibly-harvested American maple wood, they are highly polished and stained with a vibrantly lustrous, bubinga-like finish—while some manufacturers boast unfinished cedar hangers, I actually don't like those at all, as they tend to be rougher in texture, potentially snagging your clothing, and they can even sometimes secrete natural oils. The finish and feel of Allison's hangers are beautiful, and even just looking at this hanger sitting here on my desk makes me want to touch it. In addition, the locking ring hook is attached with an embedded washer instead of a threaded screw as most hangers are, meaning that this hanger can support a lot more weight, and the hook will never pull out or strip. Originally, the hangers were fitted with a locking trouser bar, which is something I never use—if you actually put your trousers into those things, they will crease badly, and then you need a trouser press. (And come on, how many of us actually have one of those?) Allison had the brilliant idea of replacing this with a thick, felted trouser bar that holds trousers securely in place without creasing them at all. Why all hangers don't come equipped with one of these, I really don't know.

But yes, I hear you. This is frivolous, you say. I have neither a Savile Row suit nor a Rubinacci jacket , so why should I care how it is stored? Please. Do you store your Burgundy on top of the fridge just because it's not Romanée-Conti? I realize, unfortunately, that many men nowadays don't even wear jackets, much less suits, but if you do, and if your suits come from anywhere better than H&M, you need to at least think about caring for your garments. The first and most basic step is putting them on a good hanger. They're not even overly expensive: the suit hangers are sold in sets of three for US$74.85, making them $24.95 apiece, and they can be shipped anywhere in the world. While this may be more than the cheap, flimsy wooden hangers you buy at Target, it's a remarkably small price to pay in the relative scheme of things, especially for the superior quality of the product. As Allison says, "We’re the shoe tree of suits. If you spend $15 on a pair of shoe trees for $300 shoes, why wouldn’t you spend $25 on a hanger for an $800 suit?" Hangers are also available for shirts, trousers and jackets, and Allison's line includes hangers for women as well. Forget about that tie that Dad's never going to wear—this Father's Day, give him something different. But keep at least one of these hangers for yourself. You might never go back to those other flimsy things ever again.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

If anyone wants to know why blogging is not the future of wine writing, I will refer them to this post. I defy anyone to tell the difference between a suit stored on a pretentious designer hanger and one stored on a standard wooden number, as available at any French (but not American) market.
I hope at least you are getting a commission on sales.

Peter Liem said...

And if anyone wants to name their child Anonymous, I will refer them to you. To be perfectly clear, I am making no commission on any sales, nor do I have any financial interest whatsoever in The Hanger Project. I simply believe in their hangers, and chose to write about them.

ned said...

I can't think of anything potentially less pretentious than a clothes hangar. Just when would the pretense be on display? Nobody ever sees my hangars nor do I see theirs. Like almost everything these days there exist, basic, adequate, cheap designs and better made, better designed, more costly ones. The value and utility of any particular product is a matter for the purchaser to decide. Ironically the express purpose here is to leave no trace of their use.

The thing that makes an interesting blog is an interesting person. People I find interesting aren't one dimensional or narrowly focused. An important aspect of a blog is that it's free, in more ways than one. One of those ways is obligation, that is, the blogger has no obligation to readers to write about
one topic exclusively.

Michael said...

Great comeback Peter! I would love to see anonymous postings go away. Even though I don't wear suits your description of a well made hanger makes me want one, or three.

Samantha Dugan said...

I think the hangers sound wicked cool, and practical...I mean you are right, we spend lots of money on the suits, why have them sit on a hanger and get wierd creases, so we have to take them to get pressed...if you think about it, those hangers could end up saving us money

And speaking as a parent, if my child were a single minded twit...I might just name them Anonymous too

Anonymous said...

Brilliant post! I have actually spent time trying to find proper hangers. Good to see it's not just me.

Johnny, Stockholm

wooden coat hangers said...

That is brilliant!

Luxury Wooden Hangers said...

Spending money to buy luxury wooden hangers is totally worth. As people spend so much in purchasing the luxurious suits, it becomes important for them to do something for the proper protection for the suits.