Made in America: All the Presidents' Suits

Last Updated Jul 3, 2011 9:37 PM EDT

Republicans and Democrats don't agree on much, but the leaders of both parties have one thing in common: the same American-made suit. The death of American manufacturing has been greatly exaggerated, and one of the success stories is HMX Group, the parent company of Hickey Freeman and Hart Schaffner Marx

Both suit makers have been manufacturing on these shores for more than a century, and outfitting presidents at least as far back as Dwight Eisenhower. Though all manufacturers, especially those in the textile industry, have felt the pressure of lower-cost overseas competition, manufacturing has been a bright spot in the tepid economic recovery. Economists, in fact, were surprised by a strong uptick in manufacturing in June.

"These are iconic brands, that have built reputations of great quality and great style, all made in America," said Joseph Abboud, president and creative director for HMX Group, the retail conglomerate managing both brands. "We're so proud of that."

In addition to Eisenhower, Ronald Reagan, and Barack Obama have worn suits made byRochester, N.Y.-based Hickey Freeman. Chicago-based Hart Schaffner Marx - which made the suit Obama wore for his inauguration - has outfitted former President George H.W. Bush and Vice President Joe Biden.

Abboud acknowledges that his high-end brands (a Hickey Freeman suit runs from $1495 and $3000) face stiff competition from less-expensive foreign-made suits. But he believes customers recognize American-made quality.

"We don't outright ask anybody to buy us because we're made in America," Abboud said. "But we do ask someone to buy from us because we have an extraordinary fit, great fabric, and relevant style. But the fact that they are one and the same is pretty special."

Not that either brand has breezed through the economic storm. In 2009, their former parent company, HartMarx, declared bankruptcy. But under new ownership and new leadership, Hickey Freeman and Hart Schaffner Marx are growing again, and hey, having the leaders of the free world advertising their goods doesn't hurt.

Says Abboud: "We support our leaders and if they want to support us by wearing our American-made suits, that's wonderful."
  • Drew Gannon