A couple of readers have asked me why there’s not more workwear or indigo-dyed jackets and shirts on the blog. I suppose the honest reason is that there would be way too much to write about…and I have been too lazy to expand this blog into more holistic explorations of workwear trends and heritage fashions.
That being said, just looking at belts and pants all the time can be a bit boring, so I want to have more focus on other articles of clothing in more detail for round two. Last year there had been a few footwear reviews, and from this point forward I’d like to add in some vests, jackets and shirts to the mix as well.
So, something a little bit different today…
The ‘Sacrebleu’ T-shirt by Gran Manitou.
Gran Manitou is a new Canadian brand specializing in heritage style, limited edition T-shirts hand-made with natural fabrics such as wool & silk. Taking inspiration from the early French-Canadian explorers and woodsmen of the 17th century, Gran Manitou aims to create T-shirts that will wear and age like fine leather jackets or narrow-loom denim dungarees.
The Sacrebleu T-shirt is one of their first offerings, combining a modified Henley shirt pattern with fine Australian merino wool and indigo hand-dyeing.
Given the wool fabric has a bit of stretch, this T-shirt can be fitted to your liking by sizing it differently. For me, who has a 44 inch chest circumference, the XL featured here gives a relaxed fit, and sizing down to a L would give a much more fitted silhouette.
The neck opening and shoulders are quite generous, which is great for the Australian summer I’m currently sweating through. Again, simply size down if you want a trimmer fit. At true to size, I’d say this T-shirt has a modified box-fit, being a little more drape-y and longer than most vintage Ts – more comfortable for those with larger chests or wider shoulders.
The longer length is great, given that I am not sized like someone from the early 20th century… For reference, this XL shirt extends about 8 cm past my belt, and I am 185 cm tall. The curved hem lends to an enhanced appearance when the shirt is not tucked.
The raw material for the fabric and the fabric itself are both produced in Australia. The superfine Merino wool is woven here in shrimpy land into a light but dense fabric in a sustainable and eco-friendly manner.
I think here lies a significant part of what makes this T-shirt special. You can use the longest staple cotton and spin it on the slowest setting on the most ancient loop-wheel knitting machine, but at the end of the day the cotton fabric cannot match the performance, drape or longevity of a fine wool fabric.
This Merino wool fabric is then hand-dyed with pure synthetic indigo by Gran Manitou, each shirt being vat-dipped three times. As you might expect for hand-dyeing fabrics such as linen or wool, the appearance of the dye is variegated and quite lustrous.
A very cool aspect of this indigo + wool combination is that, being made of fine wool, this T-shirt does not need to be washed in water very often – making do with regular airing of the shirt, with an occasional cold hand-wash – allowing it to be worn much like raw denim and to age with more character.
The folks at Gran Manitou have tested not washing this shirt for up to one year without odors emerging…though I don’t think I can achieve such a long run with the much hotter climate here in Australia :-p
The buttons are made of mother-of-pearl.
The Sacrebleu T-shirt is entirely hand-made in Canada by the folks at Gran Manitou.
The tag is sewn into the collar construct.
The three buttons are hand-sewn, with the button holes very nicely made.
The red lamb-skin tag on the left sleeve adds a bit of contrast.
All the seams and joints are securely and neatly lock-stitched using black threading.
All in all, a very secure and neat make. No frayed edges or loose threading at all; certainly, made for durable wear.
Overall, a few very interesting twists on the classic T make this Sacrebleu shirt from Gran Manitou a garment that is worth checking out for workwear and indigo enthusiasts.
At $120 CAD, it’s not the cheapest T-shirt, thought I believe it to be good value. Consider the countries of origin for the materials and manufacturing, the fact that it is made out of superfine Merino wool, that the fabric is hand vat-dyed and the very careful hand-make. Compared with tube-knit cotton T-shirts from, let’s say, the Japanese denim & workwear brands – which usually would cost at least $100 – the Sacrebleu shirt is similarly priced yet utilizes a superior fabric with better performance & drape.
Further, the sizing and the cut are much more compatible with Western builds and larger East Asian folks like myself, without straying too much from old school aesthetics, unlike the strict vintage box fits (featured on many Japanese Ts) that tend to be too short, too tight around the neck or fit awkwardly in the shoulders & chest.
Certainly a new maker worth checking out, and I’ve heard that more exciting garments are on the way for the next northern hemisphere summer as well. Definitely head to their website and have a look at Gran Manitou!