The Anatomy of a $155 Polo Shirt


What: CBS News interviews designers Katherine and Jared MacLane regarding the costs of making a $155 KP MacLane polo shirt.

What They Say: From the designers…

“We almost took a backwards approach to manufacturing. A lot of people look at, ‘Oh, how are we going to keep our costs low so we can make a higher profit?’ And what we looked at is, ‘What can we do to make this the best shirt possible?’ And then we’ll price it from there.”

What We Say: Where do we begin with this? Reading the interview was… painful, to say the least. While we would have to give props to the KP Maclane team for being upfront with their pricing, there were a couple of things in the story that really got our goat.

First of all, we’re not exactly sure why keeping costs low for higher profits is a “backwards approach”. In fact, we think it’s a rather textbook example of doing business. We won’t take it against manufacturers if they buy cheaper raw materials so they can pass on the savings to us consumers. Also, we actually don’t mind if they’re making good profit on their products, as long as they sell it to us at a reasonable price.

What we do mind, though, is manufacturers who try to justify their ridiculous pricing with poor marketing spins. The designers claim to base their prices on workmanship and quality. We later learn that “the best shirt possible”, which retails for $155, consists of a $6.50/yard shirt, $0.03 apiece buttons (their excruciating decision-making process between true mother of pearls buttons and their current button choice is a must-read!), a $2.90 shirt bag from Vietnam, $11 of U.S. labor, and the little things like costs of thread, labels, shipping, etc. All in all, the shirt costs $30 to make… which then gets a 400% price markup once it reaches stores. A most usual happening in the industry, the article assures. We’ve never felt more dismayed.

Now… we don’t pass judgment on people who like to shop luxury. Everyone’s got dreams, and as long as you earned the moolah fair and square, then we’re definitely happy for you. We also do not think businesses are Darth Vader incarnates for making profits. BUT we do think it’s outrageous that they’re representing the $120 markup with empty self-serving lingo (“a story behind each shirt”… seriously?! Are they even trying?!) and no actual value for the buyer. In today’s economy, $155 is a weekly family food budget, $30 is what a decent polo shirt should cost, and a $155 polo shirt is simply an anachronism.

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