Climb to a clear enough vantage that you’re able to see all that encompasses the current trends in American menswear. Take a deep breath. Realize that whether it’s the surprising return of long-forgotten, stodgy, old stalwarts or the rise of young up-and-comers whose offerings nod to grandpa’s simple, clean designs — now regarded as classics — realize that above all else, these brands share an appreciation for capital “Q” Quality: sturdy construction, the folksy tradition of the handmade, and a passionate regard for origin (consider it a locavorism of the garment kind). Designers and brothers Emil and Sandy Corsillo of Connecticut-based accessories line, The Hill-Side had this in mind when they introduced their durable neckties and handkerchiefs earlier this year.
Named for the street they grew up on, The Hill-Side takes components of Americana and turns them on their ear. The Corsillos have reached out to fabric producers like North Carolina’s Cone Denim, the 113 year old producer of denim for clothing companies the world over; they’ve sourced from the rich Japanese varietals from Kojima, Okayama Prefecture, Japan, where, as Ryan Plett will tell you, “the best denim in the world is lovingly produced with artisan pride.” And, most recently, they’ve experimented with Kakishibu, 柿渋 a traditional Japanese persimmon “dye” — actually tannin molecules from the fermented juices of the green persimmon plant — whose eco-conscious process of dying has remained unchanged for centuries, and they’ve collaborated with waxed canvas producer Waxwear of Maryland, whose patented Martexin finishes have been free of hazardous solvents for almost 50 years.
Waxwear makes a Black Watch plaid product, and when I learned from Emil and Mr. Plett that The Hill-Side had acquired several yards of the stuff for ties, I jumped at the opportunity to write about it. Naturally, they are for sale at Context Clothing in Madison, Wisconsin, where I first learned of The Hill-Side. When I visited Context over the Memorial Day weekend, Ryan Huber had just learned of the company himself. In a textbook “great minds think alike” scenario, Huber had been working with a friend to produce a very similar product to what The Hill-Side puts out. I’ll let him tell it, as only he can.
When our local denim repair began, it was only Sam’s mother doing the repairs. Through word of mouth, it really took off. Sam and I hired our friend, Jess to help. I had purchased some amazing vintage fabrics from a local antique dealer and began sketching ideas for pocket squares and bandannas. The bandanna is a fascinating object to me. There is a beauty to the shape, and an infinite number of design variations within the shape. I wanted to make double-sided bandannas using pieces from chambray work shirts, circa 1905. Jess loved the idea and went to work on some prototypes. I really wanted ties, but I had trouble sourcing large pieces of vintage fabrics. The prototypes turned out beautifully, but we only had enough fabric to make a dozen or so. We never presented them on the site (some things are only available to those who come to visit: Context Beer, vintage apparel, antiques, and our bandannas). Then I received an e-mail from The Hill-Side presenting their inaugural collection. I flipped. Emil was making exactly what I was looking for. Needless to say, the response has been astonishing. The Kyoto Violet and Plum Violet pieces virtually disappear anytime we have them in stock. Emil has become a good friend, and it all started with the hanky. I am quite excited to present the ideas he and I have been discussing. I think they’ll be ready just in time for Holiday shopping.
Over the weekend, I became one of the first owners of the Black Watch Plaid-Coated Cotton Tie from The Hill-Side. I wore it today and was stopped three times. From now on, when wearing the tie, I’ll know to set aside five minutes to explain, “Yeah, it’s made in New York. Yeah, it’s made in America. Yeah, it’s plaid. No, I’m not contractually obligated to wear plaid.” Every tie and accompanying cardboard are stamped with the style number. The Black Watch ties are stamped, N55=005. N= “non-selvedge” 55= 55 inches long. It is the fifth non-selvedge tie they’ve made (the four previous models were: brown waxed canvas, N55-001; red waxed canvas, N55-002; blue and white pinstripe twill, N55-003; and Woodland camouflage, N55-004).
When first we met, Emil explained the arduous process of lining his chambray ties with a selvedge muslin material. Getting the two fabrics to line up just so and hang just right took his tailor a few trial runs before he had it mastered. Also fascinating, the assembly of the twill tape loop which sits behind the tie.
The edges of the twill-tape loop were starting to rip out after wearing the tie for a while, so we needed to find a way to sew it in with a proper machine bar-tack. The tie is assembled inside-out, but we had to figure out a way to stop stitching the main seam just after the loop has been caught in the seam, turn the tie right-side out, bar-tack the edges of the loop, then turn it inside-out again and finish the main seam.
For as utilitarian a tie as it is, no stone is left unturned.
And while the company derived its name from Hillside Avenue, the Corsillo brothers home address, the “The” which precedes it and its hyphenation were inspired by the oddly placed articles, hyphens, or conjoined words of old products, brand names, and advertising claims; Emil sees it as a way companies of an earlier era could claim their “novelty or brand identity.” He provided all plaidout with several pieces of photo evidence from his extensive personal collection.
The Hill-Side’s ties and kerchiefs revel in a high standard of manufacturing. They reference tough-as-nails fabrics from the industrial age, and they act as wearable art: a tongue-in-cheek nod to their far more formal brethren. As I await the next, exciting chapter in this young brand’s story, I look forward to what is on the horizon: cool collaborations with companies doing it right, new products made of patchwork, an ever-expanding source of exotic fabrics including a refined tie-die, and a “Limited Supply” collection made of special vintage fabric pieces like a simple pre-war beige cotton canvas with an irregular weave, or an irregular black and white striped selvedge chambray, or a 1940s striped chambray with six different colored stripes. As Emil and Sandy develop their brand, so too will their tastes continue to develop and manifest themselves in the clothes. Let their discoveries become your discoveries; tumble down The Hill-Side today.