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Mizzen+Main Makes a Play for Menswear Market

If you’re not familiar with sailing, the words mizzen and main likely mean nothing to you. Unless you’re a fan of men’s dress shirts made from performance fabrics, that is, in which case Mizzen+Main (named after two masts on a sailboat) is your solution to sweat stains.

“Ten years ago, working in Washington, D.C., in the summer heat, I watched a staffer run into a very important meeting soaked in sweat,” Kevin Lavelle, founder and chief executive officer of the Dallas-based menswear brand, recalled. “His shirt was two different colors, sticking to him, and all-around terrible looking. It was unflattering to an up-and-coming statesman. An hour later when his shirt was finally dry, it was wrinkled and disheveled.”

As he watched the situation play out, Lavelle was prompted to think about the performance polo shirts worn in golf and tennis. Thus, the idea for a moisture-wicking dress shirt was born.

Mizzen+Main launched in 2012 with one white dress shirt. The line has since grown to include Spinnaker and Leeward—two full collections of dress shirts—as well as polos, pants and pullovers. It also closed a $3 million Series B round in April, bringing its total funding to $4.55 million.

“What sets us apart from other brands is that our shirts are made with performance fabrics but in a traditional style,” Lavelle explained, noting that one of his shirts’ major selling points is their low maintenance. “They can be machine washed and hung to dry with no ironing or dry cleaning. When I was testing the new Leeward Collection material earlier this year, I was traveling and I had no access to a washer. I literally washed my shirt in a hotel sink and it was ready to go a few minutes later.”

That’s a fact the brand likes to call out on its website. All of its shirts claim to be ready to wear 16 minutes after being hung up to dry. The reason: they’re made from a proprietary semi-porous, moisture-wicking fabric that also offers four-way stretch. And nothing ever needs dry cleaning.

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“We have had very positive feedback and a lot of our customers try a shirt and come back and order two or three more,” Lavelle shared. “People that dress up every day want to be comfortable and we give them that comfortability with our performance fabrics.”

Prices range from $70 for a henley to $145 for a quarter-zip pullover. The dress shirts are $125. Notably, everything is made in the USA at a manufacturer near Philadelphia. But Lavelle doesn’t think that comes into play during the path to purchase.

“I don’t think most people look at their purchases and have a very conscious thought process over where something is produced. Being American-made is a part of our DNA. We’re more than just a product or brand. It’s core to who we are,” he said. “Knowing most people don’t consciously choose an American-made product doesn’t dissuade me from doing what I believe is right. I know that people respect our choices and want other businesses to make similar choices where possible.”