If you’ve ever heard of Damariscotta, Maine (population 2,297), it’s likely on account of its namesake oyster. However, tasty bivalves aren’t the only thing coming out of the “Oyster Capital of New England” these days: the Downeast burg is also the unlikely home of a bespoke shirtmaker.
Funnily enough, it’s the oysters that drew Tony Parrotti to Damariscotta in the first place. Parrotti, who taught himself to sew in college and went on to work as a shirtmaker for a bespoke New York City tailor, was road tripping through Maine with his wife when he had his first Damariscotta oyster.
“That is really all it took to lead us to our new town,” Parrotti tells Robb Report, adding that he also felt inspired by acquaintances who’d established a traditional English wool mill in rural Andalusia. “It got me seriously thinking about moving my shirt operation to a place that we wanted to live, but never thought would be possible with the type of work we were both doing.”
Parrotti made it possible, establishing Tony Shirtmakers in 2014 and tailoring designs more fitting for Vacationland. A sampling of his dozens of made-to-order styles turns up plaid camp shirts, ripstop fly fishing jackets, and barn jackets made from 10-ounce duck canvas. However, not everything can be so easily pictured in an Andrew Wyeth scene: more eclectic choices include shackets made from vintage, retro-colored flannel, and linen camp shirts dyed with fermented indigo.
The majority of the business is done through the bespoke program, which invites clients to create their own designs with Parrotti and conduct fittings virtually or in-person at his studio. Consequently, some of these bespoke commissions have inspired designs for his made-to-measure and made-to-order services (In addition, a small collection of readymade items are sold through the business’s official website, and stocked by No Man Walks Alone.)
“My work is heavily influenced by custom commissions that my clients bring to me. They spark an idea and I do my own spin on it,” Parrotti says, adding that he also finds inspiration in vintage.
Though diverse, Parrotti believes his output is united by the key hallmarks of bespoke shirtmaking, including clean finished seams and structured collars and cuffs. “Formal and polished details elevate every piece that I make, balanced with sturdiness and structure to ensure my pieces have longevity,” he says.
Every shirt is made from start to finish by Parrotti, who only recently hired an apprentice to assist with the process. His wife handles the business’s logistics, allowing Parrotti to remain concentrated on craft. In terms of fabric, he sources from a handful of small English, Italian and Japanese suppliers, in addition to a dealer of deadstock fabrics based in NYC.
Parrotti says his business has received a warm reception in the Pine Tree State thanks to a local reverence for small-scale production. “Maine has a lot of makers—people who like to create and understand the value of craft. I have been very lucky to make a lot of really amazing work for people up and down the coast.”
So far, 2022 is shaping up to be an exciting year for Tony Shirtmakers. Parrotti is working on new commissions including a “photographer’s jacket” intended for fly fishing and his own interpretation of a Florentine hunting jacket. He’s also experimenting with using high-end suiting and coating fabrics in new silhouettes.
“I think people want to have comfortable alternatives to the sportcoat or formal suit that still offer the best fabric and fit while being a bit more functional for everyday use,” he says.
All this from a good oyster.