Kevin Lavelle knew his idea would work the day he came home wearing his prototype, a white dress shirt made of technical fabric.
Lavelle first had the idea for sweat-wicking dress shirts while working as a summer intern on Capitol Hill when he was a freshman at SMU in 2005. He saw a staffer rushing into a meeting, his shirt drenched with sweat.
On that day last year, when Lavelle left for work in a regular white dress shirt and returned home to Oak Cliff in the prototype, his wife, Jen, didn’t notice the difference.
“When I saw it on the hanger, I wasn’t sure,” he recalls. “Until that moment, I wasn’t sure it was going to work.”
Now the company he started with partners Web Smith and Steven DeWitt, Mizzen + Main, offers 12 dress shirts in sweat-wicking fabrics as well as two Henley shirts.
Since the company launched in July 2012, the market has responded well, Lavelle says.
“A lot of people buy them all,” he says. “The overwhelming response is, ‘Why hasn’t anyone done this before?’ ”
The shirts are available for $58-$125 each online as well as in Pebble + Pine golf boutique in the Bishop Arts District and Warehaus in the West Village.
Lavelle worked as an international management consultant for two years before working in emerging energy technology for the Hunt family of companies.
He quit his job in 2011 to develop the Mizzen + Main shirts.
“It was an incredibly difficult journey to find all the manufacturing components I needed,” he says.
For starters, he tested about 5,000 fabrics.
Fashion and garment manufacturing are difficult industries to navigate, he says. Besides that, he was asking for something that had never been done before. There are plenty of cut-and-sew houses that will produce dress shirts. And there are plenty that will produce garments made of stretchy fabrics. But there are very few that will do both, Lavelle says.
He couldn’t find a manufacturer in Texas, so he went with one on the East Coast.
Mizzen + Main now is working on producing a sport coat made of technical fabric, and plans are in the works for a flagship store in Columbus, Ohio, the home of partner and SMU alumnus Web Smith.
Recently, the company provided shirts for the announcers of the CrossFit Games on ESPN, and they’ve recruited a few professional athletes to wear their shirts.
The Mizzen + Main website, mizzenandmain.com, sells the company’s own products as well as others they like, such as Hook + Albert dress socks, sunglasses from Canby and leather goods from Noah Marion Quality Goods.