Eric Emanuel calls New York’s Garment District home, where he’s built his life around his label. Everything revolves around this place—his office, his home, and the factories where his creations come to life. He thrives on the controlled chaos of this bustling hub.
Every Friday, the frenzy kicks in as Emanuel drops a limited batch of products on his website. They vanish in seconds, leaving his vast Instagram following wanting more. His line-up boasts streetwear staples—hoodies, tees, sweatpants, and standout shorts that have become his signature.
Those shorts? They’re pure gold. Whether it’s bold patterns like florals or paisleys, or even a wild NYC skyline print, Emanuel’s above-the-knee shorts are unrivaled. They’ve propelled his brand from a local gem to a global sensation. Collaborations with big names like Mountain Dew, adidas, Reebok, and now the Philadelphia 76ers have solidified his status.
Emanuel’s everyday style is classic: his trendy mesh shorts, a vintage tee, and a Yankees cap. Sometimes he’ll jazz it up with a pair of Reebok Club C sneakers, one of his many collaborations. But he’s not afraid to switch it up, throwing in Gucci loafers—a nod to a trend he’s noticed on Instagram. And that’s precisely why his shorts are a hit—they’re versatile, meant to be rocked however one pleases.
Chatting about his journey, Emanuel’s story is far from short. From finding his niche to taking on new projects, his ascent has been a rollercoaster ride. But amidst it all, he reminds us—it’s just fashion, it’s meant to be fun.
Where are you from Eric?
I’m originally from Syracuse, but about eight or nine years back, I made the move to New York City to pursue marketing at FIT. It was during my final year there that I started crafting jerseys, and that turned into something I really ran with.
When did you start your label?
Changing the balance from one card to another while waiting for a sale to pay the bill was like juggling. I gambled on myself, believing that it would all be worthwhile eventually.
When does your shorts story begin?
I think it was about three years ago when I first got into the shorts. Initially, I started with a thicker, more traditional basketball short style inspired by Mitchell & Ness. But I was unable to pinpoint it exactly.The bulky waistband and the weight weren’t my thing. So, I pivoted to something more akin to the simple, single-layer shorts I wore back in my high school lacrosse days. That’s when things started clicking. Still, it wasn’t until the end of last summer that they really took off and gained traction.
Every Friday, it seems like a drop sells out right away. Is that exhilarating or frustrating?
It’s a mixed bag, really. You’d think selling out your product in a day would be this amazing high, but it comes with its frustrations. Dealing with folks disappointed they missed out isn’t exactly the harmonious moment you’d expect. So, I’m trying to strike a balance—meet the demand while pushing just a bit further.
I never anticipated this whole “cozy revolution” that’s taken over. Everything I released in the past couple of months was actually made during winter. We had limited quantities, and they flew off the shelves way too quickly. Then we hit pause on making shorts for about two months, waiting for New York to get a bit safer. To put it mildly, the experience has been pretty chaotic.
How else has Covid-19 affected your business?
I decided to speed things up because I was unsure about where the economy was headed. It was a bit of a gamble. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite go as planned—I ended up running out of product. It just wasn’t safe to keep producing until about a month ago. That’s when we finally hit our stride. Everyone was eager to get back to work, but figuring out a safe way to do it was a real challenge.
Now, whatever we make this week gets snapped up the next. I’m fortunate that being based in New York allows me to manage things that way. In an ideal scenario, I’d love to be about six weeks ahead, but hey, we’re making it work!
Declaring your product to be “The Best Shorts in the World” is a bold move, but that’s what the box says. What sets your shorts apart from the competition?
I chose a product that wasn’t on everyone’s radar. Sure, people liked shorts, but it wasn’t their main focus. Instead of starting with something like a T-shirt, I dove into a market that had less competition and worked on making that my own. Why are these shorts so great? Well, they’re like your favorite pair but with a bit of an upgrade. They hit just above the knee, you can go up a size for a looser fit, and they just feel great on.
There’s something in there for everyone. Personally, I’m into solid colors, but a bunch of folks adore the patterns. Those patterns are usually things that speak to me at the time—whatever’s on my mind. Lately, I’ve been fascinated with rugs, so we went all in on that. Luckily, it seems like others share my love for rugs too, because they’re flying off the shelves this season.
Speaking of balls, is there a recommended shorts-and-undies combo for maximum breathability?
I’m a huge fan of the Uniqlo Airism boxer briefs! Honestly, I’ve got major love for Uniqlo basics. You’ll find me there at least once or twice every week, checking out their stuff.
At $98 a pop, that’s a good chunk of change, but it’s also not egregious. How do you justify that price?
I believe $98 hits a sweet spot for most folks, especially since these shorts are crafted right here in New York. If I had to sell them through other retailers, they’d probably go for around $150 or $160. But by selling directly to consumers, I can keep the price at $98. It’s not about being a “luxury product”; it’s a basketball short made in the USA, and that’s significant. Every component comes from within the States.
I often get comments suggesting these are just $10 shorts with a logo slapped on. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Making things here comes at a cost, but the quality and attention to detail speak volumes. Let me walk you through the process a bit: first, the mesh arrives, then it heads to the cutting room. From there, it moves to the sewing station, then onto screen printing. After that, trucks pick them up for steaming, pressing, packaging, and finally, they’re shipped out. It’s a whole journey to ensure top-notch quality.
How does it feel to see people reselling your shorts?
There’s no clear-cut answer to that. It’s definitely a great feeling knowing there’s a demand for your product, but there’s also a part of me that wishes it could go straight to the folks who genuinely want it. It gets a bit frustrating when I spot it on Grailed or eBay.
Some people have suggested doing a pre-order to meet the demand, but I’m guilty of being an instant gratification shopper myself—I want what I bought right away!
Beyond shorts, you’ve also done collaborations with New Era on caps, and kicks with both adidas and Reebok, how would you describe the EE signature touch to these products?
The brands I team up with are ones that have been part of my life since I was young. When it comes to the products I work on, I aim to keep them true to their classic essence. Sometimes, I’ll add a personal touch with my favorite “EE Pink” shade—PANTONE 213C—but the original color blocking of the original product stays just as it should be.
You’ve also got this 76ers collab coming up, right after another iteration of Iverson’s sneakers. Is it weird to be making basketball shorts when there hasn’t been a season until recently?
Allen Iverson has always been my top inspiration—I constantly go back to his vibe. The recent collaborations feel like something out of a dream. Even with the games on hold, my passion for shorts hasn’t wavered. I’m all about shorts, whether it’s basketball season or not, summer or winter. But I have to admit, there’s an extra buzz knowing things are kicking off this weekend!
What other collaborations are you cooking up?
Next up, we’ve got the Reebok Club C-EE! It’s my all-time favorite shoe—it’s just so effortless and perfect for everyday wear. And you know what’s special? It’s the first shoe I’ve designed that my Mom and Dad can rock often. [laughs] That thought really brings me joy.
I’ve dabbled with fabrics like mohair, leather, and bouclé in the past, playing around with them on shorts and sweatpants. But if I had to pick a dream material I haven’t worked with yet, it’d probably be cashmere. Cashmere shorts would be incredible, but I guess that’s a pretty standard answer, right? So, let’s spice it up—GORE-TEX would be interesting. Oh, and more waxed canvas would be cool too.
Facts about Eric Emanuel Shorts:
- Quality Craftsmanship: Eric Emanuel’s shorts are meticulously crafted in New York, with every component sourced locally. Each piece undergoes a thorough process, from the arrival of materials to cutting, sewing, printing, and packaging, ensuring top-notch quality.
- Made in the USA: The shorts are produced entirely in the United States, which adds to the cost but reflects the commitment to local manufacturing and quality standards.
- Limited Quantities: The shorts often sell out quickly due to limited releases and high demand, contributing to their perceived value and resale market.
- Distinctive Design: Emanuel’s shorts offer a unique style, hitting just above the knee, with options for different fits and striking patterns or solid colors inspired by his personal interests and trends.
- Direct-to-Consumer Model: By selling directly to consumers through his website, Emanuel avoids additional retailer markups, enabling him to keep the price at $98, which might otherwise be higher if sold through other channels.
Eric Emanuel’s shorts have gained immense popularity due to their exceptional quality, limited quantities, distinctive design, and commitment to local production. Priced at $98, they’re crafted in New York, contributing to their higher cost compared to mass-produced shorts. The brand’s direct-to-consumer approach allows for a reasonable price point while ensuring premium craftsmanship.
1. Why are Eric Emanuel shorts so expensive?
- The shorts are crafted in the USA with locally sourced materials, undergo meticulous production processes, have limited releases, and are sold directly to consumers, all contributing to their perceived value and higher cost.
2. What justifies the $98 price tag?
- The price reflects the quality craftsmanship, local manufacturing, distinctive design, and direct-to-consumer sales model, which bypasses additional retailer markups.
3. Are the shorts worth the price?
- The value is subjective but is often seen in their unique design, quality, and the brand’s commitment to locally made, limited-edition garments.
4. Why do the shorts sell out quickly?
- Limited quantities and high demand contribute to their swift sell-outs during releases, creating a sense of exclusivity and driving resale market activity.
5. Is there a plan to increase production to meet demand?
- While there’s a desire to balance demand and supply, the brand focuses on maintaining quality and a sense of exclusivity, which may limit mass production.