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Wages, benefits, and workers' rights in the American South lagged behind the national average throughout the New Deal era even after southern states industrialized after the Second World War. This article deepens arguments about a distinctive regional variety of capitalism. It emphasizes how the institutions that define rights and authority over such economic decisions as what kind of jobs to create and how industries should compete constitute the industrial order. The article focuses on the Texas apparel industry and shows that low labor standards were an outcome of choices made by business owners and managers who claimed, and were given, the authority to carry out their visions of economic development. In contrast to previous explanations that have focused on labor exploitation and resistance, I address alternative ways to organize work and market products and the influence of choices from these alternatives on the development of distinctive labor-management relations. The apparel industry developed an efficient form of production that took advantage of an oligarchic political order whose institutional features dated to an earlier era.