Back-to-School

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Figure 1: Kaynee Co./Oliver Twist, boy’s shirt, blue and white striped cotton, 1930. Textiles and Clothing Museum, 2004.4.8.

Regrettably we leave the carefree days of summer behind, opening our textbooks for the start of the school year. For boys and girls of all ages, choosing the right outfit for the first day of school can present a challenge.

For young Vaughn Speer (b. 1924), the shirt he wore for his first day of school in 1930 was doubly significant: it was the first store bought shirt he’d ever owned. The garment was manufactured by the Cleveland-based company, Kaynee, which produced washable clothing for boys.

Kaynee was founded by Charles Eisenman and Jacob Kastriner in 1888.[1] By 1919, the company was reported to have five manufacturing facilities, and its success was viewed as emblematic of the city’s growth in the apparel-manufacturing field.[2] According to Elroy McKendree Avery: “It is roughly estimated that 7,234 miles of cloth are necessary to keep the Kaynee factory busy for six months, the supply usually kept on hand. This 12,500,000 yards of cloth is used in the manufacture of blouses and washtogs…. The most up-to-date machinery is used for perfection in manufacture, uniform quality and a high standard of excellence.”[3] Kaynee acquired Hecht & Co., and its boys’ wear brand Oliver Twist, in 1928;[4] both manufacturer and brand name are represented on the label of Vaughn’s shirt (figure 2).

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Figure 2: Kaynee Co./Oliver Twist label.

During the mid-1930s, however, the company made headlines less for its fashions or manufacturing prowess than for a tumultuous labor strike in which it was embroiled.[5] The strike turned violent, involving street fighting, tear gas, and vandalism to the homes of workers before it was resolved early in 1935.[6] More detailed information on the history of (as well as numerous images related to) the Kaynee Company can be found on the Cleveland Historical website article, “Kaynee,” by Danielle Rose [http://clevelandhistorical.org/items/show/723].

On Vaughn’s first day of school his Kaynee shirt may have been immaculate, but it was clearly worn often over the subsequent weeks and months, as evidenced by the extensive repairs visible on examination. It appears that Vaughn’s resourceful mother even removed a piece of the striped fabric from the back of the shirt (where presumably it would have been tucked into his trousers) to patch worn areas on the sleeves and shoulder.

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Figure 6: Kaynee Co./Oliver Twist, boy’s shirt, blue and white striped cotton, 1930. Textiles and Clothing Museum, 2004.4.8.

We hope you find the perfect outfit to start off the school year, and that those garments are as well-loved as Vaughn’s first store-bought shirt.

Jennifer Farley Gordon

[1] Danielle Rose, “Kaynee ,” Cleveland Historical, accessed May 9, 2016, http://clevelandhistorical.org/items/show/723.

[2] “Children’s Wear,” Women’s Wear, August 19, 1919, 48.

[3] Elroy McKendree Avery, A History of Cleveland and Its Environs: The Heart of New Connecticut, Vol. 3 (Chicago and New York: The Lewis Publishing Company, 1918), 125.

[4] “Kaynee Co. Absorbs Hecht & Co., Chief Competitor in Field,” Women’s Wear Daily, May 9, 1928, 23.

[5] “First Parley on Kaynee Co. Strike Fails,” Women’s Wear Daily, November 6, 1934, 16; “Kaynee Shuts Its Factories in Cleveland,” Women’s Wear Daily, November 13, 1934, 31.

[6] “Tear Gas is Used in Bucyrus Strike Riot,” Women’s Wear Daily, December 4, 1934, 30; Danielle Rose, “Kaynee,” Cleveland Historical, accessed May 9, 2016, http://clevelandhistorical.org/items/show/723.

Happy Fourth of July!

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Figure 1: The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Art & Architecture Collection, The New York Public Library. “Harper’s July” New York Public Library Digital Collections. Accessed May 6, 2016. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47dc-4891-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

Happy Fourth of July! Today marks the national celebration of the United States’ independence as a sovereign nation. Perhaps you have some typical Fourth festivities planned, spending today with friends and family sharing food and fireworks.

Forty years ago, however, patriotic celebrations and displays rose to new heights, spanning the months preceding and following the holiday itself: 1976 was the United States’ Bicentennial anniversary. Country wide, Bicentennial events emphasized heritage, patriotism, and community pride. On this lofty occasion, John W. Warner, the administrator of the American Revolution Bicentennial Administration stated: “There is a renewed spirit of achievement, of appreciation for the past and a dedication to improving the quality of life for all in the future.”[1]

Perhaps in the truest American fashion, the Bicentennial also provided plentiful opportunities for consumerism. As Warner told the New York Times: “I’m doing everything possible to engage what I call the private sector in the Bicentennial… People want to buy memorabilia connected with historical events, and I wouldn’t insult them by not providing it.”[2]

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Figure 2: Bicentennial Logo Commissioned by the American Revolution Bicentennial Commission, members appointed by President Gerald Ford for Celebratory and event purposes, 1975-1976, historical, U.S. government, public domain. Accessed May 9, 2016, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Bicentennial#/media/File:American_revolution_bicentennial.svg

The American Revolution Bicentennial Administration licensed the event’s official logo (figure 3) for numerous products, such as the scarf in figures 3 and 4.[3]

Figure 3 (left): Bicentennial scarf, 1976. Textiles and Clothing Museum, 2010.2.19; Figure 4 (right): Detail of bicentennial scarf, 1976. Textiles and Clothing Museum, 2010.2.19.

Yet officially licensed goods were far from the only Bicentennial-related products available. After surveying the market, Philip A. Dougherty commented: “In the land of commerce there seems to be no end to the possibility of tying in with the festivities.”[4] Within the fashion and textile industries, fabrics and furnishings took on a “nostalgic” air, with a “strong showing of Early American, Colonial and Traditional styles” leading up to the event.[5] Red, white, and blue color schemes marked fashion accessories.[6] Enterprising manufacturers and retailers churned out their own unofficial Bicentennial-themed apparel and accoutrements. Predictably, flag motifs were popular. According to retailer Sol Silberstein, of lower Manhattan, the most popular item was a man’s tie, the description of which is similar to that in figures 5 and 6: “We had these ties and shirts with the American flag and 76… The ties we couldn’t sell fast enough. A man would come in and buy a tie, and then he’d come back and buy a dozen more. One man bought 10 dozen. No wholesale rate. Each tie $3.90. The men were either giving the ties away or buying them for others as a favor.”[7]

Figure 5 (left): Golden Clasp by Prince Consort, necktie, polyester, 1976. Textiles and Clothing Museum, 997.7.15; Figure 6 (right): Detail of Golden Clasp by Prince Consort, necktie, polyester, 1976. Textiles and Clothing Museum, 997.7.15.

Buying the licensed memorabilia may have truly been the more patriotic choice, however, as it was reported that some of the licensing royalties would help fund Bicentennial-related civic programs.[8]

How will fashion mark America’s Tricentennial? Only 60 more years until we know for sure… In the meantime, don your red, white, and blue, and enjoy America’s 240th birthday!

Jennifer Farley Gordon

[1] John W. Warner, “‘A Major Turning Point’,” Bicentennial Times 3 (July 1976): 2. John Marsh Files at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library, accessed May 6, 2016, https://www.fordlibrarymuseum.gov/library/document/0067/1563258.pdf.

[2] Leonard Sloane, “Capitalizing on a Revolution: Licensing Rush Hails America’s Birthday,” New York Times, January 19, 1975, 159.

[3] “Accessories Briefs,” Women’s Wear Daily, March 12, 1976, 22.

[4] Philip A. Dougherty, “Full Bandwagon for Bicentennial,” New York Times, January 4, 1976, NES30.

[5] “‘America’ at the Mart!” Chicago Daily Defender, January 9, 1973, 18.

[6] Mattie Smith Colin, “Fashion Flashes,” Chicago Defender, August 27, 1975, 13.

[7] Murray Schumach, “About New York: The Bicentennial Question Mark for Business,” New York Times, September 8, 1976, 43.

[8] Leonard Sloane, “Capitalizing on a Revolution,” 159.

 

 

Dear Old Dad

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Science, Industry and Business Library: General Collection, The New York Public Library. “Model No. 919. Conservative two-button notch lapel style; Model No. 920. Conservative three button notch lapel style; Designed for business wear.” New York Public Library Digital Collections. Accessed May 4, 2016. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47dd-fee5-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

“Today is Father’s Day. For 364 days of the year he is a poor, downtrodden, inconsidered [sic.] (though very necessary) nonentity, but today he will get a little respect and courtesy. That is, he will if he’s lucky.”

These were the curmudgeonly sentiments expressed by a writer for the New York Times in 1927.[1] Although some dads may view the occasion with a touch of cynicism, we set aside one Sunday in June to thank dad for everything he does for the family. The first formal Father’s Day celebration appears to have been a localized one, occurring in 1910 in the state of Washington.[2] By the 1920s, the holiday was celebrated more widely, but did not become nationally recognized until 1972.[3]

Amana Colonies, necktie, double-knit polyester, 1970s. Textiles and Clothing Museum, 997.7.12; Necktie, cotton, 1970s. Textiles and Clothing Museum, 997.7.16.

There may be a touch of truth expressed by those cynical dads, as all too often our gift choice for pop falls into a certain cliché. As Isadore Barmash wrote, on Father’s Day, dad “will be beaming on the outside but grimacing on the inside as [he opens] that all-too-familiar thin rectangular box. Not another ugly tie!”[4]

Utica Clothiers (I & A Friedlich), necktie, silk, 1921-1925. Textiles and Clothing Museum, 2009.9.2.

Ties have long been a popular gesture of appreciation for dad. Interestingly, many sources hold that tie-makers and retailers were as much a force for establishing Father’s Day as were the more benevolent desires of individuals and groups to honor the family patriarch. According to the New York Times, there was “much lobbying from the greeting card and apparel industries” in advance of the holiday’s official acceptance.[5] Trade groups seemed especially eager to back Father’s Day as a promotional scheme, particularly with regard to neckwear.[6] In 1923, for instance, the Associated Men’s Neckwear Industries, Inc. launched a campaign, sending out “one hundred thousand cards in color urging the purchase of a tie for ‘Dad’ in commemoration of Father’s Day… to the country’s haberdashers.”[7] A decade later, a report in Women’s Wear Daily indicated that such efforts from the neckwear industry had continued unabated during that time.[8] By 1952, ties were characterized as “the old stand-by.”[9]

Dad & Lad, necktie, silk, probably 1950s. Textiles and Clothing Museum, 989.14.5.

 A number of writers have urged gift-givers to think outside of the box with regard to Father’s Day ties. In 1953, the New York Times regular series, “Patterns of The Times,” suggested transforming one of dad’s old ties into a belt. The project could give new life to last year’s present, and was reportedly simple enough that “a young daughter wielding her first pair of shears and threading her first needle” could manage it.[10] Likewise, years later, Anne-Marie Schiro suggested that the conventional gift could be given a “twist” if unusual or novel patterns were chosen.[11]

In 1987, ties purchased for Father’s Day reportedly accounted for ten percent of the yearly neckwear sales.[12] In the past decade, however, ties have become less of a men’s wear essential than they once were. According to Ray A. Smith of the Wall Street Journal, the year 2008 saw a slump in tie sales, partly due to the fact that “a new generation of menswear manufacturers and fashion designers has grown up seeing ties as optional.”[13] But according to Lauren Loftus of The Washington Post, although ties may be “optional” in many situations, we are not about to stop giving them to dear old dad, even if they may end up “languishing in the back of the closet.” As of last year, she wrote: “Once again this Sunday, good ties and bad, from Snoopy-adorned polyester to silk Hermès, will be gifted across the country as a token of love to the man who gave us life.”[14]

Hermès, necktie, silk, 1987. Textiles and Clothing Museum, 2012.21.1.

Jennifer Farley Gordon

[1] “Father’s Day Dawns—Over His Protest; Ties and Cigars to Be His Lot; Then Obscurity,” New York Times, June 19, 1927, E1.

[2] “Father’s Day Dawns,” E1.

[3] “Father’s Day,” History.com. Accessed May 4, 2016, http://www.history.com/topics/holidays/fathers-day.

[4] Isadore Barmash, “For Father’s Day, Prizes for Ugly Ties,” New York Times, June 20, 1987, 37.

[5] Lisa Belkin, “The Selling of Father’s Day: A New Image Emphasized,” New York Times, June 14, 1986, 33.

[6] “To Discuss Father’s Day Plans,” New York Times, May 19, 1928, 29; “Father’s Day,” New York Times, June 6, 1925, 14.

[7] “Buy a Tie for ‘Dad’ on Father’s Day, 100,000 Window Posters to Urge,” Women’s Wear, May 9, 1923, 3.

[8] “Opportunity for Father’s Day Shown in ‘Daily News Record,’ Women’s Wear Daily, May 15, 1933, 1.

[9] “Imaginative Gifts for Father’s Day,” New York Times, June 13, 1952, 26.

[10] “Patterns of The Times: Gifts for Father’s Day,” New York Times, May 11, 1953, 22.

[11] Anne-Marie Schiro, “Father’s Day Gifts With a Twist on Tradition,” New York Times, June 11, 1989, 62.

[12] Isadore Barmash, “For Father’s Day, Prizes for Ugly Ties,” New York Times, June 20, 1987, 37.

[13] Ray A. Smith, “Tie Association, a Fashion Victim, Calls It Quits as Trends Change; After 60 Years, Trade Group Unravels; What to Buy Now for Father’s Day?” Wall Street Journal, June 4, 2008, A1.

[14] Lauren Loftus, “Why We Keep Buying Dad Ties for Father’s Day,” The Washington Post, June 19, 2015, accessed April 21, 2016, https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/why-we-keep-buying-dad-ties-for-fathers-day/2015/06/19/8c7e4946-1690-11e5-9ddc-e3353542100c_story.html.