All posts in Clothing and History

The Flap Pocket OCBD That I’ve Never Seen

Brooks Brothers Flap Pocket OCBD

Anyone who has spent anytime here in Tradsville knows what a flap pocket OCBD is and who makes it. If you are new around here it’s the shirt above with the flap over the chest pocket and it’s made by J.Press. It’s not the only OCBD with a flap pocket, but it is the flap pocket OCBD.

Not too long ago while doing some online vintage shopping at Placid Vintage I spotted a vintage Brooks Brothers OCBD with a flap pocket. I did a double take. I had never heard about a Brooks flap pocket let alone seen one. Sure I had seen flap pocket OCBDs from brands new and old like Ralph Lauren, Michael Spencer, Kamakura, LL Bean, Ratio, Gant, etc., but never Brooks. This OCBD appeared to be a custom makeup, but still I was shocked.

BB Flap Pocket OCBD

Here is why this is so interesting to me. J.Press added the flap pocket during the 1950s to distinguish itself from the competition. What I had always assumed is that the competition was Brooks Brothers. Now here is the competition adding the detail to their shirts that J.Press added to be different. That had to be extremely flattering and a little aggravating or maybe the other way around.

Brooks Brothers Flap Pocket

I thought about this some more. Maybe Brooks wasn’t their competition at this time. There were plenty of other popular OCBDs back then such as Troy Guild, Gant, Sero, and many more. So maybe I am reading more into that than there is to be read. A revisionist history per se. Then I found an old Ivy Style turned J.Press blog post seems to confirm that Brooks was indeed competition. That blog post also contains some interesting OCBD history about how J.Press, Gant, and Sero origins were all intertwined. You can check that post out here. The moral of this story is that yes Brooks Brothers did make a flap pocket OCBD.

End-On-End Madras by HTJ

This is a re-post from the now defunct and my favorite trad blog ever, Heavy Tweed Jacket (HTJ). I stumbled on this old blog post as I was researching the fabric of old end-on-end shirt that I have. In this post from May 2013 HTJ goes in depth on his favorite summer fabric, end-on-end Madras. He touches on all the reasons that I like end-on-end fabrics in the summer, introduces a term that I was not familiar with (end-on-end madras), and of course takes us down memory lane. Buckle you seatbelt and prepare for a blast from the past.

As far as favorites go, end-on-end Madras runs a pretty close second to oxford cloth for me. Though this very thin fabric looks great with tweed and can be worn year round, it really comes into its own in the warmer months of the year. End-on-end Madras is both light in weight and highly breathable, hence its great utility in the warmer seasons of the year. In the past, these shirts were often seen in both solid colors as well as candy stripes. Many men’s clothiers also offered shirts made of end-on-end Madras in both button-down and straight point collars. End-on-end is a very thin fabric that looks great when starched to paper thinness and worn with a jacket, though it also dresses down equally well with khakis and loafers for those who like a bit of casual rumple. The shirts pictured above are from bottom to top: Brooks Brothers Brookscloth (blue); Mercer & Sons (blue); Huntington Clothiers (blue): Brooks Brothers (blue): Brooks Brothers Brookscloth (brown candy stripe); Brooks Brothers Brookscloth (spice candy stripe); Brooks Brothers Brookscloth (blue candy stripe); and Brooks Brothers (blue candy stripe).

End-on-end Madras is a fabric known for its alternating warp yarns, usually one in white and one in color. It is also known for its distinctive box weave formed by slightly thicker yarns repeated at intervals on the weft. I’ve always understood that this bit of texture created by the thicker yarns why it is referred to as ‘Madras’. J. Press used to offer shirts made from their own unique fabric called ‘Madralyte’ which did not have the box weave effect. I’ve never had one of these shirts, but I imagine it would have been like an end-on-end broadcloth: a shirt with the feel of end-on-end but without the box weave. With end-on-end Madras, when seen from a distance, solid colors such as blue or pink appear as truly solid, but when examined closely, a very fine white box or check-like pattern gives the shirt a subtle texture. The true character of end-on-end Madras lies in its durability and thinness, becoming softer with age. This is a very light and breathable fabric that is at its best when the collars and cuffs are unlined or lined with only the thinnest of fabrics. When starched, the collars and cuffs become as thin as paper offering an elegant counterpoint to tweeds or summer linen, silk and wool blends. Shirts made of this cloth were once a very common staple for men, but today these shirts have become somewhat hard to find. About the only places that I can think of that still offer shirts of this fabric are Mercer & Sons, O’Connell’s, and J. Press (more on that below).

However, I thought that it would be interesting in this post to take a historical look at how venerable clothiers such as Brooks Brothers, Chipp and J. Press have offered these shirts over the years. It remains mystifying to me why more clothiers do not offer this unpretentious, hard-wearing and yet elegant shirt.

Brooks Brothers, Spring & Summer 1962. Brooks Brothers offered an English end-on-end broadcloth button-down shirt in this catalog from half a century ago.

Brooks Brothers, Christmas 1971. The striped shirts in #143 (a) certainly look like they were made from end-on-end cloth. They also have that very definite heavy-early-’70s-vibe happening. It really is hard to believe that only nine years separate this catalog from those immediately above and below.

Brooks Brothers, Spring and Summer 1980. The Brooks Brothers solid blue end-on-end Madras was the gold standard for this shirt. Brooks unlined polo collar and narrow unlined cuffs gave this shirt a certain understated yet beautiful simplicity.

Brooks Brothers, Fall & Winter, 1982. Brooks Brothers used to offer these shirts year round and the fall and winter catalogs seemed to feature them more than the catalogs for spring and summer.

Brooks Brothers, Fall & Winter 1981. Throughout the 1980s Brooks Brothers also offered a solid blue end-on-end shirt with contrasting collar and cuffs.

Brooks Brothers, Fall 1987. I had one of these in the broadcloth version in the 1980s, and it wore well with suits or with a blazer.

Brooks Brothers, Christmas 1980. Brooks Brothers also offered an easy care polyester and cotton blend called ‘Brookscloth’ that came in both solid and candy striped end-on-end versions. The shirt construction was the same as the all cotton shirts, and to me at any rate, it was also far superior to the contemporary non-iron shirts made by Brooks Brothers today. As I’ve said before, the non-iron shirts of today are almost too well made – perfection rendering them somewhat lifeless. These older Brookscloth versions were, if I might say it this way – pretty cool.

Brooks Brothers, Fall 1988. A somewhat rare photo catalog showing both solid and striped end-on-end versions of this shirt. Other than oxford cloth, I can’t think of a more useful cloth for daily wear wear than this.

Chipp (The New Yorker, 10/16/1954). However, in addition to Brooks Brothers, Chipp also offered a ‘Peppermint Stripe Madras’, which I am betting was their version of a candy stripe end-on-end Madras. These were offered in blue, grey and brown stripes. I wish I could call Chipp up on the phone and order a couple of these.

J. Press, Fall & Winter 1977. Of course, J. Press also offered end-on-end Madras in solid blue with that distinctive box weave. J. Press also offered ‘Madralyte’, a fabric with much of the same character as end-on-end Madras, but without the box weave effect. The J. Press stripes were also very distinctive, with hairline and block striped Madralyte offerings.

J. Press, Fall & Winter 1980. This page from the 1980 J. Press Brochure is a great example of their lineup with solid blue end-on-end, hairline Madralyte, pencil stripe Madralyte, block stripe Madralyte, as well as crayon stripe broadcloth and the old standard oxford cloth candy stripes. I would also like to have a telephone that would connect me with J. Press in 1980. Now that would be my kind of smartphone.

I’ve included some photos that show mainly Brooks Brothers’ end-on-end shirts from the 1980s, as well as Huntington Clothiers and Mercer and Sons’ shirts.

‘Makers’ All Cotton, Blue Candy Stripes. Late 1980s.

Brookscloth (65/35 blend), Blue Candy Stripes. Late 70s, early 1980s. A 60/40 cotton/polyester blend came out after this (see below).

‘Makers’ All Cotton, Blue. Late 1980s.Brooks all cotton solid blue version was a lighter shade of blue.

Huntington Clothiers, Egyptian Cotton, Blue. Late 1980s. Huntington’s version was closest in color to Brooks’ all cotton version.

‘Makers’ Brookscloth (60/40 blend), Blue. Late 1980s. The 60/40 blend version. Pretty nice collar roll.

Mercer & Sons, All Cotton, Blue. Mercer’s version is very nice indeed. I like a full cut shirt, and these shirts are absolutely comfortable to work in all day long.

A new-old-stock Brookscloth in a brown candy stripe. This Brookscloth blend may be a decidedly ‘unhip’ 65/35 poly-cotton blend, but these shirts are just as well made as their all cotton cousins and have that “Brooksy” button-down collar roll. If this makes me unhip, then so be it. I wouldn’t have it any other way. Brooks Brothers seems to have forgotten how to make shirts like this. I keep hoping that they will wake up like Rip van Winkle and reclaim their place as ‘Makers’ of ‘The Most Imitated Shirt in the World’.

So whether one needs solids or stripes, end-on-end Madras shirts are a classic choice that can be worn all year round. Today, one might be a bit hard pressed to find these shirts at Brooks Brothers. I couldn’t find much that looked like this on their website. However, one need not lose hope. O’Connell’s, J. Press and Mercer & Sons all still offer shirts cut from this cloth. O’Connell’s selection, though not wide, offers a standard blue end-on-end button-down. J. Press offers a solid blue end-on-end in a not often seen straight point collar; a pink button-down; as well as a hard to find blue thin stripe end-on-end button-down. Mercer & Sons can make shirts in a various shades of end-on-end blue, as well as the colors “thistle” and peach. They also offer a candy-stripe-like “Bold” stripe end-on-end in blue. So choices are still available for this type of shirt. The weather is only going to get warmer, so it is only natural that shirts like this will no doubt find a frequent place in the rotation. End-on end Madras: A classic workhorse of a shirt that I can only hope will continue to be offered for years to come. The world needs more living traditions such as this.

The OCBD Stripe That I Didn’t Know

If there is one trad item that I feel like I have a pretty good knowledge of it’s the OCBD. I mean, it is the name of the blog. I’ve seen them in about every color you can imagine. I’ve seen them in tartans, tattersalls, and stripes of all kind. And then I saw this one.

I was browsing O’Connell’s website during their 4th of July Sales and did a double take. What is a mille stripe? Why have I never seen one? More specifically, why have I never seen an OCBD in a mille stripe before?

A mille stripe looks to be a thin stripe (with a little zig-zag pattern) of alternating color little zig zag. I’ve talked a lot about it recently, but closely placed thin stripes are my favorite type of stripe. I like how they can appear solid from a distance and it’s only when you get closer do you realize that the shirt is actually striped. I don’t quite know why, but I love that. I also love the blurring wavy effect that they can cause when looking at them. Though I have learned that this due to an increase in gamma oscillations in the brain which is associated with headaches and seizures. So proceed with caution.

O’Connell’s offers their unlined and unfused OCBD in both blue and burgundy mille stripe (see here). As a side note, I really need to try one of their OCBDs. I think that 3 3/8s is just about the perfect collar length for me. That’s it for this week’s post. See you next week!

Collar Button And Hanger Loop: Ivy Shirts To Shed Frills By Bob Hallman

Back Collar Button & Locker Loop

This article is from The Gastonia [North Carolina] Gazette for Sunday, November 7, 1965 and was re-posted on AAT by member Charles Dana. I have my own thoughts on both the back collar button and locker loop that I will be sharing in an upcoming post.

Two simple things that practically go unnoticed on some men’s shirts are causing monumental concern in the apparel industry. A button and loop on the back side of traditional shirts have many producers losing sleep and pacing the floor. REASON: To leave them on or take them off.

For the past decade, a rear collar button and a hanger loop have become standard equipment on shirts styled in the traditional pattern. They have become accepted, taken for granted, and ignored. But now comes along one of the major traditional shirt houses in the nation and says buttons and loops will cease to be on their future models.

The stir this revelation caused was akin to jamming the panic button. Contemporary firms were taken by surprise, uncertain if this was a right or wrong move. Many are still trying to decide. Gant shirtmakers, the best-known traditional shirtmaker in America, touched off the wave of restlessness. This would seem reasonable since the firm pioneered in the field of button-down collars, back-side buttons, loops, and box pleats; plus the tapered waist. Gant led and others followed. But following the leader doesn’t come so easily when a loss of business is a likely possibility. The big question coming to mind with manufacturers was simply this: ‘How will the young man react? Since this kind of business is directly pitched at the collegiate and high school set, such a query had to be resolved, else what appears to be a good move could easily turn into a bad move.

“What would be the reaction to a change? In the Carolinas, often called the Island of Natural Shoulder History, removal of both the button and loop wouldn’t cause a ripple. For, as some store men say, nobody is looking for either one any more. Samplings around the two states of stores reveal that a general feeling of ‘not important’ is being attached to both horns of the dilemma. Tommy Frederick, furnishings manager at Matthews-Belk Co., who cut his teeth on Ivy League clothes, opines: ‘I don’t think the removal of either or both will make or break a sale. If the shirt has color, fabric, name, and quality, it will sell. This feeling was reflected in areas from Raleigh, a hotbed of traditionalism, to Charleston, S. C. The consensus of opinion was that both were first introduced as fads and this has since run its course. At the same time some stores point out that while the button serves no real purpose, the loop does. You can hang up a shirt by it. So…retailers would prefer keeping the loop.

Men who have made studies in this area of apparel say the change was inevitable. Labor costs for the two operations run into six figures for many companies. Dropping them could direct attention to other areas of shirts that need improvements–like longer tails, better and more secure buttons…. The only objections to removal came from the high school set that goes steady. It seems that a boy wearing a shirt unbuttoned at the back is going steady. That means hands off.

Pre-Distressed Ivy?

Pre-distressed ivy clothes sounds like an oxymoron. At best you may envision kids in the heyday distressing their own OCBDs by taking sandpaper to their collars in an attempt to achieve the well-worn look (Princeton Boys). You may say something like, my OCBDs will be worn out before I know it why on earth would I do that!?!? That’s exactly what I used to say at least until I had a revelation.

I can count at least 3 well known items in the trad/ivy cannon that fall into the pre-distressed category. These pieces have now been with us so long that they don’t even register as being pre-distressed. I am talking about dirty bucks, brushed shetland sweaters, and 3/2 roll jackets.

Sweater and Repp Tie
BB Blazer Jacket 1980 Spring

I am going to oversimplify for effect, but you’ll get the point. Dirty bucks are meant to look like old dirty white bucks. Brushed shetlands are meant to look(& feel) like shetlands that have been worn for years. 3/2 roll jackets are meant to look like 3-button jackets that have developed a roll over the years of hard use or made to imitate the trend of college kids ironing their old 3-buttons to looks like 2-buttons. Either way it is pre-distressed (see link below).

There’s a little more to the story, but that’s the gist of it. I think there are a few takeaways here. One, we trads and ivyist wear pre-distressed clothes. Two, some fads become trends and some trends become classics. Three, broken in clothing is more desirable and comfortable than new clothes. It’s not just about looking worn. It is also about feeling broken in.

Recommended Reading
I did a deep dive on the origins of 3/2 roll jackets way back when on my blog. There is a lot of great information in that post. Especially in the comment section. Here is a link: The Plausible History of the 3/2 Roll