The Saturday edition of the Buffalo News carried a story on independent men’s clothiers, including O’Connell’s, which has opened in Buffalo in 1959 and still carries basically the same stuff. “What we sold in the ’50s is very similar to what we sell today,” the store told the paper.
Here are some more excerpts on O’Connell’s history and customer base:
O’Connell’s, on Main Street near the University at Buffalo South Campus, was started by three Buffalo Bills players in the late 1950s.
Employee Bernie Huber bought them out a short time later, and the store has remained in the Huber family ever since.
The store draws customers from Western and Central New York, Pennsylvania and Ontario with its classic American suits and sport coats — such as an H. Freeman & Son sack suit with a natural shoulder — made from seersucker, madras and other fabrics. “We’re American-style, through and through,” said Bernie’s son, John. “What we sold in the ’50s is very similar to what we sell today.”
Wool suits start at $495 — with custom suits costing $2,000 or $3,000 — and their sizes have expanded as the American male has expanded over the years.
“We’re not faddish. Our best customer is a guy who can appreciate workmanship, who can appreciate value, who appreciates longevity of style,” said John Huber of O’Connell’s.
Nearly three years ago I wrote a story for The Rake on bay rum — they’ve been sitting on it ever since.
I was reminded of it this week when Valet posted a piece on the classic fragrance, and got the mag’s permission to post the text here. Enjoy. — CC
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Between 1957 and 1963, fueled by growing sales, St. John’s Bay Rum was a regular advertiser in the pages of The New Yorker. Concurrently, in 1960 Brooks Brothers began carrying a line of fragrances — including bay rum — made by Royall Lyme Bermuda Limited.
If the Atomic Age Madison Avenue man had a scent — that is, besides the smoke of Lucky Strikes embedded in his grey-flannel suit and the three-martini lunch on his breath — bay rum was probably it. Of the countless concoctions man has created to mask his natural odor — from citrus to musk, lavender to leather — one in particular has thrived for 175 years. Bay rum, a combination of bay leaves, spices and caribbean rum, might just be what civilized man was destined to smell like. And the fact that it was invented by island natives is an irony almost as piquant as bay rum’s unmistakable scent.
Perhaps it’s the word rum (sometimes spelled “rhum”) in the name, with its connotations of maritime adventure, that accounts for bay rum’s longstanding popularity. Or perhaps women adore it. They must, or else bay rum would have been selected for extinction long ago. But compared to the luxury brands whose scents fill the pages of glossy magazines, bay rum seems made for the man who frankly doesn’t give a damn. He wears it because he knows he owes good hygiene both to his fellow man and himself, not for a direct payoff in the mating game. Bay rum is what men think a man should smell like. It’s not for the man who orders a bottled pheromone, discretely billed, that’s guaranteed to aid seduction.
The origins of bay rum begin in 1838, when Danish chemist Albert Heinrich Riise arrived on St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands. He found that natives mixed rum with the leaves of the bay tree to create an emollient used to treat sunburn, sore muscles and joints, fever and headache. Riise began experimenting with distillation processes, eventually perfecting the technique, and sold his bay rum under the name A.H. Riise Apothecary.
The fragrance flourished throughout the 19th century. Later, during Prohibition, imports of bay rum were outlawed as Americans desperate for a drink took to imbibing the cologne. World War II brought a further blow to the various manufacturers as cargo space on ships was reserved for war efforts.
In 1946, American John Webb settled on St Thomas and saw the opportunity to reintroduce the fragrance. Webb founded The West Indies Bay Company and began producing St Johns Bay Rum, which he distinctively packaged in bottles hand-wrapped by natives with tyre palm fronds. Fueled by the postwar fascination with island exotica (Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “South Pacific” hit Broadway in 1949, Hollywood in 1958), St. John’s Bay Rum was soon distributed to every major US city and most college towns.
While St. John’s and Royall Lyme Limited (which, nearly 50 years later, is still sold at Brooks Brothers) have storied connections to midcentury America, the English fragrance houses Taylor of Old Bond Street and Geo. F. Trumper have both offered bay rum for over a hundred years. Yet the most intriguing maker of bay rum today is Bonny Doon Farm, a small California upstart in Santa Cruz, 75 miles south of San Francisco, that makes, according to owner G. Edward Meehan, “the gold standard of the bay rum cologne world.”
Ingredients, Meehan says, are key. Bonny Doon Farm starts with pure, costly Virgin Islands Bay Oil directly from the source, adding fine aromatic cane spirits and Bulgarian Rose Water, “a major part of the compound dictated by the original Danish formula two centuries ago and exclusive to us,” says Meehan. The formula is then blended in small batches and cellar stored. No artificial colors are added, giving Bonny Doon’s bay rum a golden as opposed to amber hue.
Bay rums come in varying degrees of sweetness and potency. Most are considered after-shave grade and can quickly fade (Ogallala offers a “special reserve double strength” to help stay rummy all day). Experiment until you find the right rum suited to your taste, by which we mean your nose, not your palate. — CHRISTIAN CHENSVOLD
In honor of the death of Dick Clark yesterday at the age of 82, Ivy Style presents this repost of a piece we did exactly three years ago to the day.
A clean-cut appearance has always been part of the Ivy League Look. With a soft-shouldered jacket and Princeton haircut, a young man could conveniently mask his salacious intentions. After all, what father could fear for his teenage daughter’s honor while on a date with a boy wearing a cardigan?
In the 1950s, this kind of boy-next-door image was required to bring the provocative new music of rock ‘n’ roll into suburban living rooms. It found its ultimate embodiment in Dick Clark, who brought back-seat rhythms into respectable homes clad in natural-shouldered suits and rep ties.
This is not the Ivy style of smoke-filled nightclubs, of Chet and Miles, nor of campus tweeds and crewnecks. Clark’s was the Ivy of Brylcreemed hair and a Chiclets smile, of sock hops and the soda fountain.
A graduate of Syracuse University, where he was a member of the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity, Clark got his start in 1945 in the mail room of Utica, NY radio station WRUN. He worked his way up to disc jockey, then moved into television in 1956 as the host of American Bandstand. The show aired daily until 1963, then weekly until 1987.
While his white teeth and suave hair remained impervious to the ravages of time, earning him the nickname “America’s Oldest Teenager” and suggesting a portrait rotting away in an attic somewhere, his dedication to Ivy style did not, and, like many others, Clark abandoned the look when it fell out of fashion. — ZD & CC (Continue)
During the heyday of the Ivy League Look, the natural-shoulder diaspora spread not only from the Ancient Eight to campuses across America, it also spread to far corners of the globe.
In March of 1957, The Sydney Morning Herald reported on the growing trend for American Ivy League clothes. Farmer’s is a department store that sponsored an Esquire column in the paper, where the style was reported. (Continue)
We’ve previously featured pop tunes from the Ivy heyday (and from the good old days when guys would sing about their clothes), and here’s another one: Ronnie Haig & Jerry Siefert singing the praises of dirty white bucks and “an Ivy League coat to burn out your eye.”
This is our third post based on vintage Bass advertisements, which have now been consolidated into this one post. A walks through American history in the footsteps of one of its singular shoes. — CC (Continue)