Domestic Cat: Remembering Clipper Craft, Main Street Ivy Clothier


Our recent post on striped sportcoats included a vintage ad by Clipper Craft Clothes, and so we thought it worth following up with a gallery devoted to the brand. During the heyday of the Ivy League Look, Clipper Craft was a brand that explicitly touted its Ivy authenticity in advertorials placed in mainstream magazines.

In 2009 a short thread was started at the Ask Andy Trad Forum in which a member dug up some info on the origins of the brand, which was founded in Boston. By the heyday, the brand was championing its “New England tailoring” along with its affordable prices. It also created a campaign with tiger heads grafted onto its suits, from back when “tiger” was common slang for a ladies’ man:







Other Clipper Craft ads combined real guys, models, and illustrations:

Clipper Craft 1960-1

October 10 1960 Clipper Craft Mr USA

clipper craft-si-05-11-1959-097-M5


Clipper Craft Ivy Look

Clipper Craft LIFE 9 23 57

But most interesting are these two advertorials, in which Clipper Craft more or less explains what Ivy is to potential consumers in the nether reaches of the nation, as well as convincing said consumers of its authenticity. That a consumer only partially aware of something should be concerned with authenticity is one of the card tricks of advertising.

This one, entitled “Clipper Craft Goes To the Roots Of Ivy,” ran in Sports Illustrated in 1958:


The ad copy reads:

Once only a ripple in the mainstream of fashion, Ivy has now become a wellspring of inspiration to the top designers in men’s clothing. Ivy’s influence has done much to make men’s clothing more interesting.

Ye, as Ivy has spread, it has been diluted. Much of the clothing being sold as Ivy is, at best, only a distant cousin. If a man wants authenticity, he has to be on guard.

True Ivy fashion, however, is not hard to come by. It’s being made today under “The Authentic Look” label by Clipper Craft, one of America’s largest manufacturers of men’s clothing.

The genuineness of “Authentic Look” clothing is beyond question. It satisfies all such criteria as natural shoulders, narrow lapels, lapped seams, stitched edges, hooked vents, pleatless trousers, tapered sleeves and trousers. But authenticity is more than the sum of these parts. It’s a matter of silhouette and hang. Clipper Craft’s “Authentic Look” clothing was examined and worn by real experts — leaders from all eight Ivy League colleges. “Authentic was the verdict, without dissent.

There’s much of interest here, for starters the suggestion that Clipper Craft can be both authentic and one of the largest clothing manufacturers, something that sounds contradictory today. Also noteworthy is the appeal to college men as the experts most in the position to determine a suit’s Ivy pedigree. But the real gem is the passage about being diluted and a distant cousin, which reads ironic today.

The following year the company ran another advertorial in Sports Illustrated:


Here the copy highlights include:

It’s true that Ivy began on the campus. But no styling so young in spirit, so trim in appearance, could long remain the exclusive property of any one group. So Ivy has branched out. Today, it’s the hallmark of good grooming for men of all ages everywhere. From college classrooms to business offices.

… the Ivy suits they wear are “The Authentic Look,” tailored by Clipper Craft, one of America’s largest manufacturers of men’s clothing. These suits feature natural shoulders, narrow lapels, lapped seams, stitched edges, hooked vents, pleatless trousers, tapered sleeves and trousers — clothing faithful in every respect to the Ivy tradition.

We asked Richard Press for his take on this, and once again he showed himself just one or two degrees of separation removed from apparently everyone who ever donned a sack suit. In the “Roots of Ivy” advertorial above is one of Richard’s classmates at Dartmouth. As for Clipper Craft:

My recollection is that it was a “low grade 2 machine make” using mass-produced domestic mill cloths. The clothing was sold in Main Street department and general stores coast to coast, often with the store label.

If “authenticity” in regards to Ivy is merely a laundry list of tailoring details, then Clipper Craft is pretty darn pure. But if clothing pedigree is what really determines authenticity — what makes something “the real deal” — then Clipper Craft was just another clothing conglomerate cashing in on a fashion trend.

There’s a third way of looking at it, and that is that the brand was a genuinely authentic product of its time. — CHRISTIAN CHENSVOLD

17 Comments on "Domestic Cat: Remembering Clipper Craft, Main Street Ivy Clothier"

  1. Jeff Jarmuth | June 19, 2013 at 3:40 pm |

    If only J. Press would trim its suits more like Clipper. . .just a “tad more trad.”

  2. That tiger head is quite possibly more than a generic drawing; in fact I am fairly certain that these ads are actually depicting the famous cereal magnate known back in the day as “Tony” moonlighting as a fashion model.

  3. A. E. W. Mason | June 19, 2013 at 7:28 pm |

    Beautiful ads.

    I’m not sure it’s Tony. I think it’s Mr. Esso.

  4. Is it me? Or is the first tiger doing an impersonation of Señor Wences?!

  5. I just noticed that in the third advertisement; the comely lass driving the 1955/56 Thunderbird was visibly distracted by the pair of handsome, well-dressed tigers, causing her to veer into a parked vegetable cart.

  6. Now that brought back some memories. We sold Clipper at the Wm H Block company, here in Indy. We also sold Cricketeer, Hart, Hickey, Oxxford, GGG, Palm Beach, Corbin, etc. Quite a selection. I had an admirable business built up during my college career, working part time, with a nice rolodex, making a full time salary on commission. Some of those customers became clients of mine years later, and now their sons and daughters. Some of those lesser brands, were better tailored than many things we see off the rack these days. Thanks for the brief memories!

  7. Thanks Christian. Some great pics here, of when men actually had a clue as to how to dress themselves properly.
    I often think of what the hell happened to American men. My son did a semester abroad in Italy and was quite impressed as to how the Italians dress themselves. Don’t careat all for their style, but wonder how they held onto dressing nicely!

  8. Thanks for sharing all of the images. I am not sure why placing an animal head on a man makes it look that much cooler, but it does!

  9. The “cool” Tigers remind me of “Choo Choo ” of the “Top Cat” cartoons.

    As he would say, “Gotcha TC!”

  10. So on the subject old brands, has anyone any recollection of a summer suit & odd pants collection in a viscose or viscose blend from a company named “Doncaster”?

  11. A. E. W. Mason | June 20, 2013 at 4:40 pm |

    As I look at these images, I’m struck by how elegant these men (or tigers-what have you) look. The drape and cut of these suits is far more appealing than what we see nowadays. I generally don’t prefer two-button suits but the samplings here in the first three ads are proof they can have as classic a look as a three-button. These pictures also highlight for me how much nicer a jacket of a traditional length is than what is in fashion today–some of it, of course, being absurd.

    Thanks Christian. I was not familiar with this clothier.

  12. Nothing breathes like Dacron. Summer comfort.

  13. “New England tailoring”


  14. Jim,

    Apparently, the Cultural Revolution did not destroy Italian men’s sense of fashion and propriety in the way it did ours.

    Gee, thanks, Baby Boomers, for decimating our culture, and thanks, “Greatest” Generation, for letting them!

  15. Clipper Craft also advertised extensively on the radio sponsoring the Sherlock Holmes series for many years , you can hear these adverts on Bygolly Old Time Radio and other internet old time radio stations .
    Does anyone know what the quality of these suits really was ?

  16. Jack Taylor | March 15, 2015 at 7:05 pm |

    I listen to some “old time” radio shows of Sherlock Holmes. Clipper Craft was a sponsor for a couple of years. They always said that if you did not know the name of your local Clipper Craft dealer to write Clipper Craft 200 5th Ave New York. I looked that address up in Google Maps and it looks like a 12 or 13 story building. I wonder if there are any “remnants” (pun intended) of Clipper Craft in the building?

  17. I was going to mention their ads on Sherlock Holmes as well. There are a few sports coats by Clipper Craft floating around on Etsy at the moment.

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