Recently I purchased a 1926 yearbook for my alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania, and was pleasantly surprised to see a Brooks Brothers advertisement on the first page of the ad section. Flipping through, I also discovered ads for a few local establishments, including a campus menswear shop called Gommy. It seemed like Gommy may have been for Penn and Princeton what J. Press was for Yale. My interest piqued, I began searching for details on the history of the store.
I was not able to find much at all, however. Menswear expert Bruce Boyer, former J. Press president Richard Press, and trad guru David Wilder were unable to provide any details about Gommy. The one solid piece of information I was able to find on this Philadelphia shop was a quote from B. Franklin Reinauer II, a gentleman who graduated from Penn in 1938. He provides some details on Gommy as well as the general menswear retail environment at the time:
There were some good men’s clothing stores: Gommy’s on Woodland Avenue Street just below 36th Street, and Sox Miller on Spruce Street just above 36th Street. People from men’s clothing stores in other cities would travel from college to college campuses get a room in a hotel or elsewhere to show their clothing to students and hopefully make some sales. Student representatives at different schools tried to get students to come to see the clothes.
Reinauer goes on to recount what campus wear was like during his college years:
When we students went to our classes each day we were dressed in slacks, tweed jacket, shirts [many with button down collars] and ties. There was a fine shoe shine place on Spruce Street just above 36th Street where our cordovan shoes were shined to perfection. We wore coats and fedora hats, too. Those students who were members of the football or other team sometimes wore their sweaters with “P” emblazoned.
Oh, how the Ivies have fallen.
If you can shed any light on what became of Gommy in Philadelphia or Princeton, please feel free to comment. — MARK CHOU
Mark Chou is a 2009 graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, where he was a photographer for The Daily Pennsylvanian and a member of the lightweight crew team. He currently works in finance in New York. Follow his personal blog here.
Image one from 1926; image two from 1930.