H.I.S Inc. may be the missing link between workwear and Ivy-styled clothing.
The company was originally founded as Honesdale manufacturing in 1923 by Henry I. Siegel. It specialized in workwear, including denim, and was a contract manufacturer for JC Penny and Montgomery Ward. The firm was headquartered in New York with manufacturing facilities in Tennessee. HIS continued its contract work through World War II, making field jackets for the war effort.
Upon Siegel’s death in 1949, his son Jesse, who was only 19 years old, took control of the company. A graduate of Columbia, Jesse Siegel decided to move the company into the fashion realm by making modifications to its existing lines. Among other things, he is credited with putting a buckle on the back of khakis, which started a campus fad.
In 1956 Siegel introduced the company’s first house brand. It was called h.i.s. and named after his father. The brand targeted the middle-market teenager and college student, and was very successful tapping postwar Baby Boomers. The company went from $9 million in sales 1949 to $18 million in 1956, and b 1964 the company was doing $42 million a year in sales.
The h.i.s product line included odd trousers, shorts, sportcoats and suits. As a mass-market Ivy-inspired brand, h.i.s was sold in stores like Irv Lewis, Morris’, and The Squire Shop in Ithaca, New York. A 1964 joint advertisement for the later two Cornell outfitters claimed, “They provide the classics — the ‘bread and butter’ — the uniform items in the curricula of college clothes.”
According to the advertisement, those other brands included Botany 500, Hathaway shirts, Keds, Alder socks, Pendleton and Viyella. — CHRISTOPHER SHARP