O’Connell’s, Where It’s Still 1959

With summer in the home stretch we revisit this post showing a glimpse of what O’Connell’s, one of the last surviving independent trad clothiers, sold back in the day.

A 2012 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.

The store’s website includes a section of deadstock items, including the authentic Indian bleeding madras sportcoat above, and Bermuda shorts below:

For the golf course, there are these deadstock flyweight poplin trousers:

Finally, I’m not entirely sure where you’d wear these patchwork gingham trousers. There’s probably a reason they didn’t sell the first time around. — CC

23 Comments on "O’Connell’s, Where It’s Still 1959"

  1. I have checked out the reference on O’Connell’s when I spotted your post. Even the website is “old-fashioned”. The Madras new old dead stock is spot on. Great find.

  2. I’m sure that TinTin (of The Trad), ADG (of Maxminimus), and Giuseppe (of An Affordable Wardrobe) would love those patchwork gingham, um, “trousers.”

    Most of the rest us, well… let me put it this way. If I were ever to start a second career as a clown (kid’s parties, not circus), I would know where to look for work clothes.

  3. O’Connells (Formerly O”Connell, Lucas, and Chelf) is a great store. I still own articles of clothing I bought there in the early ’80’s. I try to visit when I am back in Buffalo visiting family. BTW I love those patchwork gingham’s!! You will need an attitude to wear them though.

  4. O’Connell’s is an institution. There selection of NOS clothing is second to none.

  5. Interesting and perhaps even revealing that John references the 50s. And by the 50s, we here mean not the 60s.

    True, this. A glance at the O’ Connell’s online inventory confirms that the style is indeed American–“through and through,” no doubt.

    But would we dare say it’s “Ivy”?

    We note the center vent and the undarted jackets and the relatively natural shoulder. And we affirm the flat fronts, the saddled shoulders, the raglan sleeves, and the button downs. And how about those regimental stripes?

    But the dimensions remind one of American style circa not so much the early to late 60s as the 1950s. “What we sold in the 50s…” Well, yes. Indeed.

    The kinship, it seems to me, is with the Cable Car Clothiers of the 1980s. Or The Andover Shop with a third (top) button. Or Max’s Men’s Store before the doors were shut for the last time. American Traditonal, to be sure. But the dimensions–the 3.5″ + lapels and neckties, the full-fitting pants that feature only the slightest of taper, and the shoulder that, while natural, features just enough padding to nudge the gag reflex of Ivy purists far and wide. The shapes and dimensions we would affiliate with Clark Gable in the 50s, or George H.W. Bush in 1980. Or George Will now.

    And so the discussion continues. Was the tapered, round-shouldered narrowness of 1960-’67 an abberation? Ivy, then, is a subset of American Traditonal?

    Three cheers for O’ Connell’s, where American Traditonal is the rule of the day…after day…after day. Where else can we find such an impressive inventory of made-in-Scotland Shetland crewnwcks and Atkinson’s Irish Poplins and off-the-rack Southwicks?

  6. Where? In about most major cities and college towns since the 50s or 60s.

  7. Most? If you can name more than ten shops in the country that maintain a stock of Atkinson’s Irish Poplin ties, I am all ears. I’ll qualify the off-the-rack Southwicks with the phrase Douglas model or Cambridge model.

  8. Prior to 2008 down turn Harolds, originally out of Norman Oklahoma from 1948, had expanded to about 30+ stores through out the South and Midwest.

    Woodys, originally out of Manhattan, Kansas still operates stores.

    Mister Guy originally out of Kansas City still operates stores.

    Jack Henry’s Club Shop, Kansas city

    There’s lots more, they all carry Southwick, RL, etc., all import from the British isles, Europe and orient.

    I love O’ Connell’s, but I see nothing I can’t get in KC, with the exception of some nautical and “fun” belts.

  9. I’m a student at the University at Buffalo (3rd generation) and have lived in eastern massachusetts my whole life. I’ve grown up in the very quintessential new england way. I’ve worn sperrys since I was just a few month old and I remember one of my first pairs fondly on the shores of newport RI, where we summer. It’s pretty interesting to find O’Connell’s on here because I pass it once a day or so and I just stumbled upon this site. UB’s south campus definitely has an ivy feel to it. The kids who walk around dress sharply (those of whom aren’t international) and the white marble buildings stand out well.

    It’s definitely nice to see Buffalo get some prep talking…because it’s often regarded as a very poor, run-down city that has no charm anymore. This place is all charm…and it’s still very much “old-fashioned”. Visit Buffalo…and you’ll see some of the great things it has to offer. And this is coming from a kid who lives outside of Boston.

  10. What fascinating styles! I’ve seen a lot of websites that sell 50s style fashion for women, but it seems less common in mens clothing. Are the patchwork gingham trousers long pants or are they shorts–those are incredible! Honestly, I have several male friends who favor those kinds of patterns. O’Connell’s may be on to something! Do they sell women’s clothing?

  11. Be very sure that the State University of New York schools are the Ivy league of public universities.

  12. Was in there today. The place is absolutely amazing. Tons of inventory.

  13. Bob Scheinblum | March 29, 2016 at 12:48 pm |

    I graduated from UB Main Street Campus 1965-1970. I shopped at O’Connell, Lucas and Chelf for many years during that period and also during my teaching years 1970-1980 for the Buffalo Public Schools. The salesman was named Bernie, I believe. Any idea what became of him? I also shopped at The Campus Corner Shop, which was a few doors down the street. Does that store still exist in Buffalo or Williamsville? Thanks,
    Bob Scheinblum
    Miami, FL

  14. Amongst many cashmere v necks, Shetland crew necks, I treasure the 8 ply cashmere cardigan..all Jand D McGeorge

  15. elder prep | July 18, 2020 at 8:45 pm |

    It was at O’Connell that I found that perfect shade of lemon yellow in a cotton crew neck sweater to accompany my blue BB OCBD.

  16. 1959– ah, the good ole days.

    Lest we forget, the decline has been a long time coming:


    “TRADITIONALLY, THE MAN WHO FAVORS THE IVY League look is a man who comports himself according to the Protestant work ethic. He values steadiness, reliability and industry. For decades, his uniform has been a Brooks Brothers suit, rep tie and button-down shirt…
    …The 1980’s were not especially kind to this man. On Wall Street, his ancient stamping ground, interest turned from blue chips to junk bonds. Traders, the street’s trend-setters, made flashy amounts of money and dressed accordingly, scorning serviceable $500 sack suits in favor of foreign models with $1,000-plus price tags. ”You didn’t see traders in Brooks Brothers,’ says Gregory Luther, 30, a vice president at J.P. Morgan. “

  17. john carlos | August 22, 2020 at 6:08 pm |

    S.E.-Very timely post. I believe we would all do well with a heavy dose of the good ole days.

  18. I was only 2 in 1959. But, yea, bring back the 1950s. 😉

  19. O’Connell’s has the best and biggest range of traditional menswear that I’m aware of. Truly amazing!

  20. I have been buying clothes from O’Connell’s since 1964
    then I lived in Buffalo now I live in New York and shop from them on line
    need I say more?

  21. david A thoke | January 24, 2021 at 1:31 am |

    I learned about O’Connells somewhere, don’t recall. Bought lots of wonderful stuff from them over the years. Love their shetland sweaters and I own 4. My daughter’s college roommate is from Buffalo and I went to her wedding a number of years ago – and i made a special effort to drop in to O’Connells. Yes, throwback to the 50’s and i could have spent 6 hours there going through the inventory and spent several thousand dollars. i bought several things and want to go back there – in the mean time, i do my business with them on line.

  22. I like O’Connells trousers a lot, and have recently re-ordered a pair of khaki because my other pair blew out after 4 years of hard wear. Going to patch the old and use around house for chores and etc.

    I’ve been considering a road trip out there to try more on..it’s only 11hr drive roundtrip..

  23. O’Connell, a great traditional men’s clothing store, reminds me of the small but intimate men’s clothing stores of the past,where you are known by your first name and your sizes are cataloged for reference.

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