EDITOR’S NOTE: On the Facebook Group we are exclusively clothes oriented, but we also find the history fascinating. If you don’t know about WaterhollowTweed, it is a very small, eclectic online shop that offers a few Ivy Grail finds a week at very reasonable prices. The purveyor, James Taylor (every time he comments on one of my music videos I swear I still check to make sure it isn’t…) posted this fantastic history of Carroll & Co., the resource for West Coast Ivy, and other members joined in, I thought it would make an interesting read over here too. Thank you to WaterhollowTweed, Roy R. Platt, and Doug H. for your permission and contributions.
CARROLL & CO…… CLOTHIERS TO THE STARS!
Richard Carroll, a publicist for Warner Bros. in the 1940s, disliked having to drive all the way into downtown Los Angeles whenever he wanted to purchase a OCBD or jacket from Brooks Brothers. But in the immediate post-War period he had little option–there simply weren’t any traditional men’s clothing stores in Hollywood or Beverly Hills.
So in 1949 he opened one.
As a Hollywood publicist Carroll knew the importance of looking good… and he also knew just where the post-War fashions were heading–the relaxed, East Coast look known as Ivy Style, with a particular California twist.
Carroll & Co. were at the forefront of the carefully crafted, elegant, sporting look that defined Hollywood after the War–indeed, a lot of the post-War look of Hollywood came straight out of Carroll & Co.. Other stores might claim that they catered to the stars, but Carroll & Co. did.
Fred Astaire, Clark Cable, Steve McQueen and Cary Grant all wore clothing from Carroll & Co. (A jacket that Carroll & Co. made for Cary Grant to wear in *Monkey Business* was sold for $8000 in 2013.) Frank Sinatra once sent a personal thank-you note to Carroll for a suit he especially loved–“it swings!” he enthused. (When Sinatra was in the store only his music was played in-store.) Walter Matthau once tried to swap his 1967 Oscar for a whole load of sweaters… Until the Academy noted sternly that that was not allowed. The famous violinist Jascha Heifetz bought his suits from Carroll & Co., giving impromtu performances while trying them on to make sure that they would feel right while playing. Eisenhower wore Carroll & Co. shirts, and Jimmy Carter delivered his State of the Union addresses in Carroll & Co. ties.
So famous was Carroll & Co. that they are credited with making Rodeo Drive–a sleepy retail backwater when they opened a store on it–the retail center that it is today.
This being Beverly Hills Carroll & Co. was also known as luxury. Vicuna and cashmere were everyday sales at its Rodeo Drive location… and for a more robust clientele it stocked a full range of British tweeds, many of which were exclusive to Carroll & Co. The company also offered hand-tailored Savile Row jackets and suits, primarily from Chester Barrie. Not surprisingly, it was also know for being expensive–jackets started at a mere $1,200 and prices moved quickly upwards from there.
John Carroll took over the store from his father in 1996. One of his father’s last acts as President was to move from Rodeo Drive to N. Canon Drive–a move motivated by the opportunity he had to purchase the Canon Drive location.
That proved the store’s undoing…. Not because it wasn’t on Rodeo anymore, but because the book in LA property values meant that Carroll & Co had inadvertently moved out of the clothing business and into the real estate investment business….. at which they did very well indeed.
In 2019 the store closed when they received an offer they couldn’t refuse for the building. As John Carroll put it, it would have been impossible for them to sell enough clothes in his lifetime, or the lifetime of his children, and their children, to make the money they were offered to sell up.
So, sell up they did. And now Carroll & Co–the store that dressed the Golden Age of Hollywood–is no more.