Carrying on from Fitz’s unofficial summer of surf I found something the other day that fits in rather nicely. Clothing labels have always interested me and obviously I find mid century American labels the most atheistically pleasing.
Thanks to the advent of the Etsy store, I am seeing news labels on a regular basis. One label however, I recognised instantly whilst sifting through a newly arrived trans-Atlantic treasure trove and this was the early Reyn’s label.
Now everyone knows Reyn’s from their Hawaiian shirt creations and not so well known was their involvement with Gant in the early 1960’s - it’s the latter that I am addressing here. Gant for Reyn’s popovers are highly sought after, with the Madras versions (when up for sale) go into three figures but the shirt I had in my hand was a button up, Gant Hugger cut in Oxford Cloth. Personally I had never seen a plain Reyn’s/Gant before so in my eyes it certainly was a curio.
Obviously this called for an information hunt and without too much bother I found a brief history of Reyn Spooner that gives a background to his early Ivy roots, below is an extract of this.
For the whole story click here
The shirt in question - label dates between 1959 -1962 for sale here
“What my dad introduced to Hawai‘i was classic clothing – natural, Ivy League traditionalism,” said Tim McCullough. “Quite a bit more conservative than the resort look he had offered in Avalon. My dad felt the only way he’d have any success in Hawai‘i was to go after something other than the resort business, because everybody was already doing that here. Reyn introduced clothing for the aspiring entrepreneur / businessman who someday would be the boss—the guy who could be a little more updated in his style. Being a Jazz musician and enthusiast, Reyn had a real sense for the contemporary feeling he wanted his clothing to evoke. Essentially, he brought more “hipness” to Hawai‘i.”
The first two years he was open, Reyn would not allow printed apparel in his store, which meant no Aloha shirts. Tim McCullough remembered that his father never really embraced the Aloha shirt idea until Tom Anderson, his Ala Moana store Assistant Manager, brought him Pat Dorian’s original “reverse” print shirt.
“Reyn liked it,” Tim McCullough added. “But he envisioned an Ivy League styling to complement the Reyn’s look. This had never been done. Reyn said, ‘Why not make it like Gant’s ’Hugger’ body pullover sports shirt with a button-down collar?’”
The kind of shirt McCullough envisioned in 1961 was the classic Oxford cloth shirt, like those introduced by Brooks Brothers more than half a century before.
“Reyn could have just made patterns from the Gant shirts he carried in his store; however, being of high ethical standards he determined it would be best to approach the Gant Company first,” said Tim. On his next buying trip back to New Haven, Connecticut, Reyn worked with his supplier and long-time friends, well-known brothers within the industry, Elliot and Arthur Gant. He shared his idea of updating the Hawaiian shirt with a new Ivy League body style. Upon hearing of his concept, they allowed him to borrow their pattern for the Ivy League short-sleeve, pullover, button-down-collar, “Hugger” shirt. They were so enamored with Reyn’s idea that they introduced him to their French pattern maker on Fifth Avenue in New York City to obtain his own set of patterns. Returning to Hawai‘i, Reyn took the pattern to Ruth Spooner of Spooner’s of Waikiki where he was manufacturing swimwear, and Spooner began making the new-style Aloha shirt for Reyn’s. It was a more conservative, “traditional” pullover reverse shirt with a button-down-collar and tails to tuck into slacks.
“Reyn’s was now dressing Hawai‘i businessmen with an ingenious ’island’ dignity,” said Tim McCullough. “And it sold like hotcakes overnight, becoming the shirt of choice for Honolulu’s movers and shakers. Surfers loved it too, because it had that faded “authentic” look and a touch of Ivy League style.”