Early-Day Memorabilia on Display in New York / Fashion Institute of Technology Exhibition Features Items from Arrow Shirt, Collar Co

Article excerpt

When one sees the soft-collared shirts which men wear today - even with their tuxedos - it's hard to believe that shirts used to be made with detachable, heavily-starched collars. And that's all that was available.

Examples of those early shirts, along with other memorabilia, are on display at New York's Fashion Institute of Technology. The exhibition is titled "All American: A Sportswear Tradition" and features all kinds of designs from U.S. designers and manufacturers. The exhibit will continue through June 29 at the Institute located at Seventh Ave. and 27th St. in the heart of New York's garment district.

Of special interest in the exhibit is a display of memorabilia from Arrow's Troy, N.Y., archives.

Included are a detachable collar-forming machine dating from 1880, advertising for those collars by G. B. Cluett Bros., dating from 1889, and some of the earliest advertising and catalog art created for Cluett Peabody and Arrow by J. C. Leyendecker who also created the Arrow Collar Man. Other items in the display include a 1917-18 men's dress guide, a collar measure machine, collar stretching machine, copies of patents for 1877 and 1869, and sheet music and a recording from 1928 of Irving Berlin's "Puttin' on the Ritz." The lyrics contain a line "high hats and Arrow collars."

It was in the mid-19th century that the new fashion - a detachable collar for men's shirts - was introduced in America. The collar was an immediate success.

Many small firms to make collars were organized in Troy, which became the "Detachable Starched Collar Capital of the World." The Cluett family bought into one of the more prosperous firms and, through a merger in 1889, the Cluetts acquired what is now one of the more famous trade names in the fashion world - Arrow.

In 1898, Cluett, Peabody & Company became the firm's name. Frederick Peabody was the driving force behind the effort to make the Arrow trademark a household word. He engaged the services of Leyendecker who created the legendary Arrow Collar Man. Through the years, the Arrow Man changed and the Arrow collar styles changed along with him. The Arrow Man became so adulated and prominent that he was the inspiration for a Broadway play, "Helen of Troy, N.Y."

The stiff collar, popular before World War I, gave way to the soft collar and, about the same time, men began moving toward attached collars. Cluett, Peabody converted itself to the manufacture of collar-attached shirts and related products. The firm pioneered in bringing shrinkage-free shirts to the marketplace in 1928.

Well, anyway, the whole exhibit on American sportswear should be interesting and especially the Arrow segment. Drop by the Institute if you're in New York before June 29. . .

- Several interesting fashion shows are coming up around Oklahoma City in the next few weeks. …