O’Connell’s Clothing

No offense to the good people of Buffalo, New York, but, despite its many charms, it isn’t the first city that comes to mind when you wax poetic about Ivy style.

It’s a hard nosed, working class city, once a bastion of opportunities for immigrants. But, like Cleveland, St. Louis and Detroit, it is a metropolis on the shady side of history, with decades of population loss decimating its urban core.

Yet it’s home to what is arguably the premier shop (apologies to J. Press, none to Brooks Brothers) for traditional clothing in the country: O’Connell’s Clothing.

O’Connell’s was founded in 1959, the approximate high water mark for the Ivy style in the U.S. Where so many other independent purveyors of traditional men’s clothing have gone the way of the dodo, O’Connell’s has endured–and thrived.

How I cannot imagine. It traffics in a style that has a declining audience. It doesn’t have the upper crust cache of J. Press or the Andover Shop. And it is located neither in a major metropolitan area nor a venerable New England town. Nothing about O’Connell’s reality seems to presage its success.

And yet, here we are.

O’Connell’s is one of the last outposts for the classic American style, firm footed in its commitment to American manufacturing. While it sells Shetland sweaters from Scotland, leather gloves from England and fisherman’s sweaters from Ireland, just about everything else it proffers is made on these shores. And it does so matter of factly, with little fanfare, as if such a thing is the norm in style commerce today.

I’ve never had the privilege of visiting O’Connell’s in person. But the company’s robust online presence suggests what an impressive place that must be, filled to the rafters with all varieties of traditional, classic clothing.

In recent months, I’ve purchased two items from O’Connell’s: a madras button down popover (which I think was made by our friends in Fall River) and a deadstock pair of madras trousers that, by my estimate, dates to some time in the early 80s.

They’re both superlative pieces–classic in every way, impeccable in their construction and timeless in appearance and execution.

A word of note about the popover shirts: They are cut quite substantially. I’m 5’11” and I got a small. Even so, it’s a tad baggy on me.

Vintage Murray’s Toggery Shop Madras Jacket

Murray’s Toggery Shop is famous as the purveyor of Nantucket Reds–the essential trouser of northeastern summer. For generations, traditionally minded gents have ensconced themselves in the trouser’s pinkish hue.

Sadly, most Nantucket Reds (except Murray’s M Crest line) are no longer manufactured in the United States–another despairing example of a classic brand that has gone to seed chasing foreign production as a way to save costs and cut corners.

Last year, however, I purchased a vintage piece that is a reminder of how central Murray’s once was to classic American clothing.

I was sifting the wares at a vintage store on lower Westheimer in Houston when I chanced upon a madras sports coat. I had for some time been in the market for a madras jacket, but I had yet to find one to my liking. I opened it up and found the Murray’s label. Further inspection revealed that the jacket was both American and union made.

It fit almost perfectly, and a quick trip to the tailors rectified the excess sleeve length on the left side.