Posted 12 months ago
Through his ads for Gillette, Interwoven socks, Arrow and particularly the House of Kuppenheimer, J.C. Leyendecker defined the refined American male look of the first 30 years of the XXth Century. He was even mentioned in The Great Gatsby, where "The Leyendecker man" is referred to as the epitome of male fashion for the Roaring Twenties.
Bernard Kuppenheimer and his son started the firm in 1876, after having been a partner in the Chicago clothing firm of Kohn, Claybugh & Einstein. Upon migrating to America in 1850, Bernard Kuppenheimer founded a retail clothing store in Terre Haute, Indiana in 1852. Bernard relocated to Chicago in 1866, leaving the Terre Haute store under the supervision of his brother John. In 1906, the Chicago firm operated "The House of Kuppenheimer" branches in Boston and New York, with sales in Washington, D.C. handled by Isidor Grosner of 1013 Pennsylvania Ave., NW. During the 1st World War Kuppenheimer's was the manufacturer of uniforms for the U.S. Army. The company grew to employ close to 2,000 men and women at shops around Chicago in 1910 (Wikipedia).
And it fell to J.C. to create the publicity blitz that would not only put the company on the map, but create an enduring American "male object of desire". Notice the recurring logo: "An Investment In Good Taste". Not coincidentally, the Leyendecker brothers contributed some of the greatest WWI covers and posters.
I have chosen the four pieces of advertising above for their visual impact, and for what they tell about the variety of environments the ideal Leyendecker male might interact with.
Pic. 1: Sports, particularly boat racing. I'll spare you my take on that one! (Create your own caption).
Pic. 2: Younger, white, subordinate males, who might very well learn impeccable taste from those they serve/service?. Notice the inordinate care to show the coat's lining, a marker of its quality. A hotel environment.
Pic. 3. Travel, sports and a different kind of service. Blacks in general were part and parcel of the world of privilege moneyed whites lived in, whether as nannies, porters, gardeners, etc.
Pic. 4: An off-the-wall pairing of a Commedia del'Arte figure and a happy young, beautiful, presumably rich, well-dressed American hunk.
The American Dream incarnate, imitated by every movie star of the period.
And wait till I get to Interwoven socks.