Magic mushrooms, dinosaurs, leopards and llamas. Chambray, camouflage, cheetah and cord. Whatever your shirting need, hopes, wants and desires, Gitman Bros. has your upper torso covered. Classics oxfords in timeless colours could aid you in projecting the persona of a dapper gent who's interests include aged whisky and modern literature. An indigo flannel, on the other hand, might suggest that you know how to split firewood, yet you are also in touch with your manly emotions. Assumptions aside, the all American label has been cultivating their craft over the last 70 years to bring you the ultimate shirt, which is at once sophisticated and straightforward.
In today’s world of fast fashion there’s something really special to be said about a label that has been around for more than seven decades. Why do you think Gitman Bros. has withstood the test of time? Gitman has been through many ups and downs, and it emerged in the market well before outsourcing existed. It has withstood these fluctuations due to good planning, quality product and a certain reluctance to quit or fail.
Most people probably don’t put a lot of thought into the shirt that goes on their back. Can you give us a quick rundown of how a shirt is created at Gitman from design to materialisation?
Design stems from many places, either beginning with fabric development from scratch or working closely with a mill in selecting fabrics for the coming season. I’m currently just finishing AW14, which we will sell in January 2014. As far as production goes, it takes about an hour and a half to make a shirt — there are roughly 50 steps along the way, which involve sewing together over 20 separate pieces.
Can you tell us a bit about the factory where all the shirts are made?
The shirts have been, are, and will always, be made in Ashland, Pennsylvania, by a group of 80 sewers, many of whom have been with Gitman for over 20 years. The label was founded by Max Gitman in 1932 as the Ashland Shirt & Pajama Co, and not until 1978 was it established as Gitman Brothers by his two sons, Alfred and Sheldon. The factory is in a very rural area, in what was once a thriving coal mining region. Gitman is one of the last remaining facilities of its kind, both in Pennsylvania and nationwide.
If you could ever go back to that era, the 30s, would you?
Yes, I would like to go back to observe, but only for the day.
What about yourself — what’s is your background?
I’ve been with Gitman for seven years now. My background is varied — I’ve previously worked in academic publishing and teaching, but I’ve always been immersed in culture and product, and how to translate that to a wider audience. Sometimes a shirt and a poem aren’t that different.
You also direct Gitman Vintage, which looks to the label’s archives and redoes past favourites for new seasons. How do you choose which fabrics to reinterpret?
I used to cull more from the archives, but recently my penchant for plaid has been replaced by a madness for prints. This coming season I will be reintroducing some interesting oxford blends that we used to make.
Oscar Wilde once said, “A gentleman is one who never hurts anyone’s feelings unintentionally.” What qualities do you think makes a gentleman in 2013 and beyond?
Whoa, a Wilde quote — you’ve got to be careful with that one and really read between the lines as his self-deprecating ambiguity skims the border between playful and serious. In answer to your question, a gentlemen in 2013 never walks down the street more engaged with his iPhone than with what’s around him.
What will never go out of style?
Gitman button-downs, Levi’s jeans, the Rolex Oyster collection, Saarinen’s Tulip table and chair, Alden cordovan shoes, and a few more things, but that’s the general idea.
Who is the most well-dressed man throughout all of history?
Jesus – so simple and unaffected.
Is there anything about men’s fashion that makes you cringe?
Complex layering for the sake of layering. One piece of fashion at a time.
Kanye’s kilt: yay or nay? Nay.
Truth time — how many shirts do you own?
That’s tough… 40. I’m a sample size and I keep the greatest hits from past seasons in rotation.