The History Of Menswear Told Through NYPL’S Digital Collection: Part 5

Earlier this year the New York Public Library shared 180,000 prints, maps, manuscripts, and much more in a digital public domain collection for the very first time. In it, we unearthed menswear ads from over one hundred years ago. In this series, we explore them. Discover part five below, and find part one here, part two here, part three here, and part four here in case you missed them.

Selections from Macy’s Men’s Furnishing Department 1909.

Men's dress shirts

This print ad for men by Macy’s is nearly one hundred years old, but it feels quite similar to menswear ads today because it hits many themes that are still relevant to men’s fashion. Though, can you imagine selecting your shirt while only being able to see it in black and white?

Macy’s begins the ad with a peer pressure play: If they’re supplying thousands of fashionably dressed men, especially those in New York, you’re probably wondering what you’re missing out on. Then, in a new, but old, twist on free returns Macy’s ensures there’s truly not risk in trying a shirt by promising to “refund your money at once if you are not satisfied.” They’re also offering a special free shipping offer, which you can learn more about on their table of freight rates – which sounds a little intimidating if you ask us. Furthermore, can you imagine writing them via good old-fashioned mail to inquire about any good not depicted on the page, from their selection of “$5,000,000 worth of goods”? That would be quite a shock to those of us who have grown up in the convenience economy. What’s interesting is that they don’t include their address or a phone number on this particular page, so they’ve potentially made it a bit of a challenge to hunt down the goods you want.

Moving onto the products in the ad, Macy’s selection of white shirts feature banded collars, similar to our popovers, though the men shown have topped theirs off with club collars, such as the one on our Foxhall. Beyond that, Macy’s promises a perfect fit and a quality of workmanship equal to custom, with every shirt washed, shrunk, and hand ironed. So, a great fit, one that feels like it was made for you, has always been important. That’s why we designed our 12 new-to-world sizes, that make it quick and easy to find a shirt that feels just right.

While their shirts are made from linen, nearly all of our dress and casual shirts are 100% pure Egyptian cotton, but for a few cut from linen or linen-cotton blends. We source our cottons from all over the world, but predominantly Italy, India and Thailand. And, our fabric costs are the most expensive component of the overall cost of our dress shirts. In short, while many of the same themes are prevalent in menswear ads today, the final product itself has definitely improved.

What else do you find intriguing about this Macy’s ad?

The History Of Menswear Told Through NYPL’S Digital Collection: Part 5
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