In 1914, Bernard Gantmacher arrived from Ukraine to New York City. Empty handed, but determined to make a better future for himself, he enrolled at Columbia University, studying to become a pharmacist. To finance his studies he worked night shifts in the garment district of the Lower East Side. His first job was to sew shirt collars and he soon proved to be a master at the sewing machine. There he met his future wife, Rose, who was working as a button and buttonhole specialist.
In 1927, the couple moved to New Haven, Connecticut. The city was the center of a booming textile industry and Bernard set up business as a sub-contractor, making shirts for other labels.
Gant were quickly recognized as skilled shirt makers and became trusted partners for some of the most notable brands of the time. To satisfy the many customers who wanted to make sure they were getting the same high quality every time, Bernard started labeling the shirts with a diamond “G”. Soon everybody was talking about the “G-shirt” and demand far exceeded supply.
THE SHIRT AND THE GANT LABEL
After World War II, Bernard and Rose’s two sons, Marty and Elliot, returned home from active service. The brothers joined the family business and in 1949 they launched their own label, GANT of New Haven. The GANT shirt was an overnight success. An important feature was the button-down collar. Button-down shirts, originally an English innovation, where becoming very fashionable and GANT was the first to introduce such a shirt on a larger scale on the US market. The combination of Bernard’s dedication to quality and his sons’ style sense proved to be a winning formula. Over the following years GANT came up with a number of creative tailoring features, such as the locker loop, the box pleat and the button on the back of the collar to keep the tie in place. Such innovations helped to maintain interest in GANT and won the label a dedicated following. For GANT, it all began with the shirt.
Trendy in the 1950s – a classic today: The button down collar
Elliot and Marty Gant in front of one of their factories. 1960s.