Gitman Bros. Vintage – History, Philosophy, Iconic Products
Every good brand has its speciality, but when it comes to Gitman Bros., shirting is an obsession. With roots that stretch back to the early 1930’s, Gitman has developed a formula for the perfect button down, and produced private label shirts under contract for brands such as Burberry, Brooks Brothers, and Thom Browne.
Gitman Bros. Vintage is the brands sub-label that pays homage to the brand’s rich history by producing shirts that reference iconic staples and classic pieces from the brand’s archives, which translate harmoniously into the modern wardrobe.
Gitman’s Philosophy and History
The year is 1932, and the Great Depression is in full swing. The pressure of the ever-rising costs of running a business in New York has forced a group of highly skilled shirt makers to up sticks and flee the Big Apple. One of these people was Brooklyn-born shirt contractor Max Gitman, who looked west (although not too far west) and chose Ashland, Pennsylvania as the place to start-a-fresh, and establish the Ashland Shirt & Pajama Company.
Gitman trained his workers to become skilled shirt makers, and installed a philosophy committed to high-quality American-made garments. With World War II on the horizon, the Ashland Shirt & Pajama Company would profit greatly from the military’s demand for shirting. But, in addition to the profits, the specifications required to make the shirting for military personnel meant that Max and his fleet of workers developed the skills needed to producing precision-made dress shirts that were handsome, comfortable and reliable at the same time. And before long, the small, rural coal-mining town of Ashland, became known as a hotspot for gold-standard shirt making.
The twin sons of Max Gitman, Alfie and Sheldon ‘Shelly’ Gitman, joined the business in 1950. Shelly was enlisted to run the cutting room, whilst Alfie manned the finishing room. Over the next two decades, the brothers became industry pros, championing the company’s philosophy and meticulous manufacturing processes, and ensuring the production of some of the finest shirts America had to offer. During this time, Max Gitman passed away, and the twin brothers were given full reign of the company, integrating another purpose-built shirt factory into the business.
It wasn’t until 1978, though, that the shirts bore their founder’s name. The suggestion came from one of the brand’s salesman and soon the Gitman brothers took the first Gitman Bros. shirts to market. The factory still continued private label shirt-making—which reeled in big names from across the fashion world—but Alfie and Shelley re-marketed their most popular sport shirts as Gitman Bros.
The brothers finished their product with key details like double-tracked stitching, chalk buttons, an additional back-collar button, a locker loop, and box pleating. What set Gitman Bros. shirts apart even further from their competitors was the range of new and exciting fabrics. Those bright plaids, vibrant patterns, and unique prints were what would inspire the birth of the brand’s heritage line, Gitman Bros. Vintage, three decades later.
Gitman Vintage came about in 2008, after Gitman’s creative director, Chris Olberding, was directed to archived line books while overseeing a private label production for Thom Browne. After the glory days of Gitman Bros., the brand had concentrated less and less on the in-house line, but Olberding was wowed by the vibrant fabrics, heritage details, and construction of the old Gitman Bros. product.
He realized the brand could start using its pioneering history as fuel for its forward momentum, and the vintage line was launched with the philosophy of bridging the old and the new, with the same devotion to quality and American craftsmanship of days past.
Gitman Bros. has stayed true to its heritage of American manufacturing, and their sewers are often second- or third-generation shirt makers of the highest skill. Gitman shirts are still produced in-house in Ashland, Pennsylvania, but now stocked in hundreds of stores across the globe from boutiques to Barneys.
Gitman Bros. Vintage line is still lead by Chris Olberding, and the line has been highly successful since its launch almost ten years ago. Each season features an array of shirting options, ranging from staple, heritage variations—like oxfords and chambray—to lively prints and high-textured fabrics—such as felt or corduroy—each one designed using archive line books and swatches of vintage fabrics as inspiration.
Gitman Vintage has collaborated with companies like Unionmade, Mark McNairy and Stüssy, among a number of others, and this season has seen the launch of the ‘Santiago Shirt’ capsule collection of shirts, hand-made in a small factory of nine skilled shirt makers in Santiago, Chile.
Characteristics and Iconic Models
To balance the use of vintage fabrics and hallmarks, Gitman Vintage shirts have a slightly modernized fit, made with a higher armhole, slim sleeve, and a tailored silhouette. As part of a heritage charm offensive, most Gitman Vintage shirts still feature all the finishing details specificed by Alfie and Shelly Gitman back in 1978
Green Grosgrain Labels
The green neck labels on Gitman Vintage shirts use the original Gitman Bros. branding from the seventies, but include an additional green ‘Vintage’ label to indicate the shirt is from the contemporary vintage line.
Chalk White Buttons
Originally instated because they were cost efficient, the thick chalk white buttons are a hallmark finish of Gitman shirts.
Back Collar Button
This additional button on the rear of the collar helps to keep the collar tidy and structured.
Locker Loop & Box Pleat
Locker loops are usually found above the neck labels, but Gitman shirts feature one above the pleat on the back of the shirt, allowing for easy storage and less wrinkles.
The box pleat is a tailored detail which helps to improve fit and range of motion.
The Classic White Oxford
Gitman Bros.’ most straight-forward shirt—and probably their most famous—this is their original sport design. As one of the most versatile and essential items in a modern wardrobe, the Oxford Shirt can be dressed up or down, and this Gitman Vintage Bros. version features all the heritage hallmarks mentioned above. A true classic.
Available for $160 at Unionmade.
The Fun Felt Flannel
An example of how funky Gitman Bros. can get with their fabric selections, this shirt was made by combining different colored pieces of felt onto the classic Gitman shirt pattern. And there’s no doubt that Jerry Seinfeld or Will Smith rocked something like this at some point during the early 90s.
Available for $220 at Gitman.
The Powder Print Shirt
A pinnacle of Gitman Bros.’ eccentric fabrics, the Powder Print Shirt features an all-over print made up of images from an alpine ski resort, made using similar printing techniques used by Polo Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger. This one is made from cotton poplin and features different construction to normal Gitman Bros. shirts, with two chest pockets, an open collar, and snap button closures throughout.
Available at Gitman for $205.
Gitman Bros. – The Final Say
If it’s authentic American product you’re after, look no further. The Gitman story spans three generations from the big city to small town USA, and they haven’t seemed to lose a step in the transition. The product itself manages to be as blue-blooded as Brooks Brothers and as iconoclastic as Supreme without collapsing as a contradiction. Think shirts. Think Gitman.