DETMER WOOLENS: “NEWEST STYLES FOR MEN”
This week I was perusing the NYPL digital archives and came across these beautifully done mens catalogs from the 1920’s – 1940’s, published by Detmer Woolens. Not knowing a thing about the company, I did some digging and found that the history of Detmer Woolens is a pretty tragic tale, which is perhaps why so little about the company is still known. Detmer Woolens was an NYC textile business founded in 1985 by Ohio native Julian Francis Detmer. Through it’s history, the company met with a series of misfortunes including an unfortunate involvement in the notorious fire that destroyed NYC’s Parker Building, and being accused of what was essentially marketing fraud. Despite all this, the company and family saw a good deal of success, until the founder died in 1958. In his memory, Detmer left only a plot of gardens, Detmer Nurseries, near his home in Tarrytown, New York, all of which were destroyed in 1975 for a new residential development project, leaving no tangible family legacy.
All this to say, there’s not much left of the company, except perhaps these beautifully detailed men’s style guides. From what I can tell they were published on a seasonal basis, in Fall/Winter and Spring/Summer, and for the menswear history nerds out there, they’re an interesting and accurate time capsule of men’s style in the urban United States. Somehow, I doubt the Detmer family ever imagined these would be amongst their longest lasting artifacts, but if we’re still flipping through them and passing them around (digitally or otherwise), over 70 years later, I’d say it’s not such a bad legacy to have. – M