One evening in the summer of 1963 I was caught in a summer downpour while on my way to join my father and mother at their apartment.
My trousers got drenched.
I had to borrow a pair of my fathers trousers to go out for dinner.
My waist size in those days was 32. My father's waist size was about 44.
Suspenders saved the day and I have had a warm spot in my heart for suspenders ever since.
That is part of why I offer 21 colors in solid grosgrain suspenders and 4 different stripes.
The other reason is when you use suspenders trousers hang cleaner and do not need to be tight
around one's waist.
Tom Watson Jr spent a considerable amount of time with my father.
He really liked our business. He would sit with my dad and talk about Chipp for an hour or two a few times a year.
The chats continued with me after my dad's passing.
In one of my sit downs with Mr. Watson he related the following story:
His father had given Tom and each of his siblings a painting by one of the prominent French Impressionist artist.
He never really liked the painting and he thought if he changed the frame he might like it.
One Saturday morning he took it to the frame shop in Greenwich .
He selected a new frame and asked the shop owner if he could pick it up the following Tuesday.
The owner told Mr. Watson he couldn't leave the painting in the shop over the weekend because he didn't have enough insurance.
Mr. Watson told me he was very surprised because he thought the painting was worth about $50,000.
He took the painting home and called one of the NYC auction houses.
They told him the painting would fetch a number of millions of dollars.
They told him they would give him 6 million with no auction.
Given his lack of fondness for the work and because he was having a new sailboat built, he accepted the offer.
I told him if he had told me he thought it was only worth $50,000 I would have offered him $100,000.
( The largest order Chipp ever received was from IBM. When the World's Fair was held in NYC in1964/65, IBM had a pavillion which was maned by IBM employees. I don't remember exactly how many men there were - my foggy memory is it was 50 +. Each man received 3 suit, 6 shirts, and a few ties. When the fair was extended for a 2nd year , a different team was selected and clothed.)
Another Watson story - this one concerns Tom's younger brother Arthur/Dick Watson.
Dick Watson, as is often the case in brothers, was very different from his older brother. Dick Watson had a biting sense of humor.. Sometime he was quite "brassy".
One thing he had in common with Tom was enjoying his "Chipp" experiences.
In June of 1971 a customer came in for a custom suit fitting.
He told my father that he was leaving for Paris before the suit would be finished. He said he really needed the suit and he asked if we could get one of our Paris bound customers to bring the suit to him.
( He didn't want the suit shipped because the French Import duty was notoriously onerous.)
In those days a summer visit Paris was fairly common among our customers.
The first Paris bound customer to come into the shop when the suit was finished was Dick Watson, who was the US Ambassador to France
My dad knew that Mr. Watson and the customer were friends, so he asked him to ferry the suit to Paris.
The sit was delivered to our customer in Paris.
The customer sent my father the following note:
The suit is great as usual.
I have always been impressed by the Chipp quality and service,
but never as impressed as I am now that I know who you employ to make your
One of Chipp's most colorful customers was E Michael Burke.
Mike was a good enough athlete play for the Eagles in the NFL, put in time with the OSS, and CIA, was dropped in behind enemy lines in World War 2 to help plan the D Day Invasion, served as General Manager of Ringling Brothers Barnum and Baily Circus, President of the CBS owned Yankees, President of the NY Knicks and President of Madison Square Garden.
In 1951 he traveled in Europe for a week with my mother and father. ( Mike sat on the luggage rack of the red MG TD that my folks had purchased in England.
It was in his capacity as a Chipp customer and as President of the Yankees that I worked with Mr. Burke in the 60s.
He thought the team look sloppy and decided that when they were traveling the players and support individuals should wear Navy Blazers, grey flannels, BD shirts and ties.
When Spring Training Camp opened, we sent a tailor and salesman to Florida to to take the measurements of everyone who traveled with the team when they "hit the road."
In spite of the uncooperative attitude of the players, the jackets, trousers, shirts and ties were ready for the beginning of the season.
When the team traveled for "road" games, with a few exceptions, the clothes was not worn.
The Christmas season always gives me a nostalgic revisiting of the Christmas ties we have produced through the years. As is the case with most clothing "creativity", it is really adaption and variation rather than creativity. After all, I certainly did not create Santa Claus; but the United States Copyright Office has found a number of the designs that I "created" that incorporate Santa Claus worthy of copyrights.
Humans are all self centered to varying degrees. In this regard I certainly qualify more than many. So I copyrighted my designs because I thought some of them were so clever that I was sure someone would steal them.
The first design I registered was my favorite Christmas tie - " Moon over the North Pole".
The tie tie has Santa Clauses in a classic club figure configuration. One of the Santas has his red pants down around his ankles and he is flashing a "moon"
It is quite subtle. Many people look at the tie and don't notice "Mooning Santa".
To my knowledge no one has been offended by "Moon Over the North Pole" - which is not something I can say about some of my other adaptions.
I was confident that I would put my three children through college by suing some major tie manufacturer for copying "Mooning Santa".
To my ego's disappointment many years have passed and no tie company has found Mooning Santa as irresistible as I was sure would be the case. ( A few other popular Christmas ties - "Fireman Santa" peeing down the chimney; Santa takes a Break sitting on the toilet reading the newspaper.
A woman, after seeing our entire club tie collection - both Christmas and non-Christmas, described it as the best collection of 6th grade humor she had ever seen.
With more than 80 years in the rear view mirror, there is still some 6th grader in me.
"Moon Over the North Pole " can be seen by going to www.chippneckwear.com and looking at the Novelty ties.
There were friends who became customers and customers who became friends.
John Groth was one of the latter.
John was an artist/illustrator. He was known for works that covered sports and war. During WW2 he spent a lot of time with his friend and fellow correspondent Ernest Hemingway. John was in the first jeep to enter Paris after it was liberated. He was invited to the Jack Ruby trial to "capture the mood". ( No cameras were permitted into the court room)
His paintings are part of the permanent collections at the Met, The National Museum of the MarineCorps, and the Chicago Art Museum.
Through the years my wife and I spent a number of Sunday afternoons in his 57th St Studio - the 3 of us watched football and talked about what was happening in the world
John liked tweed sports jackets and I liked his paintings. We would trade.
A few of his paintings are on the walls of our condo.
John inspired one of the few creative things I have done.
John was a pipe smoker. Rarely did you see John without his pipe.
He was delivering a talk.
After mixing with those who were looking forward to his presentation, John put his pipe into the right lower pocket of his tweed jacket and mounted the stage.
About 5 minutes into his talk, John's jacket pocket burst into flames.
The fire was quickly extinguished and three things happened :
John needed a new jacket
___________I got a painting
__________ I created a fire proof pocket for John's jackets ______________________________________________________
In 1963 John did the illustrations for a publication of Dickens Christmas Carol . It was chosen as "Best Illustrated Book of the Year." All the drawings and paintings that were in the book are part of my art collection.
Count me as one of those who absolutely LOVE your posts! Menswear has always interested me and to hear the back stories from someone who is on the front lines, is very cool. Keep up the good work, looking forward to more posts.