Monday, December 10, 2007


Bear Mountain area, New York. As unlikely a place as ever to find landmark evidence of a big impact on menswear. But hark! This is no ordinary place. This is sacred ground of the Algonquin’s. Home of the Bear they called it after the great Sachem (chief) P’Tauk-Seet (the Bear) pronounced (Tuck-Seet). A village exists here that has held a legend in mens fashion for over a century.

But before this story unravels itself lets take a trip back to England in the 1880's. The Prince of Wales has commissioned Henry Poole & Co. to tailor a special smoking jacket hybrid for him that will allow him to attend semi-casual galas without going through the ritual ‘top & tails’ routine of high class dinner-wear. It is rumored that the then Prince (Edward VII) had his eye on a young Cora Potter from America. Cora was a beautiful southern girl born in New Orleans and married to one James Potter of New York (Cue J. K. Rowling fans). Although Potter was not a wizard, he was a successful coffee broker and a highly influential dinner club founder back in the states. Thus in 1886 he and his wife were invited to attend a ball at the Prince's Sandringham, Norfolk estate in the UK. When James Potter asked the Prince what would be appropriate to wear to such an event, the Prince referred him to his custom tailor to get fitted for his newly designed dinner-wear. A ploy to get time alone with Mrs. Potter?

Funnily enough, Cora did not return immediately to America. She stayed behind in England to pursue acting, while James returned to New York to continue his business and social presence. In New York, James Potter wore his new outfit from the UK all around town and at his private dinner club near Bear Mountain. Customers at the popular dinner spot Delmonico's were noted to constantly ask where the attractive new attire was from. Most of the time, Potter’s dinner club was sighted as the area of attraction for this mysterious and new garb. Consequently Potter’s dinner club which was located back northwest of New York City was given credit for the uprising of this trend. P'tauk-Seet-Tough (Tuck-Seet-Toe) or Home of the Bear by that time (1870's-1880's) was known as Tuxedo, New York. Rather by chance or by the winds of fate, Edward VII, Cora & James Potter, and Algonquin Sachem P'Tauk-Seet had all played a hand in inventing the American Tuxedo.

Barking Irons has pioneered what we call the Hester Polo combining elements of the American Tuxedo shirt with a fine jersey polo shirt for several seasons now.

Cora Potter died in 1936. Upon leaving England in the late 19th century Oscar Wilde is quoted to say "With regard to Mrs. Brown-Potter, as acting is no longer considered absolutely essential for success on the English stage, there is really no reason why the pretty bright-eyed lady who charmed us all last June by her merry laugh and her nonchalant ways, should not--to borrow an expression from her native language--make a big boom and paint the town red. We sincerely hope she will; for, on the whole, the American invasion has done English society a great deal of good. American women are bright, clever, and wonderfully cosmopolitan. "


Chasey said...

I love this site!!!!

M.W. said...

great post. well said.

Victor Martinez said...

love this site you should have a look at mine, you could say its your sister site but all about London, I'll add your link to mine. Next Time i'm in New York will pop in , got my eye on one of your scarfs.