Button-Down Shirt Story 1: B.D. Born in the USA

Kamakura Shirts could not have made it in New York without the button-down shirt.
Dress shirts were invented in England and they were popular all around the world. However, the button-down shirt (B.D. Shirt) was an American invention, and it’s well-known that Brooks Brothers began selling them from around 1890.
Its origins lie in the collars of polo shirts being buttoned down to prevent it from rolling up during the sport. It must’ve seemed like an unusual shirt at the time. Nevertheless, the B.D. shirt established its status as a symbol of the United States, possibly to rival the fashion in Britain, or simply because it was just a sensible design. Students of the eight American Ivy League universities favored these B.D. shirts as everyday “traditional” American clothing. Likewise, the B.D. shirts became to represent American fashion, as it became a style that American people were proud of.
I had the fortune of working under Mr. Kensuke Ishizu, who, after researching these eight universities (The Ivy League), helped spread the IVY LOOK across Japan. That was 50 years ago, but it is said that now in America, the birthplace of this IVY STYLE, there is no real following of this trend any more, and the IVY LOOK has only been handed down in Japan. However, American people who grew up in wealthy homes can recall their childhood surrounded by this style of fashion. Many still feel affection and nostalgia for the clothing of gentlemen and ladies of that time.

In the year 2008, we reached the decision to open a store in New York and started our research. In the meantime, Brooks Brothers, a brand in the hearts of many, had shifted towards a more Italian taste and the good old B.D. shirts were now using wrinkle-resistant fabrics. There was none of that old nostalgic look of the collar roll, and the complaints that once came from the New Yorkers gradually piped down to become words of disappointed acceptance.

Fortunately, I also knew a thing or two about the B.D. shirts of the good old days. Why not use this knowledge as a weapon and revive the button-down shirts that New Yorker’s would crave? If we could do that and show appreciation for this long-lost style, I was sure that the American market would accept this new Japanese brand. That was why we were secretly confident.

From the opening day, button-down enthusiasts poured into our store. “How come you guys know so much about the collar roll?” “Is this really ‘Made in Japan’?” “How can you stay in business with this kind of price?” “Why does the Englishman, Graham Marsh, recommend you guys so heavily?” (Mr. Graham Marsh is a jazz and IVY LOOK researcher/enthusiast, and his book “THE IVY LOOK” was a best-seller.) As they enquired, they praised the B.D. shirts they tried on. None of the discrimination I had expected occurred. If anything, the people in New York welcomed the arrival of ‘Made in Japan’ products, given that the main option in the United States was ‘Made in China’. I was moved by the open-mindedness, and the culture that was eager to accept and acknowledge items of good quality.

Five years have passed since we gained ground in New York. The local New Yorkers have requested an even higher level of B.D. shirts. This entailed the reproduction of something close to the original B.D shirts, which were from a period when shirts had no interlining.

Where two pieces of fabric overlap, interlining was used to give thickness and set in place the upper and lower shirting. Therefore, interlining was essential. There are very few factories that could sew a shirt without interlining. Still, if we could accomplish a shirt without interlining, the collar roll would have an elegant finish and the good old shirts from the past archive will spring back to life.

Thankfully, the staff with the skills to reproduce these shirts were still working in the factory where VAN Jacket’s shirts had been sewn in the past.

It’s August 2018 and Kamakura Shirts has launched a new B.D. shirt called “SPORT”. We’re truly confident in this new creation since our company is quite possibly the only one that can create B.D. shirts that closely resembles the button-downs of the good old days.

The B.D. shirt is a unique and a convenient shirt, as it may be worn as a dress shirt, while at other times as a casual shirt. It was born out of America’s practical-mindedness, and has grown into something that signifies nostalgia and comfort.

50 years ago, 300 thousand VAN Jacket fans cherished this B.D. shirt.

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