Dreaming of a better life, Bernard Gantmacher – a Ukrainian immigrant – set sail for America to find it. Not only did he seize and fulfill his dream, he also forever changed the course of American fashion.
Featured in this short film is our very own Christopher Bastin, the Creative Director at GANT, for whom this story and heritage is priceless. "It gives you a platform and security as a brand,” he says.
The untold stories, the nuanced details, the styled precision – these are what make GANT designs come to life and why we continue to be inspired by some of our most beloved and original pieces.
Then and now – it’s how we stay relevant in today’s modern wardrobe.
Encouraged by his sons, Bernard Gantmacher establishes GANT Inc – and starts to make shirts under the company’s own label. At the time the town of New Haven was one of America’s capitals of clothing manufacture. One reason for this was that it had a large community of Italian immigrants, many of whom were talented garment workers.
Times were good for the Gantmachers. The business grew – and so did the family. Two of Bernard and Rebecca’s children, Marty and Elliot, would go on to spur GANT to great success. The boys, born in 1921 and 1926, grew up in New Haven and helped at the shirt factory by sweeping floors and fusing collars. They were also aware of what was happening on the campus of nearby Yale University, which would change the course of American fashion.
The outbreak of World War II interrupted their careers and both sons enlisted in the army. Upon returning home in the 1940s they studied at the University of Connecticut. Marty specialized in business administration while Elliot majored in marketing. Then, armed with their new skills, they went back into the family business.
The brothers saw that America was entering a period of rapid and profound change. The war had blown away many old traditions. New kinds of art, music and fashion were spreading across the nation. Marty and Elliot saw an opportunity – and seized it. They convinced their father the time was right to leave Par-Ex and the contracting business behind. Instead of making clothing for other labels, they would sell perfectly tailored shirts under their own label.
In April 1949, GANT Inc. was born.
From the outset, GANT was known for the quality of its shirts. In the early days, when the company was in the business of supplying shirts to other retailers, a discreet GANT trademark was added: a little diamond with a “G” in it stamped on the tail of the shirt. This mark was the customer’s assurance of quality just as much as the retailer’s label inside the collar. By the mid-1950s, the Diamond G had become part of the American menswear history – a distinctive sign of superior quality that helped make the signature shirts coveted best sellers, with demand far outstripping supply.
“I’m not entirely sure why they chose to put a diamond around the G, or if it even was intentionally symbolizing a diamond. But whatever the reasons, it led to people no longer caring about what the neck label said and only looking for the G," explains Christopher Bastin, the Creative Director at GANT.
The 1950s was a time of unprecedented growth in America and GANT shirts helped define the casual-yet-smart look that dominated in the post-war years. GANT’s detailed craftsmanship and effortless American style appealed to a generation of men who had spent years wearing military issue clothing and who had now returned home to take their place in the booming middle class.
They appreciated the perfect roll of a GANT collar, and the quality of fabric one could expect with a GANT shirt. And soon they would appreciate another quality that GANT pioneered: color. For decades the plain white shirt had dominated in menswear but that was all about to change forever. An explosion of color was coming – and that explosion sparked in the town of New Haven, Connecticut.