70 Years of Learning

The GANT story began in 1914 when the Ukrainian emigrant Bernard Gantmacher disembarked in New York City. He enrolled in night classes at Columbia University and during the day worked in the Garment District. There he met Rebecca Rose, whose job was sewing buttonholes, who would later become his wife. At the outbreak of the First World War, Bernard joined the US Army and went to fight in France. After his military service, he returned to New York with a renewed desire to succeed. Bernard graduated from college and decided the time was right to go into business for himself. With his business partner Morris Shapiro, he founded the Par-Ex Shirt Company in Brooklyn. The name was from the phrase par excellence. Par-Ex made shirts for other brands and was a success. In 1927 the company relocated to New Haven, Connecticut, which 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. Bernard and Rebecca’s got two sons, Marty and Elliot. 


With the outbreak of World War II, the brothers enlisted in the army. Upon returning home, they 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, which become the first designer men’s brand in the US.

What separated GANT from other shirtmakers was not just the quality but also the shirt’s unique construction. The perfect roll was one signature detail that GANT had perfected. Other small touches that customers appreciated included the locker loop on the back of the shirt that can be used to hang the shirt to keep it wrinkle-free in the locker room. It even became a part of Ivy League dating culture that a guy would remove his loop when he was going steady with a girl; the box pleat, at the back of the shirt, that gave the wearer greater freedom of movement; and the back collar button that kept the tie in place and prevented the collar from riding up. In 1963, the button tab won an award from Esquire magazine. Elliot invented the button tab to make the tie and the shirt match perfectly. At the same time that they were perfecting the men’s shirt, GANT noticed that it wasn’t just men who coveted their clothing. Inspired by the number of women who were borrowing their boyfriends’ and husbands’ shirts, they realized that both sexes appreciated quality clothing. GANT launched their women’s shirts with the slogan: “For women, GANT makes shirts, not blouses.”

Until the late 1960s, GANT had been solely a shirtmaker but now the time had come to use their specialized knowledge to broaden their range. In 1971, they produced their first collection of American sportswear including ties, trousers, and rugby shirts – some of the key pieces still being reinvented, refined and perfected by GANT today. 

GANT is often called the American lifestyle brand with European sophistication, which leads us to the next part of the story – how the brand got its European sophistication. In the 80s, a new chapter begins for GANT when three Swedish entrepreneurs buy the company. The move to Europe adds a sophisticated European flair to the classic designs and helps GANT to become an internationally renowned brand - now with the added goal of making the world a more interesting and beautiful place through a passion for American sportswear.

Since 2008, the Swiss company Maus Frères has owned GANT. Maus Frères saw a lifestyle brand with global potential that they would be able to develop to its fullest extent. Today, GANT has its headquarters in Sweden and has a presence in 70 markets across the globe. 

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