Since 1891: Fiegel’s
As a vintage clothing lover, I come across a lot of labels for long gone men’s stores no one’s heard of (let alone been to), usually sewn proudly inside jacket fronts opposite the designer and fabric labels.They hint at another world of standalone men’s shops staffed with tailors and expert career salesmen, wardrobes of custom and made-to-measure suits, codes of dress for work, cocktail hour, or outdoor leisure, and accessories upon accessories. I’ve been meaning to start profiling these men’s shops from old Detroit and beyond–part reference, part homage, part whatever I could find out about them. Which turns out not to be very much so far: ideally what sort of menswear they carried, services offered, any specialty items–whatever would speak to the men’s fashion ethos of the day.
Doing research on a ‘Fiegel’s’ label inside a blazer for the shop, I discovered these 1940s Ann Arbor News file photos and an Ann Arbor Observer article on the label’s namesake store and decided where better to start than in Company Man’s backyard. The storefront’s building pictured above still stands on Main Street in Ann Arbor although it’s been home to an upscale restaurant since the 1990s. The story of Fiegel’s is actually the story of two (or three or four) men’s stores with shifting proprietors and Main Street locations, Mr. Fiegel not being the first or the last of its working owners. When the store opened, it sold spats (the coverings worn over shoes to protect them) and horse-drawn buggies tied up outside. The store was still open in 1989 when the Observer ran it’s piece, and the last of its bootstrap owners, 89-year old Herbert Sager, was coming in every day to wait on customers. Even without much of the relevant sartorial info I was after, it’s easy to find inspiration in these images–a case of felt hats before racks of suit jackets, glassfront stacks of collar shirts, and of course, the dapper proprietor and/or seasoned sales clerk at the ready behind the necktie counter.