SANFORD L. CLUETT, 1874-1968
L. Cluett changed the way America looked.
Born in 1874
in Troy, NY, Cluett was a nephew of the three Cluetts who started the
detachable collar and shirt making giant in the city. He did not join
in the family business until he was 45 years old.
was as varied and intriguing as the indefatigable curiosity that led him
to become an inventor with 200 patents in his name.
more people would get curious and open their eyes and ears and minds,
they would be much happier and incidentally, more successful, " he
When he was
10, he surveyed and mapped Raquette Lake in the Adirondack Mountains using
a carpenter's level, some metal screw eyes and a music stand.
aspirations of a career in medicine, he later attended Rensselaer Polytechnic
Institute where he pioneered investigations into ballistics. After graduation,
he entered the Spanish-American War to work in the engineering corps.
He went on to do much of the key engineering design work for the Big Sandy
River Dam project in Kentucky, where he reportedly was almost shot by
suspicious mountain folk who thought he was a revenuer. At the age of
27, he became chief engineer of an upstate New York harvesting machine
company, inventing new and improved designs.
famous as a meticulous man who made written records of his every thought.
According to one story, after a lunch meeting with businessmen talking
about one of his inventions, he returned to retrieve the tablecloth on
which he had sketched some ideas. He
had the tablecloth notarized and kept it. It was later used as evidence
in a patent suit.
his uncles' business in 1919. Troy factories were cranking out 3 million
detachable collars a week then, shipping them all over the world. But
in the 1920s, people were getting used to wearing soft collars attached
to shirts. Collar sales were plummeting. The
company tried to get into collar-attached shirts but had to deal with
the defect of shrinkage when they were washed. No one would buy pre-washed
shirts. Cluett needed to find a way to shrink the shirts before they were
the cause of shrinkage was the stretching of fabric in the manufacturing
process. When the fabric was washed, it returned to its normal state.
He developed a "compressive shrinkage process" that soon carried
the trademark "Sanforized," named for its inventor. Cluett
Peabody & Co., Inc. licensed the process and made it available to
everybody in the textile industry.
people could be sure when they bought a garment that it would fit them
for as long as they owned it. Previously, fitting new clothes was mostly
guesswork. The only certainty was the garment was going to shrink. The
innovation launched Cluett, Peabody & Co., Inc. into its
second generation as Arrow collars were replaced by Arrow shirts.
Sanford Cluett died in 1968 in Florida.