We’ve all seen him before. The Arrow Collar Man. But who was he? Nobody actually. He was the masterpiece of J.C. Leyendecker and even more famous than the artist himself.
The Arrow Collar Man is one of the most iconic images in all of menswear advertising. He didn’t always look exactly the same, and sometimes we’d see him outside of the adds for Arrow’s wears. But, regardless of where or exactly what he looked like, The Arrow Collar Man was a symbol of a particular masculine elegance that’s never out of place.
His creator, J.C. Leyendecker (1874-1951)was a German illustrator who grew up in Chicago and was trained at the Art Institute there. He went on to be The Saturday Evening Post‘s most successful cover artist in his day, but in 1905 he began working with Arrow Shirts (then Arrow Collars). The first Arrow Collar Man was modeled on a Mr. Charles Beach, who went on to become Leyendecker’s manager for years. It’s rumored the two had an ongoing affair, but it’s a tough rumor to confirm.
The Arrow Collar Man himself came in many guises between 1905 and 1931. Sometimes he had slick hair and dimples and other times a rock hard jaw and tousled mane. He wore turn down collars with his collegiate-striped ties and immaculately starched shirts with his white bows. Whatever The Arrow Collar Man wore under his chin – which is what he was selling, don’t forget – he looked confident and comfortable.
It’s no surprise that the above image has been used more than once as cover art for Fitzgerald novels (most famously as my favorite The Beautiful and Damned). The Arrow Collar Man personified the glamour of the turn-of-the-century man.
One of the things we’ve lost in giving up illustration for photoshoots is the ability to have icons like this. Being fictional didn’t stop him from getting his own fanmail for the better part of two decades. No model, no matter how super they might seem, can inspire and dazzle like The Arrow Collar Man.