The Schott Brothers on the Lower East Side

Posted on: July 1st, 2010 at 6:34 am by

You might not realize it, but you owe quite a debt of gratitude to Schott Brothers.  Next time you zip up one of your jackets, know that it was Schott who pioneered the concept.  The American clothing company first planted roots in the Lower East Side in 1913, and has quite a unique history.

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Russian immigrant brothers Irving and Jack Schott started their eponymous business in the basement of 96 East Broadway in 1913, manufacturing sheepskin-lined raincoats which peddlers would then sell door-to-door (a third Schott brother not associated with the business had a dental practice on the second floor).  Not long after opening, the idea of the Perfecto brand was born, named for Irving’s favorite brand of Cuban cigars.

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[Company Outing to Coney Island, 1933; Courtesy Schott NYC]

With the rise of motorcycle culture in the 1920s and Schott’s innovation of the sewn-in zipper on outerwear, the Perfecto jacket became wildly popular.  From that point on, Perfecto was pretty much synonymous with biker jackets.  The official website describes the iconic outerwear as “durable, rugged, and immediately embraced.” And how, to a new generation of bikers, “the Perfecto was a symbol of the excitement, adventure and danger that fueled their fascination with motorcycles.”

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[South Amboy Manufacturing Facility, 1930s; Courtesy Schott NYC]

Sometime in the early 1930s, while still managing the Lower East Side storefront, the manufacturing arm moved out to South Amboy, New Jersey.  But with the advent of America’s involvement in World War II, Schott halted production of Perfecto to focus on another innovation – the “bomber jacket.”  Indeed, the U.S. government commissioned the company to outfit our servicemen in the U.S. Army Air Corps.

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[Photo Credit: Filmjackets.com]

But the Perfecto brand returned to the forefront of popularity after the war, most notably in 1953, when Marlon Brando donned the jacket in The Wild One.  Consequently, a number of American schools banned the jackets, as they were seen as part of “hood” culture.  Decades later, the Ramones adopted it as part of their uniform.

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By the late 1950s/early 1960s, the manufacturing facility moved yet again, from South Amboy to Perth Amboy.  It is believed that Schott closed its store at 96 East Broadway during this relocation.  Current base of operations is actually in Elizabeth, NJ.  And we are told that much of the same machinery used during their tenure in the Lower East Side is still in service.

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These days, that same storefront is now home to a Chinese eatery called China Favorite.

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We would like to extend a TREMENDOUS thank you to the folks at Schott NYC for helping with this history, and for providing the archival photographs.  Check out their website, Facebook, and Twitter for more information about the company.

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