The Kennington Man
He's a cultural and apparel icon that has thrived through several fashion generations: the original button down “Ivy’s” and Rat Pack stylings of the late 50s and early 60s; surf-influenced looks of the 60s and beyond; Funky & Groovy Threads, Western patchworks and quilts, terry and pieced knits in the 70s; disco polyesters of the 80s; and six decades of timeless and classic Hawaiians.
Kennington Ltd., Inc. was established by Stan Tendler in 1957 in Los Angeles, California, in his parent’s garage near La Brea and Beverly Boulevards. It was an unremarkable beginning for a company that would go on to become a West Coast fashion industry force.
In the early days of the company, the California look hadn’t yet emerged as a national trend, but in post-war America, cultural change was afoot. From the hippie counterculture of San Francisco, to the laid-back surf lifestyle of Malibu, from the Cool Jazz sensibility of the Bay Area to the Hot Rod Muscle Cars in the San Fernando Valley, the California lifestyle began to capture our nation’s attention. Kennington understood the California ethic because they lived it. The company was in the perfect place at the perfect time as a purveyor of looks that were spreading across the country.
Right about the time that Kennington was outgrowing the garage and moved to a small space on Omar Street, Ivy League looks were a popular fashion – short sleeved with button down collars. Kennington put a West Coast spin on the look – smaller collars, more adventurous prints – and made a big bet on production. It was one of the company’s first hits and helped put Kennington on the industry map.
"The company is rooted in an era of fun and functional relationships when deals weren’t lost over squeezed pennies and nickels. There were some quite colorful characters in Kennington’s world at a time when ‘human relations’ wasn’t capitalized or corporatized, and ‘hippie’ wasn’t a nostalgic term.”
||Walk in to any quality used clothing store, and you are sure to find at least a few old gems. A simple internet search for used Kennington shirts will turn up pages of results. There is a virtual cottage industry of secondhand Kennington garments. It’s quite likely that the best ones will fetch a far higher price now than the original retail value. Vintage Kenningtons have literally compounded in value. It speaks to a desire for lasting quality, which is getting harder to find in an era of disposable goods and 15 minutes of fame.|
It’s curious how tastes change. Something that was so desirable four decades ago is reviled as the worst in cultural taste ten years later, only to have a complete revival two decades hence and be labeled chic or vintage. The thing is, at the end of the day the real story is the guy wearing the shirt. Styles may change, but basic values don’t. In any era, it’s about the guy on a Friday night who wants to get the girl. It’s about the good times he’ll have with his buddies whether he finds her or not. That’s what Kennington is all about, and what we’ve always understood.
Kennington’s apparel operation is not a corporate play. We’re not doing it because we need the money or because we have something to prove. We’re doing it for the love of it, because we have six decades of history as an influential California fashion resource and we’re of proud of that, and because now — perhaps more than ever — true staying power means something.