A guide for dating Palm Beach Cloth products. As with all other dating guides, consider it as a rough guideline, not as anything written in stone. While there is a fairly continuous base of ads and dated examples to draw upon, with changes of labels, there is always overlap of the old and the new. And as with anything else, there are usually a variety of variations (the Palm Beach Beau Brummell ties spring to mind) for any basic pattern of label.
Logos in the graphic are taken from ads referencing their usage in suits made from the fabric dating from: 1915, 1920, 1938 and 1951.
Goodall started producing Palm Beach cloth in 1912. At that point it was a cotton warp and a mohair weft. Around 1941, the fabric content was reformulated to make it softer and lighter. By the late ’40s/early ’50s, it had been changed again to include Rayon and Mohair, although ads from the early 1950s indicate the content of the fabric depended on the pattern and application of the fabric. A Palm Beach tie from that era, for instance, was marked with a content of 50% Rayon – 32% Mohair – 12% Cotton – 6% Nylon.
While the off white undyed Palm Beach cloth suit is iconic, Palm Beach cloth was produced in a wide variety of colors and patterns. The fabric was immediately adopted in the South, but took some time to catch on in Northern states. The darker colors of the fabric provided a happy medium in that time for Northerners who wanted the cool fabric without attracting undesired sartorial attention. Within the first decade of production, soundalike fabrics had started to pop up and “Palm Beach” had become the layman’s term for a light colored suit.
The fabric was originally produced in Sanford, Maine. In 1931, a second plant had opened in Cincinnati, and the company headquarters relocated to that city. That plant was bought out in 1942, and retooled for the war effort. Despite this, the company headquarters remained in Cincinnati. In 1944, “Sanford” was added to “Goodall”. In 1949, the clothing branch of Goodall Sanford was renamed to simply the “Palm Beach Company”. Production of Palm Beach Cloth ended abruptly in 1954, when the name was sold. Plans were made for the former mills to continue producing the fabric for the new company, but those plans seem to have fallen through. The mill in Maine still stands.
The Palm Beach company (in name), owned by the Cincinnati division, continued producing menswear for decades after the demise of their namesake product. The Palm Beach corporate umbrella came to encompass the brands of Varsity Town, Gant, Austin Hill, Evan Picone, John Weitz and Country Set.