The Arrow Collar Man: The Story of the Iconic Illustrator J.C. Leyendecker

The Arrow Collar Man: The Story of the Iconic Illustrator J.C. Leyendecker

If you start looking into what male fashion was like at the beginning of the 20th century in the US, you will probably notice an abundance of high-collared shirts. You will likely also stumble upon illustrations for a brand called Arrow, which was one of the top manufacturers of detachable collars at the time. Finally, you will notice all of these illustrations have a very distinct style. The reason behind that is simple: they were all created by the same man — J.C. Leyendecker.

The Story of the Iconic Illustrator J.C. Leyendecker

Joseph Christian Leyendecker was an American illustrator of the late 19th – early 20th century, whose works were largely influenced by the Art Deco movement. His career as a commercial artist started in 1899 when the Saturday Evening Post ordered a cover painted by him. During his collaboration with the magazine, Leyendecker managed to leave a significant footprint on the American visual culture of the time. For example, the artist’s famous version of Santa Claus dressed in a red coat with white trim and a warm playful smile on his face became iconic and later reappeared in the works of other illustrators.

The Arrow Collar Man: The Story of the Iconic Illustrator J.C. LeyendeckerWhen Leyendecker moved to New York City, he received another, possibly the most important commission in his entire career. Even though the artist had worked with multiple male clothing brands before, the advertising mascot he created for Arrow Collars became one of the most iconic characters in US history. This character, commonly referred to as the Arrow Collar Man, was, of course, not real but still a kind of celebrity. Rumor has it that the company’s office received hundreds of letters professing love or proposing marriage to the imaginary heartthrob. The Arrow Collar Man was considered a fashion icon and a male beauty standard of the time. It would later be revealed that he actually had a real-life prototype. The person whose image J.C. Leyendecker used as a model for his Arrow Collar Man was his lifelong lover and business manager Charles Beach.

J.C. Leyendecker and his artwork had a huge impact on 20th-century fashion and culture. His illustrations were not just effective in terms of marketing: they captivated people’s hearts with their charisma and unique style. The Arrow Collar Man is still considered one of the most well-recognized brand mascots in history.