[Courtesy of Rubensteins]

100 Years of Rubensteins

07:00 February 23, 2024
By: Emily Hingle

A Century of Sharp Dressed Men

One century ago, you would be hard pressed to see a gentleman walking down the street dressed in less than a suit and tie, especially if you were strolling down Canal Street. Trends have changed vastly for men's fashions over the last 100 years, but Rubensteins has excelled at dressing men, whether formally or casually, since April 12, 1924.

Rubensteins began as a small shop on Canal Street founded by Morris Rubenstein, whose immigrant parents settled in New Orleans in the late 1800s and opened a sundries store on Rampart Street. "Morris wanted to get married, and he needed a job, so he opened a business. Our family members were all retailers of some sort. They did dry goods then just started selling shirts with collars and cuffs, and it turned into what it is today," explained Kenny Rubenstein, the store's third generation.

[Courtesy of Rubensteins]

The history of Rubensteins is proudly displayed along the walls of the store.A sheet from the first day of sale recorded a profit of 47 cents, and there are hand-forged nails displayed in shadow boxes. A photo shows the first iteration of the shop, which was a small room lined with racks of boxes holding inventory. "The best part about this picture is all those boxes which are empty. They believed in 'fake it 'til you make it.' It looks like they have tons of inventory, but they didn't."

As Rubensteins grew in popularity, they grew in size. The small store grew larger as Morris and his brothers Elkin and Sam slowly purchased the neighboring buildings over 10 years. Today, Rubensteins is a property consisting of six buildings, which allows the clothing store to evolve as needed to suit the changing taste of the consumer. "Starting from our first years, everybody dressed up. You didn't go out of the house without a coat and tie. Today, it's much more casual. Suits and sport coats are good business for us, but it's more casual. It varies from having big pleats, big pants, big shoulders varying down to softer looks. Vests are coming back, but three-piece suits aren't as strong. In the 1950s, everyone wore vests. I was looking at a picture of Louis Armstrong; he always wore a vest."

[Courtesy of Rubensteins]

Kenny believes the staying power of Rubensteins is due to the spirit of changing with the times while also honoring classic styles. There have been three times in 100 years when Rubensteins dabbled in ladies clothing, for example. Kenny explained, "One of the times was during World War II. The men were all gone, so we adapted and sold ladies clothes. We still sold men's clothing, but we had trouble getting white fabric because it was being used for the war, so going into women's clothing worked well."

Other experimental brands created by Rubensteins eventually absorbed into the main floor. "Back in the 1970s, the generation was switching, and they built the Madison Shop. It was a little bit more fashionable clothes with a separate entrance so that the children of the dads who shopped with us could come in and shop at their own store. They weren't coming into their dad's store and knew that it was a little bit different. We don't have the Madison Shop anymore because it merged in. We had All American Jeans when younger people were buying a lot of jeans. That was separate and eventually merged into the store."

[Courtesy of Rubensteins]

While you may see flashy shirts or socks with fun prints on the floor today that wouldn't have been there some decades ago, Rubensteins is the place to go for custom-fitted classic suits that make you look and feel like a million bucks. "We feel that every man should have a suit. First of all, it's easy to match, and you can wear it without a tie. But there's nothing that gives you more confidence and makes a better first impression than a beautifully-tailored suit. As much as you want to say that you can't judge a book by the cover, the reality is that the human brain makes that determination. It's just an instinct. If you're dressed well, it makes a much better impression, it's a good start for whatever you want to do," Kenny stated.

Rubensteins offers several amenities to make the process of suit shopping easy. It begins with the complimentary valet parking and continues with a Style Session. "You come in, we give you a drink and a tour of the store, and get a feel for you. We'll even measure you up and give you a card with your sizes, so you'll have that for your record. Then you're free to go; there's no commitment. There's a lot of guys out there who don't know their own style. Bring in pictures of things you like, and we can help you out. It may be a little cliché, but we want you to feel like you're coming into our home."

[Courtesy of Rubensteins]

Rubensteins is entering a whole new chapter with the opening of the Rubenstein Hotel. The 40-room boutique hotel created by the owners of the store along with partner Joe Jaeger will allow unparalleled views of Canal Street and St. Charles Avenue as it pays homage to the 100-year history of the prestigious store. "The new hotel is going to have a bar called the Madison Shop Bar which is a throwback to what we had called the Madison Shop. That's the key to being around for 100 years is being aware of these changes. You can't stay the same, you have to keep adapting."

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