Carroll Reed. Just the mention evokes cozy New England towns, comfy sweaters, and snazzy ski apparel for that weekend trip to Stratton. Over two decades after its retail operations closed, it is still one of the more collectable vintage prep clothing brands.
Even as it lives on in thrift shops and memory, the brand has a magic, started not by a fashion designer, but by the actual ski pioneer, Carroll Purinton Reed, one of the great promoters of the sport in New England in the 20th century.
Carroll Reed came to skiing in New England in the 1930s. In 1933 in New Hampshire, he formed the White Mountain Ski Runners. While bedridden and paralyzed in 1939 after a ski accident, he learned of the Hannes Schneider Ski School in Austria. After recovery, he established the Eastern Slope Ski School with Schneider’s blessing.
The store began in 1936, when he was hired to run a Saks Fifth Avenue ski shop in Conway (yes, back in the day department stores actually innovated). When the store did not work out, Reed took it over and opened it in his own name. Working with innkeepers, he offered lessons and gear.
Of the brand, there was the Carroll Reed store, catalog and the Carroll Reed Ski Shops. At its height, there were over 50 locations. In its time, it was one of dozens of prep catalogs in the United States. Carroll Reed had a niche as the provider of the best imported and U.S. sweaters and winter wear, as well as things like “go to hell” pants and striped polos. It lived among a prep catalog pantheon that included Cable Car Clothiers, Britches of Georgetowne, The Talbots, Chris Craft, Gokeys, Eddie Bauer and L.L. Bean. It was also a time of local and country retailer brands including The Country Store of Concord, Murray’s Toggery Shop, Hillhouse and Molterer.
Grew Under Charles Leighton
Reed sold the chain in 1969. By 1985, it was owned by Charles M. Leighton’s CML Group, which also owned a snazzy assortment of brands that included Boston Whaler, Nordic Trak, Hood Sailmakers, Smith & Hawkins garden and The Nature Company. CML sold the company to Swire Pacific in 1990 for what was reported to be around $12 million. It then became part of D.M. Management, which later became J. Jill, before the Carroll Reed brand closed. Reed died in 1995.
The company had much legend; the North Conway store was known for the world’s largest ski pole, which sat out front beginning in 1955.
Currently, TJX Companies owns the Carroll Reed brand, but it has not been in stores of late, at least in the Florida area. The company, which owns Homegoods, TJMaxx and Marshall’s, filed for the trademark in 2004. In 2014, they renewed the trademark, where it was used not only for clothes, but home goods.
While there were different registrations, the brand was first used in commerce in 1936. Categories included retail store services in the fields of women’s clothing, women’s clothing accessories, ski accessories, ski equipment and tennis equipment and mail order services in the fields of women’s clothing and women’s clothing accessories.
The trademark illustrates a point of trademark law.
The USPTO files have an back and forth between attorney C. Yardley Chittick and the federal examining attorneys. In a follow up application, the trademark was originally denied because Carroll Reed had not included a consent to use his name in a later registration. A key part of a a trademark registration is that it cannot be primarily a surname. However, the trademark had been accepted in previous years. A note from Carroll Reed is in the documents below.
A history note. At one time, C. Yardley Chittick was, at age 104, the oldest living patent and trademark attorney. A graduate of Philips Academy, he was the first student to attend a 90th reunion at the school.
Find Out More:
- A previous Q&A with style commentator Bunny Tomerlin about the enduring appeal of Carroll Reed brand.
Below, a selection of images of the catalog, and different versions of the logo. Note how the brand moved away from a sporting approach, an unfortunate move, in the immediate time before it died.