JAEGER - Fashion Designer Encyclopedia

British fashion house

Founded: in London in 1884 by Lewis Tomalin, based on the principles of Dr. Gustav Jaeger. Company History: Lewis Tomalin was the sole purveyor of Dr. Jaeger's Sanitary Woollens, to the 1920s. Tomalin obtained the rights, patents, and Jaeger name; began manufacturing undergarments, 1884; added cardigans, dressing gowns, jumpers, shawls, and, by the early 1900s, coats, skirts, suits, etc. Jaeger London launched, 1993; began renovating New York flagship store, 1994-95; hired designer Jeanette Todd and introduced Sport line, 1996; announced plans for new London store, 1997; hired Bella Freud, 2001; other designers associated with the firm have included Jean Muir, Sheridan Barnett, and Alistair Blair. Company Address: 57 Broadwick Street, London W1, England.




Wilson, E., and L. Taylor, Through the Looking Glass, London, 1989.


"The Jaeger Story," in American Fabrics & Fashion (New York), No.100, Spring 1974.

"Quiet, Classic Jaeger," in the Sunday Times (London), 25 May 1980.

Alexander, Hilary, "Mrs Roache (and Jaeger) Go to Court," in the Daily Telegraph (London), 2 November 1991.

"Suits Are Getting a Kinder Cut," in the Eastern Daily Press (Norwich, Norfolk), 22 April 1992.

"Jaeger Variation," in the Watford Free Observer (Watford, Hertfordshire), 28 May 1992.

Fallon, James, "Jaeger Rolls Out London, Drives for a Younger Crowd," in WWD, 29 September 1994.

Edelson, Sharon, "Jaeger Gives Contemporary Twist to Clothes, Madison Ave. Flagship," in WWD, 18 July 1996.

Manning, Clinton, "Top Fashion Chain Takes a Clobbering," in the Mirror (London), 12 September 1996.

Wheeler, Karen, "Jaeger's Collection Puts a Spring in Your Step," in the Financial Times, 8 February 1997.

Rice, Ann, "Ease Into Fashion Elegance," the Birmingham Post (England), 18 November 1998.

Clapp, Susannah, "Meet the New Jaeger Meister: Bella Freud," in the Observer, 30 July 2000.

Findlay, Jane, "Check Out Jaeger's Sexy Look," in the Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland), 8 April 2001.

Watson, Linda, "Back to the Future," in the Sunday Times, 29 July 2001.

"Jaeger Tries to Throw Off Its Mrs. T Image," in The Independent (London), 10 August 2001.

Polan, Brenda, "How Jaeger Got Younger," in the Daily Mail, 16August 2001.


Jaeger is a British retail fashion company producing distinctive clothes for both men and women. Its origins lie in Germany over a century ago—a period when theories of rational dress abounded throughout Europe and the United States. In 1880 Dr. Gustav Jaeger of Stuttgart, a zoologist and physiologist, expounded his belief that only clothes made of animal fibers (principally wool) were conducive to one's health.

Jaeger's theories were translated into English by Lewis Tomalin and taken up by the Times, which devoted a leading article to Dr. Jaeger's ideas on 4 October 1884, on the occasion of the London International Health Exhibition in South Kensington. Tomalin obtained Dr. Jaeger's permission to use his name and opened a shop to sell the "Sanitary Woollen System" of clothing on Fore Street, in London, where two of the earliest and most famous customers were Oscar Wilde and George Bernard Shaw. The latter heartily endorsed the product and wore Jaeger clothing for much of his long life.

Jaeger clothes were remarkable not only for their material— extraordinarily fine machine-knit wool jersey, cashmere, alpaca, and vicuna ("the woollen stuffs which are microscopically tested for adulteration with vegetable fibre can be supplied by the yard," ran an advertisement of 1884)—but also for their unrestrictive construction. This made both underwear and outerwear particularly suitable for traveling. "Day and night—prevents chill—a necessity to all who value health," claimed an 1898 advertisement for "lovely and luxurious dressing gowns."

Famous British expeditions were fitted out in Jaeger, from Scott and Shackleton in the Arctic to Stanley on his search for Dr. Livingstone in Africa and later. Before World War I, Jaeger's functional, mobile approach gave the firm much of its impetus in what was to prove a rapidly expanding market from its new purpose-built shops, such as those in Regent Street, London, and Edinburgh, and its wholesale company supplying agents as far afield as Shanghai. By the 1930s, however, Jaeger had greatly extended its range from the early emphasis on "sanitary wear" as exemplified in turn-of-the-century exhortations to "Wear wool to South Africa—khaki drill spells chill." Under the founder's son, H.F. Tomalin, the emphasis turned from functionalism to fashionability, all a woman (or man) needed for work and leisure, from country tweeds, twinsets, and stylish coats to swimsuits and slacks.

Jaeger exported its goods to such diverse locales as Beirut and Buenos Aires, upholding Tomalin's now-dated dictum, "Wherever you go among white people you will find that Jaeger is known." Jaeger's continuing attention to the actual fabric of their clothes gave them an honored place in the British postwar export market, but the emphasis on durability continues to the present. The original ethos of health clothing, however, has long been superseded by one of cool, timeless elegance, albeit still in fine materials—an image aided by the high caliber of Jaeger design.

After some difficult years during the 1990s when sales slumped, Jaeger began revamping its image and designs. The company successfully blended its traditional look with updated takes: tweeds were replaced with cashmere, suede, leather, and newer, high-performance fabrics. The firm's intention was to draw in younger buyers without alienating established clients. Shops emphasized service, and employees were specifically trained to assist customers in incorporating new pieces with items they already owned. In 2001 Jaeger hired well-known and highly respected designer Bella Freud to add some pizzazz to the mix. In addition to Jaeger's traditional lines, Freud brought in miniskirts, bomber jackets, a little black dress, and a "Juliette Greco resistance coat" inspired by Jaeger's 1930s and 1940s designs. Regardless of these design changes, the company remains committed to quality fabrics and tailoring at reasonable prices.

Jaeger is one of the few fashion companies able to produce a complete package, from sourcing exclusive fabrics and producing original designs through to manufacturing extensive ranges of tailoring and knitwear. These ranges are sold throughout the world, as exporting the Jaeger product has always been a prime part of the business. Jaeger Ladieswear and Jaeger Man are as distinctive as the firm's witty "straw" logo; Jaeger designs in the 21st century reach markets undreamed of by Dr. Jaeger and his English translator.

—Doreen Ehrlich;

updated by Carrie Snyder

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