There’s a set of values that will never let a man down when he’s building a wardrobe or deciding what to wear on a given day. Trust the classics. Lean on high-quality fabrics. Buy items with an expectation that you’ll be able to wear them for years or even decades, both because they physically won’t wear out, and because they won’t go out of style.
We’re constantly in search of retailers who can offer all this to us, preferably under one roof and with impeccable service. Somewhat surprisingly, we found such a menswear store – one unlike any other we’ve ever encountered or even heard of – in Buffalo N.Y.
Upon first hearing of O’Connell’s, we were told it was a bastion of classic American men’s clothing. A place that has always ignored whatever the latest fashions are and instead focuses on the great things America has given to men’s style. For us, there was really no option but to jump into The Truck and find out whether what we’d heard was to be believed. Was it ever.
O’Connell’s has been in the same place on Main Street, across from the University, since 1958. To this day the shop is run by the same family. Maybe it’s no surprise that the University campus is across the street. O’Connell’s has always carried an exhaustive collection of classic American men’s clothing, styles that come from Ivy League schools. This is the origin of modern prep. Flip through a copy of the legendary book Take Ivy, and you’ve got the fundamentals of what O’Connell’s is all about.
What’s on display barely changes year after year, and that’s a good thing. Think L.L. Bean and Brooks Brothers and J. Press and multiply by a hundred.
Most everything in the store comes from America or Canada, with some things (particularly wool sweaters) made in England, Scotland and Ireland.
There is of course a loyal customer base in and around the Buffalo area, but O’Connell’s does serve a global clientele nowadays. Orders come in via their website from all over the U.S. (including NBA players), and they get no shortage of business from Japan.
Buffalo is a town that has seen its challenges in recent years. Like so many cities with a similar history, its once thriving industrial past can still be seen in haunting warehouses and idle factories. In some respects it is that past that O’Connell’s celebrates. But the heart of the great Buffalo still beats in its thriving educational institutions, sports teams, and world famous restaurants.
When we asked the brothers who run the store where we should eat lunch, they had a quick answer.
Buffalo has always been known for a particular sandwich known as Beef on Weck. It started with some of the city’s early settlers in the 1800s. They came from Germany, and they had a dish – rare roast beef, sliced and piled high on a kummelweck bun (the bread being distinctive for the salt sprinkled on top of it before baking).
Probably the best place in the world to get a Beef on Weck is at Schwabl’s in Buffalo. It’s a small restaurant that’s occupied the same spot since 1837, when the family arrived from Germany.
Schwabl’s Beef on Weck has been rated one of the top sandwiches in America by various publications over the years. We agree.
In fact, the cultural importance of the sandwich hit us even before we’d eaten it. As we were getting ready to leave O’Connell’s and head over to Schwabl’s, we noticed a tie that had until then eluded our attention. The pattern on the tie was Beef on Weck sandwiches.
The enduring styles of O’Connell’s and a classic hot lunch sandwich; just two reasons to make the shuffle to Buffalo.