Not many pieces of clothing are able to inspire their own lore, but Nantucket Reds rank among that select few. One account of the birth of quintessentially preppy trousers holds that Philip Murray, owner of Murray’s Toggery Shop on the Massachusetts island of Nantucket, fell into a cranberry bog and emerged with his once-stone-colored pants dyed by the berries’ juices. It’s a total fabrication, but at least it’s an entertaining one.
Really, the pants—and the signature salmon-red color that’s earned the same name—are the descendants of a brick-red sailcloth pant that Murray’s sold in the 1940’s. With extensive wear and more than a few washes, the pants softened up and faded to the familiar pinkish hue. They became so popular that Murray’s son and the inheritor of the shop, Philip C. Murray, dubbed them Nantucket Reds and trademarked the name. So Murray’s Tog Shop isn’t just the birthplace, it’s also the only official purveyor of the trousers that have become a staple of the New England elite and their style acolytes.
But that hasn’t stopped the fashion world at large from co-opting the color. Now, faded red pants and shorts can be found from a slew of brands and in every fit and style imaginable. And though the Murray’s trademark on the official moniker has led to a number of inventive new names, really, they’re all Nantucket Reds in spirit.