Focus Questions

What does this object make you think of? Does it remind you of something you have seen before?

Which part of the object do you notice most?  Why did you notice that part?

How do you think this object was used?

Have you noticed...The word MUFTI on the right hand side of the advert. What do you think the word MUFTI means? Click to reveal answer

Mufti is an Arabic word for an Islamic scholar and legal expert. The word mufti is also used by the British Army to describe civilian clothing worn by off-duty soldiers and officers because they wore outfits which were similar to the Islamic muftis.

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Moss Bros & Co Ltd Advertisement

Moss Bros & Co Ltd Advertisement

Advertisement for Moss Bros & Co Ltd clothing company which advertises civilian clothing sold in the shop following World War One.

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The Object

Object name: Moss Bros & Co Ltd Advertisement
Date: 1918
Material(s): Paper
Size: 14cm x 21.5cm
Catalogue Number: 2015.39
On display in the Jewish Museum? Yes, in the temporary exhibition, Moses, Mods, & Mr. Fish: The Menswear Revolution

  • The image of the Jewish second-hand clothes dealer was common in the 19th century. A Londoner by the name of Moses Moses who grew up in the slums behind Euston and Kings Cross started his career selling second-hand clothing. In 1860 he leased two shop fronts in Covent Garden where he began selling his second-hand wears and ready-to-wear suits. Moses Moses later changed his name to Moses Moss and the shop he started in Covent Garden eventually became the Moss Bros brand we are familiar with on the high street today.

  • Not long after, the Moss Bros store moved to its flagship location on King Street in Covent Garden where it stood for over 100 years! The King Street shop and offices were sold in 1989, but reopened across the street in the early 1990s. The Moss Bros store in Covent Garden still exists today, however it has recently been announced that this flagship store is due to close later in 2016. 

  • Look closely at the two silhouetted figures. How are they dressed? 

  • Notice the address on the advert. This shows the flagship location of the original Moss Bros store. It also informs us that this is the only branch, the store had not yet expanded to other locations in London or around the UK. 

  • Notice the list of clothing offers on the right hand side of the advert. How is this style of advertising different from shop adverts today? 

  • Look closely at the bottom left hand corner of the advert. Notice how the company is still advertising military service uniforms. This is because not everyone had been taken out of active service at the end of the war, some people continued to serve up until 1920. 

A Messages and Signals form containing messages and notes relating to the demobilisation of Percy Levy, 19th December 1918.

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The Story

History: Demobilisation after World War One

At the end of the War soldiers had to be demobilised, taken out of active service. Demobilisation began in 1919 after the Treaty of Versailles had officially ended the war, and most servicemen had re-joined civilian life by the end of 1919, although some were not demobilised until 1920. At the end of service every soldier was given a set of papers known as demobilisation papers. These included a Medical Examination paper, a Certificate of Employment, and a Plain Clothes Form. The Plain Clothes Form could be exchanged for a suit of civilian clothing or for a clothing allowance of 52 shillings and 6 pence to buy their own civilian clothing (over £350 today).

Moss Bros opened their Military Department in 1910 with second-hand uniforms and supplies from the Boer War. By the outbreak of World War One in 1914, Moss Bros had a reputation as suppliers of military uniforms and large numbers of new soldiers and officers came to the King Street shop for newly made and second-hand uniforms. After the war, Moss Bros began advertising their mufti or civilian clothing lines to men recently returned home from war service. After being released from active service, there was a high demand for civilian clothing. Some ex-servicemen bought clothes new or second-hand from somewhere like Moss Bros and other retailers. It was only in the 1930s and after the Second World War that the term ‘demob suit’ began to be used to refer to civilian clothing.

Art & Design: Advertising through the Ages

By the turn of the 20th century the British economy was thriving due to the Industrial Revolution. The market focused on the mass production of products at affordable prices. However, this created a problem of having a large number of products but not enough demand from consumers. Companies needed to use and develop advertising in a way to create a demand for their products. Companies began advertising their products in a way that appealed to the emotional needs of the consumer rather than a practical or rational need. This idea of creating an emotional bond with a brand and a product through advertising was well developed by World War One and was widely used during the war.

At this time, newspapers and magazines were the only source of advertising as there were no televisions, computers or internet! Radios existed, but not all families could afford one. The majority of adverts used illustrations or graphics as photography was still new and very expensive. Adverts usually had a catchy slogan along with the illustrations and text explaining more about the product—this is very different to the adverts we see today. There were very few advertising restrictions at this time, and manufacturers could say almost anything about their product—even if it stretched the truth! Military outfitters were among the first companies to advertise during the war, and many people today will be surprised to see military items sold directly from the manufacturers to the soldiers rather than being provided through the government. Many manufacturers who advertised during World War One, including Moss Bros, are still in business today which is proof of the success of their wartime advertising.

Digital Takeaway

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