What Is The Legacy of Herb Goldsmith and Members Only Jackets

Albert Wilson

What Is The Legacy of Herb Goldsmith and Members Only Jackets

Herb Goldsmith is a visionary in the men’s clothing industry. He was a marketing genius who revolutionized apparel advertising. Known for his iconic Members Only jackets, Goldsmith’s innovative strategies and bold advertising campaigns left an indelible mark on the fashion industry. This article delves into Goldsmith’s life, his marketing brilliance, and the enduring legacy of the Members Only brand.

Herb Goldsmith, a name synonymous with the iconic Members Only jacket, left an indelible mark on the fashion industry. Born on September 3, 1927, in the Bronx and later raised in Brooklyn, Goldsmith’s journey from a colorblind aspiring actor to a fashion mogul and Broadway producer is nothing short of extraordinary.

Early Career and Celebrity Endorsements

In the 1950s, Herb Goldsmith began working for his father’s apparel company. Early in his career, Herb Goldsmith demonstrated a keen understanding of marketing’s power by using celebrities to promote clothing. He procured famous figures like Tony Curtis and Bing Crosby to capture public kindness. This early adoption of celebrity endorsements set the stage for his future success.

The Birth of an Icon

In the 1980s, Herb Goldsmith launched the Members Only jacket, a sleek and stylish racing jacket that quickly became a cultural phenomenon.

What Is The Legacy of Herb Goldsmith and Members Only Jackets

The brand’s success was fueled by Goldsmith’s strategic use of high-profile celebrities. Icons like Frank Sinatra, Johnny Carson, and Presidents Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush were seen wearing the jacket, lending it an aura of exclusivity and prestige.

Innovative Advertising Strategies

Herb Goldsmith’s approach to advertising was nothing short of revolutionary. He made a bold decision to abandon conventional advertising methods, instead dedicating the entire ad budget to public service announcements (PSAs). The unusual transfer gathered significant care and tributes.

Tackling Social Issues Through PSAs

Goldsmith’s first PSA campaign addressed the crack epidemic of the 1980s. Featuring sports figures like Yankees manager Lou Piniella and country singer Larry Gatlin, who had personal experiences with addiction, the campaign was both impactful and controversial. This daring strategy drew widespread media attention and significantly boosted Members Only’s public image.

Bold Political Statement

Goldsmith’s second major PSA campaign was even more audacious. By juxtaposing footage of Adolf Hitler with messages urging people to vote, Herb Goldsmith emphasized the importance of democratic participation to prevent the rise of tyrannical leaders. Although some television stations refused to air the ads due to their graphic nature, the campaign received Clio Awards and millions of dollars in free publicity, leading to a 25% increase in sales over four years.

The Legacy of Herb Goldsmith

What Is The Legacy of Herb Goldsmith and Members Only Jackets

Herb Goldsmith passed away on February 22 at a care facility in Roslyn, New York. He was 92, and the cause of death was lymphoma, as reported by his daughter Ileen Goldsmith. Goldsmith’s legacy lives on through his innovative contributions to fashion marketing and his indelible influence on advertising strategies.

Enduring Popularity of Members Only Jackets

Members Only jackets remain a symbol of 1980s fashion, known for their distinctive design and association with celebrity culture. The brand has seen resurgences over the years, continuing to appeal to new generations of fashion enthusiasts.

The Rise of Members Only

The Birth of an Iconic Jacket

The Members Only jacket, sleek and shiny with knitted trim, narrow shoulder epaulets, a button-snap collar strap, and a stylish brand name on the breast pocket, became an essential outerwear piece in the 1980s. Available in a variety of colors, it was a pop-culture phenomenon worn by celebrities, prep school students, and even politicians like Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

Marketing Genius

Herb Goldsmith’s marketing acumen played a pivotal role in the jacket’s success. His groundbreaking advertising campaigns often centered on social issues such as voting and drug addiction, with Members Only mentioned subtly. These campaigns not only raised brand awareness but also resonated deeply with the public, driving significant sales growth.

Goldsmith’s Early Life and Career

Humble Beginnings

Herb Goldsmith was deeply immersed in the apparel trade from a young age, working closely with his father, a traveling salesman who eventually formed his own company. This early exposure to the fashion industry laid the foundation for Goldsmith’s future success.

Overcoming Challenges

What Is The Legacy of Herb Goldsmith and Members Only Jackets

Despite being colorblind and unable to see red and green, Goldsmith’s creative vision was undeterred. He released jackets in vibrant shades such as brandy, honey, sky blue, and vermilion, relying on his youngest daughter to assist with color matching.

Members Only: A Fashion Revolution

Innovative Design and Global Sourcing

Goldsmith’s knack for combining disparate elements into something special was evident in the Members Only jacket. By merging Italian skinny-ribbed knits, Yugoslavian corduroy sports coats, Spanish fine leather, and Belgian functional outerwear, he crafted a unique and stylish product that appealed to a broad audience.

Celebrity Endorsements and Popularity

The jacket’s popularity soared after it hit the racks of Patricia Field’s Manhattan boutique. Celebrities and influencers, from Frank Sinatra to Johnny Carson, soon embraced the Members Only brand, further cementing its status as a must-have item.

Advertising Campaigns with a Social Conscience

Tackling Drug Addiction

In 1986 Goldsmith focused the company’s $6 million publicity budget on an anti-drug promotion. Featuring celebrities like Larry Gatlin and Lou Piniella, these ads highlighted the dangers of drug use while subtly promoting the Members Only brand.

Promoting Civic Engagement

What Is The Legacy of Herb Goldsmith and Members Only Jackets

During the 1988 election season, Members Only launched a distinctive ad campaign encouraging people to vote. Using black-and-white footage of historical dictators, the campaign underscored the importance of voting to prevent tyrants from gaining power. Read more: Wearing Plaid Shirts for Every Occasion in 2024.

Later Life and Broadway Ventures

Transition to Broadway

After selling Europe Craft Imports in 1987, Goldsmith turned his attention to Broadway. He produced or co-produced over 30 shows, including a revival of David Mamet’s “Glengarry Glen Ross” and the ventriloquism showcase “Jay Johnson: The Two and Only”

Personal Life and Legacy

Herb Goldsmith’s personal life was as rich as his professional career. Married to Dolores Turkel in 1952, the couple shared a lifelong interest in the arts, filling their Long Island home with works by de Kooning, Rothko, Picasso, and Judd. After Dolores’s passing in 2009, Goldsmith married Myrna Kanter. He passed away on February 22, 2020, at the age of 92, leaving behind a lasting legacy in both fashion and theater.


Herb Goldsmith’s innovative spirit, marketing genius and passion for fashion and the arts have left an enduring impact. The Members Only jacket remains symbol of 1980s pop culture, continually revived in vintage shops and modern fashion circles. Goldsmith’s legacy as a visionary in the fashion industry and pioneer in socially conscious advertising ensures that his contributions will be remembered for generations to come.

Herb Goldsmith’s remarkable career serves as testament to the power of creative marketing and the impact of bold, unconventional strategies. His use of celebrity endorsements and public service announcements not only propelled the Members Only brand to iconic status but also set new standards in the advertising industry. As we remember Goldsmith’s contributions, we celebrate a true pioneer whose innovative spirit continues to inspire.

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