Chapel Hill clothier and native Milton Julian turns 95

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Milton Julian celebrated his 95th birthday this Sunday with a party of family and friends.

Milton Julian is a Tar Heel born and a Tar Heel bred, even at 95 years old.

On Sunday, Julian gathered for a birthday party with friends and family, who celebrated his life and influence on Chapel Hill. Today is his birthday.

A Massachusetts native, Julian moved to Chapel Hill in 1935. He graduated from UNC in 1942 with plans to go to law school, but he soon found he had a stronger passion for men’s fashion.

Julian opened Milton’s Clothing Cupboard in 1948 on Franklin Street. His store stayed open for 42 years.

“I’d never worked in a store before I opened up my own,” he said.

Julian said he was inspired by his older brother Maurice’s work in retail.

Maurice Julian founded Julian’s College Shop in 1942 with his wife, Mary, and is credited with bringing Northern styles like argyle and paisley to the South. Though Maurice Julian passed away in 1993, the store is still open today, located at 135 E. Franklin St.

When Milton’s Clothing Cupboard found success in Chapel Hill, Milton Julian proceeded to open up five more stores throughout the South.

“I liked Ivy League clothing so much I wanted to do it all over the South,” he said. “We did enough advertising so that Chapel Hill became a mecca for men’s clothing.”

Even though Milton Julian no longer has his own store on Franklin Street, he still designs men’s clothing.

“I wound up with about a dozen customers that I still service,” he said.

And men’s fashion is a passion that much of the Julian family shares.

Milton’s nephew, Alexander Julian — who was one of the featured speakers at Saturday’s TEDxUNC conference — now owns Julian’s on Franklin Street, and his son Bruce owns Bruce Julian’s Clothiers in Charlotte.

Bruce Julian said he has worked alongside his father in men’s fashion for years.

“I started working for him at 14. I had a choice between working for him and baby-sitting. I chose working for him,” he said.

Bruce Julian opened his own store in 1977, an effort to carry on his father’s name in the industry.

“He’s so positive, it’s ridiculous,” he said.

Shannon Julian, Milton Julian’s son, said his father was known for his “Madnight Zonker” sales that got the entire town talking.

“We just had to throw stuff to the crowd, literally throw clothes off the roof,” he said.

“We created a feeding frenzy and Pop loved it.”

Longtime customer Sig Hutchinson said he calls the guest of honor “one suit Milton” because of his sixth sense around clothes.

“He is such an authentic, disarming and genuine person that thinks in terms of fashion and size,” Hutchinson said.

Contact the desk editor at city@dailytarheel.com.

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