New Leaders Step Up at Alpha

Samuel Gelber, Alpha’s founder and leader since 1959, passed away in 1982. The company was taken over by his wife, Mildred Gelber, son-in-law, Alan Cirker, and long-time partner, John Niethammer. Alpha’s new leadership began to focus attention on Alpha’s non-military business potential and expanding what was becoming a globally recognized brand.

Since its founding, Alpha Industries informally sold its surplus inventory of military jackets to college military organizations (ROTC) and a handful of army/navy stores. Beginning in the late 1960s, Alpha started producing limited quantities of flight jackets and field coats specifically for the commercial market. The Alpha brand grew slowly during the 1970s as non-government customers and international military organizations started requesting flight jackets and field coats. When Alpha’s new leadership took over in 1982, efforts to sell in this space began expanding and customers were actively sought out rather than being an afterthought.

One of the key actions by the new leaders towards this goal was to trademark the three bars that Alpha had been including on their commercial labels since the late 1960s. The three parallel bars were originally added to the labels solely to help factory workers easily separate commercial jackets from military jackets. However, during the 1970s, the bars had unintentionally become a branding tool for Alpha, especially in foreign countries where they were associated with authenticity and superior quality. The three bars became vital to the Alpha brand identity and were later incorporated into the company logo.

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