Editor’s Note: Many thanks to contributor Scott A. Burrell for the piece you are about to read. Alas it’ll be reruns for a while after this: freelance writers don’t get vacations (though they occasionally get paid press junkets), but I’m off to Cape Cod for some golf and DCG’s wedding (in order of importance). Expect some coverage of that, as well as the Harriman Cup, as my adopted nephew Al Castiel will be crashing at my place while attending the celebrated polo match on Long Island. And if you have college memories you’d like to share, use the contact button above and I’ll get them up next week. — CC
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Coming of fashion age in the early 1980s under the penumbra of the “Preppy Handbook,” I left a decidedly un-preppy suburb for a very preppy — at least by Midwestern standards — liberal arts college. School shopping featured some hits — Bean’s blucher mocs, khaki and lime green bermudas, a Lacoste anorak, and the still-very-practical maroon and navy repp from Jos. A. Bank in the picture below — and some wild misses, including a ventless blue blazer of indeterminate material.
I still had a lot to learn. Distilling the attitudes of a small, insular college through the Greek system in general and my fraternity in particular produced an almost Stalinist approach to fashion. Shoes were an absolute shibboleth limited essentially to five options: Bean’s bluchers, camp mocs, and Maine hunting shoes, Bass Weejuns, and tennis shoes (K-Swiss, Tretorns or Stan Smiths only). True to this Stalinist approach, we rejected our pasts. Top-Siders were for poseurs.
Shirts were another matter altogether. In 1983 it was a challenge to even find all-cotton buttondowns. I didn’t know where Brooks Brothers was (not that I could afford Brooks), and catalogue shopping wasn’t yet a thing. I struggled to figure out whether the various loops, pleats, placates and buttons were de rigueur or not. Ultimately, I lucked into a thrift-store trove of 16/34s from Ann Arbor’s Van Boven Shop that served me well for the remaining three years.
By the end of my junior year I had acquired an acceptable replacement blazer, a pair of bleeding madras patch trousers, and some Black Watch stadium pants. Add to that the gear I got after a fraternity brother and teammate convinced the tennis coach to outfit us in Boast and I was gaining confidence.
Scoring a summer internship with a Big 8 accounting firm not only provided a decent stipend, but put me downtown, where I found Brooks Brothers. I arrived back on campus with a pile of new shirts by Polo, a couple of Banks’ three-button suits, and a pair of black tassel loafers. Exercising senior prerogative at a fall rush function, the khakis and blazer uniform was traded for a light grey suit, pink Brooks buttondown, bow tie, and tassel loafers, no socks.
I emerged from college with a style forged by these circumstances, but one that I owned and would rely on for the rest of my life. That is, except during my second year of law school, when I lost my fashion mind thanks to Pearl Jam). — SCOTT ALEXANDER BURRELL