It’s all part of Gant’s continued interest in connecting with its roots. Founded in 1949 as a shirt manufacturer in New Haven, CT, the company is now an international brand: Swiss-owned, headquartered in Sweden, and with stores in 73 countries. Despite its cosmopolitan profile, Gant remains attached to its earlier days. A little more than a year ago the company opened a New Haven store in an historic menswear building only a stone’s throw from the Yale campus. More recently, it launched a batch of limited-edition Yale Co-op button-down shirts, which pay homage to the company’s bygone days, when Marty and Eliot Gant sold their wares at the Yale campus store.
In order to show off its storied New Haven history, Gant asked seven current Yalies—mostly graduate students—to don the brand’s Co-op shirts, and lead photography and film crews to their favorite Yale locales. The shoot also features three new fabrications: a wool version called the Gantella, along with some gingham and poplin ones. “Our most popular Yale Co-op shirt is the oxford,” says David Arbuthot, the CEO of Gant USA, “but the poplin offers a crisper, cleaner alternative to it.”
I arrived for the shoot at midday, when the crew was just polishing off lunch. Before we headed to the first location, I chatted with the Swedish team in their makeshift headquarters, a giant motorhome parked on campus. Inside, a preppy crew of Swedes was busy styling two Yale students, who were trying their hands at modeling for the first time.
Lina Appelgren, a representative of Gant’s public relations team, kindly showed me a few of the forthcoming Yale Co-op shirts. Like the earlier models, their short tails, slimmer fits, and alpha sizing demonstrate that these are not aimed at Ivy purists. For the neo-preppy set, however, the button-downs have much to recommend them: deliciously soft fabric (especially for the wool Gantella numbers), and some nice Ivy details, such as a locker loop and a back collar button. Though devotees of Mercer & Sons will likely give the shirts a pass, those enamored of Ralph Lauren’s Rugby and J. Crew should check them out.
Soon we were off to Sterling Memorial Library, where nattily dressed architecture graduate student Cortez Crosby was showing off a white oxford for the camera. Nearby, a film crew shot Karl Schmeck, another architecture grad, while he pretended to study in a toggle coat and Co-op tattersall.
Then it was off to Yale’s Ingalls hockey rink, the favorite building of Vincent Calabro, one of Cortez’s and Karl’s colleagues in architecture. While stylist Peter Reuterwald fussed with Vincent’s attire in the stands, the Yale hockey team practiced on the ice below. Minutes later Matt Davis, a graduate student in paleontology, led us to the Hall of Graduate Studies’ common room, where he modeled yet another Yale Co-op shirt, along with chinos, D-ring belt, and tweed cap.
Overall, the shoot allowed for some interesting cultural interplay. Here was an unmistakably Swedish crew wandering around an Ivy League campus, bent on promoting their company’s New Haven pedigree. Peter Reuterwald assured me that there’s a growing obsession with preppy American attire on the Continent. And he seemed like the perfect embodiment of this fixation: Between shots, he waxed eloquently about American fashion blogs and Allen Edmonds loafers.
Meanwhile, we strolled around Yale’s neo-Gothic architecture, a testament to America’s obsession with imitating Europe. The grass, I suppose, is always greener on the other side of the pond. — ERIC ADLER
Eric Adler is an assistant professor in the classics department at Connecticut College. He lives in New Haven.