Between Ivy And Prep: BC3 On Yale In The ’70s

As a curtain call to our series of ’70s posts from last week — not to mention yesterday’s post on Yale from Richard Press — Barnaby Conrad III shares these memories of Yale in the decade between the fall of the Ivy League Look and the rise of prepdom.

Conrad is a writer and artist and longtime man-about-town in San Francisco who presently makes his home on the eastern shore of Virginia. He was my last meeting in San Francisco in 2009, and my first event in New York a week later at a reception for his artwork on the Upper East Side. 

“I am finishing up a big biography of Jacques Villeglé (born 1926),” Conrad tells me, “who is the greatest living French artist in France. This grand art book is called “Jacques Villeeglé and the Streets of Paris and features over 350 photographs and images. Should be in the bookstores by September.” — CC

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My father, who was Class of 1944 at Yale, always got his clothes at J. Press in New Haven and later at Brooks Brothers. I was Yale class of 1975 and bought my clothes at J. Press as well. I spent four years at Taft School (1966-70), so I wore a tweed jacket and rep tie every day except Sunday, when a suit was required for church. I had tweeds, blazers and suits from Brooks Brothers in NYC and SF. Upon graduation, I spent the summer running with the bulls at Pamplona and dancing in discotecques on the French Riviera. But I also went to museums from the Prado to the Louvre. In London I scored a green velvet jacket on Carnaby Street.

Arriving at Yale in the fall of 1970, I was amazed to find no dress requirements. The hippie thing was taking place. Cat Stevens, The Who and Grateful Dead albums spun on the record players, and I wore bluejeans and a sweater every day, a good uniform for an art major. Then Robert Redford starred in “The Great Gatsby” and “The Sting,” and by 1974 we were headed into a retro phase. The tide turned and people cut their hair short; we began dressing up in blazers and flannel pants for parties at The Fence Club, and for croquet matches in the garden of the Elizabethan Club. A few of us even took the train into New York to hear Bobby Short play Cole Porter’s music and drink martinis at the Café Carlyle.

The next day I got my hair cut short at Vidal Sassoon’s. What can I say? I went square again.

While working in Manhattan as an editor for Art World, I met everyone from Buckminster Fuller and George Plimpton to James Rosenquist and Peter Beard, who invited me to his 40th birthday party at Studio Fifty-Four. Then, on a lark, I moved to Paris thinking I would stay a few months. I ended up staying for five years and wrote my first book “Absinthe: History in a Bottle” (1988). The American ambassador, Evan Galbraith, and his stylish wife Bootsie entertained frequently on a grand scale, and I was invited so often as an “extra man” that I needed a second dinner jacket, which I had tailored at Huntsman in London.

I now get my clothes made by Henley of Hong Kong, a tailor who makes a yearly swing through SF and the East Coast. My eleven-year-old son enjoys wearing a blazer and bowtie from Brooks Brothers when we leave our rustic farm in Accomac, Virginia, for a trip to Manhattan.— BARNABY CONRAD III

6 Comments on "Between Ivy And Prep: BC3 On Yale In The ’70s"

  1. Very enjoyable article; thanks.

  2. Thank you for the guest post. Mr. Conrad is also featured in the 2015 film “Absinthe: a documentary”, which I watched on Amazon Prime. Mr. Conrad is both thoughtfully insightful and (of note for this forum) conspicuously well-dressed in the film. I recommend it.

  3. Charlottesville | June 4, 2021 at 11:13 am |

    Thank you for the excellent post, Mr. Conrad. I am pleased to learn that you are now a Virginia resident. I have enjoyed your books, including The Martini: An Illustrated History of an American Classic, and your collection of the paintings by Mark Stock, who I always associate with the restaurant Bix in San Francisco. I also very much enjoyed you father’s memoir Name Dropping, which is well worth a look for those interested in the jazz scene in 1950s S.F. It would be delightful to see more posts from you if you should ever have the time and inclination.

  4. Video of interview with Barnaby Conrad III:

  5. Spartacus | June 4, 2021 at 3:05 pm |

    Would definitely like to see more posts from Mr. Conrad, what a great article.

  6. One of the most intetesting and entertaining articles I’ve read on this site in a long time. Thanks.

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