Axelrod’s, a menswear shop founded in 1954 and serving Aldrich College, the small liberal-arts school located in coastal Connecticut, has taken a bold step in attracting new customers by launching a collection aimed at anti-fascist student protestors.
“We’ve always been resistant to change and have sold the same buttondowns and tweeds since ’54,” says owner Pierce Axelrod, whose grandfather Stanislaus founded the shop. Pierce, who graduated from Aldrich in 2015 with a major in Imperialist Textile Studies, says he became #woke at school and “wants to rescue the shop from its problematic history and usher in the era of Trump Resistance.”
Aldrich College, founded in 1848, was once known as “the rich dumb man’s Yale.” At $118,762 in annual admission fees plus room and board, it is the most expensive private college in North America.
It is also one of the most progressive: all sports teams, male and female, were disbanded in 2014 for “fostering a culture that unjustly rewards the physically talented.” An intramural yoga league briefly emerged as a possible replacement, but it too was deemed too competitive. Aldrich eventually made national headlines when it instigated its so-called “male bonding ban,” which requires that male students who gather in groups of three or more anywhere on campus must be accompanied by a female administrator and drone-operated video surveillance.
Axelrod’s opened in 1954 just as the Ivy League Look was spreading across America, but has been operating at a loss since 1968.
Along with the cutting of athletic programs, the election of Donald Trump has led to a dramatic surge in campus protests as a form of recreation and exercise. Axelrod’s sees a great opportunity, says Pierce, to balance the needs of the few remaining faculty members who require tweed sportcoats and grey flannels with the emerging gear and equipment needs of current undergrads.
And so later this month Axelrod’s will debut the Preppy Antifa Collection. Highlights include pima cotton masks in navy, “since black isn’t a preppy color,” says Pierce. They come with pink stripes symbolizing solidarity with the school’s biggest minority, individuals who identify as female, which makes up 78% of the student body.
Also in navy is a cable-knit hooded sweatshirt emblazoned with a tasteful crest and the words “Preppy Anarchy.”
Also in the collection are plain-front cotton duck trousers with 1.75-inch cuffs, bloodstain-resistant technology, and a clear vinyl pocket with velcro closure in which wearers can prominently display their father’s business card.
The accessories part of the collection includes a penny loafer made with old-school golf spikes for traction and a retractable blade in the toe for self-defense. Wayfarer-style sunglasses come with pepper-spray-resistant lenses.
The Preppy Antifa collection starts at $125 for masks and tops out at $480 for the pepper-spray shades. The prices may seem a bit steep, Axelrod says, however, “most anti-capitalist activists receive generous monthly allowances.”
All in all, Pierce says, he hopes the collection can benefit student life at Aldrich College. “I think during times of crisis, such as when a controversial speaker is invited, students should be able to destroy their campus in style.”