Recently I purchased a 1926 yearbook for my alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania, and was pleasantly surprised to see a Brooks Brothers advertisement on the first page of the ad section. Flipping through, I also discovered ads for a few local establishments, including a campus menswear shop called Gommy. It seemed like Gommy may have been for Penn and Princeton what J. Press was for Yale. My interest piqued, I began searching for details on the history of the store.
I was not able to find much at all, however. Menswear expert Bruce Boyer, former J. Press president Richard Press, and trad guru David Wilder were unable to provide any details about Gommy. The one solid piece of information I was able to find on this Philadelphia shop was a quote from B. Franklin Reinauer II, a gentleman who graduated from Penn in 1938. He provides some details on Gommy as well as the general menswear retail environment at the time:
There were some good men’s clothing stores: Gommy’s on Woodland Avenue Street just below 36th Street, and Sox Miller on Spruce Street just above 36th Street. People from men’s clothing stores in other cities would travel from college to college campuses get a room in a hotel or elsewhere to show their clothing to students and hopefully make some sales. Student representatives at different schools tried to get students to come to see the clothes.
Reinauer goes on to recount what campus wear was like during his college years:
When we students went to our classes each day we were dressed in slacks, tweed jacket, shirts [many with button down collars] and ties. There was a fine shoe shine place on Spruce Street just above 36th Street where our cordovan shoes were shined to perfection. We wore coats and fedora hats, too. Those students who were members of the football or other team sometimes wore their sweaters with “P” emblazoned.
For Ivy Style’s 300th post, London-based contributor Rebecca C. Tuite examines the most important piece of literature about The Ivy League Look’s most important brand.
There is little doubt that Mary Mccarthy’s short story “The Man in the Brooks Brothers Shirt” is now probably more famous for its punchy title — a dream for the Brooks Brother’s marketing team — than it is for the actual story. But it remains a classic part of the mystique of the Brooks Brothers Look, and indeed, the Brooks Brothers Man.
Taken from Mary McCarthy’s 1942 novel “The Company She Keeps,” which is less a straight narrative and more a collection of six short stories, “The Man in the Brooks Brothers Shirt,” forms the third chapter in the story of Margaret Sargent, a young woman trying to redefine her life following a Reno divorce. “Floundering in a world of casual affairs and squalid intimacies,” Sargent is self-destructive, reinventing herself as a bohemian and rebelling against society, all of which finds a perfect counterpoint in Mr. Breen: a Cleveland-based executive at a steel company and the “hearty stranger in the green shirt” she meets on a Pullman car heading west to Sacramento.
The story opens with the first description of the man, who at this point remains nameless:
The new man who came into the club car was coatless. He was dressed in grey trousers and a green shirt of expensive material that had what seemed to be the figure “2″ embroidered in darker green on the sleeve. His tie matched the green of the monogram, and his face, which emerged rather sharply from this tasteful symphony in cool colours, was bluish pink.
Less than impressed, Sargent sees him “like something in a seed catalogue,” and although feeling “full of contempt for the man, for his coatlessness, for his colour scheme, for his susceptibility, for his presumption,” she still allows herself, firstly, to enter into conversation with him, and secondly, to spend the night with him (subsequently enduring the following morning). All of this is peppered with Sargent’s own disgust for the promiscuity her aunt has always warned her about — “I don’t know why you make yourself so cheap,” and “It doesn’t pay to let men think you’re easy.” (Continue)
This is a 20-minute clip, so watch it over lunch if you’re the kind of poor schlub who eats lunch at his desk. And if you’re at home, pour yourself a drink and get comfortable.
Love the towel worn as a scarf in the opening. Great chinos and sweaters in action at 2:28. Jackets and ties for trip to Cornell at 4:28. White bucks and grey flannels at 5:51. Rowing against Columbia through New York City at 8:29. More traveling clothes at 10:32.
And finally, at 19:28, the climax: a kiss from a debutante in cashmere and pearls.
The winner was John W. Fischer, who took the cup not only for his fine form on the fairway, but for being the most Ivishly styled. The shot of him above caught my eye. Note the natural shoulder, 3/2 roll and patch pockets, and perfectly contemporary proportions. The lapel width is even so spot on you could wear the jacket today, nearly 80 years later, and not have to change a stitch. (Continue)
Here are some early collegiate images from the Hart, Schaffner & Marx archives. Check out the sprezzatura of the guy in the chair above: college sweater with formal pumps — now that’s a juxtaposition. (Continue)