One thing’s for certain: You can’t accuse J. Press of being a sartorial mausoleum run by dinosaurs anymore. Like or dislike its new direction (and you can like it on Facebook), today J. Press took a bold step towards recapturing cultural and fashion relevance with the unveiling of a slick new website.
In addition to extremely upgraded e-commerce functionality and product copy that sounds like it was actually written by a native speaker of English, the site gives a prominent and separate identity to York Street, the new collection designed by the brothers behind Ovadia & Sons, which it proclaims “a daring new line.”
J. Press is late in the game when it comes to updated prep-with-a-twist. In fact, while the game isn’t actually over, some players have decided to leave the field. By a bizarre coincidence, York Street is making its debut precisely as Ralph Lauren’s Rugby line is shuttering.
The products will certainly raise the eyebrows of die-hard trad fuddy duddies, but that’s of little matter since it’s not aimed at them. To whom exactly it’s aimed I’m not entirely sure. (Continue)
Everyone knows the buttondown shirt has been around forever. Well, we can at least trace its popularity to John Brooks (grandson of the firm’s founder) trip to England in 1896. He saw the polo players wearing this style collar, liked it, and started to manufacture it on his return home.
The buttondown was particularly popular from the 1930s on, when soft, attached collars were making great headway as more casual daywear than the customary stiff detachable ones.
Some dandies even went a step further and wore their buttondowns with a collar pin. There’s a wonderful photo of Fred Astaire, a great aficionado of the style, on his honeymoon with his wife Phyllis on their way to Hollywood in July, 1933. Astaire’s wearing a drape-cut, single-breasted Prince of Wales plaid suit, straw boater, and natty shepherd checked silk tie, and Brooks Brothers buttondown shirt — with a pin through the collar.
Today such sultans of style as Ralph Lauren have taken this idea a step farther yet by wearing the pin with the collar points unbuttoned. A nice touch of deshabille, to be sure. But I got to thinking and decided I’d do the designer one better. So I commissioned David Mercer — and Mercer & Sons is the best maker of the classic buttondown shirt — to make me a buttonless buttondown to wear with a pin. I ordered the classic blue heavy-weight oxford cloth to be made up with a buttondown collar, but asked David to leave off the collar holes and buttons.
The shirt arrived last week, I’ve had it laundered and am now wearing it both with and without a pin through the collar. It’s soft and as comfortable as can be because there’s no fusing. It also tends to wrinkle a bit, which I rather like and think suits me, and sort of echoes the longer point collars worn by Gary Cooper and John Barrymore. All in all I’d say the experiment was a success, and I look forward to Ralph copying the style from me. — G. BRUCE BOYER
Last week was menswear market week here in New York, and there was plenty of trad stuff to be seen. (Continue)
James here is holding out my latest sportcoat to wear today. It’s the same one I’m wearing in the previous post, which a reader inquired about. It’s actually this jacket from Brooks Brothers; I’d been eyeing it since the beginning of the season, really digging the fabric and knowing it would look great with my grey flannels and wool challis ties, which has been my uniform this winter.
As I was wearing it for the first time when I met with Crittenden Rawlings, and as he works as a consultant for Daidoh, the Japanese company with factories in Japan and China that manufactures for Brooks, and where my girlfriend used to work, I thought I’d ask what he thought of it.
Critt opened the fully canvassed jacket to the inside to look for signs of hand stitching, which he immediately found. Not only does Daidoh do good work, he said, but Asian factories in general that use hand tailoring often produce exceptional stitching, being more disciplined by nature than their European counterparts, he said in a sweeping but fair generalization.
But even Critt was surprised to find hand felled edges along the inside of the vent. “Not even Brioni does that,” he said.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not here to defend outsourcing nor the foreign ownership of iconic American companies. But I did think it worth broaching the topic that China is capable of producing better quality than you might think, and — for better or worse — that quality usually comes at a cheaper price than on a comparable item made here.
In the interest of a balanced review, I should note that the attention to handwork on the jacket is grossly undercut by the extremely cheap buttons Brooks Brothers uses on most of its tailored clothing. I’ve replaced buttons on trousers as well as this sportcoat, something I never have to do with clothing from Ralph Lauren. From a manufacturing standpoint, all details should matter, not just certain ones. — CC
I penned the cover story for this month’s issue of Menswear Retailer, the trade magazine’s annual made-in-America issue. Since Ivy Style is a website focused on American style, and since many of our favorite brands either manufacture significantly overseas, or are owned by a foreign company (Paul Stuart being the latest), I thought the story would interest many of you.
I spoke with a variety of brands for the piece, but you guys will be most interested to hear from Allen Edmonds, which has been experiencing tremendous growth lately. Here’s an excerpt:
During its record growth phase Allen Edmonds has added over 200 employees. Because of its location in Milwaukee, a city with longstanding manufacturing roots, finding workers skilled at hand labor has not been difficult, Grangaard says. It’s the cost of labor that’s the challenging part. “We’re lucky to be selling a shoe with tremendous value that can last up to 20 years, and because of that we’re able to get our higher labor cost built into the cost of the shoe more easily than if we were making glued-on, rubber-bottom shoes.”
I think you’ll also be interested to hear from Collared Greens about the challenges of launching a start-up business committed to domestic manufacturing, and Lotuff Leather about the shortage of young people interested in apprenticing in an artisanal craft such as leatherwork. There are also remarks from Robert Talbott, maker of fine traditional rep ties, and Bills Khakis.
Head over to MR’s site for the full story. — CC
In our recent post on the rise and fall of Ivy, we noted how since the fall of the Ivy League Look J. Press has gradually gone from a young man’s brand to an old man’s, while the clothes have remained largely the same.
Well as we’ve reported previously, J. Press is going after a younger customer again with its new York Street collection, and the clothes, designed by the brothers behind Ovadia & Sons, ain’t exactly the same. GQ did a write-up in its current issue. You can read it here, and note that not only are the clothes young and hip, but so is the writing:
… making boxy fits slimmer and subbing out basic fabrics with featherweight linen and British Millerain cotton. You know, the good shit.
Pictured above are Whiffens poofed out in items from the York Street collection. — CC