In a 1973 issue of the Princeton Alumni Weekly, Richard K. Rein wrote about P-Town’s legendary clothing shop Langrock. “Princeton’s oldest and most successful men’s clothing store,” he wrote, “is a curious mix of effete snobbery, highbrow intellectualism, and small town warmth and personal service that remained singularly unruffled by the sweeping sartorial changes occurring about it.”
A decade earlier the shop across the street from Holder Hall dominated the local prep and undergraduate market. So prevalent were student shoppers that they were banned on Saturdays so businessman could shop in peace. But by 1973 undergrads were scarce. Campus fashion had changed and Langrock’s prices had become too high for many student budgets The least expensive item in the shop was $4.50 socks, and that quickly escalated to $325 for the base model made-to-measure wool suit, and $750 for the self-indulgent luxury of the muskrat-lined alpaca overcoat. Langrock, however, was still serving its original clients, who came of age before bellbottoms. It had a staff of 30, including 12 tailors, and was conducting a brisk mail-order business. In fact, it was doing $1 million in annual sales.
Behind it all was owner Alan G. Frank. He was born in New York in 1912, and it was in Manhattan that he was introduced to the textile industry. He moved to California in 1930 and worked in aircraft manufacturing during World War II. His postwar attention turned again to the east and clothing when in 1948 he became an investor in Langrock, the family business of his wife Joan. Frank came to Princeton in 1952, taking over management of the Nassau Street store. He would move his family from Hamden, Connecticut, in 1954, becoming a permanent resident of Princeton. Langrock would continue to be a fixture on Nassau Street, albeit in different locations, for 31 more years before downsizing and moving into the Princeton University store in November of 1985.
The last Nassau street location was at Number 16, and Frank in part blamed his longtime nemesis — parking problems — for his move into the U. It also appears that Don Broderick, manager of the university store, made the veteran retailer a financial offer he could not refuse. The student newspaper states that Broderick bought the rights to the Langrock name. Broderick pointed out that Langrock was a corporation and that Frank was still an owner. What the arrangement was is not exactly clear, but what was certain was that Frank was to remain the face of Langrock.
Langrock operated out of a 10 by 14 foot section of the second floor of the U store for 10 years. Frank’s atelier was decorated with antiques and vintage furnishing from Langrock. During those years the Langrock shop would offer special orders, custom and made-to-measure clothing, along with shirts, ties, braces, pajamas, underwear, and formal shirts and accessories. Frank closed his shop and retired to Naples, Florida, in September 1995. He died February 21, 1996, at the age of 83.
Frank was a member of the Nassau Club and the Springdale Golf Club. During his merchant years he was actively involved in community affairs, which included Rotary and Chamber of Commerce, where he was president for three years in the ’60s, the Princeton Borough Merchant Association, and the mayors Economic Development Committee. A survey of the Town Topics newspaper is full of grainy photos of Frank presenting checks to worthy causes and awards to notable community members, plus photos of himself being recognized for his community affairs work. He said he was “blessed to have been able to do things for other people. I was taught this way by my father and grandfather, who both said you won’t be happy unless you do things for others.”
Tom Brophy of Lawrence Township penned a eulogy that ran in Town Topics on February 28, 1996. Brophy had worked for Frank as a teenager in the ’50s and continued to be mentored by him. “He was a man of enormous energy, tremendous marketing insight,” he wrote, “and made ever customer feel important. He was a beautiful man and role model. His idea of dressing down was long plaid pants (always cuffed) a dress shirt with an ascot, a sports coat and his black tasseled loafers.”
In a recent post on his blog, Nick Hilton paints a portrait of Frank as a Man of La Mancha sadly diminished in his decling years. Mr. Frank would have seen it differently. Richard Rein bore witness to Frank’s philosophy. “Perhaps the undergraduate body is a source of potential customers,” he recounted. “But in order to meet their current price potential, we would have to lower our standard of quality, which is something we won’t do.”
Frank had no regrets for not compromising on quality, nor for stubbornly adhering to the house style, nor for having less than a half a year of retirement under the Florida sun before departing this earth. Indeed “no regrets” sounds like his personal motto. Alan Frank was erudite enough to give it to you in Latin, but it may be best expressed in the appreciation of the customers he served for 43 years and the town he loved. To them he may truly have been the Paladin of Princeton. — CHRISTOPHER SHARP
In a couple of hours, the US will take on Germany in the World Cup. Most of you probably don’t care, because soccer is about as preppy as having a name like Prince Shah Karim Al Hussaini Aga Khan IV.
Pictured above is Khan at Harvard in 1958 from a LIFE Magazine photo shoot. We posted shots from it in one of Ivy Style’s early posts, and for a while the handsome prince served as the avatar of our Facebook page.
He was on the soccer team. — CC
Ten years ago today Christian Chensvold began his foray into menswear blogging with the founding of Dandyism.net. Four years later he turned his attention to the Ivy League Look, and he continues to find new niches to explore (under the loose heading Stickpin Media), with the recent launch of Golf Style.
Bruce Boyer herein pays tribute to the man who a decade ago brought the Internet what was eventually called “the most self-important review in the history of media.”
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This is just a shoddy excuse of a note to wish Christian my best regards on his 10th anniversary of Internet publishing. Particularly as an avid reader of Ivy Style since its inception, I want to tell him how much I appreciate his fine balance of worthwhile information, creative perspective, and a writing style to rival Max Beerbohm in wit and erudition.
Christian, I suppose to some this may well seem like log-rolling, since you’ve been kind to me in your past columns, but I don’t want you to think that. I’m really very objective about these things, and part of whatever success I’ve enjoyed can be put down to knowing who’s doing good work and who in the room’s got the talent.
Your columns often are a wonderful reminder for me of my own youth (I’m thinking, for example, of the fairly recent barbershop photo), and I’m indebted to you for that nostalgic tug. More importantly, your insight into some areas (your various jazz pieces, for instance) make me go back and reconsider the subject anew.
And finally, for me, you’ve brought some of the more interesting people you’ve met to a larger audience. I’m thinking here of someone like Charlie Davidson, who is a hero of mine and deserves to be known by a younger audience.
With my great good wishes for your continued success, from a fan and a friend. — G. BRUCE BOYER
Longtime members of Tradsville will recall with a cringe the username “Russell Street,” the notorious English troll who got himself banned from Andy’s Trad Forum, the Ivy Style comments section, and most recently the Film Noir Buff “Talk Ivy” forum, which he created but was ousted for, among other things irksome to small online communities, pretending to be his own imaginary son.
Apparently Jimmy Frost Mellor was in fact his real name all along (or at least a sobriquet he uses off the ‘Net as well), and he can be heard pontificating on Ivy in this podcast, starting at the 1:50:42 mark. (Why Jason Jules and John Simons allow this nutcase to pose as a spokesman for them is baffling.)
Those who’ve read the take on Ivy from our cousins across the pond might find it interesting to actually hear it discussed. Especially entertaining is the tricky passage about the Eastern Establishment and the role of the campus in the Ivy League Look, things which in the mind of many English Ivy fans (especially of the mod variety) have less to do with Ivy than scooters.
Online Mellor has often bragged that he’s spent over 30 years obsessing over Ivy, but the podcast reinforces what Tradsville has long known: that his take on the topic is highly subjective.
After all, you can stand on your head against the wall, stare across the room at a painting and claim you’re an expert on it, but in the end you’ve simply spent 30 years looking at something upside-down. — CC
A collection of six bow ties belonging to pioneering modernist architect Walter Gropius (1883-1969) are currently on display at the Harvard Graduate School of Design’s Frances Loeb Library.
Gropius, along with fellow modernist Le Corbusier, helped cement the bow tie as an emblem of nonconformist thinking, creativity, and architectural genius. The bow ties in the collection provide a glimpse into Gropius’ personal taste, his connection to Harvard, and his thoughts about the small accessory that makes a big statement. (Continue)
J. Press may have closed its New York location, but the inimitable Jay Walter, who ran the company’s made-to-measure tailoring program on Madison Avenue, remains committed to serving those devoted to traditional style.
His new shop, located in Manhattan at 800 Second Avenue, will continue furnishing customers with the same handmade custom tailoring for which he was renowned at J. Press. (Continue)
Zachary DeLuca was one of Ivy Style’s first contributors, and he recently rejoined us in the more formal role of assistant editor, where he’ll be writing regularly, helping plan content, and fixing typos (though how good he’ll be at that, when he can’t even remember to button his own collar, remains to be seen).
Zach was recently given the Keikari.com questionnaire (you can’t exactly call it an interview, since an interview involves asking different people different questions). Check it out and get to know the man who’ll have to captain the ship if I get hit by an errant golf ball, possibly my own. — CC