The Shawl-Collared Baseball Cardigan For RL Magazine

Wed 9 Apr 2014 - Filed under: 1920s-'40s,Sport — Christian
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My latest piece for Ralph Lauren Magazine is on the shawl-collared cardigan, which was the favored warm-up gear for baseball players from about 1900-1930. Origins of exactly how and why the shawl cardigan became associated with baseball are murky, and very few of the sweaters survive outside of photographs. I was able to talk to several baseball historians, including MLB’s official, in an effort to shed some light on the handsome sweaters, which were eventually supplanted by woolen varsity-type jackets. (Continue)

Taking Sides: Vintage Ivy League Football Programs

Sun 2 Feb 2014 - Filed under: Sport — Christian
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To counter the over-the-top commercialization of the Super Bowl, I thought we’d take a look at football from an angle more related to culture than commerce.

These football programs come from the shop Collectable Ivy and boast some great concept art. The one above, from 1930, is my favorite. (Continue)


Are We Having Fun Yet? Chens On Golf For WSJ

Wed 29 Jan 2014 - Filed under: Sport — Christian
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By now you’re all familiar with my learning golf on Brooks Brothers’s simulator. In fact, when comment-leaver “woofboxer” was visiting New York recently, he knew right where to find me.

Apparently I’m one of a diminishing number of adults inclined to take up the sport later in life. Golf has lost 5 million players over the past decade, especially among young people, and the industry is seriously concerned. So last week new initiative called Hack Golf was launched. Its founders are asking the golfing public how to make the sport more fun.

“More fun?” I respond in a piece that runs on the op-ed pages of today’s Wall Street Journal. “Whoever said golf was supposed to be fun?”

Is learning the violin fun? Is becoming a competitive chess player fun? Minigolf, with its colored balls and Ferris wheels, is fun. But the satisfaction derived from real golf is much more profound than the word “fun” would suggest. Golf is something like rock climbing, except the risk is not a shattered back but a bruised ego.

It’s for those who, however laid back they might otherwise be, have an alpha streak that keeps them impervious to the ritual humiliation the sport inflicts. Golf is beyond fun: It is the ultimate sporting test of physical coordination, mental focus, strategy and nerves. “It takes a special kind of person to play golf,” an instructor at Golf Manhattan once told me, since for those who take it up later in life, “it’s just too hard.”

Head over here to access the full essay. — CC

Update: In case you encounter a pay wall using the link above, here’s the text of the piece:

Whoever Said Golf Was Supposed To Be Fun?
Gimmicks to appeal to young people send the wrong message. Face it, the sport is cruel.

Representatives from the golf and business industries last week unveiled, an initiative designed to address the calamity of the sport’s rapidly diminishing number of participants. The sport has lost five million players in the U.S. over the past decade, according to the National Golf Foundation, including a 30% drop in golfers age 18-34. Since conventional ideas—such as encouraging faster play through a television ad campaign and youth programs such as The First Tee—have done little to halt the decline of golf in America, Hack Golf aims to crowdsource random and radical ideas as a way of thinking outside the tee box. GPS nanotechnology on golf balls, for example, would certainly make finding them easier.In the keynote presentation at the 2014 PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando, Hack Golf founders Mark King, CEO of TaylorMade Golf, and associates Joe Beditz, CEO of the National Golf Foundation and business strategist Gary Hamel, asked what the industry can do to make golf more fun. They’re asking the wrong question, because whoever said golf was supposed to be fun? (Continue)

Corpore Sano: The Preppiest Sport Is Also The Healthiest

Wed 22 Jan 2014 - Filed under: Sport,WASPdom — Christian
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On Monday night I was invited by the brand Boast to spectate at the squash Tournament of Champions, currently underway in Vanderbilt Hall at Grand Central Terminal.

Coming from a Cali-plebian background, I’d never seen the sport played before. I was very intrigued, though, as for a few years I nursed an intense badminton obsession, playing up to five days per week at a full-time club and training under a coach from the Chinese national team. Badminton is little understood and derided here in the US (the “Official Preppy Handbook” extolls squash as the preppiest of sports while taking a crack at badminton) and of course carries no social prestige. I ended up writing a piece for the LA Times Magazine that tried to correct some of the misconceptions, and if you’ve never seen it played at an elite level before, have a look.

I’d heard that squash and badminton were similar, not only for the intensity, but also the footwork and all the lunging. Boast had a box in the front row, and after a couple of hours, with help from company president John Dowling, I went from being totally bewildered by what was happening to the ball to following every shot with anticipation. It was fascinating and the athletes are absolute ironmen.

The sport is not just preppy by chance. It was actually invented at the English boarding school Harrow and first appeared in the US in 1884 at St. Paul’s in New Hampshire. (Continue)


Miracle On 44th Street

Mon 2 Dec 2013 - Filed under: Sport — Christian
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Twenty-seven months and 20,000 balls after hitting my first, I finally made a swing on the third floor of Brooks Brothers (in my socks, no less) that the instructor said “could be on television.” Though it happened about six weeks ago, I just now got the video clip, from which these screenshots were taken.

Since then I’ve been unable to duplicate this miracle on 44th Street. (Continue)


Lime Twist: What Go-To-Hell Can Do For You

Mon 22 Jul 2013 - Filed under: Clothes,Sport — Christian
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Whenever we put up a post on the bright colors and crazy patterns of what is known colloquially, or rather Internetically, as go-to-hell, the chorus of curmudgeons always chimes in with cantakerous remarks about how it’s all mere kids’ stuff.

There’s no changing the minds of intractable fellows such as this, but for those of you whose mind is open at least one degree, and who don’t normally wear candy colors, this post is for you.

There’s a guy I regularly play tennis with: late 40s, thin as a rail, very tan, and rather soft spoken. He’s just returned from overseas, where he lived the past 10 years, and before he left, he liquidated all his belongings, including most of his clothes. A former teacher, he’s now trying to launch an acting career.

The guy (lets call him Eric) usually dressed for the courts in black or grey fleece shorts baggy enough to accomodate a quadruped, and an equally oversized faded burgundy t-shirt hanging on his thin frame as if on a wire coat hanger.

Talk turned to clothes one day, and Eric admitted that his extremely limited wardrobe consisted of whatever he could find at the local dollar discount store.

This was clearly a fashion emergency, and as I’ve always been an inveterate closet-purger, I thought I’d throw some old shorts and polos his way. I’d be helping out a new friend, and it was fun upending the notion that queer eyes advise straight guys, but not the other way around.

A couple weeks later I showed up at the courts and saw a threesome with a couple of guys I recognized. Figuring they might need a fourth for doubles, I headed over to find out. After a minute of shooting the breeze, I noticed one of the guys was wearing a shirt that looked eerily faimilar. It was a lime-colored polo, somewhat similar to the Castaway shirt above (it, and plenty more like it, are available from our loyal sponsor Country Club Prep), and reminded me of one I used to have. I took a closer look and sure enough it was Eric standing there checking his strings. He also had on well fitting khakis, and a white tennis cap, which might explain why I didn’t recognize him.

But I’d like to think it was due to the power of good fit and a confident dash of color — especially for a summertime sporting activity. Eric looked younger, more confident, and just all around better thanks to well fitting clothes and a bold color gesture. Enough so, in fact, to make him all but look like a different person.

Never underestimate what preppy can do for you. — c C m

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