If you can’t get enough of our “Golden Years” columnist Richard Press, former president of J. Press and grandson of Jacobi, then you’re in luck. A little coaxing was all it took for him to start tweeting and the septuagenarian says he’s already addicted.
Richard will be sharing terse anecdotes, words of wisdom, style tips, news updates (like on that book he’s working on), and where to get the best bagels and lox. It’s also a good place to reach out to him as in our recent reader Q&A with him.
If you don’t already use Twitter, consider opening an account. You don’t need to post anything: Plenty of people simply use Twitter as a news feed without posting. You’ll probably find plenty of people and organizations who post breaking news about the things you’re interested in.
Richard Press’ Twitter handle is @RVPress59, and Ivy Style’s is @IvyStylecom. How tweet it is. — CHRISTIAN CHENSVOLD
The above image may look like a mere typography symbol, but is actually a work of art.
Richard Press, Ivy Style’s “Golden Years” columnist, former president of J. Press, and grandson of Jacobi, will herein host a virtual question-and-answer session with Ivy-Style.com readers, and the floor is now open.
Use the leave comment feature to ask Mr. Press anything you’d like to know about traditional American style, or any other topic on which you’d like to hear him opine.
Suggested talking points include:
College life in the ’50s (Richard graduated from Dartmouth in 1959)
J. Press during the heyday of the Ivy League Look
What makes a man stylish (Richard’s seen a lot of well dressed men over the years)
How to comport oneself like an American gentleman
Good books, movies and music
What to wear tomorrow
The meaning of life
Richard will answer as many questions as his time permits.
Snow willing, the dazzling ice sculptures of Dartmouth Winter Carnival are slated to be inaugurated on February 9. The winter weekend celebration was an intramural Ivy League event of local consequence before Walter Wanger decided to bring Hollywood into the act.
Wanger flunked out of Dartmouth in 1915, but achieved notoriety in the film world. Intensely proud of his days in Hanover burnishing his contributions to the college, was later awarded an honorary degree. He decided to reward the college and enhance his credentials with a celluloid extravaganza, “Winter Carnival.”
F. Scott Fitzgerald and Budd Schulberg, a recent Dartmouth graduate, both script writers for Wanger at United Artists, were hired for the project.
Schulberg’s father, B.P. Schulberg, former head of Paramount Pictures, presented them with two bottles of champagne, unaware that Fitzgerald was a recovering alcoholic. The bon voyage gift for the cross country trip grew into a binge with additional booze bought en route.They arrived at the college howling drunk just in time for Wanger’s presentation of Fitzgerald to the literary faculty. The disaster was further amplified with staggered appearances at Psi Upsilon and Alpha Delta Phi parties that concluded in a screaming sidewalk confrontation of the two with Wanger in front of the Hanover Inn. Wanger and his studio crew ran them out of town onto the next train out of White River Junction for Grand Central. They dried out for three days at Doctor’s Hospital in New York. (Continue)
As a follow-up to Christian’s Hanukkah post, Richard Press authors this year’s Christmas post.
During World War II, Yale professors still wore tweeds, but the boys they taught would soon graduate into khaki. Behind Woolsey Hall are the many rows of names of the boys who never came back.
My father, Paul Press, was a riveter who made M-70 rifles at the Winchester factory on Dixwell Avenue in New Haven. His brother Irving ran the PX store at Camp Ritchie, Maryland. My grandfather assisted the war effort overseeing custom-tailored uniform orders for candidates at the Officer’s Training School at Yale. J. Press was on a wartime footing along with the rest of America. The Princeton store was closed in 1942 when the entire staff joined the army. Civilian business necessarily diminished with shortages of inventory and customers during the war years.
My prescient grandfather prepared for the European conflict in the late ’30s and loaded up all available English goods before the start of war in September, 1939. Cases of Welch, Margretson shirts and ties, Twin Steeples hosiery, Druhmohr Shetland sweaters and Locke hats occupied all the space in the basement.
I was six years old in 1944 when grandfather Jacobi set up chairs and blankets for us to watch the Christmas Day Parade on the balcony in front of his office of the J. Press store on York Street. The wartime spectacle offered a key spot to view the brigades of Sherman tanks and armored vehicles clanking their treads towards the rally downtown for speeches and songs later on the New Haven Green. Soldiers, Sailors and Marines blared their bugles and beat the drums in military cadence to “The Caissons Go Rolling Along.” The back of the parade featured All-America Yale Football Captain Paul Walker, the Dink Stover and Frank Merriwell of his time, riding on top of a Ford truck garbed in a Santa Claus suit and beard, both a part of and yet removed from the instuments of war. He directed his Winston Churchiil “V for Victory” salute right to me on the balcony.
Spiffed up in the army uniform my grandfather gave me for Christmas, I returned the salute standing stiffly at attention until the grand old flag finally passed me by. When I got home I couldn’t wait to turn on the Victrola to play my favorite Spike Jones record: “When The Fuhrer Says He Is The Master Race, Sieg Heil (flatulate), Sieg Heil (flatulate), Right In The Fuehrer’s Face!” — RICHARD PRESS
Forty-eight years ago today, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, TX. Richard Press remembers this icon of American politics and who won the battle to dress him.
The epic saga of President John F. Kennedy’s individual travail and public triumph is recounted with explicit and captivating detail by Chris Matthews in his new best-selling anecdotal biography, “Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero.”
Scant attention is paid in the book to the candidate’s wardrobe, but Matthews included a revealing moment from the 1959 Wisconsin primary. Kennedy’s local operatives wanted him outside the factory gates at six in the morning in sub-zero temperature, and figured he would wear his heavy blue overcoat topped with a fur-trimmed aviator hat. Instead, JFK threw out the hat and braved the cold in his favorite H. Harris custom-tailored Shetland Tweed Herringbone Topcoat.
Matthews failed to include JFK’s dumping of H. Harris, his longtime Savile Row tailor who maintained a New York branch on 57th Street run by third-generation family member Sam Harris.
Seven months after the inauguration, “Tailor” Sam Harris, as he was condescendingly described in LIFE Magazine, disclosed the intimate wardrobe details of his most prominent customer. Harris concluded his comments with a benediction from hell, “He is the best dressed president since Grover Cleveland. We made his suits, too.”
There were no more “happily-ever-afterings” in Camelot for Sam Harris.
This was all undisclosed to the public, but Frank Brothers/Fenn Feinstein leaked to a Connecticut newspaper that the president got rid of his tailor because of the LIFE article. Fenn Feinstein, whose client roster included Kennedy brother-in-law Sargent Shriver and Gov. Abe Ribicoff, speculated that JFK might come on board.
Irving Press and my father, Paul, reached out to our J. Press regulars. The Kennedy circle included Charlie Bartlett, who introduced Jack to Jackie, longtime JFK intimate Chuck Spalding, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., FAA head Jeeb Halaby, foreign affairs advisor Bill Bundy, Kennedy personal photographer Mark Shaw, and his chief economic advisor Walter Heller.
Chipp, however, won the contest by default. Their stalwart customers included JFK’s brother Bobby, brothers-in-law Peter Lawford and Steve Smith, and Defense Secretary Robert McNamara. Sid Winston, his son Paul and master fitter Bob DiFalco began to include the White House on their finished-garment schedule.
These tailoring tidbits were admittedly incidental to Matthews’ great new addition to Kennedy lore.
The night Marilyn Monroe delivered her allegedly drunken rendition of “Happy Birthday, Mr. President” to JFK in Madison Square Garden, Jimmy Durante also croaked his birthday tribute to the president in raspy Brooklynese, “The song’s gotta come from the heart.”
Chris Matthews’ book comes from the heart. — RICHARD PRESS
They never taught me how to baste a suit at Dartmouth, but I had to learn how in a hurry when Ray Jacobs got sick on the road.
“The road” was the term used to describe retail travel exhibits that fulfilled the clothing needs of Ivy grads after they left college and refused to partake in the padded shoulders or faux-Ivy enticements found on Main Street.
In 1959 Brooks Brothers, Chipp, Arthur M. Rosenberg, Fenn-Feinstein, The Andover Shop and J. Press sent dozens of salemen to more than 50 cities across the country to promote their three-button, soft-shoulder wares.
At the time, a quarter of the J. Press business came from the road, a tradition from the ’20s when the salemen, including my father, sold their wares at boarding schools including St. Paul’s, Groton, Choate, Taft and Hotchkiss. When I went for my interview at Andover the admissions officer told my father he remembered buying his first suit from him.
The southern route for J. Press was covered by Ray Jacobs, an endearing and witty raconteur who served more than a generation of loyal customers from Philadelphia to New Orleans. Once on his rounds in Washington, measuring a suit for the imperious but underwear-clad Dean Acheson in his office at the State Department, Ray was going slowly and Acheson had appointments coming. “Ray,” said Acheson, “you’ll have to hurry up before my appointment comes. It really wouldn’t do for the Secretary of State to be caught with his pants down.”
The train rides themselves held all sorts of entertainment. One time Ray grabbed Jerry Lewis in the bar on a train from Philadelphia and screamed, “You stole my act!” The repartee ended to a round of applause from the lounge car as they rolled into Penn Station.
As for myself, I was the low man on the payroll waiting to begin my six months as a private in the Army Reserve when, with two days’ notice, I was called off the bench to serve as a varsity substitute on Ray’s next stop, Paul’s Below The Steps, a cigar store across campus at the University of Virginia.
That’s when I found out about the basted try-on for Colgate W. Darden, Jr., Dean of University of Virginia Medical School. A basted try-on prepares the needlework of a garment for sewing. I didn’t know how to read a tape measure, let alone pin a suit. Even worse, the fitting was for a white tie and tails Darden was planning to wear for a gala event at Monticello.
Ralph Chieffo, Sr. was the chief fitter and designer at J. Press’ York Street headquarters. Before his career at J. Press he operated a custom tailoring school in New Haven and wrote the textbook “How to Tailor a Custom Suit.” He quickly gave me an emergency tutorial.
Arriving late at night in a deserted Charlottesville depot, I managed to haul the merchandise trunks from the baggage car and drag them on a wagon to the hotel. Those days railroad travel was primitive in rural Virginia. The following morning I set up shop, a pop-up store that was a York Street Potemkin Village in back of the Playboy magazines and cigar humidors.
Warehouse racks and bridge tables displayed the sample inventory amid a symphony of ancient madder, Irish poplin, and stacks of English swatchbooks. Three thousand Virginians received postcard notices for the showing. The business was brisk and I acted like a seasoned pro pinning up Dean Darden. He later told Ray to send his regards to the young Mr. Press for his fluent fitting debut.
The road trip continued to the Dupont Hotel in Wilmington where I outfitted a contingency from the Dupont family on their home grounds. Fast-forward to a final port of call at the Bellevue Stratford in Philadelphia, with a late inning at the posh St. Anthony’s Club at the University of Pennsylvania.
It was the birth of a salesman. But three weeks later I was a private at Fort Dix, where my try-ons were KP and latrine duty. — RICHARD PRESS
Richard Press is the grandson of J. Press founder Jacobi Press. A graduate of Dartmouth, he worked at the family business from 1959-1991, ultimately serving as president. He also spent four years as president and CEO of FR Tripler. He lives in Connecticut.