According to the February issue of Free & Easy, Japan evidently never saw the 1979 “Are You a Preppie?” poster.
As has been discussed lately, it’s always interesting to hear foreigners’ take on American culture. It’s equally interesting to hear tales about guys in other countries trying to copy American style before the Information Age.
The Heavy Tweed Jacket blog has presented many scans from ’70s Japanese magazines documenting PITA style (that’s Preppy Ivy Trad Americana, for those not ITK). Despite that, according to Free & Easy, before the “Official Preppy Handbook” was translated into Japanese, there were several dark years during which the Japanese were eager to embrace preppy style, but weren’t exactly sure what the components were.
According to my translator, the above illustration shows a circa-1980 Japanese attempting to look preppy, contrasted with an actual American example of the type. The Japanese has mistakenly donned a bow tie (with polo shirt?), Baracuta jacket, tennis sweater, plaid pants and Top-Siders.
The real American prep, however, is wearing a pink candy-striped oxford over a kelly green polo, khakis, duck-motif belt, and LL Bean gumshoes sans socks.
It’s a kind of Japanese version of “Tu Vuo Fa L’Americano,” though given their obsession with period detail, it’s hard to imagine the Japanese ever getting something wrong.
Which reminds me, perhaps because I’m listening to Count Basie as I write this, of a night at the famous Derby nightclub in LA. There was a jump blues band playing and a Japanese guitarist I knew, who played in a well known rockabilly band back home, was invited on stage to sit in on a number. It was a standard blues progression, and when it came time for his solo, he played the solo from Bill Haley’s “Rock Around The Clock” note for note.
An American, of course, might have quoted the solo — ironically, if he was a sophisticated musician. But this guy played it straight-up. When I spoke with him about it afterwards, it was clear it would never have occurred to him to play it otherwise. — CC
In the discussion thread on a recent post I quoted a passage from Geoffrey’s Wolff’s “The Final Club,” which I used to point out the importance of understatement in the Ivy wardrobe (well, contextual understatement; go-to-hell clothes are another matter).
The reason the sack cut became the default jacket style for the Ivy League Look was because it was the sartorial expression of the quality of understatement that the Eastern Establishment value. It also provided the air of casualness (as opposed to razor-sharp boulevardier tailoring) that resonated with young men on college campuses, whose tastes shaped so much of the look.
Here’s the passage from the novel, which is set at Princeton in the late ’50s:
Booth’s houndstooth, cut for his father on Savile Row by Huntsman during the Battle of Britain, was pinched at the waist; the boy rescued his presentation from foppery with a black knit tie and faded blue canvas Top-Sider sneakers, spattered by specks of bronze boat-bottom paint.
The passage got my grey cells to percolating, but not about the character’s British-tailored jacket, which had to be rescued by “correct” Ivy items, but by the rescuing items themselves, specifically the black knit tie, which is essentially the only black item that ever achieved undisputed correctness in the Ivy wardrobe.
So I asked Richard Press if he had any anecdotes or insight on how this one black item became an Ivy staple, saying it might make for a good column. Richard pointed out that he’d already done it.
Yes, we’re now at the point in the blog’s lifecycle where we come up with great ideas only to find we already did them 200 posts ago.
But the topic is worth visiting again in order to make the point that the severity of the black knit makes it a great neutralizer. So here’s a gallery of images, some of which have appeared previously on the site but never together, that together form a kind of visual ode to this neckwear classic. (Continue)
Sears called its Christmas catalog the “Wish Book.” It, along with other oversized glossy catalogs, came to American households every year heralding the Christmas buying season and giving children plenty of images to fantasize over.
Studying them is a remembered rite of passage. In the days before gender neutrality, girls’ thoughts turned to Mrs. Beasley Dolls and Easy Bake Ovens, while boys dreamed of Red Ryder BB guns and Lionel trains. The clothing pages were annoyance you had to flip through to get to toy nirvana. If the clothes were thought of at all, it was with certain trepidation that some well meaning relative might linger on one of those pages and buy something practical, like a snow suit.
What was unknown to us was that mysterious mechanism called puberty that would somehow transform neckties, briar pipes and pheasant-phestooned highball glasses into desirable Christmas gifts. With that in mind, I was a little surprised that the Sears catalogs were not as toy-centric as I remember. And on that note we present the Sears “Wish Book” of 1964. (Continue)
Following a particularly gluttonous holiday season I reigned in my appetite and lost a spot of weight. Feeling healthy and trim, yesterday I set out in the blizzard’s aftermath to visit the newly opened J. Press York Street store and see if I could squeeze into anything.
I had fairly low expectations based on the images of the collection, and the neon signs in the store’s windows didn’t seem particularly promising. But I have to admit, I didn’t hate it. York Street is pleasant enough, with lots of ephemera and “mantiques” (a word that recently lodged itself in my vocabulary), comfortable leather couches, and a separate tailoring section in the rear.
One of the things that immediately jumped out was the number of jackets without darts, although the tailoring was obviously very slim fit. The sportcoats were on the short side, but the men I saw wearing them looked much better than the models in the promotional material. It seems that the models for the fashion show and website were given jackets a size too small for some reason, because the proportions didn’t seem as off in person.
Taken piecemeal, the sportsweat isn’t nearly as offensive, though some of the patterns and color schemes are puzzling. The ties could easily be fit into the normal J. Press collection, but are not surprisingly on the narrow side.
I appreciated the fact that, for the most part, items that could be made in America were. This contrasts with the fact that some of the tailored clothing just down the street at Black Fleece is now made in Thailand.
My overall impression was that if this project can avoid the pitfalls of Rugby (garish sportswear, over-styling) and perhaps come down in cost (which despite being inflated is still comparable to mainline J. Press, without sacrificing too much quality), it’s a positive development. It will offer something to young professionals who may in the future become regular J. Press customers.
That said, for my taste I would only purchase sweaters and ties from York Street, so I suppose I’m pleasantly surprised but not particularly interested. — DAN GREENWOOD
Daniel Calvert Greenwood is a New York-based classical singer specializing in Gilbert & Sullivan, Rossini, and drinking songs of the University of Pennsylvania (which he did not attend). He is a descendant of the Quaker preacher Thomas Brown, Maryland’s first governor Leonard Calvert, and the inventor Thomas Shaw, and is a neighbor of Christian Chensvold.
Ivy Style recently received a dispatch from scholar Deirdre Clemente, who is busy doing groundbreaking research on the history of college students as consumers. In fact, she said her career might be made if she can get a paper into a certain scholarly journal. When they say academia is publish or perish, they’re not kidding.
Clemente presented at the MFIT’s “Ivy Style” symposium, and did a piece for us years ago on Princeton, which is one of her specialties.
Now she sends the excerpt below, which has us wondering if Princeton guys essentially wrote the rulebook for dressing Ivy. Here they are credited with popularizing the wearing of brown odd jackets with grey flannel trousers in 1929. It’s from an April, 1935 passage in a publication called the Fashion Group Bulletin. According to Clemente, “You rarely get an exact date for a trend like this.” (Continue)
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)