In our last post we announced the annexing of a new Manhattan restaurant into the Ralph Lauren empire. Here are a few more happenings from other corners of the RL world. (Continue)
Last week O’Connell’s unveiled a new unlined and unfused oxford-cloth buttondown, dubbed the O’C OCBD, or just O’CBD for short. “I’ve been working on this baby for about a year,” owner Ethan Huber tells Ivy Style. “Wanted to emulate some of my personal 30-year-old Brooks Brothers shirts.”
Huber developed the shirt, including fit and cut, with Gitman Borthers, which manufactures about half of O’Connell’s shirts to the shop’s specifications. The new shirt is another speciality cut with O’Connell’s characteristic fullness in the body. Collar points have been extended t0 3 3/8 inches, and the buttons have been placed “to provide an ideal spread.” All linings and fusings have been removed from collar, cuffs and placket.
Huber tried about six different fabrics from makers such as Acorn and Threadtex. “I was looking for a darker shade of blue,” says Huber, “with more contrast between weft and warp. I was also looking for a cloth that wasn’t super thick, but was robust enough to separate itself from a pinpoint. When I found the right fabric, I put a bunch of them through the process of wearing, tossing on the floor, washing, laundering, ironing, not ironing, etc.”
While currently available only in blue and priced at $145, pink and white are up next Huber says. — CHRISTIAN CHENSVOLD
The cold will come upon us soon and stay. In preparation I pulled out my faithful Irish handknit. It might come as a surprise to some that the source for this sweater was Lands’ End. The company was stocking their catalogs with some credible country attire at the time, such as moleskin trousers, heavyweight Viyella shirts and Irish hand knits. I fell in love with the sweater the moment I saw it. I did not keep a copy of the catalog page, but the sales pitch was similar to the narrative on the card that came with a bit of yarn for repairs: “Somewhere far away, in a small cottage, a hand-knitter made this fine sweater just for you.” The knitter was V. Thompson, her name on the card, which was a novel and nice touch. I imagine that she was part of a small stable of knitters drafted into making sweaters that ended up under a few fortunate Christmas trees over 25 years ago.
Some readers will be cheered and others chagrined to know that the Aran handknit sweater was among the handful of “Official Preppy Handbook” approved sweaters. Whether preppy or uber-traditional, it seemed like a must-have at the time. I recall seeing them on folks and was happy to think that the wearer had a passing association with the Emerald Isle. (Continue)
Last week some of you may have heard on the news that a guy in Philadelphia is selling signs to small businesses that say “No Hoodies.” It created something of a stir, as some people complained it was unfairly biased against contestants of Jeopardy’s college tournament and Mark Zuckerberg.
Hoods are much better when attached to a duffel coat, as in this illustration from the latest issue of the Japanese magazine Men’s Precious. Just be sure it’s down when you enter a shop, whether a convenience store, or the one pictured. — CC
We bring our series on elegance to a close with these thoughts from the founder.
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Take a look at this photo of former Esquire columnist George Frazier, author of “The Art Of Wearing Clothes.” There’s the Russell Plaid suit jacket, Churchill dot tie, and buttondown shirt — all pretty standard fare. But then there are the personal touches: the longish hair of the artiste, the boutonniere, and of course the cigarette with finger articulation straight out of Leyendecker’s sketchbook. If the sum total of the photo isn’t elegance, it’s at least sophistication, which is its first cousin.
Historic documents on the Ivy League Look reveal the breadth, quality and formality of the college student’s wardrobe in the aristocratic ’30s. But while neatness, correctness, quality and even panache within the boundaries of good taste were always virtues of the Ivy look, elegance is rarely mentioned. Indeed it was likely considered a vice in the deepest recesses of the preppy/Ivy tribe, smacking of outsiders and arrivistes. “Try For Elegance,” the 1959 novel based on author David Loovis’ experience at Brooks Brothers, sounds like a title his publisher chose.
In our lively comments section, some of the less broad-minded seem to insist that Ivy is a specific look. It’s easy to get that impression for the younger among us, those who’ve never seen first-hand the breadth of variety during the heyday at a legendary clothier such as Langrock. But I prefer to think of Ivy as a genre from which one can choose from a wider-than-you-think array of items to find one’s personal style. I can see the cool in the Ivy genre, and I can also see the elegance. But I suppose that’s because I can appreciate those qualities in other things as well, from the cool of Monk’s “In Walked Bud” to the elegance exhibited in the classicism and restraint of my favorite composer, Gabriel Fauré.
According to his biographer, George Frazier had practically an obsession with pink oxfords from Brooks Brothers. On a preppy kid with a green sweater draped over his shoulders, the shirt would create one kind of effect. On Frazier, with cigarette, martini and quick wit (not to mention, for a time, a home address at The Plaza Hotel), the effect would have been quite another. Elegance may not be an intrinsic quality of the Ivy League Look, but in the end what counts is always what you bring to your clothes, not what they give to you. — CHRISTIAN CHENSVOLD
I’ve seen every masculine change in fashion from the “drape shape with the reet pleat” zoot suit of the WW II years to the latest “New Bohemian” look from Dries Van Noten, and the way I dress is still imprisoned by the years of my youth. But my appreciation of style is not, so I have indeed come to appreciate a great variety of looks that I wouldn’t myself attempt. Thom Browne and Junya Watanabe are creative and important, but not for me personally.
I’m stuck in the Anglo-American years of the 1950s and early 60s. I’m not the only one who can tell this story, but I’m the only one who can say what it meant to me. When the Ivy League style grabbed me in the early 50s, I sold my prole gear and bought a Harris Tweed sports jacket. And you never forget your first one. But I soon discovered what has remained for me the epitome of elegance: the gray flannel suit.
I’d saved the money I made from a part-time job when I was a junior in high school, and commissioned a made-to-measure medium- gray flannel suit from a local shop: single-breasted, three-button rolled to two, side vents, narrow trousers. I can see it as though it were yesterday, and I’ve never been without a gray flannel suit ever since. At the moment I’ve got three: a single-breasted, three-piece Cambridge gray solid flannel, a medium gray, chalk-striped single-breasted three-piece, and a medium gray double-breasted gray flannel.
In the 50s, the medium- and charcoal-gray flannel suit were the classic uniform of the EE (Eastern Establishment), “the man in the gray flannel suit” became the American national symbol of corporate conformity and conventionality, as the Great democracy assumed a sartorial stance of exaggerated understatement. The suit – with no padding, no darts, no pleats, and a single vent and narrow lapels – represented a balance between comfort and sobriety, and was accompanied by small-brimmed fedoras, purposefully casual buttondown shirts, narrow neckwear, and slip-ons. For the British, who watched their empire disappear in the wake of the war, it was a difficult pill to swallow, as English fashion historian John Taylor makes clear:
But Americans came to power parallel with the universal acknowledgement of the tenets of democracy, and their relative riches were a perennial source of embarrassment to them. Perforce, they tried to avoid any too vulgar indication of it in front of a penurious world or, alternatively, to convince themselves and the world that the trappings of success did not really matter.
Taylor hated what he thought was the “simulated negligence” of the buttondown and the rest of the Ivy League look, but that was what believed – and still do believe – was the great strength of it. The gray flannel suit is the epitome of this approach for me precisely because it has a dehabille, a slightly rumpled nonchalance denied to crisp worsteds. It’s got an easy elegance that can’t be beaten in a tailored garment. And of course I can always wear the trousers with my Harris Tweed sports jacket. — G. BRUCE BOYER