Cornell’s Trad Shop: A Surprising Discovery Of Historical Precedent


I could hardly believe it, but there it was right in front of me: a grainy newspaper photo of a group of happy haberdashers under a sign in Old English script that read “The Trad Shop.”

How could this be? The general consensus in the natural-shoulder enthusiast community is that the word “trad” refers roughly to the Ivy League Look in Japan, and that it was never used in the US to refer to the natural-shoulder genre. To believe otherwise is to embrace an artificial construct of the Internet age.

But the question now is what to do when you find the exception to the rule. I believe that a dispassionate examination of the evidence will show that this anomaly adds to the richness of the Ivy story for those who love both clothes and the business acumen that brought them to the public. So let’s delve in and meet Stuart Lewis and The Trad Shop, which served the Cornell campus during the Ivy heyday.

Stuart Lewis embraced the soft shoulder while a student at Bucknell. He graduated in 1956 and joined his father’s firm, Irv Lewis, which had been serving the Cayuga Lake community of Ithaca, New York, since 1905. “There was no real presence or look that would be considered a trend,” Lewis told me in a recent interview. “Then all of a sudden the natural shoulder trend became popular with Brooks Brothers, Paul Stuart, Fenn-Feinstein, plus some other notables that were looked to for menswear fashion leadership.” Lewis first opened a campus shop called Stuart’s, focusing exclusively on the natural-shoulder look in 1957. After three years on the hill, Ivy was going downtown.

In the summer of 1960 Lewis opened The Trad Shop inside the Irv Lewis store on State Street. The shop was located adjacent to the mens department in the rear on the main floor as a “university specialty department.” It was a completely separate department and sold only “TRAD-ITIONAL” natural-shoulder clothing and accessories.  Advertised brands included Cricketeer and Hanover Hall.


The Trad Shop’s advertising in the campus newspaper emphasized tradition: their own, as well as those of Cornell. They embraced the traditional natural shoulder and traditional woolens. Samples of ad copy include:

… Our button down collars must have the proper flared collar, our shetland sweaters must be imported and brushed shaggy, our traditional slacks must have the correct taper… At other colleges they might wear something different, but we think Cornellians are about the best-dressed college men in the country, and thus, we strive for authenticity…

It’s a tradition that more students and faculty come to Irv Lewis… Cornell students favor our special Trad Shop Dept., a special section devoted to the authentic and traditional look.

In one ad photo one sees wrought iron, what looks like exposed wood, crested college shield plaques, and Vanity Fair prints along the wall — kind of college meets Merry Old England. It’s a look all-too-familiar to us now, but what did it mean in 1960? “Back in the sixties décor was the item that everyone wanted to be involved in,” says Lewis. “When you surrounded yourself with the décor that was representative of your merchandise, it helped sell the merchandise as one would immerse themselves into the décor that would then allow them to appreciate the merchandise they were purchasing. Décor is the magic ingredient that is totally acceptable by the majority of consumers.”

The Trad Shop is indicative of Lewis’ retail philosophy. “I have always believed that everything goes through three stages of metamorphosis,” he says. “Stage one is called ‘image’ and is where something emerges and is used by  autonomous individuals. Then as the item becomes more accepted and recognized it moves into a second stage called ‘trend.’ Trend recognizes the popularity of the item, including increased popularity and greater sales volume, until it reaches a stage where many are imitating the item and where supply exceeds demand, causing it to move into the third stage, ‘volume.’ At this stage items becomes price orientated with discounts, knock-offs, and a huge price proliferation of the item.

“In my operation,” Lewis continues, “I never allowed an item to reach the volume stage. I eliminated the item from my inventory and invested that capital into a newer image item. I would experiment by bringing several image items into my inventory and watch to see what items would move into the trend stage. If I saw good future growth of the item, I would create a separate shop for that item, and thus our growth and acceptance as an outstanding retail purveyor of clothing stemmed from our concept of the shop-within-a-shop.”

Around 1965, Trad Shop advertising began to disappear from the Cornell Daily Sun. “The Trad Shop was originally image,” says Lewis, “but then the look became a trend, causing no further need for the defined Trad Shop.”

Reflecting on the 14 years that Ivy dominated the market, Lewis says, “The natural-shoulder look mostly referred to as ‘Ivy League’ was a very long trend, because it featured excellent high-quality fabrics, such as silk rep ties, oxford-cloth shirts, and imported English woolens. The look could be worn by most anybody, regardless of his build or height. The fit was comfortable and the look was appealing to the eye. It was a stage of fashion that lasted a very long time, from about 1955 to 1970.”

So if any of you are still confused about what the term “trad” means and what it’s good for, here is the last word from the horse’s mouth: “The term ‘trad’ is short for ‘traditional,’ an abbreviation that would work nice on a sign or as a logo in an advertisement.” — CHRISTOPHER SHARP

The Trad Shop Advertising Gallery




shop6 shop7



45 Comments on "Cornell’s Trad Shop: A Surprising Discovery Of Historical Precedent"

  1. Another terrific contribution to the understanding of our little niche here by Mr. Sharp.

    A thought just occurred to me: is this heyday trad anomaly just as contrived as the ill-defined Internet construct of trad?

    In the closing quote, Lewis said he picked the word “trad” because while it stood for tradition, it also made for snappy ad copy.

    And while the genre of clothing he was selling had a tradition, he was selling the timely and trendy side of it (see the part on his retail strategy) precisely at the moment when it was most popular.

    And the brands and makers sold were a bit Main Street-y, meaning they were on to the next thing soon after heyday’s end.

    So while it was (what’s the word — marketed?) as “trad” it was really “trend.”

    Maybe it’s time to add “trenditional” to our house lexicon, along with PITA.

  2. J.I. Rodale | February 4, 2014 at 2:15 pm |

    My historical/etymological dictionaries tell me that “trad” was first used in the late 50s to refer to traditional jazz. Since some people insist that there is a relationship between ivy style and jazz, it requires no stretch of the imagination to consider that the term might also have been applied to clothing.

  3. 120 E. State Street, Ithaca, NY is ‘On the Commons” a pedestrian street mall from the 1960s or early 1970s, and is still a mens & shoe store called “Benjamin Peters” owned by Peter Parkes. I visited the store when visiting Ithaca for a field hockey game at Cornell several years ago. I would describe the store as a nice, friendly store doing what is necessary for small town stores to stay in business in today’s world. For those of us who wore the clothes of 1955-1970 & still do, it is not a pretty sight to see what has happened to those few small town stores that are left. And a Tommy Bahama Dept – ugh.

  4. @ J.I.Rodale,

    While it is true that “trad” was used to refer to traditional jazz, its followers didn’t favour the Ivy Style look. Quite the opposite in fact.

    In late 50’s Britain, jazz followers were divided into Trads and Mods. Trads liked traditional, New Orleans style dixieland jazz and wore the beatnik look. Mods took their name from Modern Jazz and were influenced by Miles Davies, Art Blakey, John Coltrane and of course The Modern Jazz Quartet. They adopted the Ivy look shown by these artists on jazz album covers, most notably on the Blue Note label.

    1950’s jazz loving Mods then evolved into 1960’s R&B and soul influenced Mods, while retaining the essence of the Ivy look: 3 button sack suits, narrow knitted or repp ties, button down shirts, Bass Weejuns, etc.

  5. Forgive me that my comments aren’t aligned with this recent post–and that I’m using iphone so please overlook grammar etc–I love this site, I consider myself a “prep”–although I did not attend an Ivy League school so I know many of you will dismiss me as a “faux-prep” etc..I grew up upper middle class–raised with good manners and through the years have refined my sense of style and with age, experience, and growing ambivalence of anything trendy-I find myself with a closet full of chinos, navy blazers, Shetland sweaters, and bit loafers (yes I know they are too italian for some of you). My gripe with this site and the comments left here is that many of you act as if you went through some significant struggle or conflict and that you–and only you–are the authority on what is “preppy” or “trad.” Christian wore a black Shetland sweater!! The controversy!! Ralph Lauren has garish crests on his blazers!! The outrage!!! FE Castleberry used to not be a prep and now he he’s just pretending and ruining everything!! You know what? I used to have an earring. I used to wear hoodies. Does that mean I can’t change? Is preppiness only reserved for those born into such privilege and wealth that no one is allowed to come to their senses later? Who cares if Fred is re-inventing himself? What is so threatening about it? Who cares if brooks brothers make super slim fitting OCBDs? Don’t buy them–but for gods sake live and let live. What is that you are so afraid of losing? Be your own prep, live your own life but none of us–not even you AEV–invented prep, none of you have the exclusive rights to it, and you make us all look like jerks. Didn’t any of your WASPY mothers ever tell you “if you can’t say anything nice”..? Your snarky know-it-all responses (you are very predictable) may now commence. I’m off to visit unabashedly prep(gasp), put on something black (not preppy!), and maybe go sock less in public (it’s SO contrived!!!!!)

  6. Christopher,

    What a wonderful post! These are the type of pieces that I revisit again and again in the Ivy Style archive.

  7. OCBD- Thanks.

    @MWB . I hope it is not to snarky to point out that their your comments reminded me of the needlepoint pillow in The Official Preppy Handbook that says “If You’ve Nothing Nice to Say come Sit By Me.”

  8. “… Our button down collars must have the proper flared collar, our shetland sweaters must be imported and brushed shaggy, our traditional slacks must have the correct taper… At other colleges they might wear something different, but we think Cornellians are about the best-dressed college men in the country, and thus, we strive for authenticity…”

    Authenticity, in this instance, has everything to do with (getting the) details (right). The flared collar, the brushed Shetland, and taper of the pants.

  9. @ C sharp I hope it’s not TOO snarky to point out that you used “to” incorrectly–and that “their your comment” makes no sense at all. See, I can be a dick as well.

  10. MWB,

    I’m genuinely curious as to how much time it takes to write a seventeen line non-sequitur on one’s phone.

  11. MWB,

    I understand the sentiment that you expressed all too well. However, I would urge you to see the humor in C.Sharp’s reply. I do not think that he was being a “dick,” but that humor is difficult to read. In fact, now that I think about it your reply could have been made in good humor?

  12. @MWB not snarky at all our faux pas are pointed out all the time. You wrote “Didn’t any of your WASPY mothers ever tell you ‘if you can’t say anything nice.’..?” Which prompted my thought and invitation, OCBD got it, maybe will on further reflection.

  13. ok, another mistake should have said maybe you will.

  14. @MWB….you mad bro? But seriously, is that you Fred?

  15. C sharp I love ya. I get it.

  16. @MWB (Egan?) –

    Sigh. I, of course, have never come close to suggesting that I “invented prep”. My issue is a straight forward one: if someone is going to publicly anoint themselves an “expert” or a “pundit” – offering advice and platitudes no one asked for and plastering the internet with pictures of themselves (and their friends and family) {e.g. Fred Egan} – than they should temper that grandstanding with self-awareness and humility (didn’t your upper middle class mother tell you that?). Better yet, they should have better than average knowledge about the things they publicly post about…

    Sure, people can change; transform, even – but few people I know undergo a dramatic life transformation – coopting, almost overnight, a new style and culture – and immediately claim ‘expert’ status. In Fred’s case (and, unfortunately, he’s hardly unique), what’s even worse – and embarrassing for him – is that he so frequently gets ‘it’ wrong….dressing like a clown, blessing the internet with sophomoric poetry and junior varsity quotes of advice and related tedium, constantly brand and name dropping, and frequently comparing himself not so subtly to world famous artists. Really….he does that. Not only does Fred lack style or self-awareness, he is incapable of fielding – never mind absorbing – criticism of any kind….editing and deleting 90% of his readers’ comments. The same readers (clicks/visits) that keep his blog viable. It’s a dangerous combination indeed.

    So, MWB…..change and transform away…..just please don’t become a “preppy pundit”, don’t start posting public poetry, don’t compare yourself to David Hockney, don’t take selfies in your second/third hand late 90s BMW, don’t blog about brands no one’s heard of just to get a check, and don’t post public pictures of your two young boys dressed up in borrowed preppy costumes. Simple.

  17. Thanks for the thoughts AEV– I guess my over arching point is that there is so much criticism in the comments about things that ultimately shouldn’t be taking up so much bandwidth. Fred is gonna do Fred. Who cares. It just seems like a lot of venom and disdain for a guy and his blog. Even if he claims to be the galactic overlord of prep, I don’t understand the time and energy invested in tearing another man down. I guess I would rather focus on my own inadequacies before I shine a spotlight on another man’s with such fervor. Anyway thanks for listening

  18. Re: “If you’ve nothing nice to say…”

    “A Gentleman is one who never hurts anyone’s feelings unintentionally.” — O.W.

  19. @MWD – I think my comments re: Egan seem “venomous” and “disdainful”, in part, because he does such ridiculous stuff….therefore, my response to it all inevitably takes on a corresponding tone. In reality, I’m simply calling a spade a spade….not particularly venomous or disdainful at all….Fred just happens to be so totally oblivious, so amazingly self-obsessed and delusional, that any response to it runs the risk of seeing similarly nutty. I get that, but I’m responding to what he’s putting out there….not the other way around. I’d also add that Fred, in some ways, has become shorthand for a coterie of similar bloggers (e.g. The College Prepster, ProperKidProblems, WASP101, etc.) whose approach and unearned bravado echo his own….

    And, of course, all of this “energy” is being expended within the narrow confines of the Ivy/Trad/Prep/Menswear blogosphere. In my mind, it’s targeted and relevant given the venues and subject matter at hand….

  20. @AEV — Okay, let’s say your critique is on the mark. The question that keeps coming up here is, why do you keep going back? I learned of that website through comments on ivy-style, took a look, and that was it. Once was enough.

  21. @RJG – Fair, sort of. To be frank, I view UP about once a week….sometimes less, occasionally more. I approach it like comedy/satire….it’s my once a week moment of zen. I would guess that many of us, CC included, felt similarly about WASP101….

  22. Excellent post on The Trad thing. Even better is the commentary repartee. And a welcome return to topic after the dreary weeping over yet another Hollywood personage offing himself via substance abuse. Glad I grew up around enough of those persons to be completely unimpressed.

  23. Regarding the BMW seen in some of Fred’s selfies mentioned above; it is not actually a “late 90s” model. It is in fact a full decade older: a 1980s-vintage 5-Series. I respect him for that; like a vintage wristwatch, a well kempt and well-maintained (which it appears to be) old car always has a bit more panache than a brand new one.

  24. @J Kraus –

    I stand corrected. It’s a 1987. If this strikes you as “vintage”, ok. It strikes me as one of the least desirable model years available and something he bought on the cheap so he could tell the world, time and time again, that he drives a bmw (an ’87 535i, in good shape, can be had for under $5k…not exactly Mecum/Barrett-Jackson material). If I’m not mistaken, before he bought this model – a few years ago – he had an old beater, 80s Mercedes sedan…..

    I don’t know about you, but this doesn’t exactly come across as ‘panache’ to me….more like desperate social climbing on a tight budget. Do you get a “well kempt and well-maintained” vibe from this pic?:

  25. I was wondering why this topic was getting so many comments…

    But anyway, Mr. Lewis strikes me as a very astute marketer.

  26. Orgastic Future | February 6, 2014 at 9:14 pm |

    AEV, so what do you have against Carly?

  27. @OrgasticFuture – Personally? Nothing, per se – I’ve never met her. But, as any casual reader of her blog can attest:

    1. She runs a ‘college’ blog but has been out of college for going on 2 yrs.
    2. She dated Fred Egan.
    3. She has, on average, two publicly posted nervous breakdowns a week.
    4. She blogs about nothing of value (to me, anyway). Her favorite topics include puppies and lattes.
    5. Her blog has become a transparent marketing platform for no name start up brands. Not unique, but grating nonetheless.
    6. She writes a ‘preppy style’ blog but lacks style and is about as ‘preppy’ as Fred Egan.
    7. Her writing is painful to endure.
    8. She enjoys posting sophomoric ‘advice’ about being ‘inspired’, ‘following one’s dreams’, “me time”, ‘living in NYC’, and so on, even though she’s so naive and oblivious you can practically hear the bottles of Xanax and Paxil rattling in the background.
    9. She is, at once, an attention whore running a vanity project blog and aggressively terrified of any criticism…and, at times, of even leaving her apartment.
    10. She has a toy poodle.

  28. @AEV – I don’t know who you actually are in real life but your last post was very nasty & mean spirited. And unpleasant with name calling.

  29. @JWK – I’m sorry you feel that way. I don’t recall calling anyone any ‘names’…..but, if you enjoy her blog, I am certain that there’s little sense in trying to explain or defend my position. Live your dreams.

  30. I have not read her blog & do not intend to read it; if you don’t recall doing any name calling, I suggest you read your own comment #9 and the unaceptable words you wrote describing a young person trying to write a blog. Not cool, as we used to say in the 60s.

  31. @JWK – Yes, I suppose I did call her “an attention whore” – a pretty down the middle characterization of just about anyone who publicly blogs, tweets, instagrams, pins, and ‘facebooks’ – constantly – about their lives….no?

    Read her blog and get back to me. It’s odd that you’d indirectly defend someone/something that you know nothing about…and, even, have no interest in…..

  32. @AEV – Sorry, but if you think your name calling of a young woman using the words you chose & repeated above is “a down the middle characterization” then I don’t think you understand the reason someone would object to [not defend] such words used in a public blog toward even someone they do not know or have any interest in. What is “odd” is that such a characterization would be used at all. Making it clearer it sound very similar to words Rush L used to describe a young woman a year or so ago. My only purpose is to suggest that you may want to reconsider your choice of words.

  33. @JWK. No, calling someone who splashes their life all over the internet an “attention whore” is not – at all – the same as calling a woman (on birth control, in the Rush case) a whore/slut. Is English your first language? The fact that you’d make such a comparison is absurd. Just stop, please.

  34. @AEV – Yes, I did not think you would understand the issue presented , so feel free to continue to embarass yourself just as you do in your last post; and, yes, English is my first language, not “gutter talk”. Perhaps substituting “attention seeking” for the objectionable characterization you have repeated 3 times about the young woman would demonstrate more appropriate use of language. And your words are not far from Mr Rush’s despite your protestations and excuses to the contrary.

  35. “Gutter talk”? Are you Mary Poppins? Jesus. I get it – you’ve somehow never comes across the term “attention whore” and equate the use of the term to calling a woman a slut. You’re a weirdo. A weirdo whore.

  36. FYI, the young female Georgetown student Rush made disparaging remarks about, who dated and traveled the world with a multimillionaire’s son and couldn’t afford her own birth control, seems to found enough money to run for office in Cali. I love this Country! 😉

  37. “Weirdo Whore”: Characterized by extreme smugness. Constantly taking offense on behalf of others — the more ridiculous the slight, the greater the WW scolds. Makes me puke.

  38. @AEV:
    you are a really smart, well spoken guy – why do you know SO much about these people that you hate so much? it seems weird. ps weirdo whore is funny. Still though dude, you kinda seem obsessed with people/blogs that clearly you wish would die/go away. thats all.

  39. A gentleman would have just said: “Oh, now that you have brought it to my attention, I should not have called that young woman that”. Instead you & now some others think it’s funny & are calling me names too! Really, I don’t think I will pay any attention to any of your posts on this Blog anymore.

  40. @ MAC 7Feb2014

    Apparently Ms. Fluke will run for the newly created 28th CA State Senate District instead of US Congressman Henry Waxman’s seat. Redistricting in 2011 created a brand-new 28th District in inland Riverside County (incl. La Quinta, Palm Springs, Indio, Temecula), desert areas to the Arizona border at Blythe, and parts of the Coachella Valley. For this new CA Senate 28th, there is no incumbent but eight possible candidates. Confronted by a length of nearly 250 miles bisected by Interstate 10, old line citrus and row crop ranches, San Bernardino mountain towns, desert resorts, and Joshua Tree Natl. Park, Sandra Fluke doesn’t have much of a chance. The area is also 40% Latino, and 42% GOP, and 25% DTS/Other LOL! Besides, as EVERYBODY knows, she’s a carpetbagger. If only one thing unites Californians, it’s contempt for some out-of-stater who showed up just to cage a cool political job in Sacramento or DC.

  41. @Pale Male

    Paraphrase of ““A Gentleman is one who never hurts anyone’s feelings unintentionally.”:

    A Gentleman is one who hurts others’ feelings intentionally.

  42. I was an undergrad at Cornell during the Ivy heyday 1958-62.
    As a jaded New Yorker, who actually shopped at BB and Paul Stuart
    before college, Irv Lewis, and its’ main competitor, Morris Mens Shop(?)
    seemed to sell the generic Ivy style, then available in virtually any (hick)
    town in the US. There was an exception, however, John Lewton. As they
    say today, it was well-curated and offered distictive Ivy style merchandise
    at a price point that deserved to be higher than its’ local competition. To me
    it was a mini- Paul Stuart presided over by it’s charming and elegant owner,
    Mr Lewton.

  43. Thank God, We are now back on topic.

  44. Fred/UP gets plenty of criticism from outside the Trad sphere as well…

  45. The @fecastellberry parody account is hilarious.

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