Nick Hilton is not only a clothier but a great writer who has just lent his prose skills to a tribute of his father Norman, who made some of the finest natural-shoulder clothing during the heyday and who was one of the first to bank his money on a rising new talent named Ralph Lauren.
Nick recounts his father’s days at Princeton (where Nick today runs his own shop):
At Princeton in the late ’30s Norman was surrounded by young men who’d come from patrician families, grown up in Brookline or Greenwich, graduated from prestigious preparatory schools and were generally known as the “St. Grottlesex” crowd (an amalgam of those schools’ names). This socio-economically elite class of men had a style that made an indelible impression on a kid from Newark Academy. They dressed in the style of English “county” gentlemen: a Yankee adaptation of the shooting wardrobe of English manorial weekends, reconstituted for indoor wear and modified somewhat by American taste. Along with ankle-length, narrow-legged trousers of gabardine or corduroy, cotton Oxford shirts and narrow repp ties, they wore softly tailored “sport coats”: unpadded jackets in naturally colored tweeds – solids, herringbones and patterns taken from the clan tartans and district checks of the Scottish Highlands and the Outer Hebrides. Thus did the “natural shoulder” and “Ivy League” styles become synonymous with the style that we, as children in the ’60s, called “preppy.”
Nick continues with a lengthy history of how his father came to launch his business and watched it grow as the Ivy League Look became the uniform of America’s professional class during the late ’50s and early ’60s. It’s a wonderful piece of history and you can find it all right here. — CC