Damned Dapper: The Origins of the Go-To-Hell Look

The following article is actually the first one The Rake assigned me, but it was held for several issues while they waited for new spring clothes to photograph.

It’s out now in the current issue, and was great fun to research, as I got to talk not only to Bruce Boyer and Paul Winston, who’ve since become friends and colleagues, but also Alan Flusser, Denis Black, Ethan Huber and Lisa Birnbach.

The complete text is below, or you can click here for a PDF with the accompanying fashion shoot.

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Damned Dapper: The origins, philosophy and specifics of the “go-to-hell” aesthetic — the conservative WASP’s colorful, critter-filled creative outlet
By Christian Chensvold
The Rake, Issue 8

Thomas Watson Jr. was president of IBM during the years when it was a punchline for sartorial conformity. Throughout the ’50s and ’60s, gray suits for employees were standard, white shirts required.

It may seem an odd non sequitur, then, that Watson once ordered a custom sport coat whimsically embroidered with dozens of little skiers, to wear during cocktail hour at the lodge after a long day on the slopes.

Since the time of Martin Luther, the Protestant nations of the Western world have been known for a sober palette compared to the scarlet and purple of their Catholic neighbors. Perhaps this repressed sense of color ironically accounts for the riotous display of blinding pastels that characterize the preppy look of the WASP, or White Anglo Saxon Protestant, a term popularized in 1964 by sociologist E. Digby Baltzell to describe the small caste of elites that ran American business and politics.

While WASPs have largely lost their power stranglehold on American society, their influence on the world of fashion is stronger than ever. And despite their notorious character flaws (bigotry, emotional impotence, fondness for peanut butter), they’ve long led America with sterling examples of virtue and self-sacrifice.

And for that they have as good a chance for getting into heaven as anybody else — unless, of course, St. Peter guards the “pearly gates” like a nightclub bouncer enforcing a dress code. In that case, WASPs will surely have their trousers damned to the netherworld.


Tom Wolfe may seem an odd springboard for a story about color. But while the dandy author’s wardrobe may be all white, his prose is pure purple. He’s also a keen sartorial observer, and in 1976, in an article for Esquire entitled “Mauve Gloves & Madmen, Clutter & Vine,” Wolfe uses the catchy phrase “go to hell” to describe the garish pants worn by elite Bostonians vacationing on the island retreat of Martha’s Vineyard. The phrase continues to enjoy limited usage, and the passage that birthed it is worth quoting in full:

[Bostonians on Martha’s Vineyard] had on their own tribal colors. The jackets were mostly navy blazers, and the ties were mostly striped ties or ties with little jacquard emblems on them, but the pants had a go-to-hell air: checks and plaids of the loudest possible sort, madras plaids, yellow-on-orange windowpane checks, crazy-quilt plaids, giant houndstooth checks, or else they were a solid airmail red or taxi yellow or some other implausible go-to-hell color. They finished that off with loafers and white crew socks or no socks at all. The pants were their note of Haitian abandon… at the same time the jackets and ties showed they had not forgotten for a moment where the power came from.


The social history of clothing is an elusive topic, forcing the writer into the anthropological role of outside observer, removed in both space and time, as he attempts to chronicle the customs of a closed caste. Nowhere is this more apparent than in charting the dress of America’s Protestant Establishment in the years before preppy style became a mainstream commodity.

Color was present in the male wardrobe long before the dour Victorian era and its Great Masculine Renunciation, and color has reappeared in various guises ever since, perhaps most elegantly in the Palm Beach look of the 1930s, as captured in Esquire and Apparel Arts illustrations. But the particular use of color as expressed by the WASP establishment seems to have originated, or at least been codified, in the postwar heyday of the Ivy League Look, emanating from a combination of resorts, country clubs and college campuses up and down the eastern seaboard.

The summer 1953 issue of Gentry, a short-lived menswear magazine with an editorial policy as snobbish as its name implies, credits Palm Beach, the Florida resort town where Eastern Elites have long sought refuge from cold winters, with popularizing the madras blazer the previous winter season. In 1955, LIFE magazine reported on a “radical new line” at Brooks Brothers consisting of red, green and yellow blazers and trousers in 13 different colors. A company spokesman called it an entirely new category of clothing, to go along with business, formal, sport and summer wear.

And in 1963,  just six months before President John F. Kennedy’s assassination, Sports Illustrated ran “A Cool Wave of Color,”  declaring that the president golfs in lemon yellow and sails in bright red. The article continues:

At country cocktail parties for a couple of summers past there have been occasional brave red and green jackets sprinkled among the old reliable blazers and madras jackets. Pro golfers— who helped start it all— have even taken to black and white and gray to distinguish themselves from the brightly clad spectators in the gallery.

For Ethan Huber, owner of O’Connells, a traditional menswear store in upstate New York founded by his father in 1959, friendly competition helped popularize the use of color in the male wardrobe. Huber recalls his father spinning tales of local country clubs whose members would engage in a kind of sartorial one-upmanship to see who could don the most audacious hue of trousers. Customers would then come in asking for cords or chinos in ever more outlandish shades of the spectrum, and the elements of the style were set. “You still have an old generation that does this because they’ve always done it,” says Huber. “They’re guys aged 60-80 who buy a lipstick-pink shetland sweater or orange corduroys and wear them to the hockey game because that’s what they’ve done all their lives.”

But that’s a small portion of O’Connells’ clientele: “Do people actually buy those?” customers unfamiliar with the go-to-hell look will ask. “I may have 1,000 trousers in any given size, 100 of which are really fun,” adds Huber, “but 99 percent of people would never wear them.”

The most iconic colored trouser is the only one that bears a trademark: Nantucket Reds, made by Murray’s Toggery Shop, founded in 1945 on Massachusetts’ Nantucket Island, another offshore playground of the Eastern Elite. After break-in, the cotton canvas pants take on a special shade of faded red typically described as “lobster” and “tomato soup.” When paired with a navy blazer, says John Murray, son of the founder, “It’s a classic New England look.”

Indeed, in certain circles, garish pants are practically a form of fraternal initiation. Author and custom clothier Alan Flusser calls wearing go-to-hell colors “a brahmin kind of indoctrination.” For Flusser, who attended the Ivy League’s University of Pennsylvania, the origins of WASP leisurewear can be traced back to the advent of sportswear in the 1920s. “Part of the evolution of sportswear was colors that you didn’t wear in town,” he says. “And when you have money and spend time in sunny places, you begin to see color.”

Like the white flannels of the English gentleman, colorful sportswear signals the wearer is at play, not work. Easily soiled, the clothing is thus impractical, making it a symbol of both conspicuous consumption and conspicuous leisure. “Navy blue aside,” notes Paul Fussell in “Class,” his 1983 classic on the American status system, “colors are classier the more pastel or faded.”

“You wouldn’t have someone not from money walking around in clothing that would draw a lot of attention to himself,” explains Flusser. “Up to the ’60s it was always a brahmin, upper-class thing, because they could wear it and not be laughed at.” For Flusser, the postwar starting point of the look is Brooks Brothers’ celebrated pink oxford-cloth buttondown. “Pink symbolizes this whole subject matter,” he says. “Imagine a guy wearing a pink shirt: If people didn’t understand what that was about, you had to be prepared to be laughed at.

“When my brother was at Harvard,” Flusser continues, “the kids were wearing blazers and red or yellow pants and would always use color in some sort of interesting way. There was a sense of who could wear the most outrageous tattersall vest. But being able to wear that kind of clothing comes from a certain lineage where you felt, ‘This is what we do, and if people don’t understand it, they don’t understand it.’”

Flusser recalls a girl who refused to go out with him when he came courting in madras pants, “and she didn’t understand them at all.”

Menswear author Bruce Boyer, who in the early ’60s attended Moravian, one of America’s oldest colleges, agrees that bright WASP leisurewear is probably a countermeasure to drab Monday-to-Friday garb. “It used to be said that the man in the gray flannel suit was so color deprived that on the weekends he went crazy on the golf course,” says Boyer. “If you’ve got to wear a black and white wardrobe most of your life, maybe you go crazy in the other direction with fuschia corduroys and a turquoise shetland crewneck.”

“It’s certainly ironic,” adds Flusser, “how this look derived from the most conservatively dressed people in other circumstances.”


Brooks Brothers and J. Press, founded in 1818 and 1902 respectively, have for generations been the leading purveyors of the Ivy League Look, and during the heyday, their shops freely juxtaposed colorful leisurewear with the grey-suit uniforms of the Atomic Age company man.

“One of the great things about Brooks Brothers is that side by side with three-piece grey flannel suits were ancient-madder dinner vests and The Fun Shirt,” says Flusser, referring to the retailer’s famous patchwork-striped casual shirt. “So out of this bastion of conservatism was born this outrageousness that WASPs — and also Jews — came to adorn themselves in. It wasn’t fashion stores, but the oldest-money, most proper places where you could buy this stuff.”

In “Style and the Man,” his 1996 guide to the world’s finest menswear purveyors, Flusser describes Brooks Brothers’ whimsical offerings:

To most outsiders, Brooks was a stronghold of conservatism and dry style, but to those of the gray flannel life who frequented country clubs or other Ivy League settings, Brooks was also one of the primary wellsprings of the preps’ ‘king of the hill’ party clothes. Around the horn-rimmed set’s many private playgrounds, the stylish button-downers would engage in a form of sartorial one-upmanship that brought wild dollops of golf course color or tartan-inspired outrageousness into classic ensembles that made insiders smile while outsiders winced.

And later:

It was not aberrational to spot some young prep sporting maize corduroys, blue-striped oxford button-down, repp tie, tweed jacket, brightly colored socks, and tasseled loafers. Pink and peach oxford button-downs were accessorized in combinations that made the whole look masculine and handsome.

Of J. Press, founded in New Haven, Connecticut near Yale University, Flusser writes, “This style of dressing still employs punches of strong color to idealize the spirit of buoyancy and optimism of the American traditionalist.”

“Ivy Leaguers take themselves quite seriously,” notes Denis Black, manager of J. Press’ Boston store.  “But when they have a festive occasion, they like to show up like they work for Ringaling Brothers. They come dressed like that at Harvard commencement, or for the Harvard-Yale football game. They all work for important firms where they’re stodgily dressed, and want to unwind on the weekend in kelly green corduroy pants with a bright yellow shetland sweater.

“That kind of stuff is very important for J. Press,” adds Black, “and is a signature of this style of dressing.”


Amid the green pants and yellow sweaters stands the most notorious and damnable item in the go-to-hell wardrobe: the critter pant, or trousers emblazoned with an embroidered motif. Often based on sailing and oceanic imagery, such as anchors, whales or lobsters — or in rare instances one leg with lobsters and the other with bowls of butter sauce — critter pants are as baffling to most Americans as they are to the rest of the world.

“I don’t know what the first embroidered motif was or where it came from,” speculates Flusser, “but it certainly came off a necktie design, there’s no question about that.” Lacoste’s crocodile emblazoned on polo shirts was the first embroidered logo, Flusser points out, and it, combined with club-tie designs, was the likely inspiration for the first pair of critter pants.

Paul Winston says it wouldn’t surprise him if his father Sidney invented embroidered pants. Winston, now 76, is a New York-based custom tailor who in the early ’60s began working for Chipp, his father’s legendary menswear shop that, along with Brooks Brothers, J. Press and Paul Stuart, formed the cluster of traditional clothiers centered around 44th Street and Madison Avenue. For its embroidered pants (or skier-emblazoned sport coats, as in the case of IBM’s Thomas Watson, Jr.), Chipp made sure to use lock-stitch embroidery. “With other pants, if you sat on a rock on the beach and snagged one of the lobsters or frogs,” Winston says with a chuckle, “the whole thing would pull out. But ours wouldn’t do that.”

Chipp is also the company most credited with the patching of madras, seersucker and tweed, which began when Sidney Winston got the idea of using leftover scraps of fabric, sewing them together like a quilt, and making trousers and jackets from it. Patching soon became one of Chipp’s trademarks, though not in the literal sense: Winston has reaped no royalties from mainstream retailers’ many patch-madras offerings the past few seasons.

At O’Connells, Ethan Huber recalls such embroidered motifs as cigar-smoking pigs (the capitalist sort, of course), and mysterious acronyms such as “SYLA” (for “See Ya Later, Alligator”) paired with alligators, and BTEB (“Behind the Eight Ball”) paired with ominous black billiard balls. Onlookers would think the recondite lettering suggested some secret club.


It’s worth noting that Wolfe’s “go-to-hell” passage describes not only the accursed trousers themselves, but how they’re worn. For Flusser, this is the most elusive aspect of dressing. “You can take any article of clothing and wear it,” he says, “but that doesn’t mean to do so is stylish. The important thing about wearing a bright colored trouser is knowing how to wear it: building an outfit around one discordant pattern or color, and surrounding it with things that present it.”

In the eyes of the tribe, the “right” way to wear a hellbound item is to pair it  with otherwise “correct” clothing. “You wouldn’t wear wild-colored embroidered pants with a brightly checked shirt,” says Boyer. “You’d wear a blue, white, yellow or pink oxford-cloth buttondown. But bright pants with a bright shirt would be interpreted not so much as bad taste, but as breaking the code.”

Likewise, a color’s shade has to be just right, as in the special shade of pink that distinguishes a Brooks Brothers oxford from its imitators, or the perfect fade on a pair of Nantucket Reds, indicating years of summers spent sailing. And certain colors, such has purple, have found little place within the genre.

Though a silly piece of Hollywood prepsploitation, the 1984 film “Making the Grade” is nevertheless illustrative of the ethos surrounding garish clothes as worn in a WASPy milieu. Set at a New England prep school, the film includes a school dance scene in which students wear a plethora of Crayola-colored and audaciously patchworked pants and blazers. Yet not only does not a single character show any self-consciousness about what he’s wearing, he’s also completely oblivious to the harlequin garb of his peers.

At least that’s how it seems. “There’s a very conscious, planned nonchalance about this style of dressing,” says Boyer. For WASPs bring to colorful plumage the same tempered restraint and calculated disregard they bring to all other aspects of life. Ironic dressing is completely foreign to a group of people utterly devoid of an ironic sensibility. Sure, the clothes are obnoxious, but they’re also “correct.” If there’s such a thing as earnest irony, this is it.


Long since made mainstream — and perhaps saved from extinction — by Ralph Lauren, clothing that’s go-to-hell in spirit is still worn by the remnants of its founding tribe. And oddly enough, one of the places the infernal clothing is brought out most frequently is at Sunday worship.

“Deliberately outlandish WASP clothing is still outside the public view in certain pockets of Washington DC,” says an anonymous political insider, “especially during the hot summer. At my Episcopal church, I recently saw a gentleman in his late 50s wearing a patch-madras sport coat, Nantucket Red shorts and Weejuns without socks. Evidently it was good enough for God.”

God, like the rest of the tribe, probably didn’t even notice. “In a world where everyone is wearing Nantucket Reds or corduroy pants embroidered with lobsters,” says Lisa Birnbach, “it’s really not that big a deal: One’s eye adjusts.” Birnbach’s 1980 bestseller “The Official Preppy Handbook” makes note of a particular genetic defect among preppies, namely “specific color blindness,” which leads to “primary colors and brilliant pastels worn indiscriminately in preposterous combinations.”

The whole point is to have an insular code, says Birnbach. “Whether it’s slang or clothing, it’s a way to identify one another in one’s group — and many of these Old Guard, WASPy types weren’t particularly interested in knowing people from another group.”

Satiric in tone and purpose, “The Official Preppy Handbook” at one point suggests readers use pink and green crayons to color a black and white illustration. And in this quintessential preppy color combination (not surprising, the official colors of the prep school in “Making the Grade”), is the seed of preppy’s own undoing, the point at which the scale tips from style to satire, from cultural expression to marketplace pastiche. It’s the IBM gray-suit, white-shirt joke all over again, but for a new generation and with a different punchline.


Because those viewed as privileged make for easy targets, and because the elements of the style are so fixed, WASP whimsy lends itself to easy parody, most recently and notoriously in the Smirnoff “Tea Partay” commercial, a YouTube favorite. Here pastel clothing is used not for the tribe to differentiate itself from outsiders, but for outsiders to lampoon the tribe. Time passes, the old order withers away, and an age of irony engulfs us all. The tribe, plagued by a tragic flaw, relinquishes its power, and the rest of society, like characters in an archetypal myth, overthrow the tyrants and don their vestments.

Even more odious, today the best-selling Nantucket Reds at Murray’s Toggery Shop are the pre-faded version, for those unaware that patience is a virtue.

For Boyer, taste and tradition, rather than emanating naturally from a land of authenticity, have become just another commodity to be hawked in the marketplace. The mass availability of preppy style today can be read either as a sign of the omnipotence of egalitarianism, or as the last example in fashion of taste coming from the top down, rather than the bottom up. “Capitalism is a great engine of democratization,” notes Boyer.

O’Connells’ Ethan Huber adds the retailer’s perspective: “In the ’80s there was an incredible amount of business we did with madras and go-to-hell pants. Now there’s another resurgence, and you have madras at Wal-Mart.”


Like an Old Money family that returns each year to its summer home, let us revisit Martha’s Vineyard, scene of Tom Wolfe’s Boston Brahmins and their go-to-hell pants.

In 1998, a couple of Wall Street guys decided to start a clothing brand. They named it Vineyard Vines, and opened a retail store on the island retreat. Originally based on colorful motif ties, the company now carries a full collection of bright sportswear that strikes many world-weary eyes as an over-the-top preppy caricature. Between 2003 and 2006, the company’s annual revenues grew from $5.7 million to $37.2 million.

The Vineyard Vines website includes a section with hundreds of photos of customers dressed in the brand’s bright colors and whimsical designs. It’s as sure a sign as any that we’re all going to hell.

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From Paul Fussell’s “Class”:

“Go-to-hell in spirit also are the sports or playtime trousers which identify the upper-middle class, especially the suburban branch. One common type is white duck trousers with little green frogs embroidered all over them. A variation: light-green trousers, with dark-blue embroidered whales. Or signal flags. Or bell buoys. Or lobsters. Or anything genteel-marine, suggesting that the wearer has just strolled a few steps away from his good-sized yacht.”

From Lauren Lipton’s “Mating Rituals of the North American WASP”:

“What do you call those preppy pants, the kind where the right front leg is, like, yellow, and the left front leg is pink, and the right back leg is, I don’t know, green and the left back leg — ”
“Go-to-hell pants,” Luke interrupted. “What’s your point?”
“You people are lunatics,” Bex scoffed. “You can wear pants like that, but you won’t say one little ‘I love you’?”

M. magazine, 1990:

A prime reason WASPs like meeting people and socializing…. is that it gives them the chance to prove what daring fellows they are.  All WASP men have “go-to-hell” clothes for such occasions, usually poisonous green pants with little whales or anchors printed on them.  Even though they wear dumb clothes to the office, WASPs with real guts always include one “go-to-hell” item, in their business attire too.

Nelson W. Aldrich, Jr.,”Preppies: The Last Upper Class?”
Atlantic Monthly, 1979:

“Preppies of all ages and both sexes demonstrate an unwavering taste for luminescent pastels and hard primary colors, a taste evidently designed to evoke the infantile gaiety of the nursery or the youthful certainties of Playskool.”

72 Comments on "Damned Dapper: The Origins of the Go-To-Hell Look"

  1. Excellent article. Thanks.

  2. Ralph Kinney Bennett | February 16, 2010 at 3:44 pm |

    This is superb. It is another of those pieces that define why you, CC, and by extension, Ivy Style, are such an important part of the “cultural conversation.” A good lesson in research as the backbone of good writing. thanks.

  3. Thanks for the kind words, RKB, as well as for your recent thoughtful comments.

  4. Excellent article! Such thorough research, enjoyed it immensely.

  5. foolio_iglesias | February 16, 2010 at 7:30 pm |

    Love it….

  6. Trad to the Core | February 16, 2010 at 8:34 pm |

    Dating from the late 19th century, as it does, peanut butter is one of those areas where WASP overlaps with Trad, I daresay.

  7. Yes Indeed. Ivy-Style.com is not a blog but more of an
    online mag with an already archived library of much
    dedicated research and information.
    Speaking of “going to hell” many a so-called
    “WASP” and or “TRAD” blogs are doing just that
    without needing a single garment, garrish
    or unusual on display.

  8. “While WASPs have largely lost their power stranglehold on American society…”

    You don’t say. WASPS have not just “lost their power stranglehold” on American society, which is a curiously uncharitable way to descibe their relationship to the country they actually founded and defined, but they have also been pushed aside by the same grasping, pushy foreign tribes that now idealise the WASP world in print and fashion.

  9. When some of us want to dress in what we consider to be a go-to-hell manner, the full extent of our fearlessness is to sport a necktie with a red background, rather than a navy one.

  10. Great content to go along with great photographs is a rarity and you’ve achieved it. Substance in both. And these fashion photos – well I don’t get worked up about fashion photos unless they’re from Vogue Paris or Vogue Italia, but you’ve done it. Good job all around.


  11. You are a brilliant writer…….truly a magnum opus…..


  12. The DB seersucker jacket on page 9 made me wonder: What is the place of DB jackets in Ivy/WASP style?

  13. great article, i don’t think you’ve done something like that in a while.

  14. jackbenimble | February 17, 2010 at 8:48 pm |

    Hear hear LBT!

  15. On the whole, a well-written, informative article, with lots of good information. The photos add an explanatory touch as well, though photos of real people in their natural habitats (as it were) would have been even better.

    However, on the down side, I not only agree with Laguna Beach Trad’s assessment of your uncharitable character assassination of WASPs, I take particular exception to this line:

    “And despite their notorious character flaws (bigotry…”

    First of all, this is just another leftist-sounding slur against not only the people who founded and built this country, but also against the people who created our entire civilization: the so-called Dead White European Male. Did we ever stop to consider that they are responsible for nearly every worthwhile element of our world? Not just practical arts like science, technology, medicine, and engineering, but also art and music.

    If, on the other hand, you meant only to address WASPs’ clannishness and shunning of outsiders, please explain how this makes them different from any other human group. It is a natural human tendency to want to be around people like yourself, and to single out any group for engaging in it is ridiculous.

    And I will end by asking this: why is it, that in an age in which ethnic jokes are considered to be such poor form that they are practically extinct, it is still OK to make fun of white people? Why is it, that in an age when the delicate sensibilities of various minorities and identity groups require us to tread lightly lest we be hauled before an EEOC inquisition, it is still OK to denigrate white people?

  16. Christian,

    Bravo. You are a writer and a very interesting read. I appreciate the history dug up in order to bring your readers to where we currently are. Maybe the looming question is, “Are outsiders welcome?”

    Plugging you on Unabashedly Prep tomorrow.

  17. Henry:

    Well WASPs are American and Dead White European Males are European. Also, it’s possible to be dead, white, European and male and also have been a Catholic, Jew or homosexual.

    Since you bring up art and music….


  18. great article, christian. truly enjoyed the insight and perspective. amazed at your level of knowledge on this, i had no idea what a wasp was until i started going to uva. in my 4 years there (and upon joining a frat) i was witness to more than my fair share of madras, critter pants, and crazy color schemes, a lot of which wore off on me. keep it up, i need to get my hands on the rake, i keep forgetting.


  19. “Since the time of Martin Luther, the Protestant nations of the Western world have been known for a sober palette compared to the scarlet and purple of their Catholic neighbors. Perhaps this repressed sense of color ironically accounts for the riotous display of blinding pastels that characterize the preppy look of the WASP, or White Anglo Saxon Protestant, a term popularized in 1964 by sociologist E. Digby Baltzell to describe the small caste of elites that ran American business and politics.”

    I’m fairly sure this statement is incorrect. Work on the Puritans by the Princeton professor Perry Miller, written during the 1930s I believe, disabused the scholarly world of the notion that early American colonists dressed in a sober palette. American Puritans, thought to wear black because newspaper cartoons are done in black and white, were–as revealed by the original sources–dressed in all the colours of the rainbow. There houses were painted in colors to match: consider the interior of Mount Vernon for a later example of vivid paint.

    Black was introduced as fashionable only when one of the French kings died and the entire court was in mourning (I haven’t time to recall which king). The look caught on, as can be seen in the work of several Dutch Masters.

  20. @ Henry

    “First of all, this is just another leftist-sounding slur against not only the people who founded and built this country, but also against the people who created our entire civilization: the so-called Dead White European Male. Did we ever stop to consider that they are responsible for nearly every worthwhile element of our world? Not just practical arts like science, technology, medicine, and engineering, but also art and music.”

    This is a terribly ignorant and narrow minded view of the world. It is very Western in thought if not rooted in colonial theory. Who is to say what is worthwhile? What makes one culture worthier than another?

    “And I will end by asking this: why is it, that in an age in which ethnic jokes are considered to be such poor form that they are practically extinct, it is still OK to make fun of white people? Why is it, that in an age when the delicate sensibilities of various minorities and identity groups require us to tread lightly lest we be hauled before an EEOC inquisition, it is still OK to denigrate white people?”

    As a women/gender and African and African studies scholar, this is what is characteristic of white privilege (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_privilege). This is typically defined as the privileges whites have that minorities are deprived of, which whites do not see. This contributes to a range of contemporary issues such as a spike in skin bleaching, the sociological theory that the high amount of young black males in prison is a way of social control, minorities being given less options in real estate, education, and ultimately job opportunities. While two identical students might graduate from an institution like Princeton, one white the other a minority, the minority may be offered less than his/her white counterpart. Ultimately the colonial ideology which has produced your ignorance on the matter also contributes to bodily mutilation across the globe to achieve an Anglo look (jaw sawing, nose bridge building) as well as the inability for some half whites to identify culturally. I fail to see what is offending white America currently, as historically, and presently, they continue to define our cultural landscape and be the ‘ruling’ race. Thus, whites making fun of a minority group goes back to the basics of this structure, oppressor and oppressed.

    I apologize for the gravity of this post, but Christian’s acknowledgment of the bigotry in WASP culture was very smart.

  21. C.
    Have been looking forward to this piece since you first mentioned it. Very much enjoyed it.
    Your ending is very sly, a bit of a Rorschach test, if you will, since I can read it in three different ways. As an aside I remember Paul once saying that Tom Watson’s favorite tie was one with a cat sitting on a man head. On the same general subject one can still join the obscure acronym club via O’Connell’s offerings. Any one else a DOM?

  22. Thanks, Chief. Boyer and I were admiring the infamous cat tie just yesterday while visiting Paul.

    Afraid you’ve stumped me with DOM, though.

  23. Sam has drunk so deeply of the Kool-Aid of anti-white, anti-Western grievance mongering as to be unworthy of much of a response. However, since the relativistic nonsense he spouts is taken seriously by far too many people, I will respond for their sake–I know I can never reach Sam.

    What makes one culture worthier than another?”

    My culture is more worthwhile to me than any other: it is where I came from and what shaped me. I want to preserve it and carry it on. This makes me no different from anyone else in the world, yet only whites are criticized for having this very natural desire. Yet more of the leftist attack on Western civilization.

    “Who is to say what is worthwhile?”

    Hmm, let’s see… why don’t we judge it by objective standards?

    Which civilization has seen the greatest growth of wealth for the greatest number of people?
    Which civilization has seen the greatest growth of freedom–political, professional, social, and personal–for the greatest number of people?
    Which civilization has developed the rule of law over the rule of man, such that fundamental legal rights are guaranteed to all?
    Which civilization has made the greatest advancement and achievement in the sciences?
    Which civilization has made the greatest number of timeless works of art and music, works appreciated by nearly all people of the world?

    The correct answer for all of these is “Western civilization,” with the exception of #2, which is “American civilization,” a subset of the former.

    Consider this: to which countries do the people of the world flock in droves as immigrants? Are they in Africa? Are they in Asia? Are they even in South America? No, they’re all the countries founded by white Europeans, built on Western traditions, including Christianity.

    And there’s even been an objective study, by Charles Murray, called “Human Accomplishment: The Pursuit of Excellence in the Arts and Sciences, 800 B.C. to 1950.”

    So who’s to say? Anyone with a functioning brain, one not clouded by anti-Western ideology.

  24. THANK YOU, SAM!!! I’m glad you took the time to write that very thoughtful response to Henry

  25. @ Laguna Beach Trade

    Would my Italian family that came to this country in the 1910s be part of those pushy foreign tribes?

  26. I’m sorry, Laguna Beach Trad, not trade.

  27. Wonderful article!

    Incidenally, you use the term “critter pants”; however, I understand traditionalists prefer the word “emblematic” to “critter”.

  28. Religious point of view, whomever,whatever race and
    or civilization throughout human history the Lord
    chooses to bless he blesses,or conversly to curse,
    he curses.
    Non- religious ,natural selection still places western
    civilization as the leading success in human history.
    Tough if you don’t like it.
    You don’t have to be enslaved physically by the
    body, as SAM demonstrates being enslaved by hatred,
    bitterness,jealousy,convulted logic,PRIDE, is the
    more powerful enslavement.Of the mind.

    OH, yeah white privilege…..whites don’t cry or feel
    pain, are not subject to life’s heartaches.
    Whites never die, of suffer from diseases.
    Never divorce,or have dysfunction within the family
    unit. Our plane of existence is heaven on earth.
    Please SAM. Follow the phrase in this article meant
    for an article of clothing personally and take this
    cheerleader Lauren with you.

  29. The incesant right wing paranoid rants by Henry are totally irrelevant and ruinous to a blog about men’s clothing style. Cease and desist.

  30. @ Henry & Jinx – What you fail to see in your ignorance is that you are subscribing to what we in academia call “cultural relativism” and “blaming the victim” as well as basic philosophical twisting to meet your own agenda. Further, you muddy your tirades with a religion that is not everybody’s, so its truthiness cannot transcend all cultures, satisfying only your understanding of the world.

    Henry, the West was built on the backs of the cultures you’re calling inferior. Therefore, they were deprived of the opportunity to develop. And who is to say that Western ideology is infallible or the best route for everybody? It is your ignorance which allows us to have this conversation today. Perhaps my efforts at your elucidation is a lost cause. Pardon my Stanford, Yale, and Oxford degrees and years of research in these matters – no matter how brightly you light the lamp of knowledge, it never ceases to reach even the dimmest. Ignorance truly is bliss.

  31. “Who is to say what is worthwhile?”

    Sam, doesn’t everyone make value judgments all the time? Haven’t you made several above? Apparently academia and Stanford, Yale, and Oxford degrees are worthwhile. Apparently years of research are worthwhile.

    “What makes one culture worthier than another?”

    If someone says that all cultures are equally worthy, as the rhetorical question above implies, hasn’t that person made a value judgment, just like the person who says that some cultures are worthier than others has also made a value judgement?

    “whites making fun of a minority group goes back to the basics of this structure, oppressor and oppressed”

    Perhaps you would kindly answer this question: What basics does minority groups making fun of whites go back to?

  32. and what you fail to see Sam in your ignorance is you
    are subscribing to what we call in reality PRIDE as a
    defense mechanism and playing the victim as well as
    extravagant philosophical twisting to meet your own agenda.
    YOU ARE HUMILIATED, and you can’t escape it.
    You hate with a burning passion the history of “injustice”.
    You have it in your face 24/7. You can’t live with the
    added “burden” of realizing you have ……….a freewill.
    Which makes you ….responsible.For your own life.
    You want revenge. All people who think like you do.
    You don’t want equality you want revenge.
    Deep seeded revenge….it burns you through and through
    and through..you have no choice but to live with a
    legacy of inescapeable humiliation.
    A humiliation SO DEEP that reality itself cannot be
    for the sake of your sanity. You must be right.
    No way can a nightmare of such historical suffering
    be justified, no. You must be the innocent.
    Holy and blameless.YOU must be the victim.
    Yes it would have been so much better if the USA
    became tribal warrior cultures with psychotic paint
    jobs and animal skins, worship of demon gods of
    the imagination,dancing around the fire furiously
    demented withe strongest of drugs……..
    Oh yes Sam, western culture superiority is all
    relative……….Stanford Yale and Oxford education
    through the prism of your PRIDE Sam nothing else.

  33. I can appreciate that my story has sparked debate, but let’s try to keep at least a semblance of equanimity. If things deteriorate much further I’ll have to stop approving comments.

  34. Christian: This is supposedly a blog about Ivy Style. While certainly cultural references can be relevant, continued reactionary culture war crap will soon leave me to delete this blog from my favorites. Sorry, but you should act as a moderator.

  35. Richard, I’ve approved the comments up until now, but as you can see from my comment above, I agree it’s getting tiresome.

    And not all the rhetoric has been reactionary. There are also opinions that can fairly be described as left of center.

    Also, if you are so sensitive to opinions with which you disagree that you would stop visiting a website because of a few comments you don’t like, I’d suggest simply not reading the comments.

    There’s plenty of ideology-free material in the posts and Ephemera column.

  36. Let me say one thing in finality: I myself am a white male speaking of these issues, so that should eliminate some confusion (or further confuse things). I’m not seeking to cast an accusatory finger at whites and make them the scapegoat for the world’s ills. What I sought was to create awareness of the issue – through awareness of injustice and the vestiges of a racist past that continues in diluted strains to this day, all races can then work towards the elimination of xenophobia and hopefully bigotry.

    Christian, I do apologize things had to go to the route they did, but I think you gave the topic a fair and educated look, both in the article and what you’ve espoused in your commentary.

  37. Christian: I certainly agree it’s not been all reactionary, but certain posters are fulminant in their rage, and, since I can’t automatically delete their posts, I have to at least encounter them. Ask Andy has a part of their blog called the Interchange, where various uncouth persons vent their spleen, and this can be avoided easily enough. Maybe you can just start one thread for culture warriors, where they can leave the rest of us in peace.

  38. My, what a firestorm! Or perhaps a tempest in a teapot.

    Christian, I admit to starting the digression, and I beg your indulgence and thank you for your tolerance. I apologize for the length; I don’t have the time to make this shorter.

    As a white person, I am offended by the ease at which my people are routinely denigrated. I sought to point this out, and to chide our gracious host for taking what I consider to be a cheap shot. (I did like the article otherwise; Christian is a good writer and really did his homework for this article.) I also pointed out our cultural double standard for which Christian absolutely is not responsible: that making fun of “whitey” is perfectly acceptable, but that the same sort of talk about any designated minority or identity group is verboten.

    In keeping with the cultural relativism of our times, Sam comes out and further denigrates my people, but does so through his Marxist lens: the old “oppressor/oppressed” paradigm. This comes straight from “The Communist Manifesto,” and would be laughable for its cartoonish reduction of reality if it weren’t for the fact that in the 20th century, Communism was responsible for the deaths of 100 million unarmed civilians. Sadly, Marxism is still acceptable in academia, and it seems that Sam is firmly entrenched in that failed mindset.

    Sam further slanders Western civilization as “built on the backs of the cultures you’re calling inferior.” We call it “Western” civilization because it was formed in the West by Westerners, independent of other cultures. It appears that Sam, in spite of all his education, does not know this. Western civilization, like all others, developed largely independently, although not in a vacuum (Christianity, for example, did not have its origins in the West but is one of the most important formative strains).

    As for Richard, notice that he mischaracterizes views he disagrees with as “rage.” Perhaps I write so poorly that an anger I neither feel nor intend is showing up in my writing, but I don’t see it in the other posts either. (Upset, yes; angry, no.) What I do see in his “rage” comment is a common tactic in modern political “discourse”: labeling opposition to the liberal agenda as emotional, rather than logical. This presupposes that the liberal agenda is so self-evidently correct that any opposition to it cannot be rational, and since the opposition is irrational it does not need to be taken seriously, much less dealt with. This dismissing of opposition is the death of politics, and leads to one party rule by the orthodoxy–in this case, liberalism/leftism.

    I do apologize for straying from the focus of this blog, but Ivy Style, like any culture, was created by a specific people. Those people–my people–are under broad attack, and I was hoping to show that what seems like a throwaway comment is much deeper than it seems.

  39. Rage it is, and freaking monotonous. Go watch Fox “news”, and leave us alone.Now, back to Iyy Style…

  40. “Coming into the modern era, the historical understanding of the East-West contrast – as the opposition of Christendom to its geographical neighbours – began to weaken. As religion became less important, and Europeans came into increasing contact with far away peoples, the old concept of Western Culture began a slow evolution towards what it is today. The Early Modern “Age of Discovery” in the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries faded into the “Age of Enlightenment” continuing into the 18th, both characterized by the military advantages coming to Europeans from their development of firearms and other military technologies. The “Great Divergence” became more pronounced, making the West the bearer of science and the accompanying revolutions of technology and industrialisation. Western political thinking also eventually spread in many forms around the world. With the early 19th century “Age of Revolution” the West entered a period of World empires, massive economic and technological advance, and bloody international conflicts continuing into the 20th century.” (via Wikipedia)

    Uhm, Henry, I dunno how much clearer this argument can be about “the West” having used others – take for example Chinese immigrants building the railroads which linked the United States in the 19th century. I’m white Henry and your idea of the “your culture” being under attack is baffling – why don’t you just say you’re worried about the disappearance of a blood purity. That’s what your issue seems to be.

  41. Richard,

    Uh, no, rage it is not. Not from me, not from the vast majority of conservatives. But you and your kind seek to exclude us from the conversation by slandering our principled disagreement as no more than a temper tantrum. I think that’s pretty rude, and being mistreated can make people angry.

    Oh, and as long as I have your attention:
    1. A recent IBD poll showed that 45% of doctors would consider quitting if Obamacare passed.
    2. The Canadian politician Danny Williams has fled Canada for the US for a heart surgery procedure that is completely unavailable in his province.

    What was that you were saying about the wonders of socialized medicine?

  42. Ted,

    Since Wikipedia is editable by anyone, it is a questionable source at best, but aren’t you forgetting little things like the ancient Greece, ancient Rome, and the Germanic barbarians? They, along with Christianity, are the threads from which Western civilization is woven, and go back a few thousand years. In contrast, imperialism was a short spell in our history, one which has long since been abandoned. The interaction with other cultures did not form the West; contact may have influenced some things, but the West was formed long before contact. Also, religion–i.e., Christianity–didn’t become “less important” in any significant sense until the 20th century.

    As for the transcontinental railway, Chinese immigrants built about half of it; the other half was built by Irish immigrants. Were they slaves? Did they all get shanghaied into coming to America against their will? Would it have been impossible to build it without Chinese or Irish labor?

    Ted, Sam is making the claim that the West was “built on the backs of” other cultures, and this is simply wrong. This lie is designed to make whites feel guilty towards everyone else, to give them an unearned guilt that can never be atoned for. It is the Communist notion of an oppressor and the oppressed, applied to the most successful people on earth against everyone else. It’s a malicious lie, designed to harm.

    Maybe different peoples have different temperaments and different aptitudes, and maybe it was the genius of the European peoples to develop science, technology, commerce, morality, music, and art to heretofore untold heights, and maybe they would have done so regardless of their interaction with other peoples. Maybe other peoples have other talents, and maybe some of those talents are superior to ours–but they haven’t been able, for whatever reason, to implement them as successfully as we have. (Whatever the reason is, it’s not “exploitation” or “oppression”–unless you’re an unreformed Marxist.)

    I made no mention of “blood purity”–why do you? But as for Western culture being under attack? You never heard of the “culture wars”? Really? Well, let’s see here…
    * We are constantly being told we are “racists” and aren’t doing “enough” for the rest of the world.
    * Our cultural icons are either disparaged (e.g., “dead white European males”) or forgotten entirely (ever hear of Croesus or the expression “as rich as Croesus”? No? Used to be any educated man would know who he was).
    * As noted above, making fun of whites–white trash, dumb blonde, trailer trash, bigoted WASPs, etc.–are all OK stereotypes to indulge in, but such talk about any designated minority is out. It can even get you fired.
    * Third-rate authors like Maya Angelou get put on “must-read” lists, but no one reads Sophocles, Plutarch, Augustine, or a host of other authors whose thoughts shaped the West. We don’t even read Tom Paine or Publius!
    * Mass immigration from the Third World is changing the makeup of our political society to the extent that we are giving up our hard-won birthrights (like freedom of speech) to accommodate them (case in point: the trial of Geert Wilders).
    * Christianity is excluded from the public sphere, while alien celebrations like Cinco de Mayo and fabricated ones like Kwanzaa are A-OK.

    That’s just the tip of the malign iceberg.

    This is too long already, so I will stop here. My apologies.

  43. Yeah Ok lefties western civilization and the white race
    has done what you claim…..so what.
    Instead of burning in your heart and obsessing over it
    why don’t you stop to think as to why life humiliates,
    wonderfully I might add everything leftism believes in.
    Life wonderfully rubs inequality in your face leaving
    you with rage.Yes you lefties are the ones with rage
    and non stop hell bent revenge on western civilization.
    Another stupid protest,another stupid march,…..
    Life beautifully rubs authority in your face.
    Yeah life WILL break your pride,too bad you don’t
    like inequality.
    All your bs year after year after year of how America
    should be,how we should’ve all been living together
    as one in the first place,with no nations ,no
    boundaries….and yet human history kicks you in
    the you know what time and time again.
    Maybe just maybe there’s A God ,creator,who is
    in favor of inequality….Tough you don’t like it.
    If there isn’t mankind has demonstrated clearly
    on its own it does NOT want to come together as one
    so shut up already.
    Your philosophy loses whether there is a God or not.
    History tells you and your beliefs to shut up every
    step of the way.About time you started listening.

  44. David the Jew | February 23, 2010 at 7:32 pm |

    Wow…Can you (Henry, et. al.) literally copy and paste for us what in this article provoked you? Perhaps we could discuss that instead this galaxy of other allegations you’ve brought into this comment page.

  45. I think it was my peanut butter remark.

  46. That was it, Christian!

    It was actually the Marxist comments by Sam that got us off-topic.

    What got me started–and I did quote it–was the “bigotry” of WASPs line. Now, I don’t for a moment believe that Christian was actively trying to denigrate the people who founded and built this amazing, productive, and free country: he was just channeling the zeitgeist of our age, one in which it is perfectly OK to malign my people (and Christian’s, too)–white people–but any similar denigration of any other people is strictly off-limits.

    I have attempted to show the pernicious nature of this bias, but I’m afraid we’ve strayed far from that topic.

    As for Richard, he is protesting, I believe, this foray into non-sartorial topics, and he has an excellent point (even if the way in which he makes it leaves something to be desired). Ivy Style isn’t the best forum for such discussions, but neither is it a forum for making fun of any ethnic group–which is where this all started.

    And, with any luck, where it will all end.

  47. @ David – The comment was WASPs have a bigoted history. Some found it to be controversial. People like Henry feel like “he is under attack” when he refuses to step outside of his comfort zone because he’s afraid of undoing one way of understanding the world. Even the Romans and Greeks used slaves, which, though is historical of mankind, still keeps one culture from developing over another. It’s factual. He tries to bring in ideas way over his head like Marxism to fit his own laughably delusional agenda in which he tries to make racism acceptable. Then he tries to say things like “white trash” is racist – anybody can see that this is NOT tied to whites’ (and again, I’m white) genetics, whereas words like the “N” word which Henry again finds perfectly okay to use, goes back to genetic inferiority which is the colonialism we are supposedly devoid of. And then, it’s suddenly racist that we read Maya Angelou instead of Publius – uhm, classical studies is being removed from universities everyday now because it’s irrelevant to our times. People read Twilight instead of Shakespeare – unjust, speaks of the public’s intellect, but it’s just the same way our choice of Angelou over Publius is.

  48. Further, Christianity has nothing to do with the argument in the first place – as Sam pointed out, you are assuming the whole world subscribes to Christianity. Your argument about books overlooks the fact that Barnes & Noble or The New York Times may be influenced by publication house payoffs, their own ideologies about what constitutes good literature/education, or where middle America lies. Also, our history books speak of white heroes and not blacks, Asians, or Latinos who have contributed to the history of this country which was not made up of Anglo-Europeans solely – Garrett Morgan (black, inventor of the stop light), Yo-Yo Ma (Asian, world famous musician), and Sonia Sotomayor (Hispanic) are all Americans who have contributed to this country and yet their histories are erased in AMERICAN history. And as far as I know, I still have my freedom of speech. What more can you argue? Why don’t we leave it at this, because clearly you, Henry, are conflicted.

  49. Funny how some people are so adept at reading things that aren’t there.

    Ted, you’re calling me a racist, saying I think it’s OK to use the “N” word. Quote me. Go ahead, find it. If you can’t, then you’re a LIAR. I don’t waste my time with the likes of you.

    (My original response to Ted is unprintable, but I changed it. This is because I, unlike some people, think that Ivy Style is a classy joint, unsuited to libel, calumny, profanity, or other inappropriate verbal acts.)

    Generally, everything that’s worth saying in a comment thread is said within about 50 posts. We’ve reached that point. Barring any further personal attacks, I’m through. The intelligent among us can weigh the evidence for themselves.

    P.S.: Thanks for the support, Jinx!

    P.P.S.: Thanks for indulging this digression, Christian. I’m sorry it brought out the worst in some of the participants.

  50. The futility of these kinds of arguments is precisely why I avoid them.

  51. “The intelligent among us can weigh the evidence for themselves.” Indeed. The fact that you can’t deconstruct Sam or my own arguments and continue to face limits to your thesis, dealing at best you can with sputtering “liar” shows a thing or two to those who are “educated,” who think with scholastic research, logic, and inference built on the former two instead of using blanketed statements of accusing one to subscribe to obscure ideologies and espousing radical evangelical Christianity – in essence, it’s a cop out because a) you’re uneasy because you either know or have feelings of being wrong and refuse to learn otherwise due to pride or ignorance or both b) you have to use one book to think for you c) you are satisfied with one way of thinking which satisfies one type of people. And the fact that you draw attention to your restraint is contradictory to your point of being “classy” – just saying…

  52. Excellent point, Christian. Some of us have to learn the hard way.

  53. What your parish doesn’t notice, God doesn’t notice 😉 I still have to figure out what I want to play on my Ipod for Easter Mass.

    Why all this hate on Western Civilization? If anything needs to be fought it’s lowest common denominator egalitarianism and the false believe that some random hip hop group is the equal of Henry Purcell of Vivaldi. That random stick figures and grotesque vulgarity is on the same level as Jacobo Bellini, that plain boxes for buildings is the same as the outstanding Classical, Federalist, Gothic, Elizabethan, and Victorian styles of architecture. The vast decline in standards can be traced to Dadaism, Cubism, and the subsequent mental laziness that the industrial revolution produced. Something that was supposed to be held sacred was thrown away for the sake of profit and laziness. The dumbing down and lowest common denominator egalitarianism has to be reversed at any costs.

    There are even people who are so idiotic as to believe that the world is 6,000 years old! So you have these tres declasse (i.e.: Overemphasizing hell and the end-times and incorrectly stating that Sacramental Salvation is wrong) churches and their asinine creationist museums that are also apart of the problem. Why don’t these people join or form a real (e.g..: Methodist, Presbyterian, Episcopalian, Unitarian,) church? Or even convert to Buddhism (although the greatest gamble with that would be throwing away the majority privilege that comes with being a Christian and thus would open them up to unjust social and even professional discrimination).

    Isn’t it bad form to talk about religion anyway? Why would somebody be so crass as to denigrate Western Civilization? The ironic thing is that somebody who went to Stanford, Yale, and Oxford, is somebody who is the product of one of the greatest aspects of Western Civilization: Our elite universities. Oxford (along with Cambridge) being the absolute top, with Harvard and Yale a very close second. The worst of Western civilization (e.g.: Sarah Palin, Tea-parties, pop culture, hip-hop, glorifying violence, NASCAR, etc) is oftentimes what foreigners are most exposed to when they watch television, instead of our best (e.g.: secondary schools such as Groton, Exeter, Choate, Cities with cultural relevance and museums such as New York and Boston, places to Summer such as Maine and the Vineyard, the Ivy League, Brooks Brothers, J.Press, a constitutional Republic with the scope of freedom it has, etc)

  54. I agree with Jinx and Henry. The fact than “Sam” is involved in “academia” speaks volumes. Pity the poor kids who attend colleges today and have to deal with the professors of “academia” and get brainwashed with left wing propaganda and outright lies about life. Typical Godless America haters.

  55. Sam, you went to Stanford and Yale and Oxford? And you believe that western civilization was not built by white anglo saxons? More time in “academia” equals more ignorance.

  56. Alright the comments got a little too serious on here.

  57. Richard M, there is something terribly frightening when one tries to shut down discourse simply because one disagrees with it. Threatening to no longer favorite a blog because the owner allowed free speech is blackmail of the worst sort. You can hide behind whatever excuse you wish for this behavior, but it is shameful nonetheless. Don’t read things which disrupt your inner peace, but please leave free speech alone. Make no excuses, no justifications. Just stop.

    The kernel of truth in the debate involving Henry is that no one has the right to denigrate any other race or ethnic group, whether they be the majority or the minority. People who make excuses for this behavior, even when it is directed towards the folks who are so called “in power”, are behaving as despicably as perpetrators of bigotry or racism towards any minority group. Racism and bigotry are always wrong, and since the beginning or time people have always found great sounding excuses for why their particular form of it is correct.

  58. Boston Bean | May 19, 2012 at 9:32 am |

    All very interesting, but there are still those of us who eschew the Barnum & Bailey look.

  59. Yankeegirl | June 12, 2012 at 6:16 pm |

    Looking like you are trying too hard to be something you’re not is the kiss of death. A good friend of ours dresses to the Nines with lots of beautiful gingham shirts and red whale shorts, sockless in Topsiders, Vineyard Vines’ ties and so on, not all at the same time, I hasten to add. He’s a handsome guy in a pink-cheeked way, but he will never fool anyone that he is an authentic prep. Holden Caulfield called people like that “phonies.” Pete’s just playing at it. A wannabe. I think the thing that gives him away is that his “outfits” are always very clean and perfect. No shredded hems on his khakis or shoes held together with masking tape. He would never let his kid wear dreadlocks for a year. Yet Pete has had the last laugh, I guess, and his masquerade all these years has made it possible for his kids to marry UP in a big way, so I suppose his grandchildren will be considered prep avatars in the years to come. Reality bites the big one sometimes;-)

  60. Christian | June 13, 2012 at 6:06 am |

    I didn’t read “CitR” until a few years ago, and didn’t dig it at all (in fact, somewhere in the Ephemera column, or maybe a post we did, is a link to an article about how kids no longer identify with Holden Caulfield, considering him a whiny brat), but my read on it was that his aversion to phonies was a subconsciously ironic reflection on himself. HE was the real phony.

  61. very interesting article. must be wonderful to stir such agitation… :)

    curious to know whether you intended to say that the go-to-hell look started becoming mainstream with JFK’s wearing of go-to-hell style… or if you’re counting him as a wasp, even though he wasn’t…? you do clearly establish it as a look originating with wasps… and you mentioned JFK as an example early on in the article, although the discussion about the mainstream adoption of preppy is quite a bit deeper into the article… wasn’t sure if the example was indeed, misplaced, or if it’s just an oversight…

  62. Christian,

    I am another one who didn’t read Catcher in the Rye until adulthood. I think we missed the boat: we should have read it in high school. In any case, I also found the main character annoying. On a personal level, I couldn’t relate to his adult-like school clothes, nor his looking old enough to go into a bar and get served. I do like your analysis of his protestations against “phonies” as projection.


    “…classical studies is being removed from universities everyday now because it’s irrelevant to our times.”

    What makes something a classic is that is is perpetually relevant. It is our society that is irrelevant to the classics, not the other way around. Besides, people are much easier to manipulate if they are kept ignorant, even if “educated.” The reorganization of college “education” away from the classics, and even our own history, is specifically designed to keep us from knowing where we came from, thus making it easier to delude people into accepting various leftist tropes.

    A century from now, the largely untalented Maya Angelou will be little more than a footnote, while the ancient Greeks, as well as the early Americans, will still find a place in libraries and educated minds.

  63. I think a touch sprezzatura is tantamount to authentic ‘go to hell’. But none of it must be thought out excessively or it will seem affected. It’s jolly hard work that should appear as if it flows naturally from one’s cedar valhalla. I do believe some of the classic ‘go to hell’ should be consistently reined in, reexamined, re-imagined, though never with a concerted or seeming to be too invested frame of mind/intention. One has to but sit in the presence of it and absorb it. I miss my salmon cashmere v-necks and persimmon deck shoes, by the way, and my oil-blue gatsby wide fedora with iridescent silver grosgrain trim and articulated ostrich plume. Now THAT was ‘go to hell’, Capote style.

  64. A WASPy note:

    “The tragedy of American civilization,” Louis Auchincloss wrote in 1980, “is that it has swept away WASP morality and put nothing in its place.”

  65. I know that quote, but where did he say it?

  66. WASPy Quotation:

    NARCISSA AND OTHER FABLES By Louis Auchincloss. 213 pp. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co.

    ”THE tragedy of American civilization is that it has swept away WASP morality and put nothing in its place.” So speaks a rueful character in one of the moral ”fables” collected in Louis Auchincloss’s 25th work of fiction.

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  68. Jimmy Demaret (1910-1983) created the go-to-hell look.

    The above article admits that this “look” grew out of golf culture. And it was Demaret who famously went to a woman’s clothing manufacturer in 1949/50 and had them make him pants in every outrageous color imaginable.

    His nickname was “The Wardrobe” (and also “Sunny Jim”). There are photos online of him posing with his massive wardrobe – and you’d think all those colorful pants were from the future. He did all this in 1950!

    Ben Hogan called him the most underrated professional golfer in the history of the sport.

    Demaret founded the world-famous Champions Golf Club in Houston, Texas, (along with Jack Burke Jr), in 1957.

  69. Demaret had his colorful pants created in the late 1930’s, not 1950 as stated above. First golfer ever to wear fun colored pants.

    The go-to-hell prep kids later got their original idea from golf clubs and their humorously decorated/colored pants, which by the mid 1960’s was a common sight (and something Jimmy had stared decades before).

    Jimmy Demaret Bio:

    When he joined the pro tour in 1927, all golfers wore the same style of clothing — brown or gray slacks, brown or black shoes, a white dress shirt, a tie, and sometimes a fedora hat.

    The clothing was not only conservative in color and cut, but the materials tended to be heavy and, in hot-weather locker rooms, “kind of stank,” said Jimmy.

    So one day in the late 1930s, while in New York City, Demaret visited a shop in the garment district where movie stars had their clothes made.

    There he saw bolts of lightweight materials in a kaleidoscope of bright colors that caught his eye.

    As Demaret remembered, he had acquired his taste for colors from his father, a house painter who, in the days before paints were mixed by machine, would mix by hand and test shades on the walls of his home.

    Jimmy asked if he could get some golf shirts and slacks made of such goods. Told the stuff was for ladies’ garments, Jimmy said he didn’t care; he wanted to play golf in them.

    His request was fulfilled, and a sartorial revolution in golf got under way. Not only did golfers begin to wear more lively looking clothing, but the clothes were lighter, and the shirts in particular made swinging a club easier.

  70. More data on Demaret’s influence on preppy fashion:

    But not everybody was Ben Hogan, and the subdued palate of white, grey, and black that soon blanketed courses turned golf attire into a staid uniform.

    Bucking the plain Shane bandwagon was Texan Jimmy Demaret. Nicknamed “The Wardrobe,” Demaret was a golf fashion trailblazer, one of the first players to break away from convention and express his individuality with outlandishly loud getups. He often looked like a chameleon who just walked through a rainbow.

    Over the course of a tournament he’d sport a vivacious spectrum that would rival Joseph’s Technicolor dreamcoat— aqua, emerald, flaming scarlet, gold, lavender, name a color and he wore it. Decked out from head-to-toe, Demaret would go so far as to have his saddle shoes custom made so that they matched his slacks.

    More than a fashion plate, Demaret was one of the top golfers of his era winning the Masters on three occasions (1940, 1947, 1950), and he stayed involved in the game long after his playing career as a television commentator.

    His garish penchant for plaid, polka dotted, and checked sports jackets would persist well into the ‘80s inspiring the country-club centerfold look RODNEY DANGERFIELD caricatured in CADDYSHACK.

    A comic in his own right, Demaret should really get more respect for coming up with one of the most astute observations about the game he played: “golf and sex are about the only things you can enjoy without being good at them.”

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