Going Native In 2014


In a previous article, I mentioned that native prints are not common among Ivy retailers today. This possibly overreaching assessment prompted me to make a more thoughly investigation of current offerings.

I approached O’Connell’s, the purveyor of all things traditional and known for its expansive collection of old stock. I struck out in finding any vintage heyday batik, but manager Ethan Huber shared with me the news that he was successful selling native prints last year and is offering again this year. The supplier of O’Connell’s native fabric items is Bills Khakis.

Readers who have followed the brand over the years have watche it go from one product to many. I asked founder Bill Thomas about native prints, and he said he’s offering the Parker model short in a kalamkari fabric. Kalamkari is an Indian fabric similar to batik. “The patterns were discovered in the archives of an old mill,” says Thomas. “It went back 50 years and took two days to look at all the samples of madras and kalamkari.” The fabric was introduced on a whim and is one of the more playful items in the collection. Thomas admits that Kalamkari is “off the register” both in wildness and in production. The hand-screening technique used creates imperfections in the print design. The shorts offered by Bill’s are in a 4.5-ounce cotton and 9.75 inseam. The Bills website offer two colors of Kalamkari shorts, golden sand and beach grass. Thomas suggests pairing them with solid polos, washed oxfords and chambray.


Bills also produced other colors and patterns for their wholesale clients. A darker midnight color was offered and was picked by Khakis in Cincinnati, Assortment in Key West,  and Orvis in New York. O’Connell’s of Buffalo has a kalamkari in a medallion print. O’Connell’s also still has some of last year’s bohemian paisley trousers and shorts.  I mentioned to Ethan Hubar that I had a pair of Bill’s lobster batik shorts. In that wonderful way of sartorial one upmanship that lovers of GTH practice, he told me had the same pattern in a trouser.

Moving on to other clothiers, Brooks Brothers currently has a batik belt available:


And Sid Mashburn is showing ties, pocket squares and d-ring belts, the likes of which haven’t been seen for years:


General Knot & Co. is offering batik, but the best-looking native print is their hand-blocked silk square:


R. Hanauer offers a French cotton fish print bow that is very vintage batik-like:


Native prints may be tough to find, but they’re worth looking for if you walk on the wild side of Ivy. — CHRISTOPHER SHARP

13 Comments on "Going Native In 2014"

  1. A nice piece or two is worth adding to your wardrobe…just to cover the category off.

  2. Interesting that anyone should feel the need to “cover the category off”, because I feel no need whatsoever; it’s not a by-invitation-only club.
    Pocket handkerchief apart, I wouldn’t be seen dead (as we quaintly say in the old country) in any of the above.
    And call me a complete traitor, but I even tend to shun button-down-collared shirts. Milan collars have always be my preferred, accompanied by a quiet tie with single-swing knot, never a Windsor.
    For me Ivy style is encapsulated solely in the jacket, with crucially-important natural shoulders, dirth of darts, and plain-weave fabric.

  3. @Ickenham

    I fully agree with you about not wanting to be caught dead in those items.
    Also agree with you about quiet ties and the jacket being the most important determiner of Ivy style.
    I wear full-cut pleated trousers with no cuffs, by the way.
    The Milano collar? That’s where I have to disagree. It makes me look fat.
    Considering much of what passes for Ivy/Trad today, I wouldn’t want to be a member of the club, if I were invited.

  4. May i suggest you try a larger size collar?
    And it’s Ickenham as in Lord, a favourite Wodehouse character, old bean.

  5. Hillingdon | August 3, 2014 at 7:56 am |


    It’s Hillingdon as in Hillingdon Tube Station.

  6. Any fans of the stuff want to comment.

  7. Yes, I very much suspected it might be.
    Call one an old buffer, but one prefers to keep the location of one’s country seat hush-hush, dontcha know.

  8. “A batik print in fall colors is slightly more subdued and yet slightly subversive…” –

    Saying one batik print is slightly more subdued than another is like saying Rollie Fingers’ mustache circa ’72 was slightly more subdued than Catfish Hunter’s.

    I like my slight subversion to cost less than $87.50.

  9. Uncle Fred,

    Wikipedia tells me that your home is in Hampshire.

  10. Most batik patterns have a muted-enough color for me to wear them without feeling overly rakish. The necktie shown here looks nice. Still don’t understand why we needed four separate articles about batik.

  11. @ Hillingdon

    Mum’s the word, eh? There are so many bounders about these days.

  12. @ Joey

    I’m with you about the muted colors. The dark brown pattern on the jacket in the first picture of the first article, I thought, was not very different from certain District Checks I’m drawn to. Others, as with other District Checks, I wouldn’t go near.

    My guess would be that the batik articles cumulatively show that the Ivy/Trad/Whatever-You-Will palette was/is broader than any one particular selection or taste.

  13. Bills’ Kalamkari shorts 40% off at the Orvis Tent Sale http://www.orvis.com/p/bills-khakis-kalamkari-shorts/10tm

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