Golden Years: Richard Press On Neckties

A new proposal in New York would ban doctors from wearing neckties after a study revealed that the dangling strips of silk can transmit bacteria leading to infection. This would have been sad news back during the heyday, when J. Press sold many caduceus ties in colors appropriate to the Harvard and Yale medical schools. One of our customers was New Haven resident and Yale alumnus Dr. Benjamin Spock.

In fact, in 1968 we stored 10,000 ties in corrugated boxes piled randomly on the mezzanine of the New York store on 44th Street. The neckties were simply thrown on top of the counters and sorted according to their breed. They were never imprisoned under glass. Jacquard emblematics were on one side of the stairway, regimental stripes the other, the back space divided by challis, ancient madders, silk knits, Macclesfields and Indian Madras, depending on the season. Irving Press used to walk around the store messing up the ties. He challenged browsers to stroke and finger the fabrics. The algorithm was touch, feel and buy.

The signature emblematic tie at our campus store in New Haven was the “grasshopper,” a three inch navy blue field emblazoned with thick yellow insects. Anecdotally, a story circulated on York Street that a Smith girl asked her date if the tie he had on was his club tie and he responded that yes, he belonged to Grasshopper.

The emblematic collection was encyclopedic and included zoo animals, a barnyard population including pigs, geese, wild turkeys, ducks and horses. There was athletic gear featured, a closet full of squash rackets golf clubs, lacrosse sticks and Wall Street wasn’t denied its bull and bear.

How does this play today? Much of the old Ivy persona favors Hermes, and Vineyard Vines is hot in Greenwich, but ask any college student if he ever wears a tie. The answer, at least to a tie salesman, is scary.

“Morning Joe” Scarborough covered the royal wedding in London with a suit and no tie. Meanwhile Michael Kay does the Yankee games from his booth at the Stadium garbed in what looks like a Joseph Banks off-price price remainder garnished with a wide knotted neon-lit tie. I leave you to decide which is worse.

Discordant form goes coast to coast, and as usual LA is the paradigm. Agents perform “the Hollywood pirouette” at Craig’s in suit and tie and their clients wear untucked James Perse shirts over Seven for All Mankind jeans.

New York has always been less permissive and some might argue more sophisticated than the rest of the country. The University Club and the Regency Whist Club still insist on coat and tie. The Harvard Club requires a tie for dinner in the main dining room. Suits and ties are “not required” in the corporate dining room at Goldman Sachs, but executives would never appear at headquarters any other way. The Yale Club bends the rules reducing the dress code to jacket with “collared shirt.”

Not at the Racquet & Tennis Club on Park Avenue where they still sing the old songs. Members jump in the pool naked, wear neckties everywhere except in the steam room, and polo coats and fedoras are still being checked into the coat room off the lobby.

The old WASP ethic remains an island unto itself. — RICHARD PRESS

Richard Press is the grandson of J. Press founder Jacobi Press. A graduate of Dartmouth, he worked at the family business from 1959-1991, ultimately serving as president. He also spent four years as president and CEO of FR Tripler. He lives in Connecticut.

48 Comments on "Golden Years: Richard Press On Neckties"

  1. We went out for Mother’s day to a nice restaurant yesterday and I was the only guy in the whole place wearing a tie. People are so lazy these days.

  2. taliesin | May 9, 2011 at 9:33 am |

    Mr. Press makes a good point that in some fields in LA/Hollywood, wearing a tie means you are lower status (the hired gun) compared to “the talent”.

    It is interesting that most places in New York, Washington and a few other cities that still require a coat and tie are private clubs that most people will never see the inside of – R&T in NYC, for example, or the Cosmos Club in DC. I speculate that the difference is that money isn’t the only standard for admission. This is a substantial difference from, say, a restaurant, which, if a dress code were attempted, would have to contend with the “isn’t my money good enough?” argument from potential customers in casual clothes.

  3. I feel lucky to work where a necktie is not required, but that doesn’t mean I never put one on. Often, a meeting, event/conference, or just wanting to feel completely put together has me reaching for a tie.
    However, I do feel it’s a bit more compulsory when out on a date or going anywhere where I hope to convey some sense of respect (of myself and the other people). A couple months ago I was out to eat at a restaurant and one of the people sitting at another table leaned over and “apologized” for their loud table conversation while my date was using the restroom, saying, “I hope we aren’t being too loud, are you all on a first date?” To which I replied, “no, this is my partner of 3.5 years why?”
    To which she replied, “oh, I just guessed since you were wearing a coat and tie”. I thought the comment was telling and actually made me wonder more questions (Why would you stop wearing one after a first date? Is it really that strange to wear a tie in a nice restaurant in the year 2011?).

    As for the doctors being banned from wearing ties, isn’t that one reason so many wear bow ties already?

  4. Old Time Physician | May 9, 2011 at 8:06 pm |

    I wonder if it’s really about bacteria and infections or about lowering standards out of misguided egalitarianism, believing that underclass patients feel intimidated by neckties. (If this is so, proles would feel even more intimidated by even more elitist bowties).

    I find it hard to take an unshaven doctor in jeans and running shoes seriously, but that sems to be what the public wants.

  5. willissA | May 9, 2011 at 8:44 pm |

    Not what I want at all!…I alway feel like I’m gonna get the leeches when I see a Doctor without a Tie

  6. Honored just to read these words… found an old Press tie in a church basement sale in Berkeley “The Burlington Knot”, “hand woven in England” nice blue plaid…. that and your entries here, very lucky finds.

  7. Old School | May 9, 2011 at 11:20 pm |

    @Old Time Physician:

    According to this report, not only neckties, but long-sleeve shirts and long white coats may also be banned.

    The next step will be prohibiting doctors from wearing stethoscopes areound their necks, so that they can’t be distinguished from janitors.

  8. At 19, I unknowingly referred to a Smith woman as a ‘girl’ in 1988 and received a punch in the face.
    Needless to say; she wasn’t no lady…

  9. was wondering if there’s a picture floating around of the “Grasshopper” tie

  10. Jim Kelleth | May 10, 2011 at 4:00 am |

    One more reason to love J. Press. Great, traditional ties….challis, ancient madders, silk knits, Macclesfields and Indian Madras. Along with the three button sack, Brooks seems to have gotten out of that business, too.

    And if I remember correctly, Press had an emblematic tie featuring maritime signal flags…I’m guessing somewhere back in the late 70s. It read, ‘Request permission to lay alongside.’

    Long live J. Press!

  11. Christian | May 10, 2011 at 7:21 am |


    … she was no lady…

    … request permission to lay alongside.

    Funny stuff this morning!

  12. The “request permission to lay alongside” nautical flags tie is from Chipp, not Press. When I was in NYC last fall, Paul Winston still had some of those available for sale.

    Here’s Press’s current “Crickets” tie, which I assume is the same as the “Grasshopper” tie Mr. Press mentions:

  13. Old Time Physician,

    I think you’ve hit the nail on the head, except that it isn’t “misguided egalitarianism.” It is active hostility to standards and our traditions, a conscious attempt to bring everyone down to the level of the lowest.

    Modern liberalism abhors inequality. Since it has proven impossible to raise the less-capable up, the only alternative is to pull the more-capable down. This applies to everything, including dress.

    Part of the decline of the suit and tie is due also to feminism. There is no equivalent attire for women, so instead of letting the men look professional and the women look less than professional, it’s “better” to have everyone dress like slobs.

    Just my thoughts.

  14. Jim Kelleth | May 10, 2011 at 12:22 pm |

    Thanks, ‘taliesin’. The 70s are a little foggy.

  15. This is a great article and the comments are almost as entertaining!

  16. It is good to know that the legislators know more about bacteria than doctors. (Obvious sarcasm) Next time I will go to the legislators instead of the doctors to cure my health problems. Unfortunantely, that may not be too far off.

  17. Scrappy Dubious | May 10, 2011 at 6:56 pm |


    The comments section wouldn’t be complete without a fragmented, screeching diatribe of non-sequitirs from Henry lashing out at the supposed twin horrors of “equality” and liberals.

    Methinks a liberal must have stolen his boyfriend at some point in the past.

  18. Regarding the comment comparing the current J. Press cricket tie to the signature grasshopper mentioned in the column, the difference is entomology. The cricket as depicted on the tie has spindly limbs and an eyeball. The grasshopper has gams like Kirstie Alley and unfortunately no eyeball.

  19. Henry Higgins | May 10, 2011 at 8:41 pm |

    Unable to understand “Scrappy Dubious”‘s attack on “Henry”.

    Or does Scrappy mistakenly imagine that “Ivy” is a simple matter of fashion, rather than a matter of preserving standards of propriety?

  20. Old Time Physician it is alas true. Doctors were spreading bacteria throughout the hospital. In Australia they have to wash their hands between touching patients and the amount of hospital infections had dropped dramatically, Nurses can tell a doctor to sop and wash their hands and vice versa. There are good reasons behind it. I certainly don’t want infections in my joints from someone not doing things properly. My pain specialist wears a two day growth and has comical over wear gowns and bandanas. His work cannot afford infections as he works a poofteenth from the cord. That said I wear a tie in hospital when going for a procedure, as do many doctors. They must not touch the patients wearing one.

  21. Richard Meyer | May 11, 2011 at 3:13 am |

    Henry: I am a physician, and wear a suit and tie to work every day. It ain’t “liberals”-just lack of standards in general. The crowds at NASCAR races-so beloved by southern conservatives-don’t look very spiffy to me.
    Or maybe it’s the fault of those inferior racial groups?
    Get over it.

  22. woofboxer | May 11, 2011 at 4:05 am |

    Jackets and ties are still required in many military officer’s messes in the UK. Some are more formal than others that only require neck wear during the evening. I remember being caught out by this when I attended a gliding course at an army base and stayed in the mess accomodation, I forgot to pack any smart clothes for the evening and ended up having to eat my meals in the kitchen. Needless to say I have always remembered since!

  23. I was not familiar with James Perse shirts or Seven for All Mankind jeans.

    I Googled both, and realized how fortunate I was to have never heard of either.

  24. Scrappy Dubious | May 11, 2011 at 11:02 am |

    @ Henry Higgins opined:

    “Unable to understand “Scrappy Dubious”’s attack on “Henry”.”

    I’m quite sure you’re “unable to understand”….that’s sort of my point in a nutshell. Although I would say that the “attacking” came from Henry, as usual. My post was sort of a wry commentary on Henry.

    These non-sequitir gems from Henry sum it up:

    “Modern liberalism abhors inequality.”
    (…then we must assume, that Modern conservatism adores inequality?)

    “Part of the decline of the suit and tie is due also to feminism.”
    (it’s all the fault of those women. If they had just stayed in the damn kitchen where they belong!)

  25. Christian | May 11, 2011 at 11:23 am |

    Actually there may be something to Henry’s suggestion. One of my favorite books on menswear history is “The Peacock’s Tail” by Pearl Binder (a woman) from about 1959. She argues that men dress drably because they’ve emancipated their women and created machines to do their work, and that their drab dress stems from low morale regarding masculinity itself.

  26. Scrappy Dubious | May 11, 2011 at 11:45 am |


    I believe you can find one person to support ANY viewpoint.

    One wonders about the credentials of this woman however.

    One could also argue that 1959 would probably be considered nirvana in the eyes of Henry, and it certainly pre-dates the feminism of the 60s/70s that Henry blames for the downfall of humanity.

  27. Christian | May 11, 2011 at 11:50 am |

    Being a contrarian is kind of a compulsion in you as well as your brother, Scrappy. Interesting how you can cast an aspersive eye on Binder’s book based on one passing reference to it. It’s one of the most original studies of men and clothing in all eras and all cultures I’ve ever found, a huge favorite of mine for over 15 years, and Boyer as well. You should check it out.

  28. Scrappy Dubious | May 11, 2011 at 12:03 pm |

    @ Christian

    One could argue that you are the one being the contrarian here. Without googling the author myself, was this woman a psychologist, or a fashion historian expressing her personal hypothesis?

    I doubt that many American males in 1959 were feeling emasculated by their women and expressing this dismay through their gray flannel trousers.

    The fact that this book was written in 1959 sort of debunks the point, as Henry would no doubt consider the late 50s to be a golden-age of pre-feminist male sartorial splendor.

  29. Christian | May 11, 2011 at 12:57 pm |

    Her ideas are far more expansive, perspicacious and interesting than your terse doubt that the American male of ’59 could possibly feel emasculated, as well as your assessment that Henry would consider ’59 a golden age of sartorial splendor.

    She is looking out over the mountains across continents and centuries. You’re looking through a peephole at a mirror and seeing only your own knee-jerk narrow-mindedness.

    Read the book.

  30. Joe Tradly | May 11, 2011 at 1:52 pm |

    I was lucky to get one of those grasshopper ties about two or three years ago. Remember when press cleared out the NY warehouse and sent a bunch of stock around to the various stores? Washington got a couple of the new-old-stock grasshoppers, we guessed were about 10 – 15 years old at the time. Hunter green with gold grasshoppers in my case. Beautiful tie.


  31. Scrappy Dubious | May 11, 2011 at 2:44 pm |


    I don’t NEED to read her book to know what men dressed like in (pre-feminist movement) 1959 America. PLENTY of other resources about that.

    You can insult me all you want, but I still won’t care about this woman’s hypothesis. You still haven’t told me what her credentials are, other than “she is looking out over the mountains across continents and centuries”, which is a lot pretentious nonsense that says nothing while simultaneously avoiding the question.

    People in the 80s wore neon for a time. What was the relation of that to the feminist movement? Perhaps it was just a fashion of the time and nothing else?

    Pop psychology generally doesn’t hold much water.

  32. Christian | May 11, 2011 at 3:03 pm |

    The book was written in 1959, but it’s not about 1959. I’ve said it’s expansive and she’s looking out over the centuries, as well as different cultures.

    It’s a great book. But it’s quite obvious you’ve already decided it wouldn’t interest you.

  33. Scrappy Dubious | May 11, 2011 at 3:17 pm |


    You keep sidestepping the question of her credentials, so that leads me to believe that she has none. Hence, she’s about as qualified to make broad generalizations as myself.

    BTW, “Dr. Phil” isn’t a doctor either, yet for some reason many people listen to him as if he is….

  34. @Scrappy

    Not that your demand for “credentials” was even remotely reasonable, but if you really do want to learn more, Pearl Binder sounds very interesting. A few bits of evidence:

    Thanks to Christian for the reference. I’m going to read the book.

  35. Your easier than a duck in a shooting gallery,Scoob,Scub,
    Scrappy Doobie Oobie.NOW , to tear you apart.
    “You can insult me all you want” he says to Christian.
    Interesting how Henry simply stated his piece ending with ,”just my
    thoughts” when whose mouth came along with the first barrage of
    insults? Would that be you SD?

    Interesting how Scoob,you are the one who starts with the insults,
    sarcastic remarks,an arrogant instead of a humble tone, every time.

    Interesting how no one during the 80’s sought to ban neon wear
    for fear of germs.Notice one and all how Scoob twisted the entire
    discussion to get away from and distract from the point that discredits
    his entire way of thinking.

    He doesn’t want or need proof of anything. Life is the “oppressed
    vs the oppressors” and equality is the pursuit and fight for a just
    cause until all are free…..with NO AUTHORITY to tell them what
    to do anymore, especially God’s.

    Too far to the right am I still? I told you the doctrine of “equality”
    is the evil that is destroying America. It’s a disguise to rob you
    of all rights in the name of “good”.


    You’d be amazed of how much God’s grace insurance policy over
    this planet keeps you from a never ending 24/7 onslaught of
    all kinds of things that can happen to you.

    Get over it says Meyer……uh, it’s the libs who never get over it.
    Always another protest. Always another chance to chip away
    at God’s principles or commands and twist them to be the real
    evil that oppresses mankind. No heaven or hell Inequality
    at the end of all this. NO. All are equal. It’s too humiliating
    to accept even the slightest hint of inequalIty it burns your
    pride and ego through and through…..
    and isn’t that just too bad.

  36. There exists in the human heart a depraved taste for equality,
    which impels the weak to attempt to lower the powerful to their
    own level and reduces men to prefer equality in slavery to
    inequality with freedom- Tocqueville.

    Not an opinion. Brutal FACT. Or else the arguing and debating
    of equality vs inequality wouldn’t exist in mankind.
    Nothing new. Its the story of human history itself.

  37. Scrappy Dubious | May 12, 2011 at 1:38 am |


    Wow. Henry is just irascible…
    but YOU are batshit crazy.

    In the fantasy world of Jinx, “Lord of the Flies” is paradise. (As long as he isn’t Piggy.)

    Even delusional Ayn Rand accepted social security and medicare on the sly in her old age. She used her husband’s name O’Connor to disguise her hypocrisy, of course. That way she could continue to condemn others.

    With any luck, in 2014 healthcare will kick in and Jinx can get those medications that he so desperately needs. Maybe he’ll use a fake name too.

  38. Scrappy Dubious | May 12, 2011 at 1:45 am |


    “demand”? A simple question that went unanswered is suddenly a “demand”?

    Yes, I too have access to Wikipedia. And nowhere in that brief bio did it list her psychology credentials. It did say that “Pearl Binder could well have been the first heavily pregnant woman to appear on television.” So that in itself I’m sure is enough to put her wacko theories of emasculated men muting their wardrobes in response to feminism in the league of other such non-credentialed notable media authorities as Dr. Phil.

  39. Pearl Binder is a fashion historian.
    If I may let me quote one of Christians early pieces “In her exhaustive study of male splendor through the ages, “The Peacock’s Tail,” historian Pearl Binder argues that the decline of masculine panache in the mid-19th century derives from the Industrial Revolution and the change from an agrarian and aristocratic economy to an industrial and democratic one. This change had a detrimental effect on the masculine ego, both for the factory worker who spent his day in a large bureaucratic organization monitoring machines, to his social better shuffling paperwork in the manager’s office. Both eschewed their Regency forefathers’ colorful elegance for a drab Victorian garb of black and gray, the colors of the modern city, which prompted George Bernard Shaw to dub the 1800s as “a century in mourning.”

    The second blow to the masculine ego came two generations later, with the first wave of the women’s movement. Later, by the 1970s, women had achieved a radical change in their social status, one that would alter the entire relationship between the sexes. These two forces, Binder argues, are why men dress the pathetic way they do today: man has liberated his women and invented machines to do his work for him.”

  40. is it just my observation, or do the posts about neckties bring out some of the most insightful, interesting and ignorant comments?

  41. @Scrap

    The validity of an argument is not determined by looking to the ‘credentials’ of the argument’s advocate. The argument must be evaluated on its own merits, or lack thereof. It’s a shame this obvious point has to be explained to you.

  42. Christian | May 12, 2011 at 8:33 am |

    I dropped it because there was such open hostility on Scrappy’s part it wasn’t fun. How someone so quick to criticize what he perceives (sometimes rightly so) as the close-mindedness of others could be so close-minded himself was certainly ironic.

    The rush to judgment about the contents of a 500-page book reminded me of the kind of people who want to ban books — books they haven’t read, of course, because they “don’t need to.”

    As credentials, I was simply going to offer “she wrote a book that Boyer and I both like.”

  43. I would add that it is a work that has been referenced frequently by mens fashion writers over the past fifty years. One can debate the merits of any idea but I am a little taken a back, but should not be that no homage is paid to past efforts. Binder, Boyer, Flusser, Merkin, Frazier, Bebee, O’Hara
    etc. are routinely disparaged or forgotten..

    On the subjct of tie entomology, I have seen a mid 90’s catalog that list the grasshopper tie but the design is the same as the current cricket.

    I have been enjoying Mr. Press’s stories and I hope he continues contributing.

  44. Richard Meyer | May 14, 2011 at 12:18 pm |

    Christian: While I agree re: Scooby, how about Jinx’s comments? Anyhow, the political vitriol in these posts should just be eliminated. A little sociology goes a long way. Incidentally, those who hide behind psuedonyms should not throw stones.

  45. Me: Analysis of deeper socio-political trends that find their expression in perhaps unexpected sartorial ways.

    SD: Gratuitous insults.

    Thanks for bringing the conversation down to your level! Then again,what should we expect from someone with a moniker like yours?

    Yes, liberalism abhors inequality, and since those who are less gifted in whatever cannot be brought up to higher levels, the only “solution” is to bring everyone down to the basest level. The traditional understanding is not, as you accuse, to “adore” inequality, but to accept it as part of the natural order.

    Such an understanding is not, in any way, inconsistent with the maintenance of high standards or the desire to better oneself or the desire for high achievement. It does acknowledge, however, that people differ.

  46. To Richard,

    What NASCAR fans have to do with the topic at hand, you’ll have to tell me. Is it that they’re conservatives yet dress like slobs? Perhaps you haven’t noticed, but ever since the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s, our society has veered to the left and remains on that destructive course. The counter-culturalists have been fighting against our standards and traditions, and sadly, they have won. Ours is a thoroughly liberal culture, and the political center keeps moving leftward. This has gone so far that even most current “conservatives” would be considered liberal if judged by older standards.

    And why do you bring up race? Is this a covert accusation of racism? Why don’t you man up and call me a racist if that’s what you want to say?

    But here’s the kicker. Richard wrote, “Get over it.”

    This is akin to saying, don’t care about what you care about. Sorry, but the world doesn’t work that way.

    I’m fighting an uphill battle against the destruction of our culture, and you say “Get over it.”

    What wisdom! I’m certain that your sage counsel is sought far and wide.

    Finally, I hate to disappoint you, but clothing is political.

    P.S.: I agree with you on the vitriol. Perhaps you can convince SD to stop throwing it–I know I can’t.

  47. … so why don’t they just secure their ties with a bar/tack and button their lab coats? Problem solved.

  48. Pale Male | July 13, 2013 at 9:28 pm |

    I’ve heard of Pearl Binder, but now I simply must find a copy of her book. Thanks for mentioning.

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