Happy Hanukkah From Ivy Style

On this, the first day of Hanukkah, Ivy-Style.com sends glad tidings to the unsung heroes of the Ivy League Look: the many Jewish clothiers that catered to the Protestant Establishment and taught generations of young men the virtues of a natural shoulder and how to dress like an American gentleman.

Despite the popular admonition “Dress British, think Yiddish,” these haberdashers helped put the America in our Anglo-American national style, and preppy dress is all the richer for their creativity and innovation.

Not to belabor the point, but save for Brooks Brothers, essentially every Ivy League clothier was Jewish. And so our holiday wishes go out to:

J. Press
Paul Stuart
Eddie Jacobs
Barrie’s Shoes
Arthur M. Rosenberg
Rosenthal & Moretz
Arthur Adler

And extra-special Hanukkah wishes to Ralph Lauren for keeping alive the taste for WASP style just as the tribe was beginning to crumble. — CHRISTIAN CHENSVOLD

40 Comments on "Happy Hanukkah From Ivy Style"

  1. A delightful tribute that shows the veteran J. Press salesman Herman Racow attending to a Yale undergraduate in the fitting room on York Street half a century ago.

    I plan to light my first Hanukkah candle tonight in honor of Christian, not necessarily the religion which I respect but do not follow, but Chensvold for his thoughtful tribute—–Richard

  2. Squeeze, can’t say that’s ever happened before (at least not to my knowledge).

  3. Nice touch CC.

    But it won’t make any difference to his imaginary agenda.

  4. G. Bruce Boyer | December 20, 2011 at 2:08 pm |

    A very nice tribute to RL and the shoulders on which he stands. A closer examination of this subject should be undertaken, much like Neal Gabler’s wonderful history of the Hollywood film industry, “An Empire of Their Own”.

    G. Bruce Boyer

  5. I think someone may be undertaking just such a project….

  6. I want that jacket!

  7. Bob's Not Yer Uncle | December 20, 2011 at 2:48 pm |


    Aye, Jimmy’s still pushing his failed paranoid “anti-semitic / racist” sock puppet smear campaign over there. Beyond sad when you’re so desperate for attention that you’ve got to invent imaginary enemies to argue with. Freud would also have a field day when you consider that his alter-ego is essentially insulting himself!

  8. I am surprised how many of these are New Haven names. We shopped with loyalty at over half of these stores/companies.

  9. I sure would like to see someone with knowledge of Gant & Sero write an article about them and their inter-relationship. Gant was the subject of a Harvard Business School class problem but I have been unable to obtain a copy of it.

  10. @Bob

    I’m not an expert in the faith, but as a child I did attend Hebrew school once with my best friend. (Or was that a Holiday Inn Express?) Anyhow, I do believe that “teshuva”, or asking forgiveness for your wrongdoing to others, can be performed at any time, not just the High Holy Days.

    I know that Jimmy converted to Judaism at some point, but perhaps he was absent the day that was taught. I guess I shouldn’t hold my breath waiting….

  11. Happy Hanukkah,!!!

  12. Why so many Jewish clothiers in USA?
    I know that many were in business until 1890s at least.
    Were all from same country?
    Im very interested in US clothiers history.
    Happy Hanukkah also to Sy Devore…Yes,i know Sy was not Ivy oriented,but was the “rat pack” tailor..the other side of 50s-60s style.

  13. Yes, one of those ironies indeed.
    “Jews: Dressing WASPs since 1891”


  14. And let us not forget Sherwood Schwartz, without whom we wouldn’t have the nattily attired Thurston Howell, III.

  15. Very thoughtful tribute Christian, thanks.

  16. This is offensive. The appreciative text does not excuse the derogatory tone of the photo caption.

  17. @Anonymous

    I was under the impression correlated to the holiday.

    You see what you want to see, I guess.
    If you’re looking for something to get offended about you will nearly always find it…or create it.

  18. OK, how about this one? “Blacks: Performing Domestic Work for White People Since 1700” with a photo of an African American woman making a bed? Think anyone might be offended?

  19. @Anonymous

    Yes, “how about that one”?

    Your ridiculous comparison is far more offensive. But that’s obviously your agenda. Sorry sparky, I’m not going for your amateur bait.

  20. Trolls: Providing Consternation on the World Wide Web since 1993.

  21. MeMyselfAndI | December 22, 2011 at 8:43 am |

    I dont think there was any malice intended and the message is a good one, but I have to say I found the caption in poor taste.

  22. I took that risk.

    “Teaching WASPs How To Dress Like Gentlemen” would have been less open to negative interpretation, but it took up too much room and wasn’t quite as snappy.

    In the photo, the young man looks sort of clueless while the salesman looks like he knows his style. So you either interpret “dressing” as being style arbiters, or as being subservient, depending on your point of view on these matters.

    I suppose if half the people think it’s spot on and funny and the other half find it offensive then it’s probably par for the course.

  23. …and so they should.

  24. My “agenda” was simply to point out something that offended me. I’m not sure how you were able to infer anything beyond that. As it happens, I was a regular patron of the York St. store during my post-doc years and I think that caption does a disservice to the gentlemen who worked there. Plus, my wife is Jewish and was horrified by the caption. It’s a good blog and the author seems a good guy but this was a misstep, in my view. So now you know my agenda. Cheers.

  25. Happy Hanukkah to all! I knew that “Dressing WASPs…” would cause a big stir. As far as being horrified, I think there’s alot more in this world to be horrified about than that comment.

    Terrorists, wars, murders, crime, violence, Wall Street, etc. These are things I’m horrified at.

  26. read the blog a few times and you know exactly where CC was coming from with this-as a regular reader and a Jewish dude I know this was meant as a sincere tribute, and I took it as such

  27. An accurate article and only a complete dolt would find it “offensive.” I guess with political correctness still rampant the truth — no matter how innocuous — still whips the unfortunate liberal mind around the bend. Sad. Also, many other Jewish retailers clothed Gentiles in other parts of America — Harvey Ltd in St. Louis, and Leslie in Houston for example.

  28. To those of the thin-skinned mentality who always seek to find the negative in anything, this was obviously meant as a compliment, nothing more. Please get a life and find something of importance to worry about!

  29. @Jim

    Ha! Good luck with that….

  30. I am as paranoid as any other sensible Jew and I thought the caption funny and not even remotely denigrating.

    In fact, Jews have been a major force in fashon, style, clothing, image etc for a long time. That’s a fact.

    Here’s my story.  I am in in the RL flagship store on Madison shortly after it opened (and I think it was on Madison) and I am with a friend who is as WASP Main Line as you can get. Her reaction to the environment was bemusement — how obviously “blooded”  (yes that was her word) WASP customers were falling all over themselves with fashion designed by a Jew to explain to them how to carry off their own super-WASP look.

    So in a way you could interpret some pathos in Christian’s post —  WASP clothiers needed Jews (outsiders) to articulate the contours of their own insular WASP world. Jews could see it with crystaline clarity.

    Now I don’t want to get all too psycho-babbly. So in any case, this post was perfectly non-offensive and witty. And you can’t more than that: witty but doesn’t offend. 

  31. Well, I once had an older non practicing Jewish woman (my friend) tell me that a Jewish man was putting up a Christmas tree in his store … He sold Burberry and Robert Talbot menswear. It works both ways.

  32. You forgot to add Land’s End to your list.

  33. An excellent article and a timely tribute to those unsung heroes who kept the Ivy League Style and the American sense of dress alive. Thanks to these gentlemen a legacy of good taste has been left for the whole world to enjoy and appreciate.


  34. I worked my way through High School at a very “waspy” Southwick shop called “Howard A. Heller”, Howard’s father ran a very successful savage yard and he always claimed he went from ” rags to rags”

  35. Horward A Heller was a fantastic shop. I worked there during college and the soft shoulder look was fantastic.

  36. And I always thought that BB was actually Baruch Brothers!

  37. Bob Halperin and Dick Stearns, co-founders of Lands’ End were indeed Jewish, but I don’t know about Gary Comer.

  38. Kyle McKenna | February 27, 2015 at 2:43 am |

    Back in the day, I always favored Paul Stuart despite its reliably sky-high prices. Never thought much about the ethnicity of its owners but I found the staff more friendly and approachable than those of J. Press right around the corner. But would Paul Stuart Ostrovsky have the same ring to it? Who knows?

  39. I stopped going to Paul Stuart about 30 years ago. I was going to buy a pair of grey flannel trousers, but the tailor was insistent upon his intention to make the seat and crotch tighter than I was willing to tolerate.

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