I have been enjoying this website immensely since I discovered it a few months ago, and it has really stirred up memories for me. I attended a small boarding school in rural Maine from 1955 to 1960, on account of being held back a year after a small incident with the headmaster’s daughter in my TR3, which I’d unwittingly parked…. well, that’s a story for another time. I’d be glad to regale you with my exploits in The Hole, throwing a baseball at the dented well of my room like Steve McQueen, listening to the happy cries of my classmates as they held the class outcasts from the dormitory windows by their ankles, but first things first: let’s talk about clothes.
When it came to clothing, there were three kinds of fellows on campus in those days. One type was exemplified by Rod “Up His Ass” Melton. This guy had pretty much turned his whole room into a closet. Blazers, suits, overcoats, and shirts hung from every possible ledge or hook to be found in the place. Walking into the room was like walking through a beaded curtain into the incense-scented harem of an Arabian sheik, if the beaded curtain was a Shetland tweed and a J. Press flannel blazer, the incense was mothballs, and the Arabian sheik was a pimply guy in Coke-bottle glasses who wanted to explain to you again why two buttons on the sleeve looked better than three. Rod had all the clothes we slobs wished we did: polo coats, Alden shoes, but he never wore a damn thing, just sat in his room gloating over it and fraying the collars of his oxford shirts by stroking them lovingly. When he died in a fire in 1958 — he’d borrowed someone’s TR3, and there was some kind of wiring issue, but that’s a story for another time — we divvied up his wardrobe for ourselves before his family made the trip up North. Turns out he was from Alabama and he’d replaced every maker’s label with a tiny Confederate battle flag. That’s commitment! Our seam rippers got a workout that day, I can tell you. Rod was a hoot, and the perfect example of a guy who cared so much about his clothes he forgot what he actually bought them for.
Another type of fellow found on the prep school campus of my youth was exemplified by the tall, dark and handsome form of Todd “Colonel” Kurtz. Todd was the ultimate ladies’ man, and everything he wore seemed like it had been sewn together right on his body. The guy played hockey in all three seasons, but he’d never lost a tooth. The Colonel got his nickname after one date with one of the girls from our sister school and regaled us with the tale of his adventures picking his teeth with a gold toothpick. Todd’s clothing was all Andover Shop, of course. On weekends, he’d drive down to Boston in the TR3, coming back with the luggage rack loaded with pristine shirts, beautiful silk and knit ties, flannel trousers, and English-cut jackets. Ol’ Colonel Kurtz was a prime example of making the clothes work for you. Ivy doesn’t have to be boxy and baggy: it can draw the dames like moths to a flame. Years later, I heard Todd went to to prison. Those were really the days.
I guess I’ll own up to being a pretty good representative of the third type of Ivy kid found wandering the hills and valleys of childhood on the old prep school campus. When I turned 14, my father gave me a brand new Triumph TR3 and a suitcase full of new clothes from Brooks Brothers. “Son,” he said, “I’m a Brooks Brothers man. Your grandfather was a Brooks Brothers man. Hell, even your mother is a Brooks Brothers man, and I’ll be damned if you won’t be, too. Now, drive up to school, and don’t come back until you’ve either been expelled or gotten into Harvard.” It didn’t matter that I’d never driven a car before, or that the suitcase full of Brooks clothes was purchased with 1959 me, rather than 1955 me in mind. I weaved my way up to Maine without too much incident, and I eventually grew into my wardrobe, though I never fulfilled my father’s dreams of being expelled from school or getting into Harvard.
My father, an attorney who’d grown up on the Main Line in Philadelphia, had bought me a navy blue wool blazer, a charcoal suit, five oxford shirts, a Shetland sweater, a pair of gray flannels, a pair of khakis, and a rep striped tie and a black silk knit. I walked around barefoot until I managed to grab a pair of Weejuns from Rod’s trash one day.
Those clothes wore like iron, and lasted me through college, with some additions and replacements. Today, I wear much the same, although I’ve gained a few inches on my waistline. Whether you’re a stick-in-the-ass like Rod, a swashbuckler like Kurtz, or just a kid trying not to crash on the highway up to school, Ivy clothes are the best ones in the world. Now, for that story about me and the headmaster’s daughter. — GEORGE T. SNOOTHOUND