After a mild start to the year with many sunny days for golf and tennis, a fresh batch of cold weather has hit Ivy Style’s New York headquarters, and so despite being an hour behind following a sneak-attack by Daylight Savings Time, I find myself sitting down to gather my thoughts on a topic I’ve wanted to write about all season.
I miss Rugby.
As in the Ralph Lauren brand that existed from 2004 to 2013. Rugby started to take off in August 2008 when it added e-commerce to its website. This was right when I was preparing to launch Ivy Style, so there was a sense of being part of a neo-prep zeitgeist, or what we came to call here the Ivy Trendwatch. I also ended up writing several pieces for Rugby’s blog.
But what I really miss about Rugby is the styling: the fantasy narrative settings like Polo did for so long, and the crazy go-to-hell outfits. Rugby’s absence has left an inspiration and eye-candy void that hasn’t been filled by Red Fleece and Polo, which is still largely in “downtown” mode. Sure many of the outfits were affected to the point of absurdity, but we’re talking about fashion marketing images here, which shouldn’t be taken as literal guides on how to dress. Yet Rugby’s overall spirit was great for this prep-collegiate genre of clothing we all love. Rugby’s stylists flew the go-to-hell patchwork flag with gusto, and if the models often looked overly serious, the spirit of the clothing was anything but.
Yes it’s a worthwhile endeavor to learn how to dress well, to learn time-tested rules and display one’s mastery of things like jacket fit and tastefully chosen neckties, but clothes should also be fun.
Fun with clothes often comes from juxtaposition of high and low, or dressy and casual. Ivy and prep were codified years ago by prep schoolers and college men possessed with the mischievousness of youth, who had wardrobes containting items for every occasion, and they knew how to have fun by mixing things up. The photo we recently ran of JFK tossing a football wearing grey flannels, cashmere sweater and Converse All-Stars is just this sort of fun I’m talking about.
Or take this passage from Geoffrey Wolff’s “The Final Club”:
Booth’s houndstooth, cut for his father on Savile Row by Huntsman during the Battle of Britain, was pinched at the waist; the boy rescued his presentation from foppery with a black knit tie and faded blue canvas Top-Sider sneakers, spattered by specks of bronze boat-bottom paint.
Fun is wearing a pink buttondown with black tie. Or a jacket and tie but no socks. Or crested slippers to a presidential speech before Congress. Or a Brooks Brothers “fun” shirt. Your social standing and self-confidence are so secure, you can do things that are purposefully “wrong.” Rugby was a big, fashion-industry reminder of this defining attitude of the WASPy approach to dressing.
At Rugby, fun consisted of juxtapositions such as polo coat worn with a ball cap, sweatpants and camp moccasins. Or Chesterfield coat over gray sweatshirt, white athletic socks and loafers. Kind of a fashion version of what old guys on the Upper East Side do when they step out to grab a bagel and the New York Times on a Sunday morning.
Rugby was aimed at a younger customer and its more over-the-top outfits were easy for older trads to mock, but now that it’s gone I think we can safely admit we kind of miss it. And Rugby’s approach to building an outfit can serve as inspiration for all of us to have a little more fun with our clothes, even if it’s just a pair of crazy pants to wear on the golf course or yellow socks to wear with grey flannels and tassel loafers. I think I’ll try taking the Rugby approach for a while when I get dressed each day. Less calculated correctness and more spontaneous fun.
So here’s a sampling of images from the late, great Rugby brand. The outfits may not be coherent or logical, but that’s precisely the point. — CHRISTIAN CHENSVOLD