Ivy Trendbotch: JC Penney Halts American Living Collection

The Ivy Trendwatch and prep-for-the-masses have been hit with a massive setback as JC Penney has finally pulled the plug on its disastrous budget-prep collection American Living, created in partnership with Ralph Lauren.

When the collection launched in 2008, I was living in Los Angeles and went to the department store to have a look. I think the typical customer demographic for Penney’s was bewildered by pastel sportswear emblazoned with anchors, patch-madras shorts, and pink oxfords. Let’s face it, preppy clothing, no matter how watered-down, will always have class connotations.

Meanwhile, parsimonious trads embraced the marked-down prices but found the bulbous logos obnoxious.

The collection could have found a following among poor college students looking for preppy basics on the cheap, but again the overly-logoed merchandise prevented that. What kid wants to sport the logo of a downmarket brand? Consumers love cheap (H&M, Uniqlo, Zara) but not cheap logos (Old Navy being the rare exception, perhaps because the words “old” and “navy” convey an illusion of distinction).

I’ll admit to owning a pair or two of American Living shorts to wear on the tennis court, but can’t seem to find them in my closet. I must have purged them when I got down to fighting weight.

Either that or they fell apart. β€” CHRISTIAN CHENSVOLD

23 Comments on "Ivy Trendbotch: JC Penney Halts American Living Collection"

  1. I am sad to see it go, but you hit the nail on the head with the overly logo’d look of nearly all of the polo shirts…..and the perfect target market. I purchased boatloads of the clearance priced stuff for my 19 year old fraternity boy son…but only the shorts, buttondowns and madras and seersucker short sleeved shirts that didn’t sport the gigantic eagle. It was a great product for my son at this stage where his clothes seem to disappear wherever he last slept.

  2. Michael Mattis | February 10, 2012 at 9:11 am |

    Made for him but worn by her, MotR? πŸ˜‰

  3. Skip Castaneda | February 10, 2012 at 11:36 am |

    I have the jacket you have featured on the post. I enjoyed AL too, but I also didnt care for the logo. I noticed over the last year or so they stopped putting the anchor logo over everything. I liked the eagle logo as long as it was small. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m gonna head over to Penneys and get first dibs on clearance items!

  4. I didn’t even know Penney’s had a Prep collection. Years ago, I remember going to the Penney clearance sales a couple times a year, always at the end of the sale, before stuff was wholesaled to Gabriels or other downscale retailer. It was a real blast buying khakis for $ 3, shirts for $ 2, and shoes for $ 5 or so. Really cheap prices and some real oddball stuff. I’d buy for my Dad and me. The Penney stuff never was top quality, in my opinion. Shirts and pants were always slimmer cut, and I remember their leather soles would have holes in no time.

    Since Dad is no longer here, I buy a lot less stuff. I wear my shirts and pants to death. Hence, I don’t shop at Penney’s like I used to. I donated so much new stuff to Goodwill, a lot being items bought at shark feeding frenzies like Penney’s clearances.

    Now I buy a couple shirts or pants when needed, at more quality oriented stores. At sale times, of course. Cheers!

  5. the passenger | February 10, 2012 at 2:17 pm |

    They backed of the logos quite a bit during the last couple of seasons. Last year they had a logo-free short-sleeve seersucker shirt in about eight or nine different colors, I picked up three of them for maybe $15 each. I have some other nice pieces I’ve picked up dirt cheap over the past few years, and they’ve held up just fine, so I’m sorry to see it go. When Penney began this recent shift in their pricing strategy, I had a feeling the merchandising would be next and feared for the AL line.

  6. Ellen Degenerate and now this! It’s a double wammy to the traditional establishment! Goodbye Penneys. Now let’s hope Sears doesn’t get rid of Lands End!

  7. American living was the main reason, I went to JC Penney.Then again JC Penney typical customers weren’t use to preppy clothing.Yellow shorts,pink seersucker shirts and kelly green polos are not normal for the typical man.I own a couple of AL shorts was pretty happy with the quality.And I agree with Bermuda hopefully Lands’Ends stays with Sears.

  8. I have run across several pieces from the American Living collection. They were overall nice; BUT, as you mentioned, the logo was way too obnoxious. I am proud to be from the U.S.; however, as with religion or politics, I refuse to wear it on sleeve (or pocket). Had it been way more understated, I might have considered. Not the case though. It was far more in your face than any Big Polo could have been. It was a noteworthy experiment.

  9. Yeah, that logo was a deal breaker.

  10. I thought the Eagle/Flag logo was a great way to show your patriotism! USA!

  11. Although the logo’s stuff was truly obnoxious, I will miss the “down market Ralph” accessories and madras pieces. From AL I have a few decent Trad ties, a Barbour-ish quilted jacket, and both patch madras shorts and a LS shirt…. no logos on either!

    JC Penny’s is in the initial stage of a whole scale restructuring of their business, so somethings had to go. Unfortunately, AL is one of the few reasons I visited JC in the Mall. I be I’m in the minority of their target customers, so I probably won’t hurt them a bit.

  12. That’s a little dissapointing, I enjoyed American Living, especially their holiday sweaters.

  13. Not typically a Penney’s shopper but I did buy one pair of the patch madras shorts. I am not a fan of any logos. In this case the logo didn’t show up against the madras. I wanted to like the shorts but the length and fit were not quite right. Next run to the clothing charity will probably include them.

  14. Does anyone know what price point was for the American Living madras plaid jacket at the top of this post?

  15. Did they bring back this label, as JC Penney seems to again have a full collection under the brand

  16. Ivy Dapper Gent | July 18, 2012 at 7:14 pm |

    I was actually quite surprised today when I decided to check out JC Penney’s to see what was going on with their American Living brand. The fact that it had disappeared left me bewildered, so when I returned home I searched for any clues as to why it had vanished. That is how I discovered this post. The logo was actually to my liking as it resembled a strong symbolic essence of the American Spirit. American Living became known to me through a few select well-respected style blogs, and many of my friends and associates would purchase American Living as a cost-effective alternative to higher priced clothing. None of us have ever had any problems with the logo or quality. Alas, now our pieces may very well one day become hidden gems of a collectible, under appreciated brand.

  17. As asked before, the price point for this blazer pictured was around $100 normally, and I got it directly from JCP for $50

  18. Dutch Uncle | January 6, 2013 at 12:28 pm |


    I assume by “price point” that you mean list price.

  19. I was happy to wait for a $275(!!) “Ralph Poorman” glen plaid sports jacket to come down to $40 at our store. similarly, I never paid retail for any of his other clothing, as I knew the traditional Penney’s shopper would never bite for $50 shirts or khaki pants and they’d be half off in no time. so I stocked up while I could on the non-logoed merchandise. But you can’t make money at markdown prices so it’s long gone. I’ll just have to content myself with Izod at Penney’s.

  20. Sarah Davenport | April 22, 2013 at 7:44 pm |

    I miss the American Living home items, particularly the bedding. Good stuff at decent prices. Sorry for what JCP has become.

  21. I am thoroughly upset with Pennys at this point. They have experimented with eliminating coupons & other sales tactics only to find they were wrong. They are wrong again in my opinion. American Living was an excellent quality brand with decent prices. I had bought several long sleeved tee shirts and have worn them over and over again. They are so very comfortable ( my favorites) and are easy to care for. Looks like I will be shopping on RL’s website for their sales.

  22. Louise S---July 11, 2013 | July 12, 2013 at 10:33 pm |

    I have an American Living tank top on right now (I bought 3 different beautiful colors). The 100% ribbed cotton has worn like steel and never had piling (tiny fuzzy balls). The sizing is fabulous-not too big under the arms, form fitting and not a very low scoop neckline. I am so disappointed that I will not be able to find this brand at JCP. It was a quality line that I appreciated. I am 67 years old. I’m far from being a “Preppie” but the tank tops were great. They have a small eagle and flag logo on the lower right side near the seam.

  23. Loved all American Living items…do not like Liz Claiborne at all….so sorry no longer available….

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