Yesterday a reader named “IT” left the following comment:
The panic over “traditional clothing disappearing forever” because of the pandemic is starting to get on my nerves, honestly. Those who’ve always dressed poorly, still dress poorly, and those who’ve always dressed nicely, still dress nicely and can’t wait for social life to come back to normal, to finally start attending formal events.
I thought it would make an interesting contrast with the post planned for today, which points out two pieces in our great/once great newspapers suggesting that corona has killed clothing.
In the New York Times, a piece entitled “Sweatpants Forever” includes the following:
Band of Outsiders was Sternberg’s previous company. He founded it in 2004 as a line of slim shirts and ties. (Remember the skinny-tie boom? That was Sternberg.) Eventually it grew into full men’s and women’s collections that won over the fashion world with self-consciously preppy clothes.
For years, Sternberg had been saying that the fashion industry was a giant bubble heading toward collapse. Now the pandemic was just speeding up the inevitable. In fact, it had already begun. An incredible surplus of clothing was presently sitting in warehouses and in stores, some of which might never reopen. “That whole channel is dead,” Sternberg said. “And there’s no sign of when it’s turning on again.”
Along with brands like Thom Browne, Band joined the wave of the nerdy-preppy resurgence — shrunken blazers, polos, boat shoes — or what Sternberg called “preppy clothes about preppy clothes.” Once he expanded into women’s wear, the brand grew into a $15 million wholesale business, sold in 250 stores worldwide. “It wasn’t by the end all that good for us, obviously, because we weren’t building a sound business,” Sternberg said. “But it’s pretty incredible the power of what that global fashion system could do.”
It’s a lengthy read worth investigating for those interested in the workings of the rag trade. I think you’ll also conclude that traditional clothing is a related though different business.
Next up is the Washington Post, which argues “Summer of Covid Marks the End of Office Clothes.”
Now, thanks to this weird, extraordinary summer America is having, it’s finally happened: Office clothes are officially dead.
This mentality has dealt a crushing blow to the cadre of already-fragile mall retailers who make money dressing customers for their nine-to-five life. J. Crew, a bastion of business casual, was the first to succumb, filing for bankruptcy in May. J.C. Penney Co. went into bankruptcy soon after, pledging to close more than 150 stores and thus reducing access points for affordably priced professional wear. By July, things got downright ugly, with a steady succession of stumbles: storied men’s clothier Brooks Brothers filed for bankruptcy and said it would close about one-fifth of its stores. The corporate parent of women’s dress-wear seller New York & Co. filed for Chapter 11 protection days later, saying it may close all of its locations. The following week, the company behind Jos. A. Bank and Men’s Wearhouse announced plans to shutter 500 stores. Next fell Ascena Retail Group Inc., promising widespread store closures including a “select” number in its Ann Taylor chain. The pain continued in August, with Lord & Taylor filing for bankruptcy earlier this week.
We’re in the thick of preppy this summer, with a plethora of styles—in color, cut and spirit—looking to New England for inspiration. This new age of Ivy Style is a prime time to venture into the wide world of white shoes. And we don’t mean sneakers—real, proper shoes.
Or maybe not so astonishing. Recall that before the virus struck we’d been slowly eking out a series of Ivy Trendwatch posts, and keeping our eyes peeled on another nascent Ivy-prep trend. We all still have our eyes open, I suspect, to see what social role traditional clothing standards hold in the near future. If you have any interesting anecdotes drawn from daily life, please write them up and send them in.
Finally, remember this great quote from composer Gustav Mahler: “Tradition isn’t the worship of ashes but the preservation of fire.” Keep the torch aflame, boys. — CC