The PITA tree — that’s preppy-Ivy-trad-Americana (haven’t used that in a while) — is a century old. Its roots are deep, and now matter how hard the fickle winds of fashion blow, the tree stands strong.
Without belaboring the metaphor, the PITA tree’s branches bend and twist with each new generation, and future historians of preppy will surely be obliged to devote part of the story to the intersection of Southern prep brands and e-commerce that rose to prominence in the second decade of the 21st century. For while the elements of prep were codified primarily in the Northeast, today arguably no region in the US flies the trad flag quite as much as the South.
Country Club Prep has combined a savvy business model with an eye for the rise of Southern prep brands. Foudning entrepreneurs Matt Watson and Stephen Glasgow met at the law school at the University of Virginia, whose style heritage, especially compared to Princeton, is underrated, according to Charlie Davidson. CCP just celebrated its third anniversary, and in that short amount of time has already opened two bricks-and-mortar stores, in Charlottesville, VA and Lexington, KY.
Many of the brands the retailer carries are Southern, and many manufacture in the US. They consist of other recently founded and entrepreurial brands inspired by traditional style, including Castaway Clothing, Kiel James Patrick, High Cotton, Collared Greens, Bird Dog Bay, Southern Proper, Smathers & Branson, and Crittenden. This interactive map shows you from where all the brands hail.
Below are pics of both the Charlottesville and Lexington stores. There’ll be more to come, incidentally: with sixfold growth in each of its years in business, CCP plans to open another 10 stores in the next few years. — CC
I get the common-roots meme but it’s hard to believe NE Ivy purists will have much to do with the southern school. The southerners feature too many bright, even shreiky colors, too much interbreeding with (aghhh!) golf wear and even worse, resort wear. Orange or purple pants, weejun tassels over no socks, Kiel James Whatever ditsy bracelets, polo shirts that look like sailing flags and too much goo in too much hair. Yeah, I suppose if you want to crack the Charleston elite prep circuit, but if you just want to look like the CIA director after a good day’s report on Operation Phoenix, the more modulated, darker tonalities of the NE palette are far more likely to please., even in the summer time. I’d drop in on this place and buy very carefully and I wish the owners the best, but it’s not really for me or my broody, tragic brothers.
Resort wear — worn by Northeasterners in places like Palm Beach, for example — played a big part in the creation of the Ivy League Look. It brought us the definitive Ivy shoe!
Yes, I believe Trad is most alive in the South. It is, arguably, the last remaining large population of WASPs in North America. Of course, our New England cousins will go on about how that term shouldn’t apply to us because we come from mixed Scotch-Irish heritage (which isn’t Irish at all, just Stottish and northern English). We forget the South was home to the second sons of English aristocracy, and while we do have a culture of NASCAR and hillbillies, we also are the home to such great men as Washington and Jefferson.
I say all of this not to belabor old arguments about ethnic terms which are really irrelevant in the 21st century, but to say this. We may do it differently, but we do it no less genuinely. If New England desires its own PITA Renaissance, it is welcome to it. But it never went out of style here.
I grew up in the NE and reside in the SE and travel back and forth. Along the coast, you see about the same attire from Palm Beach to Maine. I’m sorry, there isn’t a difference.
You cannot deny their success. They seem to really know their target audience and are making a killing selling what I would term “weekend wear” to college age kids. I will even admit to picking up a gift from there.
It will be interesting to see how they handle growth and change overtime.
If you compare college football game crowds in the South with those in the NE you are immediately struck by the difference. You will find Southern men wearing blazers, ties, OCBDs, Nantucket Reds and Weejuns. They are proud of their sodality. The girls are dressed up, some even wear heels hoping for male approval, as it should be. In the NE the students wear anything and many times do not even know who they are playing. You need to look at length to find an attractive girl, properly dressed.
These companies are not for me but they have my admiration for identifying a market need and acting on it. Good luck to them!
The colonies in New England (a name stolen from California, which Sir Francis Drake named “Nova Albion” in 1579) were settled by Roundheads.
The southern colonies (the ones named after kings and queens of England) were settled by Cavaliers.
The Cavaliers went on to win the English Civil War, but the Roundheads won the American Civil War.
Out of interest is Virginia classed a Southern state?
I will add that CCPrep’s audience is not worried about collar roll, the rise of pants, or sack jackets. This is a great thing for CCPrep’s sake.
Virginia is definitely a Southern state, but Northern Virginia (NoVa) has become something different – a North/South hybrid mega-city, attached to the Northeast corridor. The South probably begins around Richmond.
Just like Vineyard Vines, congrats to these boys for capitalizing on a trend – it’s the American way, and I hope they make a killing doing it. As for me, it’s all “a bit much”, as they used to say.
In the meantime, here is someone’s cheeky take on the n’est-plus-ultra southern/prep/frat “thing”
On the subject of D.C. and Northern Virginia…
JFK once famously said D.C. was a city of Southern efficiency and Northern hospitality.
Yes, Virginia is a southern state. It is named after Queen Elizabeth I and was settled by Cavaliers, not by witch burning regicidal maniacs who wore black clothing and didn’t approve of anyone having fun.
Virginia remained loyal during the English Civil War.
I was aware of who Virginia was named after , the Virgin Queen. Due to it’s location I wasn’t sure if it was considered North of South.
“The girls are dressed up, some even wear heels hoping for male approval, as it should be.” – too bad there is no signature line to save this gem on. Not many madern women seek male approval anymore.
You’ve seen or read “The Crucible” one too many times, Mr. Platt. The Puritans, whether in New England or elsewhere, were nowhere near as bad as pop culture makes them out to be. As for witches, there were far more witch trials and killing of alleged witches in Europe than ever happened in North America.
Virginia is still very much a part of the South, at least outside of a few counties around Washington (which we generally refer to as “occupied Virginia”), and the local collegiate crowd arguably dresses a bit better than what I see farther up the coast. While I wish the sartorial clock could spin back a few decades and I confess that I see more t-shirts, cargo shorts and hoodies than I would like, navy blazers, bow ties, OCBDs, khakis and penny loafers are still seen often enough on evenings and weekends to bring a smile to my lips. I for one will not criticize the collar roll on the shirt of some poor lad who is at least making an effort. And, like several posters above, I wish the CC Prep folks every success, even if my first visit to their shop a few months ago will also likely be my last.
I’m very interested.
Which was in XX century the southern equivalent style of Ivy League?
I know (but can be a stereotype) that the southern gentleman dressed a more European cut (darted,a bit of shape in waist,two buttons,also double breasted suits) in fabrics like palm beach,seersucker,linen or cotton for the summer.
I have heard of good tailors in the major cities of south until 1960s at least.
Is (or was) an southern equivalent of Brooks Brothers and J Press?
Same questions for the other southern gentlemen…..
I would not criticize the young fellow for trying either, but we should not forget about our duty to educate. If no one had taken the time to help me I would be a much sadder sight than I am today.
“Is (or was) an southern equivalent of Brooks Brothers and J Press?”
No equivalent to BB.
Possible J. Press equivalents: Perlis (New Orleans); Ben Silver (Charleston); Eljo’s (Charlottesville); Alexander Julian (Chapel Hill).
Are you kidding me about the tassel loafers and no socks? My grandfather has been doing that since before your father was even a thought. As far as the rest, yes the overly bright colors in the middle of winter are over the top, but in the summer, especially to a yacht club dinner dance or to the club in general wearing a nice set of nantucket red, green, blue or what have you trousers is completely fine, and has been going on for some time. Though the whole gold wear thing I’m on the same page. At least they dress better than the majority of their generation.
OCBD — Good reminder about the need to educate, and to the extent that I have a personal “in” with the younger generation, I do try to pass on “the knowledge,” but in general I let the poor chaps alone unless they ask. Still, I find that I get a few inquiries from men in their 20s and am glad to assist when I can. Others, thankfully, seem to inherit good clothes sense from their fathers by osmosis and, without being able to articulate why, exactly, will gravitate to Bill’s Khakis, Alden loafers and J. Press tweeds. I also agree with Taliesin, at least re the pre-1980 era Eljo’s in Charlottesville. I didn’t visit the others until the 1990s, and so am not familiar with their former glories. Eljo’s was a solid college-town men’s shop specializing in 3/2 sack suits and sport coats, repp ties, Shetland sweaters, OCBDs from (if I recall correctly) Gant, Sero and Gitman, and good traditional shoes. Much of it was sold under their own label and I have no idea who made most of the stuff, but it was of good quality. But Charlottesville was even smaller then than now, and could never have supported the breadth of fabric choices on offer at J. Press or Brooks. I note that Alvin-Dennis in Lexington, Virginia carried (and to some extent still carries) similar wares and there were no doubt dozens of other solid traditional shops throughout the South. Does anyone know what was available in larger southern cites, say, Atlanta or Nashville, in the Ivy heyday?
@Vern Trotter and @E
“The girls are dressed up, some even wear heels hoping for male approval, as it should be.”
Here’s an interesting story (not meant to agree or disagree with either of your comments). A few years ago, when I lived in DC, I once found myself engaged in conversation with a female finance professional from Latin America who worked at the Inter-American Development Bank. We began discussing the fashion choices of the DC set, and this young woman commented on the prevalence of working women who wore sneakers to the office, despite the fact that above the ankles, they were wearing professional outfits (dresses, skirts, etc.). She expressed surprise at this, and stated, “Why would anyone want to be seen in public dressed like that? In [my country, I forgot where she was from], women would never do that. In fact, in my hometown, the women make sure to wear heels in public. However, once they arrive to the office, THEN they change into sandals or slippers, because then there is no one around to impress.”
The Oxford Shop in Nashville would certainly qualify. It was started in 1961. Others may have been around, but it remains.
@ Austin, great story. I once heard the the French philosopher Helene Cixous say that the difference between a French feminist and an American feminist is that the French feminist wears high heels and lipstick, while the American wears flat shoes and no lipstick. Indeed, every time I saw her she was dressed impeccably and she wore heels and lipstick.
Reading some of these comments, it’s good to see good old American regionalism is still alive and kicking, y’all! And yes, we love our loud pants and bow-ties and the Carolina Cup down here in Dixie! And while I have been to the Charlottesville store of Country Club Prep, I do admit that the name makes my skin crawl a bit–it strikes me as a bit over the top. I prefer M.H. Frank in Clemson, and Fairclough and Sons in Charlotte–classic traditional men’s clothiers. Understated–but they still get me my orange and purple Clemson attire as needed for tailgating.
Lot of good trad shops in the South – some that lean more European but many, many good shops, lots of them in SEC/ACC college towns.
And of course, Virginia is a Southern state – plantation economy, secession, etc. Not defending, either, but it shared much in common with the Deep South.
@Charlottesville – maybe the Varsity Shop in Atlanta and certainly Richard’s in Mountain Brook (Birmingham).
I was told by the great gents at Bruce Baird in Chattanooga that Southwick-made darted three-button with double vents was the more usual cut sold in that part of the South. Not to my personal taste, but unquestionably well-dressed fellows. Excellent shop!
MRS: Virginia USED to be a southern state, travel anywhere north of Richmond, and your in the Yankee northeast corridor. I left because it no longer seemed to be a southern state.