Library Chic

It’s not often that J. Press snags a mention in the New York Times, especially in a fashion context. But it did recently when the gentleman above was profiled and said he had just been shopping at Squeeze. It was part of a piece on stylish personae spied at the antiquarian book fair held at the stately Park Avenue Armory. The exchange with the Churchillian Mr. Crichton (of Brick Row Book Shop in San Francisco) goes like this:

How do you dress for something like this?

Casually. Comfortably. You’re here for a long time.

But you’re still in a jacket and bow tie.

Bow ties are comfortable.

Your bow tie is cute.

Thank you. This came from a store in San Francisco called the Hound.

Are you loyal to a particular brand of oxford shirt?

I just bought this yesterday from J. Press here in New York.

I’d call your look library chic. Is that fair?

Yeah, I like that.

I just happen to have been at the fair. I was doing my chess tutoring with kids and one of the other volunteers mentioned the fair. I think it was in the context of what I was dressed up for and doing afterwards. I was so fully dressed, in his mind, I even had on “a vest.” In fact it was a v-neck sweater, which, paired with the usual suspects — tweed, flannels, oxford, knit/rep/club — and I thought it futile to explain that the sweater actually dressed me down rather than up.

Anyway, I had no particular plans in town, and remembered his mentioning of the fair when I came up from underground. I popped in and it was quite the scene, apparently the most prominent of its kind in the world. Countless thousands of exquisite volumes going back through the centuries. Who in the world drops $200,000 for some obscure work on science? It’s not like it’s Newton’s notebook.

As I strolled the aisles a dealer stopped me. Yes indeed, I confessed, I’m the editor of Ivy Style. He said he was a loyal reader and immediately asked me for advice. No, not the kind whose answer is “integrate your shadow,” but a clothing matter I’d never encountered before. Seems his shirts are custom, and his jackets have had the sleeves altered to show precisely 1/4 inch of cuff. However, his shirt sleeves keep riding up, driving him almost to the brink of madness. What was the point of paying for custom shirts if they don’t even work properly? He had resorted to wearing rubber bands on his arms in an attempt to keep them in place, but the trick offered only modest improvement and he fidgeted with his shirt cuffs compulsively.

All I could suggest was that a quarter of an inch doesn’t offer much leeway as soon as one ceases to stand at attention and starts actually going about the business of living, and that perhaps the ’80s-era Brooks tweed he was wearing had low armholes that were tugging on the shirt from up in that region. We ended up having a nice long chat and he told me all about the marketplace for costly old books. Apparently in this age of digital millionaires there’s still interest in obscure old tomes.

As for the sleeve issue, perhaps he needs to integrate his shadow after all. Perhaps underneath that perfectionist persona (I’ve got some of that, too), is a dying-to-get-out part that just doesn’t give a damn. — CC

25 Comments on "Library Chic"

  1. Mitchell S. | April 2, 2018 at 12:34 pm |

    The smartwatch diminishes the effect. Kind of like Mr. Davidson and his Casio.

    By the way, Christian, I went out and bought a Swatch Silverall (with a metal expansion bracelet) after reading your piece on Swatch. It is a cool Swatch but it doesn’t look like something a thirteen year old girl named Cindy would wear.

  2. I knew someone would be influenced (though to clarify it wasn’t my piece).

  3. The Apple Watch does not bother me. He is one with his inner “just not giving a damn.”

  4. No problem with the smartwatch, the man is no cosplayer after all. Reducing classic style to made up rules and items from “the days” is quite silly.

  5. Sounds like the dealer needs to go old school and find some sleeve garters. I believe they were used when sleeves were done in one length. As they are worn higher on the arm, upper arm around the biceps, in which case I imagine the arm bending, which probably causes more of the sleeve creep, gets counteracted by the bicep contracting and the garter tightening….theorizing anyway.

  6. EVAN EVERHART | April 2, 2018 at 4:05 pm |

    Mr. Chrichton’s watch, while nothing that I would wear (I always wear a mechanical watch – when I wear a watch), is tastefully discrete. It also brings to mind Higgins, from Magnum, P.I., with his digital watch continually clashing with his decidedly traditional British togs, except of course when he would wear his pocket watch and Albert chain.

  7. whiskeydent | April 2, 2018 at 5:54 pm |

    My shirt sleeves are always riding up, especially with the tighter modern cuts. I fix it by pressing the cuff to the inside of my wrist and shrugging/pulling a bit. I sometimes use this maneuver when I lift my arm up as well. Either way, the fix lasts a long time, perhaps as much as 20 minutes.

  8. EVAN EVERHART | April 2, 2018 at 6:26 pm |

    I’ve just taken to sizing up on my sleeve lengths in BB shirts; I now wear a 16×34, in the new shirts, whereas my old ones were a 16×33, (or 15.5 or 15×33….when I was a slimmer man – lol!). Has anyone else noticed that the sleeve lengths seem to feel shorter on these newer ones? Also, the arm holes are bigger.

  9. I like to flip up the collar of my coat and push the sleeves of the coat up toward my elbows. Wait, that should be in the post about nothing.



  10. NaturalShoulder | April 2, 2018 at 8:47 pm |

    I have gone up a size or half size in sleeve length to prevent the problem the dealer experienced. Shirts usually shrink just a tad and as long as cuff is not too wide, problem should be solved.

  11. whiskeydent | April 2, 2018 at 10:39 pm |

    I have been on a long quest to find the Holy Sleeve that would never look too short or too long. To no avail, I’ve gotten past the Bridge Keeper, the Knights Who Say Ni, the Black Knight, and a Frenchman who said he farted in my general direction. I’m told a vicious rabbit awaits me.

  12. I wear my shirts a bit long in the sleeve, to keep them from riding up when I reach for something, and have the cuffs snug enough to keep them from covering the hand.

    Mr. Crichton’s suit looks like it might be moleskin: any info on that?

  13. Yes, The Hound. I recommend a visit if ever in the city of San Francisco. Financial district.

  14. Vern Trotter | April 3, 2018 at 2:33 am |

    Shirt cuffs can be annoying. I have noticed a habit of Prince Charles and the late Duke of Windsor to fidget with their cuffs constantly. Well made shirts though should not do this. They do shrink, especially with NYC laundrys, when laundered many times. Always the common chance that your dominant arm is slightly longer than the other.

  15. The Hound is just a few doors up the street from Cable Car Clothiers. I hear it — The Hound — is in its last year of operation (due to owner’s planned retirement I would imagine).

  16. Charlottesville | April 3, 2018 at 12:34 pm |

    I too try to show a bit of sleeve cuff under a jacket, and it generally takes some tugging during to course of a day to keep 1/4 to 1/2 inch peeking out. It is an age-old problem, and the discrete sleeve tug is so universal that it has a name: “shooting one’s cuffs.” It comes up in P.G. Wodehouse as well as the James Bond films, and is, I think, just part of the rigmarole of trying to look one’s best. If done without too much of a production, it can even look somewhat elegantly nonchalant.

    On a related topic mentioned in some of the comments above, I wish that I could figure out in advance how much a particular shirt will shrink. For years I bought most of my clothing from Brooks. I still have some shirts I bought in the early 90s which fit perfectly, and yet a number of newer ones, including some from their custom shop, have shrunk a full inch in the neck and a similar amount in length. Others among my newer BB shirts, however, refuse to shrink no matter how many times I have sent them to the laundry. It seems to be random and affects regular and pinpoint oxford as well as broadcloth. I have had to give away perhaps two dozen otherwise perfectly good shirts over the past couple of years for this reason. So far I have not had that experience with the shirt I bought form Ratio or the newly revised BB pocket-less OCBD. What have people found who use Mercer?

  17. Vern Trotter | April 3, 2018 at 12:40 pm |


    Yes, “Shooting one’s cuffs.” I had forgotten that phrase. Good work.

  18. Vern Trotter | April 3, 2018 at 12:53 pm |

    I have not experienced any shrinkage at all with the wonderful Mercer shirts. I am now retired and no longer wear a necktie daily so they are not cast to the laundry as often. My suspicion is the Press shirts mentioned here are no longer that well made.

    I see no reason to wear anything but Mercer.

  19. @ Vern: I don’t believe Christian’s exchange was with Mr. Crichton. Press shirts are made with allowance for shrinkage.

  20. Vern, it isn’t fidgeting with his cuff that gets me with Charles as much as continually shoving his hand into his jacket pocket. In and out it goes, doing little good to the pocket, but as mentioned in a recent post, he’s not averse to a repair here and there.

  21. I imagine that this is an issue germane to barrel cuffs. I wonder if the added weight of French cuffs help keep them in place. I don’t typically wear them, but all my French cuff shirts fit well in the arm even though they are shorter than my barrel cuff shirts.

  22. Henry Contestwinner | April 3, 2018 at 5:18 pm |

    I can’t say anything about Mercer, but I need to order my Michael Spencer shirt sleeves 1/4″ longer than I did.

  23. Might it be that his cuffs are cut too tight?
    The laws of physics dictate that the sleeve and cuff rides up during motion, but should return to their resting place 1/4 inch from the cuff. If they are cut too tight for his arms/wrists however, the result could be that they tend to stay „up“?

  24. Charlottesville | April 4, 2018 at 2:10 pm |

    Anon — In my experience, the opposite seems to be true. The custom shirts that were made for me by Brooks have a significantly smaller cuff opening than those I get off the shelf, and the tighter cuffs tend to stay in place even if my coat sleeves ride up when reaching or stretching. The looser shirt cuffs sometimes seem to stick up in the coat sleeves and need to be “shot,” nonchalantly of course.

  25. Cuff Shooter | July 11, 2018 at 10:03 pm |

    When New Jersey gangsters aren’t shooting each other, they’re shooting their cuffs.

    My non-dominant arm is longer and my dominant hand is slimmer, which causes jacket sleeves to fit too high on one side and shirt sleeves to ride too low on the other. I have been able to mitigate this with shirt garters, but I too, too often shoot my sleeves.

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