Greetings gentlemen, and I hope your little corner of Tradsville — even if it’s only in the mind — is opening up. There’s been a big uptick in activity here in the tourist town of Newport as businesses are released from lockdown and people take to walking the streets in t-shirts and flip-flops alternating between licks of ice cream and staring vacantly into their phones.
My wet suit arrived today and I’ll be picking out a surfboard this weekend. I haven’t surfed for over 12 years or so, since I was in Los Angeles. And since the virus has me singing that Clash song “Should I Stay Or Should I Go?” I plan to “ride” out the virus here at the beach all summer, surfing the Kali Yuga, as the saying goes. Perhaps never again will I spend a summer living 5 minutes from the beach.
We live in an age of conflicting information, and you may recall that before the virus struck we were reporting on a nascent Ivy Trendwatch. There’s still buzz along those lines, but there’s also the opposite, such as this recent Financial Times piece “J. Crew, Brooks Brothers, and the decline of American prep,” which alas you’ll need a login to read.
Also from the FT, though not paywalled, is “Top of the class: Ivy League style” by Simon Crompton, who organized the Ivy symposium in New York last year. He writes:
The modern revival of Ivy style – in London, at least – is in large part thanks to Drake’s, which has been peppering its collections with corduroy and rugby shirts for the past few seasons. “I love the way Ivy allows men to wear more colour and pattern,” says creative director Michael Hill. “There are all these traditional pieces that a man would usually shy away from – Madras checks, seersucker – but because they have heritage, it gives them confidence to wear it.”
The image above is from Scott Fraser, a fashion designer offering “retrospective modernism.”
Next up, though this is from a year ago, Vice offers “On the enduring bland appeal of Brooks Brothers — and the freaks who love it.” Is this you?
Tom Yarbrough is a white Nashville businessman with a salt-and-pepper beard and the disposition of someone who would, similarly, happen into a lot of Brooks Brothers. And he does. He has more than 100 Brooks Brothers shirts, in fact, in every color and stripe and plaid imaginable, though he often defaults to blue. They hang and lay around his home, “stacks of ’em,” he says, proudly displayed on the Instagram he dedicates to them, @glengarrysportingclub. And he bought all those shirts on purpose.
Brooks Brothers shirts are not particularly collectible. For the most part, the company’s wares are decidedly nondescript and mass-produced. Further, there isn’t a huge difference between the preppy shirts that Brooks makes and the ones produced by its numerous competitors: oxford cloth, button-down collars (O-C, B-D), business-casual vibes. But in that mundanity, Yarbrough found something compelling enough to keep him coming back, over and over and over. ”There’s a power that maybe an article of clothing shouldn’t have,” he told me.
Occasional Ivy Style contributor Eric Twardzik has written a piece for Inside Hook on a possible return of menswear blogs to their glory days of a decade ago. It includes quotes from Michael Williams, FE Castleberry, Derek Guy, and myself:
Christian Chensvold of Ivy-Style (where the author is a contributor) also sees a link between personal projects and burnout. “Nearly all were done by amateur hobbyists … often with a narrow focus, they quickly exhausted their subject matter. Eventually they succumbed to writer’s block or had simply said all they have to say.”
On the question of whether menswear blogs could return to prominence, Castleberry responds “History would indicate probably not,” citing changes in technology.
“Blogs, much less menswear blogs, are likely not going to reprise their roles in housing the exchange and expression of cultural ideas,” he continues. “Prior to 2010, most content was consumed on a desktop or laptop computer. In 2013, the smartphone reached critical mass. The Internet moved to our palm. Twitter assumed the written thought. Instagram assumed the still image. Most websites weren’t formatted for mobile and wouldn’t be for some years. Longform content is not an enjoyable experience on a 6″ screen. Today, the new long formblog is the podcast … a medium right at home on the iPhone.”
Guy, too, believes that the audience have moved on from the medium. “I hope there’s a resurgence in longform blogs, but I’m not optimistic,” he says. “I also think for menswear blogging, you need both a resurgence in longform blogging and an interest in menswear. There isn’t a new crop of people coming into men’s style like there was 10 to 15 years ago.”