A Trad Among The Radicals

Sun 21 Sep 2014 - Filed under: 1990-present — Christian
Comments (42)


I spent a summer at Cal doing a French intensive. It’s the kind of crash-course where you walk in on the first day and don’t hear a word of English eight hours a day for the next 10 weeks (that’s right, they teach you French in French). By the end of the summer you can read a newspaper, or at least a children’s book, and for the rest of your life sound like a pretentious twit whenever you order a croissant.

I don’t remember exactly what I wore that summer some 20 years ago. It certainly wasn’t tie-dye and bellbottoms, but nor was it a bow tie and blazer.

Pictured above is Berkeley student Will Coleman, who, if he isn’t the president of the campus Republicans, must certainly be taken for it. But that didn’t stop the student paper from acknowledging him as one of the school’s best — and certainly unique — dressers. — CC

First To Arrive, Or Last To Leave?

Fri 19 Sep 2014 - Filed under: 1950s,Historic Images — Christian
Comments (32)


At a party you never want to be the first to arrive nor the last to leave, though someone inevitably must be. Dorm life (which is kind of like an endless party) is no different. This young chap is either an eager beaver at the start of the year, or a sentimental sap waxing contemplative after everyone else is long gone. From the Brown Alumni Magazine, 1953.

Chris Sharp found the photo. Maybe next he’ll find the guy and ask him whether he was coming or going. — CC


Post #1,000: The Ivy League Look Crossword Puzzle

Mon 15 Sep 2014 - Filed under: Clothes — Christian
Comments (40)


A few weeks short of our sixth anniversary, Ivy-Style.com has reached blog post number 1,000. For your brain-teasing entertainment, we have created a test to see how well you’ve been paying attention for the past 999 posts.

Click here for a larger file of the crossword above, drag it to your desktop, enlarge if needed, and send it to the printer. Then grab a pencil and a cup of coffee. Feel free to discuss in the comments section, but please no sharing of answers.

We had a lot of fun creating this. The clues, at least. The actual puzzle was generated by an inexpensive puzzlemaking website. Please excuse its haggard appearance.

We’ve also enjoyed informing and entertaining you for the past thousand posts and look forward to a thousand more. — CHRISTIAN CHENSVOLD & CHRISTOPHER SHARP

Update: Click here for the answers!


Sharpen Your Pencils

Sun 14 Sep 2014 - Filed under: Clothes — Christian
Comments (1)


 Sharpen your pencils. Or if you’re really bold, use a pen.

And get a good night’s sleep. Or pull an all-nighter reading the previous 999 blog posts.

You’ll also need access to a printer.

Post number 1,000 goes live Monday morning. — CC & CS


James Brown III: LIFE Magazine’s Face Of Ivy, 1954

Fri 12 Sep 2014 - Filed under: Personae — Christian
Comments (27)


The name James M. Brown III may not be familiar to you, but every trad web surfer knows his face, the face of an undergraduate of 60 years ago. Brown is pictured above in a shot from LIFE Magazine’s 1954 article “The Ivy Look Heads Across US,” which was much seen when the LIFE archives were put on the web several years ago.

James Brown may have been destined to be the poster boy for J. Press and the new collegiate look that would sweep America in 1954. He was born in New Rochelle, New York, and raised in Mamaroneck and Darien, Connecticut. Brown was in the Kent school class of 1952. While at Kent he played football and hockey and rowed crew. Brown was in the Yale Class of 1956, where he was a member of Fence and Haunt (America’s oldest drinking club). He majored in American Studies and minored in visiting the prominent girl’s schools.

Ivy Style caught up with Brown via his yacht club. The octogenarian, who still possesses a warm smile and bright eyes, was interested in revisiting the article again and graciously shared with us his memories of how he became the face of Ivy (in profile, at least).

It was the fall of 1954 when a simple errand put him on a collision course with Ivy style history. “J. Press, or J. Squeeze as we called it, was the New Haven substitute for Brooks Brothers,” says Brown. “Best I can remember was that I had walked in to check on tails they were making for me.” When Brown entered the shop he was initially unaware that LIFE was shooting the New Haven portion of the article. “Somebody asked if I would change and then come back for some pictures. My residential College, Davenport, was next to J. Press, so it was easy.”

The photographer was Nina Leen, a Russian-born, self-taught vagabond who emigrated from Germany in 1939. She became one of LIFE’s first female photographers with more than 50 covers to her credit.   Her photograph shows Brown being fitted for a sportcoat by a veteran J. Press salesman Herman Racow. This was a little bit of artistic license, Brown explains: “My salesman was George Feen, a short fellow, and you stuck with one salesman. George was the go-t0 guy for fixing parking tickets.”

Many Ivy devotees have mooned over the jacket he is wearing in the photo. “I don’t think I bought that jacket,” Brown recalls. “As I remember, they wanted to feature it and it fit.”

The tailcoat he’d commissioned was another matter. It saw plenty of action during the debutante season. “There were a lot of great coming-out parties with lots of alcohol, legal then,” he recalls. “I remember rolling down the hill of John Nicholas Brown’s daughter’s coming-out in those tails, to the breakfast tent at 2 AM. That house is now Harbour Court, the New York Yacht club station in Newport.”

Being featured in LIFE was a footnote in what has been a full life. After college, Brown served two years as an officer in the navy before heading to Wall Street. “The floor was very white shoe/old school tie while I was there. There were some incredibly unsharp members, sons of partners and guys who had the money to buy a seat. Going rate was $165K at the time. I have to admit, many of the clerks I worked with were sharper than I. Eventually firms got smart and bought seats for many clerks. They made great brokers.” Brown spent 11 years as a member of the New York Stock Exchange and a partner at Goodbody and Co. “It was a good life and I was lucky for the opportunity,” he says. “I hung in there until things got untenable.”

As far as hobbies go, Brown’s first love was actually being on the other side of the camera. “My grandfather introduced me to photography when I was 12. His dark room, where I learned, was featured in the 1928 Leica manual. While in the navy I won a couple of international awards for my photos.” Brown eventually became a commercial photographer. “I shot everything from fashion to candy,” he says. “I had a natural bent for marine photography after a lifelong love affair with boats.” That’s a bit of an understatement, considering Brown has captained or crewed in most of the major Eastern Seaboard races over the years. “What I loved about commercial photography was the challenge of lighting and solving problems,” he continues, “even to the extent of making some of my own gear. There was no Photoshop back then. It was film and you had to get it right the first time.”

Now happily retired in Florida, Brown still enjoys photography and sailing. — CHRISTOPHER SHARP



Golden Years: Suiting Up Eli Frosh

Wed 10 Sep 2014 - Filed under: The Golden Years by Richard Press — Christian
Comments (48)

nhpressSuiting up Eli frosh in the heyday was do or die for New Haven clothiers.

Salesmen at J. Press were instructed by my dad Paul Press (front right) to memorize the Yale Freshman Blue Book. He quizzed them daily about dorm addresses, hometowns and secondary schools the book provided. Freshmen lived in seven ancient dormitories on the Old Campus. The favored boarding school choice was Durfee Hall, with communal suites designed to house six to nine students. It was mainly populated by St. Grottlesex Gatsbys.

Little Georgie Feen (back left), popularly known to the cognoscenti as The Mayor of York Street, knocked on every door in Durfee Hall, always offering his calling card, sample swatches, booze, and promises of favors. Georgie was not an elitist, hitting on anyone who walked into J. Press whether they looked “white shoe” or were draped in the padded shoulders of Podunk High.

“Goodbye To New Orleans,” a memoir by Peter Wolf, recalls coming to Yale from Exeter. Wolf’s roommate turned out to be Calvin (Bud) Trillin, then a virgin outlander from Kansas City, later in life a celebrated American journalist, food writer, poet, fellow memoirist and novelist. Trillin lamented to Wolf, “We couldn’t find the Ivy-look, Eastern-type clothes Kansas City people wear here, so my folks decided I’d buy some new stuff when I got to Yale. Where do you suggest I go?”

Five minutes later we were inside J.Press, a couple of blocks away on York Street. Under the hovering, appraising eye of George Feen, one of the great haberdashery salesmen of all time, Bud replaced key parts of his wardrobe.

My father’s elder brother, Irving Eli Press (front left), Eli Class of 1926, ran the family business from New York. A mainstay at the Yale Club next door to the company offices on 44th Street, the blood that surged through his arteries was Yale Blue. The Press Brothers utilized their inside track to supply the staff the who’s who and what’s what of Boola Boola.

Back in New Haven, Herman Racow (back right) was veteran elder statesman at 262 York Street. He was constantly combing is immense stack of index cards to identify any incoming offspring of his alumni “see yous.”

Gabe Giaquinto (back row, second from right), with his roots in the Italian-American Wooster Street neighborhood bounded by Sally’s and Frank Pepe’s pizza parlors, cashed in the checks of ethnic possibilities only hinted at in the Freshman Blue Book.

Sam Kroop (back row, second from left) achieved tournament celebrity at the Yale Golf Course ever since caddying as a teenager at Hillhouse High. He picked up country club gossip about incoming Bulldog duffers. He was also the West Coast J. Press road man, and my father made certain he gathered the names of all the sons of his customers heading East to college.

Competitors ran a tight race. Jack Feinstein and his brother Bill Fenn were relentless at Fenn-Feinstein. David Langrock and son-in-law Alan Frank anchored Langrock’s prime location and keystone corner at York and Broadway. Arthur M. Rosenberg sustained its heritage as America’s top-volume bespoke tailor of the Roaring Twenties. Lester Eisenberg directed Gentree as if it were a stage prop in the London Burlington Arcade. Saks Fifth Avenue University Shop, two doors from Mory’s, utilized the financial advantages provided by its department-store parent. Izzy White and son Alan White held the fort at White’s two shops, one on York Street and the other with a vibrant ladies’ department on Chapel Street. The Yale Coop promoted off-price student discounts for faux-Ivy, national-brand merchandise. Brooks Brothers and Chipp had regular exhibits in the Hotel Taft, but their monthly showings were unable to match the depth of inventory and timely alterations available from the local campus shops.

New Haven was Boomtown Ivy from the end of World War II until the conflagrations that erupted in the late 1960s. During the heyday hundreds of tailors, merchant tailors, salesmen, shippers and shleppers ruled the roost. Thousands more Yalies roamed the Elm City byways garbed naturally in three-button suits, Shetland sportcoats, plain-front grey flannel trousers, OCBDs with three-inch ties, Shaggy Dog sweaters, and dirty white bucks — the ephemera of a Golden Age.

The song is ended but the melody lingers on. — RICHARD PRESS

Theme Easy White by st3fo - rUn3 Production