To Meet Enemies Undaunted

Sun 13 Jul 2014 - Filed under: Clothes — Christian
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Today, as you may have heard, is the last game of the World Cup. Germany will take on Argentina, and the nations have met thrice before in the final. I’ll be cheering for Germany, land of my birth (on a US military base, that is).

A couple of weeks ago pundit Ann Coulter remarked that no one whose great-grandfather was born in America is watching soccer. Time for a poll to guage interest in the world’s so-called “beautiful game” among devotees of American style. — CC

The World Cup
How closely have you followed the World Cup?

Norman Hilton: Coming (Again!) For Fall 2014

Sat 12 Jul 2014 - Filed under: 1990-present — Christian
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Our last post was on Nick Hilton’s blog post about Langrock, and today he sent out a mailer announcing the return of the Norman Hilton sportcoats he recently produced. More info as we get it. — CC

 

Retail Darwinism In Tigertown: Nick Hilton On Langrock

Fri 11 Jul 2014 - Filed under: 1970s — Christian
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Nick Hilton, Princeton-based son of late Ivy clothier (and Ralph Lauren’s first investor) Norman Hilton, has written a terrific post on his blog about the legendary clothier Langrock.

Entitled “A Case Study In Retail Darwinism,” the piece explores how Langrock’s resistance to change — even after the fall of the Ivy League Look — doomed it to extinction. Hilton writes:

I tried to sell Langrock our new (1971) “West End,” model. Named for the upscale, fashionable end of London, it was a shapely, two-button, darted front jacket. I thought I could convince Allen Frank, the owner, that “updated” traditional was tasteful and right. He wasn’t buying, but with a vengeance. Mr. Frank wasn’t insensitive to my pitch; he was downright insulted. True Natural Shoulder style was his Religion; the three-button, undarted coat style, the flannelly finish, and skinny pants were the sacred icons of the faith. Anyone who proposed a change was the Infidel.

“Never!”  He practically shouted. “I could never put that kind of stuff in this store! Never! My customers would be insulted.”  You’d think I’d been proposing human sacrifice. “This store stands for timeless good taste. We have no use for your fads and gimmicks. Our customers know what they want, and they don’t want shape!” It never occurred to him that Ivy League itself was just a longish-lasting fad.

Get the full story here.

 

Just Ducky: Duck Head Website Finally Launches

Wed 9 Jul 2014 - Filed under: 1990-present,Clothes — Christian
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The much anticipated return of Duck Head is finally here, as the brand’s website finally features product. “Launching the site has been a huge undertaking and we are so happy it’s finally up,” director of marketing Alex Wallace told Ivy Style.

Products that will garner the most interest are the O’ Bryan pant and shorts. Both are made in the US of 8.2 ounce Cramerton twill and come in at $135 and $100 respectively.  The short has 8-inch inseam. Another short being offered, called the Nashville, has a 9-inch inseam and is made of 6-ounce brushed cotton twill with a 3 percent spandex component.

Consumers will notice that the familiar yellow duck is not being used on these trousers.  The company is looking past the 1980s, as white was the color of Duck Head’s original label. — CHRISTOPHER SHARP

Update: On Thursday morning the company left the following comment:

I wanted to address some of the comments, as we play close attention to Ivy-Style. Hope this is helpful.

1. Price: We made a conscious effort when we took over Duck Head to make sure we make the very best quality goods, whatever the cost. We didn’t think about price at the start. Initially, we were planning to make the product overseas like everyone else in the space. Then, once we began to un-cover more of the story about The O’Bryan Brothers, 1865, the Civil War, Nashville, the Duck Head story, etc we decided in order to be Authentic, we needed to make our Pants and Shirts here in the USA. Having come from the apparel world, we knew this would be very difficult, and very costly, but it is important to us to do things the right way. We made an effort to make things in the USA because its the right thing to do, its who we are, and what we believe in. If we made goods overseas, we’d make significantly more money, but its about having the brand be authentic, and to do that, we must make our pants and shirts in America. The prices we are charging are fair, and we don’t have a significant markup on them. For whoever referenced that Duck Head’s used to be $50…. They were in fact. In the early 80′s I remember buying Duck Head’s for around fifty bucks. However, I’m sure you all are familiar with inflation, and if you take inflation and calculate the difference of $50 in 1983, it would be $120 in 2014. Just FYI… We believe in American made products, and quality. We are confident our pants are the best made, and best designed, period. We can be assured of this, because we sit in the factory and watch each pair coming off the line. That comes at a premium. We make less as a company making them here, but we believe in it. I’d pay $10-$20 more for something made in the USA that is premium, and I’d hope our customers would care enough to do so also.

2. Fit: While the model we shot our pants on is in great shape, we realize that not everyone is (including any of us). Our pants are not “ball huggers”, they’ve got a great, appropriate rise, and the leg opening is generous. In our shorts for instance, the leg opening is 11″. Its not a boxy, wide leg, but its also not slim by any stretch. We want our pants to fit everyone great. We’ve done extensive testing and fitting on both guys w/ “chicken legs” and guys w/ thick legs. Another benefit of US production, we can easily alter things and we have for months to get it perfect. Our fits are great, but we have not done a good enough job on the website of letting people know that. Expect to see detailed fit comments on the site ASAP. Great feedback, and something we’re very mindful of.

3. Label: The yellow label that many people remember was only on Duck Head’s for about 15 years (10% of its lifetime). For a good period while that label was on it, the brand was owned by Goody’s. Goody’s was a discount chain dept store, and over-assorted the brand, and changed quality and moved production off-shore and the brand became a discount brand as a result. We needed people to remember the brand, but not associate it with that yellow patch, because we’re a different, and a better company now. We are not a discount brand anymore. We’re focused on quality and doing things right. I remember Duck Head from the yellow patch as well, but the brand for most of its life had a white/off-white patch. That is when the product was hand made by people here in the USA, that’s what the brand will be going forward. We may do some heritage pieces going fwd w/ the yellow label, so stay turned :)

4. Position: To be clear we are not “chasing” a Southern Market. We are who we are. This brand is a southern brand, and has the south in our DNA, its who we are and what we stand for. Should we have marketed it as a New England Sailing company, or a NYC fashion company? That’s not who we are, that’s not authentic. Personally, I don’t care if the southern market is big, is small, etc. We are a southern company, we’re in the south, so we can’t be something we’re not. We can only be who we are. If people appreciate that, and want to be a part of it, great. If they don’t, that’s ok too. We’ll always be authentic, its one of our company values and to be authentic we’ll continue to be the original southern apparel brand and made to be worn.

We have a lot of great product in the pipeline, but wanted to launch the brand “small” and do things right, before we try to offer all things to all people. We want to make great chino’s, and I know after wearing them, that we’ve got the best chino’s on the market, period. Believe me, it would be a helluva lot easier to make them overseas, charge the consumer less and make more money, but that’s not what we’re about. I realize that’s not for everyone and we’re ok with that.

Knowing there is a premium, we’ve tried hard to make every experience premium. I won’t give away any secrets, but when you purchase one of our items, the experience of opening it, is like getting a gift and one you won’t soon forget. We’re thankful for our customers, we listen to them, and they mean a lot to us. We are trying hard to get this right, and working really hard to ensure it is. Keep the comments coming.

Appreciate all the comments, we’ll keep listening.

 

Golden Years: My Graduation Trip With Hemingway And The Bulls Of Pamplona

Sun 6 Jul 2014 - Filed under: The Golden Years by Richard Press — Christian
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It seems like only yesterday we hoisted our leather botas at the 1959 running of the bulls in Pamplona. It still goes on every July 6th, maiming an occasional drunk, catching a celebrity moment, and every couple of years there’s a fatality.

My best friend and Loomis prep-school roommate Gene Mercy and I celebrated our Lehigh and Dartmouth graduations on the cheap for a razzmatazz heyday on the continent when Europe cost barely five dollars a day. After hitting the roulette tables in the vintage casino of a faded Biarritz resort, we headed across the border to find out if the sun still rose in Spain the way it did for Ernest Hemingway in the Roaring Twenties. Leaving our battered Simca rental car in a designated lot outside town, for a couple of pesetas per night we garnered a feral dormitory room with a puke-and-dystentary, stand-up water closet down the hall.

Adios to seersucker. We garbed at the local mercado with a white cotton pullover collared shirt and bolero pants of the same material tied at the waist by a bright red cravat we turned into a belt secured under three inch wide belt loops at the sides and back. A rancid kitchen towel plus ashtray remains lent the formerly snow white outfit an artfully peasant chic. A signature pañuelo (neck scarf) knotted as an ascot across our open shirt collar and a fire engine red Basque beret completed the masquerade. We were fit as a fiddle and ready for action.

The festival started the day before we arrived. It was 1924 again. The town belonged to Hemingway. Here’s his take via his fictional lead Jake Barnes:

The fiesta was really started. It kept up day and night for seven days. The dancing kept up, the noise went on. The things that happened could only have happened during a fiesta. Everything became quite unreal finally and it seemed as though nothing could have any consequences. It seemed out of place to think of consequences during the fiesta. All during the fiesta had the feeling even when it was quiet, that you had to shout any remark to make it heard. It was the same feeling about any action. It was a fiesta and it went on for seven days.

We thought the place would be overnun by Babbitt American tourists and fellow collegians, but we were the only virgins in the whorehouse. Hemingway was back in his old Room 217 at the Hotel La Perla Hotel in the northeast corner of the Plaza del Castillo. He came with a large party from Madrid: the bullfighter Antonio Ordonez, Dr. Vernon Lord, TV writer Aaròn Hotchner, Irish journalist Valerie Danby-Smith, and the photographer Julio Obina for Life Magazine. In 1959 Hemingway was corpulent, bearded, and drank at the teeming boisterous Bar Txoko on the plaza across from his hotel.

All the Hemingway action was at the Txoko. Hemingway with wife Mary always by his side was seated at their roisterous table on the plaza. Among the group was humorist Art Buchwald, who wrote for The Washington Post. Debonair Melvin Douglas, a suave actor and leading man on stage and screen, was next to Buchwald. I had an inside track to both — the chutzpah of J. Press entitlement. Buchwald was an occasional customer and had chatted with my uncle, Irving Press, at the New York store. Melvin Douglas was already cast for the leading role in Gore Vidal’s play “The Best Man,” slated for a Broadway opening months ahead, with J. Press tailoring his stage wardrobe.

They bought our act and took us to the throne. Hemingway broke up at our boozed up arrogance. He told us to call him “Papa,” gregariously toasting “the table’s new college mascots.” Three sheets to the wind, biding our time, always looking for ass before serving Uncle Sam. Papa Hemingway filled the bowl with plenty more toasts:

This wine is too good for toast-drinking, my dear. You don’t want to mix emotions up with a wine like that. You lose the taste.

Yesterday the New York Times reported that a new edition of “The Sun Also Rises” will appear for the first time containing Hemingway’s own account of the festival. A discarded first chapter, along with other deletions, earlier drafts, and alternate titles, is included in a new edition which Scribner will release later this month.

Six degrees of separation once again. Gertrude Stein told Hemingway he was part of a lost generation. How about all of us kids who wore gray flannel suits? — RICHARD PRESS

 
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