April 6 is National Tartan Day. In its honor, Richard Press shares some thoughts. For more Tartan Day coverage, visit our fraternal site MasculineInteriors.com.
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The Heyday of Ivy, the period after World War II until the civil disorder of the late 60s, regarded costume with contempt, at least at J.Press. Understatement was the order of the day. Conspicuous self-advertisement was looked upon with contempt. Employment of tartan embroidery was a tad too ethnic, even though derived from “roamin’ in the gloamin bank O’ Clyde.”
Tartan was more ethereal when worn by the Grace Kelly debs from Smith and Wellesley since their days in Farmington. It was perhaps a trifle too effeminate for the bulls at DKE or the tables down at Mory’s.
During Spring Break perhaps a guy would wear a Black Watch tie and cummerbund at Piping Rock, or tartan walk shorts with knee socks in Bermuda. Likewise, for weekends spent at the Biltmore Bar or Stork Club, one could indulge in a tartan vest, blazer, gray flannels, studiously sporty white OCBD, and appropriate flat knit tie. Black Watch trousers, on the other hand, paired best with a blazer for Sunday bloodies at The Oak Room.
But there were limits, and breaching the boundaries of blue-blood taste was beyond the fringe. Only the great unwashed from the Main Streets of Middle America — the rubes that had never heard of St. Grottlesex — wore blatant tartan just as they drank Old Overholt and ginger ale while the right people drank Dewar’s at 21.
It may sound snotty, but the truth is much of the clothing snobbery of the time was indeed rather snotty. The sophistry of who-wore-what tartan was indeed derived from the Anglo-Saxon propriety of past generations observing the Eastern Seaboard Episcopalian taste of the favored few — served mainly by Jewish servitors on bended knee.
It was a different era. Pictured is a J. Press Black Watch blazer of recent vintage available to anyone, even if not to everyone’s taste. Which is rather the point. — RICHARD PRESS
That’s one sharp-looking kid. Happy Easter to everyone.
Following our April Fool’s Day diversion, we return to the topic of UVA with this wonderful find by assistant editor Christopher Sharp. Pictured are caricatures by Carlton Abbott entitled “Typical UVA Students,” which appeared in a 1962 issue of University of Virginia Magazine.
Pictured above is The Ghoul, whose description reads:
Amusements: Bicycling, Chess, Newcomb Hall;
Clothes: Stretch Socks, Leggett’s Galoshes, Clearasil;
Drink: Vanilla, Coke, Teem;
Girls: Night-Stand Books;
Places Never Seen: Cavalier, Down the Road
The joke is these are no joke. Note descent from campus lover to campus affair to campus doll to campus tramp. I wonder if the consumer of these had ever been to college. — CC
As a follow-up to our post on Country Club Prep, which was founded by two men who met at the University of Virginia School of Law, we’ll take a look at UVA during the heyday, a subject we haven’t looked at since last Thanksgiving.
Ed Roseberry was a local photographer who chronicled life around Charlottesville, and last year his photos went on display at the school.
Perhaps someone should ferret out the sartorial shots and package them as a kind of “Take Ivy” style chronicle. In the meantime, here’s a sampling. — CS & CC
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 (Continue)