Since launching this website, the more I delved into the topic the more I found that nearly all of the Ivy League haberdashers were Jewish. So when I got around to interviewing Richard Press last year, I ended our hours of conversation with the following:
IS: Except for Brooks Brothers, nearly all the brands, stores and haberdasheries associated with the Ivy League Look were Jewish. Do you think the contributions Jews have made to WASP style have not been sufficiently acknowledged?
RP: You’re editorializing, but I think you’re right. A lot of the retail history of America is Jewish history.
Since then Mr. Press has become a columnist for the site and has shared more insight on the history of Jewish clothiers, and of course recently and notoriously Ivy Style became the first WASPy site to wish the world Happy Hanukkah.
I’m pleased to have helped increase the recognition of the Jewish contribution to the Ivy League Look, and the torch was recently taken up by writer Jason Diamond, who, after contacting Ivy Style, has written a story for Tablet, which dubs itself “a new read on Jewish life,” about the many Jewish clothiers centered around New Haven.
With its story lead about Valentino and fashion week, the article is awkwardly pegged to say the least. Perhaps the author could not get permission from his editor to just write what he wanted, and was forced to contrive a news angle.
But the heart of the piece includes some notable historic passages:
David Weinreich started the tradition in 1896 by opening Weinreich’s, a shop in New Haven, Ct., that sold custom suits. Two years later, Arthur M. Rosenberg opened Rosenberg’s, where “Rosie” would reign as the original Jewish King of the Custom Made Suits in New Haven well into the Roaring Twenties. In 1902, Jacobi Press opened his own store on Yale University’s campus, where he perfected his three-button sack suit jacket and inspired a dozen imitators that catered to the Ivy League’s finest.
By the 1920s, J. Press had become the choice tailor for everyone from Duke Ellington to Cary Grant. Even though F. Scott Fitzgerald is said to have shown up to military training wearing a Brooks Brothers suit, Press says the man responsible for one of America’s greatest novels was, in fact, a customer of his grandfather in the 1920s, and in a 1936 letter to his then-15-year-old daughter, Scotty, Fitzgerald cautioned the teenager to “beware of the wolves in their J. Pressed tweed.”
The Jewish pedigree of this quintessentially American style is undeniable. If you surveyed the Princeton campus on a spring day in 1962 and saw a student from a well-to-do Southern family strolling in a pair of madras shorts with a blue oxford shirt, there was a good chance that shirt was the product of Marty and Elliot Gant: former J. Press stock boys, and the sons of a Ukrainian-Jewish immigrant. The real Ivy League alumni Mad Men who ran the advertising world of New York City wore suits with the Chipp logo from Sidney Winston (another former J. Press employee) on the inside of the jacket. President Kennedy supposedly made the switch to exclusively wearing suits made by New Haven custom tailor Fenn-Feinstein because he admired the ones worn by then Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare Abraham Ribicoff, who would become Connecticut’s first and only Jewish governor.
Yet another suitmaker of President Kennedy? The guy must have had a lot of suits.
Get the full article here. — CC