The recent New York Times piece on the the new/old Brooks Brothers oxford shirt contained the source of an important sartorial anecdote. Years ago I’d seen a reference online to the custom that Princeton boys back in the day who didn’t come from WASPy families and prep schools would sandpaper the collars of their shirts to make them look as if the boys had been wearing them for years.
The Times piece revealed the source of the anecdote to be “Out Of Place,” a memoir by author and professor Edward W. Said. I ordered a copy and scoured it for the reference, which, as if the climax to the book, comes at the very end.
The context of the faux fray is the Princeton tradition of Bicker (which is also explored at length in Geoffrey Wolff’s book “The Final Club,” source of one of Ivy Style’s most important posts on Ivy in literature).
The passage runs:
… gruesome was the sight of those students who knew that by virtue of race, background, or manner, they could not make the club of their choice as they set out to transform themselves into WASP paragons, usually with pathetic results. This was symbolized by the junior and senior vogue for blue button-down shirts with frayed collars; I remember watching in astonishment as two classmates in an adjoining suite applied sandpaper to a pair of new blue button-down shirts, trying in a matter of minutes to produce the effect of the worn-out aristocratic shirt that might get them into a better club.
The shirt above is one of my old/new (as opposed to new/old) Brooks blue buttondowns, with fraying earned over years of wear. Funny how the fraying always favors one side. — CC