The Wrong Way To Sell The Right Clothes

K, first, take a look at this article in Town & Country about how the prep aesthetic (don’t worry, you didn’t lose me, third paragraph down or so they conflate prep and Ivy) is taking over athleisure. The article is paywalled but you get one free if you mention my name. Actually you don’t have to mention anything.

The first premise of the article is that this aesthetic is comfortable because we have seen it before. The author sources a series of podcasts by Avery Trufelman called Articles Of Interest for this theory, I checked it out so you don’t have to. I did learn in one episode that Americans are good at layering. Thanks for that.

I’ve seen a lot of fashions before, and never cycled back to them. Prep/Ivy is not comfortable because they are historical, they are comfortable because they are classic. They are returned to again and again because they are classic.

But it is ok to be wrong. What is NOT ok is what comes next. The article goes on to herald a company called Recreational Habits, a fashion company that, well, I will let them tell you.

We created Recreational Habits to bring the exclusive world of the preppy elite and their hobbies to the historically excluded. We believe that all people, regardless of color, should be able to experience the joys of Recreational sport and living, from equitation to golf, to hosting and galas. Our hope is to knock down country clubs’ unspoken bias, and rewrite the rules unapologetically with our new content based website.

When I first took over this site, I changed the tag to The Classics Are For Everyone. So I am down with the idea of erasing walls and ceilings. What I am against, however, is using the democratization of Ivy as a marketing ploy. Here are the owners of Recreational Habits. That looks accessible, right?

You don’t bring Ivy to the masses by reinforcing the expectation that you need that car on that golf course to wear it. In fact, you do the opposite. You put Ivy in accessible places and, wait for it, people will access it.

Their marketing is further blurred here:

Actually it was ME who was blurry – as Sarah rightly pointed out one is shorts the other is shirt. Shorts and shirt are different. I get it now. A little outta practice. 🙂

The article concludes by saying that more and more people are playing tennis. And that that may be why prep is coming to dominate athleisure. I don’t know about that either. I still go back to – classics are classic because people respond to them.

Rashid Faisal, profiled here, has it right. To introduce classic dress to new wearers, you don’t bring them to your stable, you bring the clothes to where THEY are.

34 Comments on "The Wrong Way To Sell The Right Clothes"

  1. Maybe you should RH a copy of “Black Ivy.”
    ~Well written, now, give me a call.

  2. The blurb provided sounds like it was written by someone whose first language is not English.

    Also: “equitation”?

    All of that aside, I’d wear those pajamajams in a heartbeat. Not for $250, but still ….

  3. Agree, well written. Maybe I’m just attuned to this of late, but RH looks like another startup seeking to Make A Statement…which then becomes both performative and self-cabining, and feeds into needless fashion (rather than style) arms races that are exclusionary by their nature. Part of the point of Ivy today (thank you, JB) is to dial back the arms race, to not be performative but to just be as you want to be, and let those who want to knock you down instead knock themselves down with needless froth.

    And yes, the Black Ivy community does it much better.

  4. I live in Boston, GQ’s “worst-dressed city,” and from what I observe, preppy/ivy/trad is mostly long gone.

    Except for a few (and I mean a FEW) blue-blood, silver-spoon WASPs on Beacon Hill, the entire city has gone to the dogs, sartorially speaking.

    If it weren’t for minorities supporting RL, classic menswear would be a relic.

  5. Our gang here will definitely appreciate this little blurb from the T&C article: “of course there was this movement to a heritage trend that is in and of itself trend-less.”


    • I think if I were writing the article and I had written that sentence I would have – stopped writing.

  6. Good to see you back, John!

    I think the “Bogart” item (my maiden name, incidentally…) is for the shorts, and the “Gatsby” is for the shirt, so I think the different pricing makes sense!

  7. You are wrong – the RH PJ’s feature and price a short (“Bogart” – $100) and a shirt (“Gatsby” – $150) in the two pictures. That said, the RH folks are based near me in the VA Piedmont, aka horse country, hence “equitation”. I’m amazed to see the brand last more than a few seasons.

  8. If more people are playing tennis = pickle ball interest has exploded and overtaken tennis courts, then not only are their pajamas ridiculously (personal opinion) expensive, they’ve confused pickle ball and tennis.

  9. It’s cynical marketing BS that’s supposed to trick people in to blowing seventy bucks on a dad-gum trucker hat. Recreational Habits would probably sell zoot suits for $5k and extol the good old days of Latino-sailor fistfights if they thought it could make the same kind of money. By trying to legitimize this crap, Town & Country is hitching a ride with RH in hopes of drawing more readers of color and progressives to a dying magazine.

  10. I’m all for seeing WASPy country clubs and other elite spaces become less WASPy and more diverse in every way. But I think you’re right that bringing this view to marketing still-expensive clothes doesn’t do much to broaden the audience for the style. I mean, I dig the marketing statement and wish them the best of course. I don’t view this company with quite so much cynicism as some.

    • Here’s some fodder for cynicism: RH contacted a club I belong to about having a photo shoot on the premises, and didn’t disclose their brand or that the shoot was for commercial purposes. Being good neighbors, the club agreed and then were shocked to see our logo featured on a commercial website. Many of the pictures are still on the site, though believe the logos have finally been removed.

      • … AND I am guessing that your club is private? Which is great, absolutely some of the best experiences of my life have been at private clubs BUT if I am pitching accessibility maybe do the shoot on a public golf course?

        • Correct – private club.

        • But they are decidedly not pitching “accessibility” except in terms of access for historically excluded groups. Their stated mission is to bring exclusivity to minority groups:

          “We created Recreational Habits to bring the exclusive world of the preppy elite and their hobbies to the historically excluded. We believe that all people, regardless of color, should be able to experience the joys of Recreational sport and living, from equitation to golf, to hosting and galas. Our hope is to knock down country clubs’ unspoken bias, and rewrite the rules unapologetically with our new content based website.”

          I don’t have much of an opinion on whether or not “exclusivity” (at least as in this context) is inherently bad, but they are decidedly not aiming to make it “accessible” to everyone. It’s basically still for rich and upper-middle class people with the caveat that they are welcoming minorities with open arms. Personally, I’m not particularly impressed because Ralph Lauren has been doing this for years but let’s not mischaracterize their intent.

          • Agreed — Ralph Lauren set the bar and has had plenty of people of color as devotees, but it’s also important to have a company like this that’s actually minority-owned. Perhaps I misinterpreted the intent, but I don’t have a problem with it either way. The more people who want to wear the good stuff, the better, whether it’s “exclusive” or everyday.

            Re: Rake’s comment, it’s ethically dubious to feature any other logo in one’s ad campaign, as it implies endorsement. So yah, it’s good they hopefully scrubbed the logo from any of the published photos. Maybe it was an innocent mistake, maybe not.

      • That’s incredibly sloppy and unprofessional behavior. Putting your club logo up on their website is possibly grounds for a lawsuit.

        Could an ad agency have been the actual offender? They usually arrange these sorts of shoots, construct the websites, and, in this case, conger up some godawful web copy. Going forward, I assume your GM will get more information the next time someone wants to do a shoot at your club.

  11. Questions:
    1. Is the way too tight, shiny black suit, worn without a tie Prep or Ivy?
    2. Who are all of these people who couldn’t dress themselves, or get out, during “the pandemic”? I’ve never met one.

    • 1. I was wondering about the full frontal dress in the same way.
      2. Also not so sure about the red wool scarf.

  12. Charlottesville | February 23, 2023 at 7:45 pm |

    Love the car, but not sure what the rest has to do with “Ivy.” Still, it is nice to see people who are not wearing athletic shorts and hoodies, which is becoming a uniform among students (and even adults) in this formerly Southern-Ivy Mecca.

    Oxford Cloth Button Down – Dear Ox, I am so glad to see you posting again, and thank you for the O’Connell’s recommendation for women’s Oxford cloth button-downs in a previous post which has had replies closed.

    Glad to see you posting again as well, JB. Hoping and praying that things go well for you and your family.

  13. New York, Philadelphia, D.C., Richmond, Charlotte, Nashville, and a few other Southern cities (including, of course, Charleston) are where plenty of people persevere in versions of classic American style — preppy, trad, Ivy(ish), etc. It’ll always be America’s go-to for dressing up because of our more relaxed vibe. The Pitti Uomo stuff is costumey and European — not unlike wearing an expensive (Breville?) cappuccino; British styling is what it’s always been: shouldery, spread-collared, monk-strapped. Foppish.

    The soft, sloping shoulder, the button-down collar, relaxed khakis, the round-toed penny loafer, the lightweight tweeds and flannels — all ours, their Brooksy American glory.

  14. Regarding this “brand” in particular: Unfortunately this is where we are with many aspects of retail — “all show and no substance.” Welcome to the age of out-of-control “lifestyle brand” marketing, where cheaply made clothing (horrible fabric) is marketed as the means to looking wealthy/upper class. You too (!) can wear stuff with printed or woven pink whales on them — made by desperately poor people in China. Sad.

    A viable antidote borrows heavily from the last chapter of Fussell’s book ‘Class,’ when he suggested that an honest, authentic (if idiosyncratic) “way out” is to embrace an nonconformist, bohemian, buy-local, anti-corporate vibe — the “X way out.” This is a matter of necessity. For a twenty-year period, it was impossible to find a natural shoulder jacket of exceptional cloth for under a grand, so I had to order from tweed (“shed”) weavers (in Scotland) directly and ask a local tailor to make them. $600 each. Still some of my favorites.

  15. It seems to me RH are a bit late with bringing preppy and Ivy style to the rest of the world. Ralph Lauren did just that about sixty years ago.

  16. MacMcConnell | February 24, 2023 at 4:40 pm |

    So, SE untuckit shirts are a no go for you? 🙂

    When I as young tweeds were heavy, you broke them in. Sort of like a baseball mit or leather jacket.

  17. MacMcConnell | February 24, 2023 at 6:22 pm |

    Zoot suits vs sailors! Wonder if IS readers are old enough are to get that?

  18. Did I miss something?
    All I saw was some generic “mallware” clothing and a few lists of expensive “upscale” travel/eating destinations.
    If they rewrote any rules unapologetically, they must have done so invisibly, too.

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