Yes, it’s a book about clothes but it is written by, as G. Bruce Boyer said on this site, “… a national treasure.” So while the clothes matter, the voices are the joy of Threading The Needle II, available here, by Richard Press. And this book is FULL of joy.
If you are in a choir learning Gregorian Chant you are trained to sing only at such a level that you can hear EVERY other voice in the choir. So it is with this book. The Dean Of Ivy of course uses his Ivy Style voice. There are chapters about the industry, names and locations bandied about. Irving Press. Arthur Rosenberg, Abercrombie & Fitch, Paul Stuart, and even Brooks. It is enough history to accomplish two things: educate you on how we got here and establish Press as Ivy’s foremost and most important raconteur.
There is the autobiographical voice. Press writes of knowing Presidents and stars with respect but not reverence. This absence of bootlicking betrays of course a strong inner core devoid of ego. Read this paragraph where Press details his education, dropping the name of some of the most prestigious institutions with equal parts pedigree and so-what.
In 1940s New Haven, classmates at my public elementary school came from surrounding Irish, Italian, and Jewish neighborhoods. I never enjoyed a WASP peer until my parents sent me to New Haven’s historic Hopkinds day school for seventh-and-eighth-grade preparation for boarding school at Loomis Chaffee. I left home for Dartmouth to escape my Dodge City years growing up surrounded by all those Skull and Boners.
I don’t know what word to use to describe the voice of the story where Press gets drunk with Sinatra, so drunk in fact he can’t remember the back half of the evening, but whatever voice that is, Press is the only one who has it. Shifting gears from a summary of tweed to smashed with Sinatra is not something you could find in any other book.
Or for that matter, what word to describe the voice of Press’s reaction to a “risque Lauren Becall look-alike pic” – or what voice he uses to talk about Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks (on page 119, he quotes Brooks, “Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you walk into an open sewer and die.”
There are two reasons why you want to buy and wear Ivy. The first is because you like the way it looks on you. And the second is all the negative space between the pages of Threading The Needle II. The beat between chapters feels like one more scotch while the funniest and wisest guy at the table says, “Did I ever tell you about the time…?”
It is only with experience that we learn the value of experience. Threading The Needle II could be a shortcut though. You won’t want to skip to the end of this hilarious and insightful book, but if you are willing to learn its lessons: what to wear and how to live while you are wearing it, you might be able to fast track to the best and most important things in life.
Here, you want another example? The next to last chapter is the story of how Press appeared in an off off Broadway play with Ivan Boesky, then the last chapter proclaims that the heartbeat of Ivy is boxer shorts. He ends with: “Imagine carrying the flag of an era under your pants. Oh the humanity!”