Editor’s Note: MANY thanks to Mr. Jim Moore for this great photo and an even better story. Classic Ivy.
In the spring of 1988, Jos. A Bank was a middle-income man’s version of Brooks Brothers: its undarted coats featured a 3/2 closure and a center hook vent, its button-down collars rolled admirably, and their tailors assumed we’d want 1 3/4 inch cuffs on our trousers. The make of their clothes was not, perhaps, at the level of Brooks and J. Press, but it was decent, and those of us who were dressing Ivy early in our careers were pleased to be able to present ourselves well at a reasonable price.
In the spring of 1988, I was a graduate student in Washington DC. I couldn’t afford the Brooks in the city or the Britches in Georgetown, so I drove out Route 50 into Virginia one Saturday to a Bank’s in a strip mall. There I purchased this coat of Madras cloth; the burgundy collar tag you can see in the photograph reads “CRAFTED WITH PRIDE IN THE USA.” The aged tailor there chalked and pinned things a bit, and a week later I wore the coat out of the store.
In the thirty-five years since, this coat, even more than my seersucker suit, has been the summer stalwart of my wardrobe. I’ve worn it to graduations and weddings, as well as in my classroom; I have worn it in Italy, Spain, France, Hong Kong, Shanghai, San Francisco, Miami, Savannah, and Manhattan. There is a photograph from 1995 in the gallery of the squash courts where I coach, showing me and my team posing in the Hamilton, Bermuda mayor’s office after a spring break tournament; in it, I am wearing the coat.
One morning this spring, I pulled it on and an eight-inch hole opened through the right elbow. I didn’t know quite what to do, so I put the coat back into my closet; its time, I thought, had come, but I wasn’t ready to simply let it go after all these years.
On a trip north a few days later, my understanding wife gently suggested we go farther west than our destination to visit O’Connell’s, where we might consider a replacement. I wound up finding one, in blues and greens, and it is a very fine Madras coat indeed, one which I hope and trust will be with me for the rest of my life. I wore it, to great acclaim, at my nephew’s wedding in Sweden this summer and, most recently this past Saturday, when I was teaching a senior seminar.
A month after what my wife and I now refer to as The Accident, I took the old coat to my tailor, along with a pink Brooks OCBD so far past its prime that it was no longer wearable. My tailor is eccentric, absent-minded, and, occasionally, absent when we expect him to be there, but he is also a genius. He held up the coat, then the shirt, and said to me “come back next week.” Well, it took a bit longer than a week, but it was worth the wait, as you can see in the photograph.
- Jim Moore