This latest installment in our occasional “call for collective wisdom” series boasts a nice pun on “collective,” given that the author’s family fled Communism. If you have advice for the young man, please leave it in the comments section.
* * *
When you’re growing up as a first-generation American in a neighborhood in Queens, NY, the trad/Ivy life is very far from your understanding. Things that some understand innately require study and a fake-it-till-you-understand-it mentality. I remember the first time I discovered Ivy, after perusing photos of JFK while I was in college. There was a level of refined comfort that was different from the sneakers, t-shirt and jeans that denoted what comfortable clothing entailed in my neighborhood. Wrinkled oxford buttondowns were a stark contrast to the pristinely ironed white shirts of my neighbors. The suits worn while sipping a cocktail on the veranda looked more comfortable then sweatpants on the couch eating potato chips. Naturally I dipped into the lifestyle with a vigor I hadn’t experienced since I was 12 and decided I wanted to kiss a girl. With parents who escaped Communism, the freedom to enjoy clothing instead of having everything ironed into tight lines spoke to me on a cultural level. However, when you’re so far away from the world you wish to one day join, it’s difficult to understand the nuances. It takes reading and talking to people to understand that a frayed buttondown collar is more valuable than a brand new shirt.
After getting a blazer at J. Press, I started wondering what the signature pieces to have in such a collection would entail. I already have a list of items I need to fill out my collection when my finances are more fluid. A Shaggy Dog from J.Press (I have one from The Andover Shop and one from O’Connell’s) and Nantucket Reds from Murrays. While I love my Mercer and Kamakura white oxfords, there’s a special place for the made-in-USA buttondown oxford from Brooks. I imagined a pair of go-to-hell pants from The Andover Shop, or their patchwork tweed creations, would be a nice iconic item to have from them. This push towards building a collection was also spurred by the closing of The Nobby Shop. I was thankfully able to secure one of their Ski Nantucket mock-necks and a surcingle belt with The Nobby Shop Tag to keep the story alive. However, places such as O’Connell’s, H Stockton, Cable Car Clothiers and Ben Silver also have heritage, and I wonder what their iconic pieces would be?
I know this is very anti-trad in thought. But I am a kid from Queens, after all, and it’s better than collecting sneakers. — MB