Golden Years: On The Cuff

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Last week a reader posted an image on Ivy Style’s Facebook page that appeared to show Cary Grant in a buttondown-collar shirt with French cuffs. One sees this occasionally in old photos and movies, but it’s not something you can exactly go out and buy readymade today. We asked Richard Press to weigh in on the role of French cuffs in J. Press history, and here’s what he had to say.

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Following the golden rule of Renaissance courtier Baldassar Castiglione, Paul Press defined New Haven Sprezzatura as a certain nonchalance so as to conceal all art and make whatever one does appear to be without effort and thought. And so it was with his own personal wardrobe.

Monsignor of 262 York Street since the 1951 death of his father, eponymous Jacobi, my dad Paul Press ruled the sartorial roost from his office headquarters overlooking Yale’s Branford College. Family pictures left in his desk at the sale of the family business in 1986 to Onward Kashiyama are prominently displayed at the J.Press “York Street” premises on Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village.

Pictured in his 90th year with great-grandson Samuel Press Goodkind (currently an NYU undergrad), Paul Press displays his singular version of a “buttonless buttondown” shirt. Tailored for him by J.Press shirtmaker Troy Guild, the shirt features a contrast white broadcloth 3.5-inch long point collar, miming the standard J.Press buttondown, with French cuffs on a blue end-on-end madras body made of 100% fine-spun cotton. He achieved the curled collar look of the button down simply removing the stays underneath the collar.

Unlike competitor Brooks Brothers, custom shirts never existed at J.Press. When I suggested opening a custom shirt department, my father countered, “Custom shirts are a pain in the ass. You can’t baste or alter them for finicky bespoke customers in the fitting room like you can with a suit.” Oxford-cloth buttondown devotees who favored cufflinks got them the Paul Press way: “special order” in readymade neck and sleeve sizes, delivered in six weeks, for a buck extra per shirt.

At the very end of the family tenure we Presses upheld the vestige as a last resource in a disappearing market for readymade shirts that embraced the fundamental ingredients of custom shirtmaking. Combed pure cotton, full-count fabrics; knife cut by hand for uniformity of sizes; careful stitching and seaming on slow-running, single-needle machines; complete hand-pressing and folding. The result was well fitting, generous-bodied personal linen in which to take genuine pride, cut in our signature coat style with broad back pleat and button-flap pocket. — RICHARD PRESS

12 Comments on "Golden Years: On The Cuff"

  1. That jacket! Thank you for sharing.

  2. Rowell Crowper | January 12, 2016 at 1:28 pm |

    Congratulations on not finding an Ivy connection with David Bowie.

  3. Evidently you’re not a member of our Facebook group.

  4. A.E.W. Mason | January 12, 2016 at 4:29 pm |

    Grant’s French-cuffed button-down shirts are “open and notorious” in the movie, “Notorious.”

    Dean Jagger wears one (much more difficult to spot) in the wonderful opening scene of Twelve O’clock High, in his melancholic return to 918th Bomb Group base in England after the war.

  5. Gary Glazer | January 12, 2016 at 6:53 pm |

    Any news on the opening of a J.Press NYC store?

  6. Sir, given the picture of your Father at 90, all other men seeking to be considered as “Best Dressed man in the Ivy Style” are thanked for their services and may now leave the stage.

  7. Wonderful photo, the young man is fortunate to have known his great grandfather. Might that be a cigar visible behind the pocket square?

  8. Unrelated subject

    The last known photo of David Bowie appeared on my computer this morning. He was wearing a great looking charcoal suit with fedora. It appeared to be a 3/2 roll with natural shoulder. A far cry from Ziggy Stardust and a great way to go out. Bravo.


  9. Golden Years performed by David Bowie on Soul Train of all places.

  10. Mostly Trad: Indeed a cigar behind the pocket square. He treasured the several smuggled Havana Upmanns tucked in his humidor.

  11. Richard,
    Great to see you ivy-style. Enjoyed the article. I was a regular between 85 – 95 in NY. Peter Roselli was my guy. I wrote a post about the shaggy shetland on my blog:
    Regards, Adam

  12. G. Bruce Boyer | June 29, 2016 at 10:44 am |

    As usual, we owe thanks to Richard Press, who enlightens us with his elegantly concise prose and clear memory. Another article of historical significance for the archive.

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