For Yale men, Barrie Ltd. was shoe headquarters since the Isaacs brothers opened their narrow slot of a store attached to J. Press in 1934. Bob and Barry Isaacs always had their shoes made specially for them and sold under their Barrie Ltd. private label, which afforded them very competitive pricing for students and faculty.
Barrie’s, with an assist from Brooks Brothers, were the birthers of White Shoe Chic that ran parallel to the growing influence of the natural shoulder suit sold by its York Street neighbor. I remember when Barrie’s temporarily warehoused all those white bucks next door at J. Press until shelf space opened up to move them into the greedy hands of reunion classes eager to replace their old white bucks from the good old days gone by.
The opposite of a guy who was shoe was a weenie. The conflict between those who were shoe and weenies has been longtime fodder for various New Haven mavens. Calvin Trillin discusses it in a book co-authored with John Gregory Dunne called “Remembering Denny.” Christopher Buckley explores it in “My Harvard, My Yale: Memoirs of College Life by Some Notable Americans,” and even Garry Trudeau has addressed the age-old conflict with a weenie fixation in his “Doonsbury” comic strip.
But young men who were elite may have used the term “shoe,” a distinctly Yale phrase, but never “white shoe.” Buckley was Skull & Bones and Trillin head of Yale Daily News; it’s those outside or at the bottom-feeder clubs at Yale who who would’ve referred to the social leaders as “white shoe.” If you were shoe you wore your white bucks until they were so tattered they bared your toes. They accompanied tweed, flannel, linen, seersucker, khaki, suits and trousers in all seasons. If you were a weenie you buffed them fluffy white or, god forbid, wore them shiny.
Barrie’s is gone, but Ralph Lauren now instructs the nouveau riche how to dress. “White Bucks make the gentleman,” declares Rugby’s spiritual advisor Mr. Wooster.
If only it were so easy. — RICHARD PRESS
Thanks to katon at the Ask Andy Trad Forum for his thorough collection of vintage Barrie advertisements.