The Decline Of Prep?

Back in 2013 I wrote a 9,000-word essay on the Ivy League Look which I’m honored to say Alan Flusser considers “definitive.” As far as meta-analysis goes, I haven’t had much to say since then. However, perhaps the time will soon come for an addendum.

In “The Rise And Fall Of The Ivy League Look,” I used a morphological approach based on the concept of growth, maturity and decline drawn from years of study of cultural decadence. Books like Spengler’s “Decline Of The West,” Gibbon’s “History Of The Decline And Fall Of The Roman Empire,” Brooks Adams’ “The Law Of Civilization And Decay,” and salacious diatribes such as Max Nordau’s notorious “Degeneration.” I argued that Ivy went through a “golden age” from roughly the ’20s until World War II, when it was exclusive and aristocratic. The period 1954-67, to which we refer here as the heyday, marks the silver age of widespread popularity. The expansion of the style to all parts of society — with Miles Davis getting outfitted at The Andover Shop (which inspired me to start this website), and the role Jewish clothiers had in shaping the style, something I’ve sought to articulate here— provide a fascinating glimpse into the diverse tapestry of American life.

One could say the bronze age encapsulates what remained of the Ivy in mainstream culture through the dark years of the ’70s and the preppy revival of the ’80s. Over the past few decades Ivy/preppy fashion, like virtually all cultural expressions, has been in postmodern pastiche and remix mode. But there may still be more to the story. Since writing rise-and-fall essay, I’ve spent much time studying the cycle of the ages according to the ancient Greeks, or what is known as the doctrine of the yugas in Hinduism. According to these concepts, there are not three stages of birth, maturity and decline, but four, in accordance with natural law as reflected in the four seasons as the earth orbits the sun, and the four phases of the moon: waxing, waning, new and full.

So after the bronze age comes the age of iron, in which, according to Hesiod, “affection among brothers becomes rare.” (An extended passage from Hesiod can be found at Trad Man here.) In order for the lifecycle of anything to be complete, it must eventually become the exact opposite of what it was originally. So if the Ivy League Look was the uniform of the Eastern Establishment in the 1930s, the smart attire of those who wished to join said establishment (or at least take its style cues from it) in the 1950s, and the mufti of relics, style tribes and “lifestyle choice” since 1990, then the final stage of the Ivy League Look would be one in which its chief virtue is that it is worn by men who are the opposite of the men who wore it at the beginning of the golden age.

This week the website Medium published a piece entitled “J. Crew, Rowing Blazers, And The Decline Of Prep.” It’s not very well written (Medium is a publishing platform where anyone can post), but it makes points that I begrudgingly felt were worth grudging upon, being illustrative of this tumultuous year of 2020.

Quote:

Prep style as a signal of wealth ($$) in America is fading, though. As an ideal, prep is alive, and Rowing Blazers proves this. But there’s a difference between J.Crew and RB. Here’s the difference. Rowing Blazers can repurpose prep + ivy style as an act of rebellion against wasp-culture, classism — legacy wealth in America. Just look at their recent SS2020 campaign. Younger audiences crave this sense of identity in their style. It’s genius.

Polo wasn’t meant for hip-hop culture. So they took it and made it their own. As an act of rebellion to the American dream. The same applies to J.Crew and Rowing Blazers. Both are aspirational. One is ironic. The other is not. Their issues run deep, and while there may be a number of solutions they conjure up to save the business, adaptiveness must be one of them. Because while the world is evolving, they aren’t. And that’s where J.Crew struggles.

The salient quote is the one stating that the chief appeal of Ivy/prep style for the young (at least the fashion-conscious ones, as opposed to the young fogeys) is not that it’s traditional but that it’s subversive. The clothing’s relation to the WASP culture that gave birth to it is not continuation or preservation, but something more akin to a slap in the face. And, according to cosmic law, a slap that should be expected. “Karma’s a bitch,” as the saying goes, and Kali, the Hindu goddess who rules the fourth and final age of chaos and inversion, wears a necklace made from the severed heads of men and goes around sticking out her tongue.

A comment on Medium article reads:

Current preppy style requires a certain American gentry classicism, but not at the expense of of being totally out of touch. That’s the secret sauce: Sort of like sticking it to the establishment by dressing establishment, but in a totally new, socially relevant and distinctive way.

But why bother wearing establishment clothing in order to be anti-establishment? In other words, why make a fashion statement that is a negation of one thing rather than an assertion of something else? That’s easy: because the clothes are so damn appealing, in spite of, or even because of, where they come from.

The image above, incidentally, is from J. Crew’s website earlier this summer. The outfit on the left is pretty classic, though its appeal likely depends on who’s wearing it. — CC

50 Comments on "The Decline Of Prep?"

  1. whiskeydent | July 30, 2020 at 3:19 pm |

    But is prep/trad even the clothing of the establishment anymore? I don’t think so. Presidents, corporate CEO’s, tech titans, and other establishment figures are wearing down-the-middle styles meant to avoid offense. If they go off that script, they go for an Italian take or casual crap. I think it’s better to consider that they’re mocking the establishment by wearing its older, much better looking, and more distinctive clothes.

  2. As a brand, Rowing Blazers comes across as a hipster parody of Ivy or Preppy style, a huge piss-take. Most of their garments (e.g. jackets, rugby shirts and sweatshirts) are a hideous and garish rip-off.

  3. Kali is definitely the ruler of the 2020. This year feels to me like the final era of chaos and inversion. Many of the the companies that I looked up to growing up are gone and probably not coming back (at least the way I remember them).

    I know Christian will probably tell me I need to do push-ups or try meditation, but the truth hurts.

  4. Hardbopper | July 30, 2020 at 5:01 pm |

    I drafted up a rant, but this will have to suffice: Long live Ivy style! It’s not a sin to have good taste.

  5. Bopper, consider sending me your “rant” as an essay and I’m happy to consider running it.

    C.

  6. I don’t think Prep is an “establishment” style now. If you look at the all the silicon valley billionaires, they dress very casually. Elon Musk, Zuckerberg, Bezos, etc… all wear muted grays and blacks, often paired with blue jeans. D.C. has some preppy elements, such as the occasional buttoned collar, and they wear bright silk ties, but they usually pair them with charcoal/dark grey/black solid or pinstripe suits.

  7. Behind Enemy Lines | July 30, 2020 at 10:46 pm |

    How transgressive; how predictable. Yawns to that.

    Without getting into the prep / trade divide, we’re talking about an enduring mindset that isn’t going to be lost or even knocked off course by cack-handed fools hoping to make easy money or a cheap political statement. Prep continues simply because it works. Sure, it goes up and down the flagpole. It isn’t going away, but it’ll adapt. Has before, will again. The underlying values and principles remain. I won’t be surprised if in the next few years we see a major revival.

  8. Behind Enemy Lines | July 30, 2020 at 11:00 pm |

    Sorry, Christian, while I was replying to the ‘sticking it to the establishment’ quote at the foot of your piece I forgot to mention your own observations on historical / philosophical cycles. Makes sense, but surely that’s a longer-run thing, even in these fast moving times. There’s merit in those thoughts, but I don’t expect to see those cycles to play out across just a few generations. Meanwhile, I like Whiskydent’s take – it’s pretty hard to dress counter to today’s establishment without moving in the direction of taste and style.

  9. Andrew K. | July 31, 2020 at 2:10 am |

    Seems like no one is allowing for the possibility of cycles. People might start getting tired of all the smart-alecky ironic fashion and start dressing preppy again. I see hints of it already in some teenagers I know – perhaps it will become a larger trend. Keep in mind the 60s and 70s were followed by the 80s.

  10. Old School Tie | July 31, 2020 at 5:06 am |

    Andrew K – my younger children and nephews who live near to us and are around frequently, have recently started to regale me with tales of their exploits whilst playing Dungeons and Dragons (or something similar, based on the works of H.P. Lovercraft – was he trad/ivy…?). Gone for the most part are the mega-sessions of GTA or whatever and in their place are the rolling of dice and the reading of instructions and storylines. Yes, I agree with you, cycles of popular tendencies are real, we most certainly will see the resurgence of the Ivy look…

  11. I don’t really pay attention to people much, anymore. I wear my “uniform,” like it or not. But, I have observed, with neighbors and in the few stores I’ve frequented during the pandemic, that collars on shirts are very rare, or non existent. The other day, the 12 year old son of a neighbor remarked that he’s never seen me in jeans or a t shirt.

    If possible, women even look worse than men. Spandex does not look good, except on emaciated 20 year old girls.

    In the 1970’s, my late Uncle Charlie used to say, “By 2020, everyone will walking around naked.”

    It might come to that.

  12. Hardbopper | July 31, 2020 at 8:08 am |

    C,
    Thank you. Once again you have made my day.

    Your offer is indeed an honor, but my ranting is not worthy to be an essay on IS, so I scrapped it.

  13. Wriggles

    I recently saw a bumper sticker that read “Spandex Is Not a Right, It Is a Privilege ”

    Very true.

    Will

  14. Men who wear fashion are like women who wear fashion, forgotten in six months. Fashion is LAMBS clothing (Look At Me, Boys). Style in a man’s clothing is The Best Introduction a man can make, even from fifty yards away. The difference between style and fashion is sometimes merely a shade of color. Usually a darker, more subdued shade of color.

  15. Charlottesville | July 31, 2020 at 11:30 am |

    As Christian suggests, things do seem to be in decline, and I don’t think any of us knows what the next 20 years may hold for men’s clothing, the arts, politics or anything else. No doubt, part of my dreary frame of mind is due to the omnipresent virus, which makes everything seem to be worse than it probably is. But a general societal laxity has been setting in for quite some time, going back at least to when the Boomers began coming of age, and it would be surprising if it were not reflected in clothing.

    But whatever the future holds, I doubt it will be a continuation of the ubiquitous posture of rebellion, smirking irony and snark that characterizes so much of what one sees about. If nothing else, it has become boring. Most thirty-somethings I know are more likely to be having kids and buying houses than hanging out in kombucha bars rolling their eyes at the unfairness of life. I saw much the same with my generation, and I confess to being an ill-clad, ungrateful doofus (sp.?) from roughly age 15 until some point after college. People grow up and start wanting different things than they did in their teens and 20s. Hopefully this will bring some maturity to the culture as a whole.

    Still, while I think it unlikely that we will see a return to pure heyday Ivy, I am somewhat hopeful that there may be a reaction to the general slovenliness (intellectual, cultural and sartorial) that my fellow curmudgeons and I bemoan here in the comments. Traditional influence in clothing will, I hope, have a place in that reaction. One thing that would help would be to see more public figures act and dress like grownups. Even those of us on a less rarefied plane can make a contribution by example. When I am out and about I often get a compliment or two on my clothing from young women, and that may influence their beaux and potential beaux to try a coat and tie, or at least to iron and tuck in their shirts. Perhaps kindness and good manners may even return to the public square, or is that too much to hope for? I suppose one could say that I remain drearily optimistic.

  16. Another fourfold cycle:

    Hard times make strong men
    Strong men make good times
    Good times make weak men
    Weak men make hard times

    There’s also Thomas Cole’s set of four paintings “The Course Of Empire,” which I’ve been privileged to see in NY.

  17. I likewise thank CC for his article and to all of you for keeping the faith. I couldn’t believe it (or maybe I can in retrospect), when my better half pointed out this tartly written article in Town & Country: “How Brooks Brothers Became a Symbol of What Not to Wear to the Revolution.” I’m amazed how politicized everything has become these days. https://www.townandcountrymag.com/style/fashion-trends/a33415887/brooks-brothers-mccloskeys-controversy/

  18. @ Jim F

    Just read the article. What does it mean? That guys like us that wear Ivy type clothing will be viewed as supremists and Nazis?

    Seems that way to me.

    The world is sure messed up.

  19. @CC, very interesting, indeed. Another four cycle theory surrounds the movement of generations through history in Occidental society. Much to the concept of “Hard times and strong men,” there’s a theory out there by William Strauss and Neil Howe that as generations are successively born and move time, they are shaped by the cycle in which they are raised, and in turn shape the cycle in which they are in mid-life, or in other words, at the height of their power, generationally speaking. In the Strauss-Howe theory, each saeculum begins in a post-war period they describe as a “High,” followed by an “Awakening,” which in turns gives way to an “Unravelling,” which invariably concludes in a “Crisis.” Each cycle tends to last for about 20-25 years, on average. Juxtaposing this against modern American history, the High would have been 1944-1963; the Awakening from 1964-1983; the Unravelling from 1984-2008, and the Crisis beginning in 2008, and ending whenever we, as a society, resolve the greatest part of the current challenge(s) we’re facing.

  20. Very interesting indeed, RWK, as you put it.

    I toyed with doing a timeline myself for the Ivy League Look, but I don’t think the numbers will make sense.

    According to the doctrine of the yugas, a full cycle, which is called a mantanvara, consists of 10 units of time that break down like this:

    4 units of golden age
    3 of silver
    2 of bronze
    1 of iron

    So the final phase, although it is destructive, is brief, and then a new golden age dawns.

    It’s difficult to say when the Ivy League Look “began.” In 1898 or so with the sack suit, in the ’20s sometime with the popularity of odd jackets and grey flannels and the now-established buttondown collar?

    If my interpretation is valid and the 13-year heyday from ’54-’67 marks the silver age, then that would be 3 units of time.

    Someone good at math will have to take it from there. 13 years equals 30% of the cycle and began in 1954, therefore the 40% of the golden age would have begun when?

    It won’t make sense because the iron age is only one unit of time in the life cycle, yet we’ve been in it for a long time….

  21. There’s a 2020 version of The Ivy Look that exists today that most people will only recognize in the future with 20/20 hindsight.

  22. Also, if you want to learn how real millionaires dress and act, read: Stop Acting Rich by Tom Stanley – the foremost authority on affluent Americans.

    https://www.amazon.com/Stop-Acting-Rich-Living-Millionaire/dp/1118011570

  23. Purists and snobs might argue that the Heyday was rotten to the core– a lot of expediently but (or therefore) cheaply made clothing. A lot. Polyester arrived on the scene well before the 70s, and the tailoring, even if the shoulders were sloped, was goddamned awful. Let’s own this much for the sake of clarity of debate: the “Heyday” as CC has defined it (let’s go with late 50s and 60s, generally) marked/witnessed a decline in (a man’s inclination toward) tailored clothing.

    I think CC is generally right about the Golden Age dating. When J. Press’ business was custom and the accessories, largely well-made British goods, were a matter of pride.

    It could be argued that the 80s nurtured the decline, and that the hollowness of American culture, exemplified and maybe fostered by Reaganism, contributed much. Carter’s second administration would have been much more Preppy Establishment than Reagan’s first and second combined, with polite nods to (Princeton) Tigers Baker and Schultz. There’s something (who knows exactly what?) about left-of-center politics (Liberal Establishment)–maybe because it’s the most sensible of political dispositions, it attracts fogey patricians galore.

    The emblem- and-logo-obsessed 80s, driven by Yuppie vulgarities, was a lethal blow to old school Ivy–even more so than the long-haired 70s. The men who might have favored custom-made Chipp suits and an ancient Mercedes was, animated by advertising, more interested in the giant Rolex, the new BMW, and too many PoloRL shirts to count. Nobody understood the actual worth/value of what they were buying, but, in consumer society, desire equals value and value renders cost. And then there’s that insidious truth about pricing: if it’s more expensive, the uninformed (ignorant) consumer assumes it’s “better.”

    Heeding the wisdom of cycles (decline-fall-rise-pinnacle-decine-fall-rise-decine-fall-rise-pinnacel-decline…), I think we’ll see a return to custom clothing–mostly in the form of made-to-order/measure. We can only hope that most of the off-the-rack goods disappear, since they’re cheaply made and hideous. If men’s stores that survive (H. Stockton, Mashburn, Hilton, The Andover Shop, etc.) pay attention, they’ll downsize operations so it’s less about (in-stock) inventory and much more about “What can we make for you?”

    This the future of Ivy, which takes us back to the early twentieth century. “As it should be,” some will say.

  24. Trevor Jones | July 31, 2020 at 3:09 pm |

    @Whiskeydent and @Cody, I agree that it’s not their uniform anymore, but I don’t think that really matters. It was their uniform when the image of them became solidified in the American consciousness, just as the uniform of the cowboy that we all came to know wears spurs and a cowboy hat. While a modern day ranch-hand wouldn’t necessarily wear those, we associate them with the cowboy because that is the most culturally ingrained image we have of them, and the same holds true for the establishment uniform, which is why the “preppy villain” in movies makes so much sense still today.

    @Kenny, I think that’s an unfair assessment of Rowing Blazers. While their aesthetic generally revolves around being subversive and irreverent in the classic vein of prep, they also make some incredible garments and go to great lengths to describe the provenance of them. A great example would be the no-longer-in-production gun check blazer in the pattern used on the cover of the famous “Scottish Estate Tweeds” book. They singlehandedly reproduced it and have that sport coat tailored in New York City. Say whatever you will about how you wear it, but the point remains that the garment itself is still an amazing one and could just as easily be worn by a “true” ivy/prepster as it could subversively.

    @BehindEnemyLines and @Andrew K, I totally agree. Does it really matter how people are wearing prep if they’re wearing it to begin with? Technically, yes, but it is good to see people wearing OCBDs and loafers, regardless.

    @Charlottesville, insightful as always, I would also like to see more people taking their dress more seriously. But what I disagree with is that you pointed out the “curmudgeons” are the ones nitpicking; prep must be seen positively in order for people to want to wear it. Like anything, no one wants to be shouted at/condemned and forced to wear something; in fact, that is where the reaction/rebellion stems from.

    @Jim F, to be fair, it’s hard not to politicize it when you have white fascists pointing automatic guns at peaceful protestors. One could say the same about the mustache Hitler wore: “Why does everything have to be politicized?” True, it wasn’t his mustache that was making the decisions, but nobody wants to look like a fucking Nazi.

  25. whiskeydent | July 31, 2020 at 3:51 pm |

    Trevor
    Fair comment. I don’t think we should leave the current establishment look out of the discussion.

    Charlottesville
    Call me a silly optimist, but I expect today’s teenagers will rebel against their predecessors’ snark. Because they’re going through a deadly pandemic, I think they will be more humble and less entitled (an overused word) than millennials. Imagine what a 16-year-old in 1938 thought about the self-indulgent Jazz Age. Probably not much, I think. I know my dad, born in 1922, sure didn’t like them.

  26. @Trevor Jones – Rowing Blazers’ gun club jacket is not bad but at $295, it will not be even half-canvassed. However, it is ventless and that would be a deal breaker for most Ivyists who would want a centre hook vent.

    Similar gun club cloths are readily available from Scottish mills. The cost of a genuine and quality gun club tweed, e.g. from the Lovat Mill, would be at least $65 a metre (without shipping) or around $160 for a jacket. The cost of tailoring and profit margins suggest that cloth would be cheaper, probably made in China.

    For comparison, Rowing Blazers charges $1095 for its double breasted blazer. That is more realistic for a quality jacket. You described the gun club jacket as amazing but I would describe it as a cheap and tacky imitation, especially with those gaudy brass buttons.

  27. Ken Pollock | July 31, 2020 at 4:23 pm |

    From Wiggles: In the 1970’s, my late Uncle Charlie used to say, “By 2020, everyone will walking around naked.”
    Well, not quite. However, feet tend to be nearly naked these days, as most people usually wear either flip-flops or sandals. Dressed up Nieman Marcus salesmen wear their suits and oxfords without socks. Even the most “dressy” women’s shoes come with “open toes.”
    Then, we have teenage girls who usually wear short shorts, exposing their butt cheeks. What do their parents think? I think that most Americans nowadays always dress like they are headed either to the beach or to the gym. For myself, I still dress just like I did in 1965. My wardrobe is entirely missing jeans, baseball caps and flip-flops. I have some t-shirts, but they are all white underwear. I also have one pair of shorts which I only wear to wash the car.

  28. Anonymous | July 31, 2020 at 4:45 pm |

    Don’t get me started on Rowing Blazers. This brand is the most garish, meretricious, gaudy clothing line I have ever seen.

    Rowing blazers, team uniforms, and collegiate insignia are for people who earned the privilege to wear them. Not to be a snob, but most of RB’s poser customers couldn’t tell you the difference between a sculler and a coxswain.

    Paying $1,095 for a blazer; how rebellious!

  29. I’ll let my first comment on this site be my dispatch from the wars on the frontier. I am entering my final stint at SMU and I must say that most of my classmates would be the types who would have embraced the style during the heyday but have settled for spandex leggings and sweat pants. I think there’s something to be said for those whose culture is reflected in specific styles whereas others merely adopted styles as an act of conformity. My style was molded by my Mid-Century companyman grandfather and my 1980s-Wall Street father and I’ve found that the disposition they imbued me with toward life shapes my style far more than any devotion to a particular collar style or suit cut (they are both consummate Southern formalists to the point that my father instructed me that button-down collars were unfit for business wear). I would dare to assert that those who unironically wear the style now do so from a point of cultural heritage as it is no longer beneficial in the larger social context. Looking at my peers at SMU, the style du jour for men is an odd conflagration of athletic clothes meets neo-prep (it is not odd in the fall to see guys wearing sweat pants with Barbour jackets) and let’s not forget about the take-over of the venture capitalist look with those Patagonia vests. I have worn things ironically to class but you are only as your audience and let’s just say they didn’t get the joke. Ultimately, I’m thoroughly conservative (conservatism correctly understood as disposition rather than ideology) and I find this to be a major determinant to personal style for myself and my cohort of friends. I suppose the root of the discussion for me is the line between changing styles and moral decay. As for Christian’s comment on Thomas Cole and “The Course of Empire,” Cole is my favorite Romanticist and that series is also my favorite series of paintings.

  30. Marc Chevalier | July 31, 2020 at 5:59 pm |

    I’ll share a wise reply by Morgan Glines:

    “I’ve been saying that prep is the new punk for almost ten years. Saying, ‘F—k the establishment’ isn’t edgy anymore. Saying, ‘Let them eat cake’ is.

    I like how well researched this article is, and it makes some interesting points, but that’s not really the cycle fashion trends follow. I mean, it sort of is, but it happens faster than they say. As a fashion trend for the general public, prep comes around about every fifteen years. It was big in the early sixties. It came back in the eighties. It was big in the early 2000s. It’s having something of a resurgence now, but it’s fratty and cheesy. (Head to toe Vineyard Vines isn’t cute.) Like other styles, punk, athleisure (which has been around since the 80s,) trad/sartorial, there are always people who choose that style for their everyday look, year in, year out regardless of trends. There are always preps around. There will likely always be preps around. Prep waxes and wanes as a fashion trend. Like every style that’s associated with a lifestyle, regular followers deride the fashion trend version as ‘the death of (insert prep, punk, traditional style, whatever, here).’ Lifestyle inspired fashion trends are ALWAYS a parody. That’s their nature. Are tee shirts printed with giant Pinkie the Whale on them to prep what Hot Topic is to 70s London punk? Yeah, I would say so.

    Are there fewer real preps? Yes. With an ever shrinking middle class, and a nearly non-existent upper-middle class, generational wealth isn’t a thing for most people anymore. Will there always be stores to cater to the preps that are left? Probably. We have money. Male or female, we like our clothes. Real preps shop from small niche brands like J. Press or J. McLaughlin though. Not national chains in every mall like J. Crew or Banana Republic. Big national brands need to follow macroscopic trends. Niche brands by definition don’t.

    The whole ‘death of prep’ is pretty eye roll inducing. All styles need to evolve to reflect their times, otherwise they die. Real preps aren’t going anywhere, but a lot of us have embraced things like jeans. It’s just the wannabes that come and go.”

  31. Thanks for another thought-provoking column Christian. Personally, I can’t stand Rowing Blazers, and I am a long-time oarsman. I have tried on their blazers, and they are cheap and ill-fitting. (J. Press’s striped regatta blazers, on the other hand, are fabulous. I am still kicking myself for not purchasing one of their beautiful maroon-and-navy striped 40Ls that they offered last fall.)

    At the end of the day, I just enjoy wearing classic, quality, understated Ivy-style clothing. I’m not trying to make a statement; it just makes me happy. And it inspires me to live up to certain standards I have set for myself, personally and professionally.

    And, if I may, just a small correction: Gibbon’s historical masterpiece is titled “History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire,” not “Rise and Fall.”

  32. Hardbopper | July 31, 2020 at 6:42 pm |

    S.E.,
    I agree with you concerning made-to-order/measure vs. off-the-rack, and downsizing operations. If BB had done that 20 years ago, they would still be in business. Along the same lines, I would like to see GMC put a COPO system in place again.

  33. Gentleman,
    As was said earlier in the thread, let’s focus on the positivity of Ivy and Trad. It’s not going to stay alive if we brood and snicker.
    Step outside in the world, and let’s continue to show ’em how it’s done.

  34. Gentlemen*

  35. john carlos | July 31, 2020 at 7:38 pm |

    Peter L- I could not agree more. Trads need to lead by example. There’s enough bad news these days without creating more. Let’s all continue to support what few trad shops that remain.

  36. Speaking of the millionaire look, for those of you who are millionaires 1) What make of car do you drive?
    2) What kind of watch do you wear most often?
    3) Where do you like to shop for clothing?

    For me, the answers are: Toyota, Omega, Brooks Brothers

  37. Certain professions will always demand (benefit from) tasteful, traditional clothing. The more traditional men’s stores (H. Stockton, The Andover Shop, Ben Silver, Wm. King, etc.) will always have access to manufacturers that cater to the needs/tastes of lawyers, physicians, bankers, clergymen, etc.– the traditional professions. This tried-and-true look, now established, isn’t going anywhere, no matter what the slothful hordes prefer. Few combos say, “I’m solid and dependable; let’s do some serious business” like a dark gray suit, OCBD, repp (striped) tie, and shell cordovan shoes.

    The natural shoulder has won the day–there won’t be a return to the high-and-wide-shouldered excess of the 40s/50s anytime soon.

    The more obscure, peripheral facets of the style we like, including Scottish tweeds and wool challis and Calvalry Twill, will always appeal to the fogeys out there. And as long as there are liberal-arts colleges that offer majors like English Literature, History, and Classics, there will be fogeys, some of them mildly-to-very eccentric. From the Jane Austen-quoting, brandy-sipping, Smith College grad to the rugby-playing, Knob Creek-drinking, Hampden Sydney KA — they’re out there. Pockets of them, throughout the East Coast.

    Ivy is dead.
    Long live Ivy.

  38. Marc Chevalier | July 31, 2020 at 9:19 pm |

    More sagaciousness from Morgan Glines:

    “People don’t seem to understand that clothing styles need to adapt to changing lifestyle, or they die out. I’m on the younger end as far as group members here, (30) so I have a somewhat different take. (I’m also far more WASP than prep, but that’s a whole different story.)

    The fact of the matter is, my generation has a very different lifestyle, and very different goals than a lot of people who are nostalgic for 80s prep. Most upper-middle class jobs don’t have the same dress codes that they would have thirty-five years ago. (If they have a dress code at all.) As much as I think wearing a suit and tie to work is very elegant, it’s not elegant if you’re the only one doing it. Social media and fitness classes have replaced the country club in most places. You’ll find *far* more preps at a yoga class than on the golf course nowadays. Personally, I think it’s great that people are bonding over shared interests rather than similar bank statements.

    It’s unfortunate that a lot of prep brands haven’t really embraced a lot of values that matter to younger upper middle class people today. We’re more than happy to pay premium prices, but we want things like sustainably and ethically produced goods. We don’t like when stores pretend to be doing the right thing by asking us to donate $2 on top of our order. We know that that’s a tax write-off for the store, and doesn’t do anything to help the environment or the people making our clothes. We’re not a super price sensitive market, so we’ll definitely pay $5 more for a shirt that was dyed sustainably. That’s more of a status symbol for people my age than the label. Brands like Brooks have been extraordinarily slow to catch onto that way of thinking, and it’s hurting their bottom line. To be blunt, if you’ve been in college in the last fifteen/twenty years, you probably care about the environment and ethical means of production.

    Having said that, there are a lot of prep values and fashion ideas that are still super relevant. Brands need to keep timelessness, versatility, quality, and appropriateness in mind. Most people around my age don’t want work clothes and weekend clothes. We want clothes that do double duty. That’s pretty easy to do within the confines of prep style. We want well made clothes that last forever. It’s really not rocket science.”

  39. Well stated, especially this:
    “think it’s great that people are bonding over shared interests rather than similar bank statements.”

    I admire the Millennials’ rebellion against (defiance of) ugliness. And, to be sure, there’s plenty of it:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qgNxLiuwFDY

    Not sure about the yoga classes (we’ll take your word for it), but I’ve observed that local book/reading groups attract preppies. The liberal-fogey variety. Lots of quoting of Anne Tyler, Updike, Ann Patchett and Donna Tartt while sipping Chardonnay. Charming.

  40. Trevor Jones | July 31, 2020 at 10:19 pm |

    @Peter L has it right. Hard to promote prep outside the borders of the already initiated when there is so much in-fighting. Instead of saying “That jacket has side vents, you’re not truly Ivy.”, why don’t we say, “Thanks for making an effort, you look great.”

  41. Marc Chevalier | July 31, 2020 at 10:45 pm |

    One addendum from Morgan Glines:

    “This isn’t any sort of value judgement, but this is what traditional marketeers get wrong when they speak about customers my age. We don’t consider things like ethical or sustainable production to be marketing, per se. They’re part of the product, like a lifetime guarantee, for example is really part of the product. It’s intangible, but it’s a part of what you’re buying. I’ll spend more on a product from Orvis because they have their ‘forever and a day’ guarantee. Things like carbon neutral production, are in the same category. Traditional marketeers don’t understand that. They see environmental initiatives as more hype than a product feature, and don’t get me wrong, a lot are. ($2 of my $150 purchase going towards planting trees? Give me a break.) When brands do sustainability or whatever initiatives right, carbon neutral production for example, and explain that to the consumer, we consider it a product feature, and it’s a product feature we’ll pay more for.

    It drives me up a wall that more prep brands don’t get on that bandwagon. So much of the prep lifestyle is nature oriented. If you can tie your cause to the product it’s even better. We’ll pay more for a swimsuit if the company selling said swimsuit commits to removing plastic from the ocean kind of thing. It’s such a simple concept.”

  42. Semiotician | July 31, 2020 at 11:05 pm |

    No less than T&C has declared Brooks Brothers socially unacceptable. Ironically is the only way one can wear preppy clothes today.

    https://www.townandcountrymag.com/style/fashion-trends/a33415887/brooks-brothers-mccloskeys-controversy/

  43. A quick story.

    I was helping my neighbor glue up some boards for a kitchen cabinet project. He’s 47. a family man, and usually wears some sort of muscle t shirt and exercise pants to show off his successful “workout” body.

    I happened to get a bit of glue on my old blue OCBD, and he quips, ” We may have to go to Goodwill to get you another shirt.”

    I good naturedly laughed.

  44. Oh my. Need a face-palm emoticon.

  45. I’m not much older than Mr Marc Chevalier and believe that his/our younger generation are far more attached to the Aspirational principles and lifestyle than to any of the traditional values of the past taught among other places in the preparatory schools. I believe that in fact he is describing the Aspirational class as defined by Elizabeth Currid-Halkett when he speaks of yoga class and sustainability. While there certainly is overlap between the Aspirational and Wasp/Prep groups for example in the organic foods and farmer’s markets they both love, the difference in dress I believe will continue to divergent because the Aspirational class values status and recognition of peers via inconspicuous consumption (the sustainability of their tea shirts) where as the Wasp/Prep values tradition, comfort, and presentability crafted by industry experts who happen to live in America, Ireland, or Great Britain because these are the homes of the clothes we so love. I just so happens some of our peers value the same things.

  46. Trevor Jones | August 1, 2020 at 9:05 am |

    @Wriggles, he’s not wrong! Just scored a great BB blue OCBD at Goodwill for $4! 😉

  47. Real millionaires don’t all dress and act alike. Unless by real millionaires you mean something other than $1 million+ in net worth.

    Anyway, I wear what I like and try (not always successfully) not to overthink it.

  48. Marc Chevalier | August 1, 2020 at 1:32 pm |

    @JM: I didn’t say those things. I was quoting Morgan Glines.

  49. Mr. Marc Chevalier I do apologize for not clarifying
    that point. Also for my typing which is appalling.

    Braccae illae virides cum subucula rosea et tunica Caledonia-quam elenganter concinnatur! – Those green pants go so well with that pink shirt and the plaid jacket!

  50. If I missed someone else’s point in the many many comments above, my mistake… but another big drawback to J Crew’s late releases is that so much of it is cut slim, in fabrics designed to stretch (which inevitably shrink, and wear poorly compared to straight cotton or wool). I wanted that red Ikat madras (pictured) like you wouldn’t believe! But to see that it was only offered in slim cuts, well… I’m 6’2″, 185 pounds, with relatively wide shoulders. Anyone who’s even relatively outsized — athletic, overweight or just plain big-boned — would struggle to find comfort in these slim cuts. Same goes for most of J Crew’s pants now on offer, since the classic straight-cut chinos (I’ve scrounged local stores and bought several pairs, discounted) so rarely go on sale even amid huge blowout promotions. I’ve got no interest in seeing an outline of my phone or keys through the leg of my pants.

    I firmly believe J Crew’s “Always” line is the best thing it’s done in the last 15+ years — natural fabrics, heritage designs, sturdy fastenings, and full cuts. And these items were always the first ones sold out when I visited stores/looked online! Wallace & Barnes, same story. I’d love to hear the rationale behind discontinuing the “Always” stuff and trying to spin out more damned stretch jeans for $129 a pair.

    For all of the failings of Brooks Bros, they never completely abandoned their full cuts and traditional fabrics that made menswear so desirable before “slim/stretch” movement took over. This leaves them forever a cut (or many cuts) above post-2005 J Crew atmo.

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