The Prep Revival Is Just Getting Started: RB x JP, Party Pix, And GQ Feature

Last Friday Richard Press, the team from J. Squeeze, DCG aka The Millennial Fogey, and myself gathered at the Rowing Blazers shop in downtown NYC for a shindig celebrating the latest RB collaboration. It’s with none other than J. Press, and consists of what you might call a postmodern branding of the iconic Shaggy Dog.

Explains Rowing Blazers founder Jack Carlson:

I grew up in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and when I was in high school, I used to go to the J. Press in Harvard Square after practice. I was already kind of a clothes horse, and I loved looking at the tweed jackets, the club ties, and of course the iconic Shaggy Dog sweaters. I loved the whole vibe in there. It was like going back in time. This was when brands like Rugby and Black Fleece for Brooks Brothers by Thom Browne were making a lot of noise and doing some cool things.

Amidst all this, it always seemed to like J. Press was kind of the calm at the center of the storm. J. Press was the real thing. J. Press had all these old oars on its walls and trophies on its shelves — but they weren’t phony versions! They were old oars and trophies from my own high school team and the guys whose names were painted on the blades or engraved on the trophies were real J. Press customers!  I thought this was cool. I like things that are authentic, that are ‘the real thing.’

Because J. Press is steeped in all of this history, it’s kind of daunting to come in and to try to do something new. So my idea with this collaboration was actually not to do something new at all. If anything, it’s kind of going back in time. I’m kind of a geek when it comes to looking at labels, symbols, iconography — it’s part of what I wrote my PhD about — and I noticed that the little dog on the Shaggy Dog label has changed over the years since my early days of visiting J. Press in Harvard Square. So I wanted to bring back that old Shaggy Dog. That little guy, as far as I’m concerned, is what makes a Shaggy Dog a Shaggy Dog — and not just another Shetland sweater. And I didn’t want to just bring back the old Shaggy Dog: I wanted to put him front and center. I wanted to do something kind of weird; I wanted to celebrate the label.

We live in a world where anything and everything gets knocked off, made cheaper, and ‘no brand’ is the coolest brand. Our culture kind of celebrates this: it’s full of start-ups that take a simple consumer product and make it extremely cheaply in China, giving it minimal branding with sans-serif letters and Millennial Pink or Gen-Z Yellow, and ‘pass the savings on to you.’ Hell, someone is probably doing this with Shetland-style sweaters. Our collaboration here swims against the stream: it celebrates the label and puts it front and center; it celebrates that this sweater was made in a weird, ancient corner of the earth on an archipelago called the Shetland Islands between Celtic Scotland and Viking Norway; it celebrates the weird old jumble of shapes and fonts that went into the original label – including this quirky little line drawing of the original Shaggy Dog. And I love that. These sweaters are made in the original wide-body ‘dad fit’ that predates one of J. Press’ few concessions to early ’00s – a ‘skinny fit’ Shaggy Dog. But yes – they come in both Millennial Pink and Gen-Z Yellow.

As for the party, here’s Jack with freshly shaved Press exec Robert Squillaro:
The Press family with DCG:

Ivy Style contributor (and belt and necktie co-designer) MKG in festive blazer:

DCG, MKG, and myself in Rowing Blazers sweatshirt with motto “Il est beau de mourir pour son roi“:

Yellow socks + deadstock Weejuns on Dan, Nordic socks + bit loafers on me. Story about my khakis coming soon:

Dapper partygoer with tweed-clad pooch:


The party may be over, but the prep revival is just getting started. Last week GQ ran a feature on Rowing Blazers saying that very thing. To wit:

Preppy clothing should have reached its apogee with the #menswear movement, when men embraced pleated trousers, 3-roll-2 sport coats, and penny loafers. But as soon as “Ivy Style” began to feel like costume again, prep only got stronger by ditching the tie and adapting to the current youth-led streetwear moment.

It’s a lengthy story and very much worth reading for a sense of where neoprep is heading. Strap in as it should be an interesting ride. — CHRISTIAN CHENSVOLD

40 Comments on "The Prep Revival Is Just Getting Started: RB x JP, Party Pix, And GQ Feature"

  1. Richard E. Press | December 4, 2018 at 3:04 pm |

    Maybe not elegant, but indeed a swelegent party it was.

  2. Thanks to your presence, sir!

  3. Am I the only one who thinks wearing one’s sweater label is shallow, gauche, and gimmicky?

  4. I’m sure we’ll find out.

  5. I simply don’t understand why they put the whole label on the sweater. If the “designer” was so into iconography and making things more modern, why not just stitch a dog logo? Everyone’s into logos these days, right?

  6. Jack leveraging the designer’s prerogative to be the worst dressed at the event.

  7. Mitchell: You certainly aren’t the only one, especially in this community. I agree with you, but is there really anything else Jack Carlson could have done?

  8. I like the idea of an embroidered logo Shaggy, a la Lacoste and Polo.

  9. “But Rowing Blazers’ premise — that prep is essentially fun and for everyone — doesn’t feel true just yet. Not in annum 2018, when we’re ruled by a political class whose favorite part of the job is the symbols they (and no one else) get to wear and the flags they get to fly.”

    Someone ought to remind doltish author Samuel Hine that pearl-clutching isn’t preppy.

  10. Yes that line confused me.

  11. Ever since Carhartt and Timberland fell into big bucks by becoming icons of hip-hop fashion in the 90s, brands have been chasing a quick windfall by putting big logos front and center on their garments.

    The word for that look is not “preppy” it’s “ghetto”.

  12. I have a few Shaggy dog sweaters and like them. That said, there’s no way I’d buy one with that label on it.

    Cheers, BC

  13. Can anyone out there in Trad Land answer something that has always puzzled me. At the rip old age of 63 1/2, I am still asking myself why “our” look goes in and out of style.
    If we are Americans and this is “our” American style/look, then why does it come and go constantly. Growing up in Central Massachusetts, we had one of two styles that everyone young and old wore. It was either “our” look or dressing like Elvis at his 68 comeback tour.
    This was not a style that I or anyone else was mocking,i.e. those having an Ivy education etc., it was just how we all did it. So do those in other parts of the globe also not have their “own” styles and constantly alter their looks as well?
    Hope that I am making sense here and others can relate to my situation.
    Thanks,
    Jim M.

  14. Caustic Man | December 4, 2018 at 5:50 pm |

    Would I wear a sweater with a big patch logo on the least breast? No. Do I think it’s awesome that younger people are recognizing the amazing appeal of the Shaggy Dog? Hell yeah. Ivy-Preppy-or whatever you want to call it-has been changing since the beginning and will likely continue changing til the end. If you are genuinely honoring the past, as I think Jack Carlson is undoubtedly doing, while making it clear that you are looking to the future then I think good things will happen. My goodness, I can only imagine what the original fogeys thought of 80s prep. Thank the Lord above that we didn’t have comment sections back then.

  15. William B Canfield III | December 4, 2018 at 7:46 pm |

    The idea of putting the Shaggy Dog label on the outside of the seater must rank right up there with the worst marketing decisions ever made, as in those made over the last few decades by the geniuses who once ran Brooks. If this is the direction that J Press is headed, count me out…after 40 years of being a J Press client!

  16. Crimson '14 | December 4, 2018 at 7:53 pm |

    Putting the label on the outside of the sweater is gauche, and flies in the face of everything we love about ivy and prep style.

  17. Nor would I have the Harris Tweed tag on the pocket of my coat.

    Will

  18. @WBC3

    J. Press did not design the sweater.

  19. This is a post-Millennial thing. Stop blaming us for all of the world’s problems.

    Heaven forbid a man in his late twenties to late thirties wear that to the office.

    Still, it’s nice to give the style a kick in the ass from time to time.

  20. It’s a pre-Millenial thing, too. The more things change…

  21. it is ugly, but may work. is one of those things in clothing that is so wrong that starts feeling right. for a while at least

  22. If one tried to remove that label from the front of the sweater, would it leave a mark? If not, when these go on clearance it could be an easy path to a good deal on shaggy dogs.

  23. Old School Tie | December 5, 2018 at 6:38 am |

    Shall I divulge this….? Oh, go on. Antwerp based purveyors of knits, including some great Scottish stuff. Take a peep, something might pique your interest….

    https://www.morrison.be

  24. Trevor Jones | December 5, 2018 at 8:43 am |

    Struggling to find a positive with this (as a 20 year old), but I think Caustic Man’s comment did it justice. I agree about the way 80’s-prep changed the essence of the style as a means of saying that the look is not actually stagnant but always evolving. If this is the next chronological step, I think I’m good with not progressing (which doesn’t sound good). However, I’m not sure that this is the next step in prep so much as it is a strange hybrid between prep and streetwear. I think the real question is, will streetwear be a “timeless” look, one that can stick around? If so, it’s only natural that it affects everything. If not, then we run the risk of being overrun by a temporary fad, which is kind of the opposite of the appeal of this look.

  25. I dig the sweaters.

  26. whiskeydent | December 5, 2018 at 9:40 am |

    Take note of what Esquire wrote about aiming prep to youngsters in streetwear and then look at the sweater again. It ain’t for us.

    Also, Squillaro’s nickname should be “J Squiz.”

  27. From the perspective of a 50-something, just about the same as being dead and a half, the sweaters ain’t bad. The orange, in particular, would look cool beneath a brown-ish tweed jacket or a navy blazer, and I like the pink sweater too. Yes. I know, I know. But, please, let’s remove the labels.

    Best Regards,

    Heinz-Ulrich (Doddering, Wheezy, and Older Than God)

  28. Jim,
    Great question/point. “Our” look won’t go out of style. Fashion-driven designers and marketers will rediscover or attempt to reinvent it occasionally, but it won’t disappear. There are good reasons why–too complex (academic) to illuminate here. A few years ago Michael Barone wrote a superb piece on, for lack of better phrasing, the topic of post-WWII cohesion (in America). Preppy/Ivy/Trad is such a thoroughly “American” style–it’s here to stay.

    A working idea is that, after decades (centuries) of flux, the markets for certain things (like clothes) have, at long last, settled. Houses, cars, furniture. The suit is now, alas and for always, the suit. The defining characteristics are what they are, which is a good thing. Ditto for trousers/pants and shoes and sport jackets and topcoats. There won’t be a return to breeches, frock coats, and waistcoats for daily wear. And, thank God, the macaroni is long gone.

    In terms of influence, I think the post-war notion of elegance offered by JFK in particular (as well as actors like Jimmy Stewart, Gregory Peck, Cary Grant, Clark Gable, etc.) will persevere. The Kennedy influence remains a mystery to me–just how powerful it is. His ghost will remain alive and well as long as biographers and documentarians write and produce.

    We should take some comfort in the fact that it’s now a style that transcends a particular store or label. Thanks to the internet, you can find great stuff easily. This means that if J. Press, Brooks Brothers, and O’ Connell’s went out of business next year (we trust they won’t), you could still access the good stuff. For example:

    https://www.northern-fells.com/collections/shetland-woollen-co

    https://alwaysincolour.com/collections/shetland-woollen-co

    https://www.triads.co.uk/shetland-woollen-co-m504

  29. @whiskey

    Did you mean the linked GQ article, or is there an Esquire one as well?

  30. @CC
    “But as soon as “Ivy Style” began to feel like costume again, prep only got stronger by ditching the tie and adapting to the current youth-led streetwear moment.”

  31. The sweaters are a collaboration with RB. Their existence doesn’t cease the original Shaggy Dogs from being. All these colors are available sans label at your local J. Press and on jpressonline.com, so put away the seam rippers and feel free to buy one and uphold the sanctity you preach.

    In short: put your money where your mouth is.

  32. Chewco L.P. (Offshore) | December 5, 2018 at 9:18 pm |

    Mr. Press, sir, I must ask for your humble opinion on the matter. A lot of folks consider the sweater with the patch “gaudy.”

    I have no authority to request a comment from you, but I am just a little surprised that J. Press has endorsed this.

  33. Fuddy Duddy | December 6, 2018 at 7:34 am |

    Sew in a pocket protector over the label and I think you’ve got something.

  34. While I recognize the desire (and dare I say, the need) to bring the delights of J.Press to a younger demographic, this sweater simply won’t do. The label is too large. In terms of size, the label used on these sweaters is a cross between a screen printed t-shirt and a proper blazer patch; yet, the label itself has the aesthetic of a size label inside a shirt. In a past post, I discussed how true Ivy Style is about fitting in rather than standing out. True Ivy fans know that this sort of ostentation is antithetical to Ivy Style. Ivy style is a uniform for those who know — and are confident in — their station in life. Although I enjoy wearing a pair of go-to-hell pants, a neon pink cable knit sweater, or even an ascot to a party, on occasion, I would never wear all three at once. To do so would be poor form, not “style.” I often wonder how many of the people who attend these rowing blazer-type events are, in fact, Ivy grads. My guess: not many. True disciples of Ivy Style don’t follow fall for these “style” gimmicks. We just keep wearing what we always have to work and to the Club and leave the Rowing Blazers pop-up parties for those who don’t get it. (Exception: Christian and Richard Press. Both are gentlemen and totally “get” Ivy Style).

    On a lighter note, do these sweaters come in a slimmer fit for the younger demographic or is Rowing Blazers’ contribution to this collaboration merely slapping on the labels?

  35. An Ivy-Style commenter straight out of central casting!

    “History is a graveyard of classes which have preferred caste privileges to leadership.” -E Digby Baltzell

  36. @DCG
    I’m stealing that one. I might have to Texanize it a bit.

  37. Can the naff patches on the sweaters be removed? If so, that is the obvious remedy. If not, avoid them. The RB/JP shaggy dogs confirm my perception that collaborations between brands usually result in garments that look ridiculous.

  38. Those RB pieces really are a bit tacky. Somewhere, AEV is cursing a certain bank teller from west Texas for infecting this Carlson fellow with his vulgar sensibilities.

  39. @Michael
    I need a little translation help. Who is AEV? Who is the West Texas bank teller? Where did the teller and Carlson meet?

  40. I’m 78 years old and I can tell you the original Shaggy Dog was thinner than today’s sweater and fit comfortably under a blazer or sport coat. Today’s sweater is much thicker . Please go back to the original.

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