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.
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:
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