Friday, July 27, 2012

An Olympic Pony

Ralph Lauren designed the Olympic opening ceremony apparel kits for our American athletes in London 2012. Mr. Lauren, who's name is already synonymous with Wimbledon and Polo (the sport), was the perfect choice for outfitting the ol' red, white, and blue, creatively combining his influences of sport and classic American fashion.

I am a biased of course. This is a trad blog with sympathy towards tradly style.

And as it turns out, Mr. Lauren doesn't have as much approval from most everyone else. Some criticisms do carry some veracity, such as the fact that these all-American uniforms are not actually so, having been made in China. But other criticisms, well, are just ridiculous. Militarisitc? Really? As one commenter noted, it's easier to see a yachtsman wearing this than a dictator.

But here is my argument in support of the uniforms. The sentiment in my guide highlights the continual downgrade of dress in not only this country, but all of modern society. The opening ceremony is one of the world's biggest events and you would think we'd want our young men and women dressed up for the occasion. In years past we got away with track suits, but in 2012 we came back to our senses and showed the world we can look stylish again. What some may call old fashioned and boring, I call the use of the quintessential American blue blazer with gold buttons a huge hit. Combined with a club collar, repp tie, and white pants, the whole ensemble reflects smart and cool American athleticism. The beret, which some say is too French, serves as a proper cover that's much better than a cowboy hat that's too Redneck. The vintage inspired wardrobe reminds me of the Chariots of Fire era; these days you'd only see this kind of classic style at a rowing regatta, but tonight you saw it on the international stage.

I applaud Ralph Lauren. Sure they're made in China (what isn't?) and yeah maybe his pony logo is kind of obnoxiously loud but overall he designed what could be our most stylish and attractive uniforms yet. We may not look as awesome as the Dutch, outfitted by SuitSupply, but hell, it could've been a lot worse.

Let the games begin. USA! USA!

See some of USA's best and worst outfits here.

J. Press

Topping the trad mountain range are twin peaks that dominate the landscape: Brooks Brothers and J. Press. While the former is the Big Daddy of trad and prep consensus, J. Press is the backbone of the Ivy League Look. What's the difference between the two styles you ask? Allow my imagination to vomit some imagery:

Brooks Brothers. Harvard Boy (click on link). WASP. 1962. Don Draper. Ask Andy Forums. OCBD, Chinos, Bluchers. Making The Grade. Madison Avenue. Ronald Regan. Classic All-American

Ivy League Look
J Press. Yalie. Jew. 1955. Pete Campbell. Film Noir Buff Forums. Shetland Crewneck, Wool Slacks, Pennies. The Good Shepard. Wall Street. John F. Kennedy. Clean Cut Academic.

J. Press was founded in 1902 by a Jewish immigrant from Lativia named Jacobi Press in the Yale town of New Haven, CT. For over a hundred years, the gentleman's outfitter has been synonymous with the elite Ivy League universities and the resulting TNSIL (The Natural Shoulder Ivy League Look- referring to absent shoulder padding in suits and sportcoats).

Founder Jacobi Press at the first J.Press store in New Haven.

 J. Press as seen in Take Ivy

J. Press's appeal is its exclusivity. The fact that you own a Press item or can spot the brushed shetland wool of a Shaggy Dog puts you in a special club deserving of Skulls and Bones snobbery. Any preppie and fratstar can have a dozen Brooks Brothers OCBDs in their closets, but a true connoisseur of classic New England style will have Press thoroughly represented in his collection. A few Shaggies in GTH colors of Salmon and Kelly Green and neutral colors of Grey and Navy. Medium Grey flat front wool slacks. An array of OCBDs with the famous Flap Pocket, a trad mannerism ubiquitous of J.Press. And if you're lucky enough to call Yale your Alma mater, a Press patch from your college of study adorned on your 3/2 roll natural shouldered blazer, which I consider Press to be the brand of choice for your blue blazer due to their academic background.

Unlike Brooks and its nationwide locations in shopping malls and airports, J. Press has garnered its high esteem with only four stores in America in New Haven, Cambridge, New York, and Washington DC, and a few in Japan, as well as keeping a minimalist feel to its website. You won't see fashion models or campaigns in Press's online catalog; nor branching out into women's and children's clothing. J. Press has always focused on traditional men's tailoring, and under ownership of Onward Kashiyama, which acquired the rights from the Press family in 1986, J Press continues to have its golden influence on the Ivy League look. Gotta leave it to our Japanese brothers for keeping Trad and TNSIL alive! (note: Take Ivy was written by a Japanese author for the Japanese market)

With Press's current summer sale (as of this post date: 30 to 40% with additional 20% off on select items with code SUMMER20), I pretended not to have a budget and splurged on staple items from the Bulldog to mix with the ocean of Golden Fleece and Ponies in my closet. I don't mind spending extra on what some may consider trivial items, as these are quality essentials that I hope will last for the rest of my life.

OCBD: $55 each from original $100
Shaggy Dog: $110 from $195 (lowest I've seen them go)
Super 110's Trousers in Medium Grey: $140 from $250
Lambswool Scarf: $33 from $60 

The trim fit, new for the 110th Anniversary collection, is surprisingly true-to-name. Slimmer than Brooks Brother's Slim Fit but roomier than their Extra Slim Fit. A nice go-between. Made in USA and with the legendary flap pocket.

More of that delicious Made in USA goodness. The dress slacks are offered in regular, short, and high rise. I decided to go with the fashionable short rise, which I'm happy to report is not hipster restricting in the crotch area. The pants are nicely cut, but Press does offer a slimmer, albeit pricier, 110th anniversary trouser with back belt loop, made in Brooklyn.

Stocking up for winter. Kelly Green Shaggy with Shetland wool made in Scotland. The 2011 model (closeout price) is slimmer than years past, which really means it now fits regular. You can spot a fellow Shaggy by the brushed wool which gives the sweater its lamb coat appeal, as well as the ribbed wrists that are meant to be cuffed, as seen in the first collection picture above. A medium fits my 6'1" 180lb frame well. I could possibly get away with a small if I wanted a trim look.

The famously Scottish Drsgdn Tartan has a play of dark greens, blues, and yellows, perfect to compliment my clothes in the colder months.

Insider protip: J.Press occasionally holds a warehouse clearance sale where their old stock can be had for up to 70 to 80% off original price (ex. Shaggy Dogs for $50). Unfortunately, these sales only take place in New York City on the 29th Floor of 530 Seventh Ave, which happens to lie in the heart of the city's Garment District. However, even more unfortunate is the recent news among trad circles that Press is doing away with this practice, having just cancelled a planned clearance sale this summer. Damn, what a shame. I was looking forward to visiting one day and having an orgasm.

Read more about the history of J. Press from Ivy Style's interview with Richard Press, the grandson of Jacobi Press.

Photo Credits:

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Summer Escape

I made a remark about my recent visit to the quaint mountain town of Lexington, VA in the Washington and Lee University post. My older brother was in town visiting for a few weeks in June, and my family wanted to take a weekend getaway and escape the southern humidity and the crowded coasts, opting for the cooler Appalachian trail.

Situated just across the polished pastures of the university grounds is the local traditional clothing store Alvin-Dennis. I stopped by there years ago, but now with my clothing hobby, I made it a point to talk to owner Alvin Carter, delivering personal customer service since he opened shop in 1963. I introduced myself and he quickly warmed up to conversation, soon talking of our love for classic menswear and the history of his establishment. Mr. Carter showed me albums of old photographs of past customers and sales staff. There were countless black and white 1960s "Take Ivy"-esque vintage pictures. He said that students used to wear coat and tie to class everyday, hence the noticeable and regrettable steady decline of trad custom as he flipped the pages to modern day.

As we conversed, a young man walked into the store. Mr. Carter excused himself and welcomed the familiar friend, whom they had just completed a recent business transaction. The soon-to-be-hitched W&L alumni was going to be married to his college sweetheart that very same evening at Lee Chapel. Alvin-Dennis had outfitted the whole wedding party and was his largest order to date. How nice of the groom to incorporate not only the couple's alma mater, but also the hometown clothing shop, which I imagine he had first walked into as a freshman and just indoctrinated into trad, and now walking out as a new upwardly mobile professional on his wedding day, ready to embrace the next step in his life.

I purposely wore my Duck Head shorts, which Mr. Carter noticed and duly complimented me on. He ordered a shipment when the company rose from the ashes last year, but was disappointed how unknown they were with the current generation of fratstars. He told me how Ducks used to fly off the shelves back in the day. Oh times have changed indeed.

Mr. Carter thanked me for featuring his store on the blog and we exchanged handshakes. I wished him continued health and good business.

After eating a delightful dinner at Bistro on Main with the family, dusk hit Lexington, showering golden light and leaving behind gloaming tall shadows that stretched across downtown. After the meal, we went for some fresh air and found ourselves meandering on W&L's campus, strolling the brick lined university sidewalks and admiring the surrounding Federal architecture. A bell rang, and glancing over to Lee Chapel was the wedding procession, having just gotten out of the service. Respecting my distance but following up on intrigue, I watched the young man and his beautiful wife walk out the picturesque white chapel doors with the youthful wedding party welcoming them in their Alvin-Dennis supplied suits and summer dresses, all of whom I assumed were his fraternity brothers and her sorority sisters. The twilight sun reflected off their radiant faces with the newly married couple laughing and kissing for the photographer, the groomsmen and bridesmaids joyfully clapping, the ring bearer in his bowtie chasing after the flower girl in her white stockings, the well dressed parents and family taking in the lively sight that they'd remember for years to come. I continued my stroll, smiling and lost in tradly thoughts as the sun set on Lexington's ambiance.

 Owner Alvin Carter

Candid back shot of my outfit that day, the Duck Head shown proudly. (I was putting my sunglasses on Horatio Caine style)

"...and the tradition continues"
 My frocket tee souvenirs.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

To Keep the Good Times Rollin'...

To celebrate my second anniversary of turning 21 and of legal tender, I followed traditional suit and bought myself cotton. Whereas this wasn't for my actual wedding anniversary, I purchased a cotton needlepoint flask from Smathers & Branson. The "Fancy Monogrammed" 6oz Flask is adorned with your last name's initial in bold print placed in between your first and middle initials. A must-have for the alcoholic binge drinking fratdaddy; or more suitably, as a refined man's souvenir, where a country gentleman would keep a hipflask in the pockets of his Barbour during game hunting on a cool Autumn morning, or practically yet, hidden in his Tweed Sportcoat inner chest pocket, taken out only to sneak a few whisks between plays at the Homecoming football game.

Even though it's a preppy practice I don't monogram my clothes. But for a flask that I intend on passing on to my first born son, I wanted a unique family heirloom with our birthright last name shown prominently. "Oh, ABC? This was your grandfather's. And one day it will be yours." I can imagine my eldest explaining to his own little ones. (Btw, ABC is not my actual initials). In the meantime, I look forward to many-a-drunken-tale with this flask.

Priced at $100 each with the engraving, you can get one of Smathers & Branson's pre-illustrated flasks with a design on one side and your initials on the other, or the Block or Fancy Monogrammed flasks, with your initials on both sides. Save this as a meaningful gift to your best man on your true wedding day, to your old man on Father's Day, or to your son on his own 21st birthday.

Drink in high spirits!

I prefer to keep my initials private, but my monogrammed letter colors and background are the same as the stock model on Smathers & Branson's website.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Washington & Lee University

Washington and Lee University is a private liberal arts university situated in the Appalachian town of Lexington, Virginia. Established as Augusta Academy in 1749, George Washington gave an endowment in 1796, and subsequently the academy was renamed after our first president. Legendary military leader and Confederate General Robert E. Lee was president of the school after the Civil War up until his death, after which Washington & Lee University was born.

The school motto is adapted from the Lee family: Nōn Incautus Futūrī, meaning "Not unmindful of the future."

With a little over 2000 undergraduate students, the university atmosphere is quaint and intimate. Because of its history and closeness to the nation's capital, generations of "Generals" have gone through its doors. As the oldest state in the union, Virginia has an incredible amount of established public and private post-secondary educational institutions.Washington & Lee is among good company with the likes of preppy rivals University of Virginia, Hampden-Sydney, and William & Mary. 

Known for its District of Coluumbian fields of economics, politics, and law, each and every class if taught by a faculty member and not a graduate or teaching assistant. This has recognized W&L with high marks in professor accessibility and overall academia, along with being place in the Top 25 by US News and Report and Forbes Magazines for liberal undergraduate colleges. With less than 20% undergraduate acceptance rate, W&L is as rigorous as it is rewarding in its college experience. 

Washington and Lee Fight Song: "Swing"

Come cheer for Washington and Lee,
We're going to win another victory!
The White and Blue we will ever wave in triumph
For the University. RAH! RAH! RAH!
Fight to the finish we are with you,
Break through the line on every play;
Rush the ball on down the field
And we will win this game today.

When Washington and Lee's men fall in line,
We're going to win again another time;
For W&L I yell, I yell, I yell,
And for the University, I yell, like hell!
And we will fight! fight! fight! for every yard;
Circle the ends and hit that line right hard!
And we will roll those Wahoos on the sod!
Yes, by God! RAH! RAH! RAH!

I've visited the campus twice with most recently this past summer. It truly is a beautiful school with manicured greens and traditional Federal architecture. Alvin-Dennis, the hometown clothier I featured before, is a short walk from the campus. 

Washington Hall. The front campus is perched on a range of hills overlooking Lexington. The greens offer a pleasant area for studying or tossing the lax ball.

Downtown Lexington from the top of the hill.

White columns dominate the grounds. The standard blazer and chinos.

 Statue of inventor and Blue Ridge native Cyrus McCormick.

Campus view from on top Washington Hall looking towards House Mountain

Graham-Lees Hall Dormitory.

Old George on top Washington Hall.

Keeping it sustainable with solar panels.

Payne Hall

Pathway leading up to Lee Chapel.

Lee Chapel, where General Robert E. Lee, Commander of the Confederate army and a President of W&L, is buried. 

Like all preppy colleges, Greek is big here with 80% of undergraduates. Sorority row.

Liberty Hall, the location of the original academy, located just outside the athletic fields.

And just like in the 1770s, new students arrive outside Liberty Hall. The incoming class usually numbers around less than 500 freshmen.

Saying goodbye mom and dad.

Topsiders for comfortable moving.

Having class outside the white columns.

Walking to class. Chinos, topsiders, and a summer dress.

Frocket, more topsiders, and some Toms (the new Rainbows as a college must have?)

 Professors and pupils. Pocket Frocket.

Buddies. What's that I see? Yet another Patagonia Synchilla Snap T on yet another campus. Oh and a Perlis rugby too.

Trad professors.

Trad professor grading outside. Handsome cordovan loafers.

Badass with the white suit.

Going over the details during a sit down session. Nice frames.

Study break with the Hardware.

Vineyard Vines fleece.

Sambas and frocket.

Some white crepe soled ranger boots.

 Fixing up the dorm room with Skipjack

Synchilla spotting. Fair Isle sweater

Guys haven't been able to pull of popped collars since 1989. But cute girls have my permission any day.

Bold gingham tie

Her old prep school pullover

Beau's frat hat

Southern Tide OCBD

Everyone dressed up in church.

Autumn on campus. Since the university is situated in the Viginia's Appalachian mountains, the scenery is quite beautiful.

Front campus with Reeves Center

Cold rain brings out the Bean boots

Morning Dew

Virginia Military Institute is neighbors with W&L. A cadet walks by Cyrus.

Campus from Sigma Chi House in Davidson Park

Walking with dad. Wish my school still had ivy league cardigans. Nicely cut chinos, and cold enough for socks with boat shoes (which I proudly advocate myself)

More Bean boots.

 Barbour. Snap T. Bean. Emblematic ties.

Downtown Lexington, a stone's throw from campus.

Golf on the grounds.  School logo belt.

The Game College Bar cap

W&L has its equestrian ladies.

See pretty horse jump.

See pretty girl jump.

Dunno why, its just cool.

Christmas in Lexington

Church service

The Spring semester brings in W&L’s quadrennial Mock Convention is one of its proudest and most long-standing traditions. On the eve of the 2012 event, here's a look back.

1948 parade, the New York entry heading down Main St. in downtown Lexington

1952 parade

1952 convention in Doremus Gym.

Former Vice President Alben Barkley in the 1956 parade. In perhaps the most famous event in Mock Con history, the Kentuckian died of a heart attack at the podium right after saying, “I had rather be a servant in the house of the Lord than sit in the seat of the mighty.

 1968 future president Tricky Dick.

Trad glasses.

Although a heavily republican setting, the Dems get their support too. 1972 future president Jimmy.

Check out those madras pants.

Bill in1988 jamming at Zollman’s Pavilion during a Moc Con afterparty

Preparing for the 2012 Mock Convention with a GOP mural

You can tell that this is where new members of the Grand Ol Party are inducted.

The Tri-Chairs walking to the Warner Center for the convention. Barefoot loafers like a baws.

Governor Harley Barbour of Mississippi as the keynote speaker

Sam, Abe, and the candidates.

Campus lights up for the Alumni Weekend.

Older alumni remembering the good 'ol days. Nice scarf.

 Another school motif belt.

Reunion with the 1961 class. Interesting needlepoint.

Nanny reds, barefoot loafers. 50 years later they still got it!

Hey, I have Brooks Brothers sport shirt too.

Current long legged students at the Alumni luncheon.

Graduation approaches. Choosing the diploma frame.

Seniors pose one last time. Seems everyone has those belts.

Struttin'. Jack Rogers. Bit loafers. Ties. Shorts. Reds. Dresses.

More Dresses.

More Ties. Blues and barefoot loafers.

The procession and the regalia.

Nice Original Pilot aviators.

Nice watch.

Rex chillin'

Anglo'n it up.

Official graduates!

Once more with the boys.

Should make a good memory. Motif belt, seersucker, and broken in suede bucks.

Gateway of adulthood.

Fond memories of W&L.

Read more about my visit to Lexington.

W&L Scene of Campus