Needless to say, Alden’s attitude and behavior in this sketch are NOT preppy. He’s a spoiled brat, who lords his daddy’s name over Letterman, is extremely rude and flashes his money around. Alden is a nouveau arriviste. A true preppy is well-mannered and polite, gracious, very understated and knows better than to discuss his money in public. While outlandish colors are part of the preppy culture, Alden is a cliché. But it’s letterman. I get it. The contrasts have to be sharply drawn to be funny, and a rich, drunken preppy looking guy in fire engine red pants (Nantucket Reds) is an easy mark.
Thrifting starts to get interesting once you’ve assembled the backbone of your wardrobe. Then you can begin trying different combinations of jackets, ties, shirts and pants – all with comfort, functionality, season and overall style in mind. Certain pieces will be interchangeable and will work well with many other items.
I found a combination that I really like, and nearly all of it is from thrift store purchases: tweed sport coat is a 3-button model from Brooks Brothers ($19.00), wool/cashmere sweater from Brooks Brothers ($9.99), button down from Land’s End ($5.00) and the khakis (not shown) are J. Crew ($8.00). The only item that was not a thrift store purchase was the bow tie. It’s from J. Press, but I got it on sale for $37.00 (regular $55.00). Sometimes you need to get just the right item in a retail store, and virtually no amount of thrift store expeditions will produce it. That was the case with the pattern on the bow tie, which brings all the colors and patterns together in a sharp and very preppy combination. Total cost: $78.99 (or the price of ONE Brooks Brothers button down oxford cloth shirt at retail). Think about that!
Izod items have been turning up in a lot of thrift stores lately. Today I came across one of their sweaters – a bright orange crew neck 100% lambswool model complete with the famous crocodile emblem. For a moment, I was tempted to buy it. The price seemed reasonable at $9.99. But something just didn’t seem right about wearing the crocodile emblem on a sweater. Aside from Lacoste shirts and older Ralph Lauren polo shirts (which I’ve found in great condition as cheap as $1.50), I have a problem in general with wearing most external designer brand logos/emblems. I suppose Vineyard Vines might also qualify as an exception because their emblem is discrete, which is key for me. Lauren has really gone over the top with the newer polo emblem, supersizing it to such a ridiculous degree that I wouldn’t be seen wearing it. Lisa Birnbach makes a point about this in True Prep. I think the clothes should speak for themselves, and for that reason I passed on this sweater. I found a bit of history on the Izod vs. Lacoste brands (see below). While I’m not big on Izod, I’ve always liked Lacoste.
The Dilemma: You want to look preppy. But how?
People You Can Impress: everyone at the country club, polo players, Republicans
The Quick Trick: Get a Lacoste shirt and you’ll have the best of both worlds.
As it turns out, Lacoste is a subbrand of IZOD. As Aristotle would put it: All Lacostes are IZODs, but not all IZODs are Lacostes. These days, both brands are owned by the garment giant Phillips-Van Heusen Corporation, so the difference between Lacoste IZODs and non-Lacoste IZODs is primarily marketing. But the difference between the men behind IZOD and Lacoste is vast indeed.
Jack Izod owned a tailoring shop in London, and billed himself as the “Shirtmaker to the King.” Indeed, he made shirts for King George VI (1895–1951) in the 1930s. One day in the late ’30s, a women’s apparel magnate named Vin (no relationship to Diesel) Draddy visited IZOD’s tailoring shop. Looking to start a line of men’s clothing, Draddy recognized that his own last name would make a poor name for a clothing line, but he quite liked the ring of IZOD. So he bought the rights to IZOD’s name and began making clothes under the IZOD moniker. Oddly enough, the brand’s namesake, Jack Izod, never designed a single item for the company.
René Lacoste, on the other hand, really did design the famous shirts named for him, which is all the more remarkable because he was not a tailor. He was a professional tennis player. Between 1925 and 1928, Lacoste won seven Grand Slam events, and might have won more had he not become ridiculously rich by inventing the world’s first good tennis shirt. In the 1920s, tennis players wore long-sleeved, heavily starched dress shirts (often with ties!). Lacoste grew weary of the outfits, and by 1929, he’d designed a short-sleeved shirt with a longer shirttail in the back and a flat collar. Further proving he was ahead of his time, Lacoste generally played the game with his collar turned up, though it was more to block out the sun than anything else. But back to the shirts! Light and comfortable, Lacoste’s garments were an immediate hit when he began mass-producing them in 1933. By 1951, he’d sold the brand to IZOD.
Lacoste’s other significant contribution to fashion has to do with the iconic crocodile (it’s not an alligator—see below) on his shirts. Known as “Le Crocodile” for his on-court tenacity, Lacoste added the crocodile to his shirts in the mid-1930s—the first time a logo is known to have appeared on the outside of a shirt. Not a bad fashion record for a guy who mostly just wanted to win tennis tournaments.
Alligator vs. Crocodile
So how can you tell the Lacoste symbol is a crocodile not an alligator? You can’t, really, unless you know the story of Le Crocodile. But a real alligator and crocodile have many differences. For starters, crocodiles are much more likely to kill you. But also:
Crocodiles have a narrower, almost pointy snout. A crocodile’s lower teeth are always visible; an alligator’s disappear when its mouth is closed. Alligators are usually gray; crocodiles, a light brown.
Read the full text here: http://www.mentalfloss.com/difference/izod-vs-lacoste/#ixzz1YdMd8J1q
This is one of several Brooks Brothers 3-button, sack cut sport coats I purchased recently at a local thrift store. It’s 100% camel hair – perfect for fall and winter – and I picked it up for $15.00. The top button is rolled on the lapel and is not visible, while the top button hole (also rolled on the lapel) is visible. This is commonly called a 3/2 roll, and it is the quintessential look of the Ivy League. I just checked the Brooks Brothers website and found a solid 100% camel hair 3-button sport coat listed for $548.00. I think I did well!
Two minor alterations were needed: the sleeves were slightly short and needed lengthening. I like to show between 1/4 and 1/2 inch of cuffs. There was also a ridge just below the collar, which needed to be taken out. I got it back from the tailor yesterday, and I can’t wait for cooler weather so that I can wear it.
From the film Metropolitan (1990) directed by Whit Stillman:
Interestingly, Averell Harriman did not make the prep pantheon in The Official Preppy Handbook, by Lisa Birnbach. However, she posthumously elevated him to the prep pantheon in her 2010 sequel, True Prep. I wonder why he didn’t make the first cut.
Each Monday at Unique Thrift Store in Riverdale, NY is Customer Appreciation Day – all items are 25% off the marked price. On Thursdays, you can get 25% off the marked price by showing a store card, which is easy to sign up for and is also free. The 100% shetland wool argyle sweater vest from L.L. Bean below was $4.99 last Thursday, but I got it for $3.75 with my store card. The online price for this type of sweater at Bean runs $69-$74. This one will be a nice addition for cooler early fall days.
I found a really great nautical flag belt for just $4.99 at Unique Thift Store in Riverdale, NY. The belt was hand made by Leather Man Ltd. of Essex, CT. The materials, stitching and overall workmanship are first rate. Similar motif belts at J. Press retail for $45.00. It’s probably worth noting that I also found a square ring ribbon belt on the same trip for $4.99 (below). Compare that price with the $39.00 J.Press asks for its ribbon belts. There was no label on it, but I liked the colors. I could wear it next summer with khaki shorts and a navy or white Lacoste. I also scored several great shetland wool sweaters and cardigans, which I’ll post about soon.
Belts can get really expensive – especially ones done in needlepoint. Although this next belt wasn’t a thift store find, I paid close to a thrift store price. It’s a blue Vineyard Vines needlepoint belt with fish hook and lime wedge motifs that I picked up at a sidewalk sale last August in Westport, CT. The cost: $19.00 (compare that with the retail average of $150.00). Not Bad. Just up the street at Brooks Brothers, I picked up a 3-button tweed sport coat (windowpane pattern) for $98.00. The regular price was $300.00. Keep an eye out for sidewalk sales. You can do really well there.
My wife and I were at an estate sale in New Canaan, CT a few weeks ago. She found a small Vineyard Vines tote with a whale motif for $1.00. We saw the same item later that day at the Vineyard Vines store in Greenwich for around $30.00. I found a pair of classic leather Sperry Topsiders for $2.00. Several men’s suits from The Andover Shop were on sale at $10.00 each. Although the suits were an amazing find, I had to pass on them. They were a size too small. Heartache. I should have bought them to resell.
Looking ahead to cooler weather, I’ve been trying to find good deals on wool sweaters and scarves. After weeding out all of the synthetics at Unique Thrift Store, I found a 100% lambswool tartan plaid scarf made in Scotland by Locharron. It was a steal at $2.99. I also picked up a 100% wool maroon sweater vest by Brooks Brothers for $9.99.
Now that we’re on the topic of things tartan, I’m including a YouTube clip of “Droppin’ Like Flies” by The Real McKenzies, a Vancouver based punk rock band whose members have Scottish roots. This song is an ode to the first generation of punk rockers. Time is catching up with them.