Preppy in New York City

Union Square and 17th Street, New York, NY

Union Square and 17th Street in New York City (1998)

My wife took this photo of me looking at books among the vendors at Union Square near 17th Street in New York City.  As best I can recall, this was taken around December of 1997.  We had been in the city nearly a year, having moved up from South Carolina, and I was working for MoMA.

Union Square was a seven minute subway ride on the L Train from the Bedford Avenue stop in our neighborhood:  Williamsburg, Brooklyn.  The World Trade Towers are visible to the right, just beyond the pedestrians.  Washington Square Park was a short walk south down University Place in the direction of the towers.

My sartorial style was largely out of synch with the burgeoning hipster population of Williamsburg, but drew respect from our old school Italian neighbors.  In this photo, I was wearing charcoal gray wool flannel pants, a button down shirt, a wool argyle sweater (non-thrifted Christmas gift) from Brooks Brothers, a wool herringbone pattern topcoat and a pair of black Bass Weejuns.  The glasses were tortoise rim.

I’m not sure whether to love or hate the fact that hipsters have appropriated (maybe hijacked is a better word) the preppy look in the last few years.  They are certainly dressing better.  I suppose that is a good thing.  So I won’t complain too much about their “preppy with a twist” aesthetic.  How ironic!  When walking down Bedford Avenue once in the late 90s in khakis, a ribbon belt and a pink button down, I felt as though I was doing a perp walk based on the scornful looks I received.  That preppy has been embraced by the same kind of people proves good taste never really goes out of style, even if for them it is a fad.  You can read more about hipsters on Free Williamsburg.  (Note:  after I made this post, I found this related article published in The New York Times:  “How I Became a Hipster.”

On the same day as the Union Square photo, my wife and I went uptown to see a Broadway show at the Neil Simon Theatre.  I can’t remember which show it was.  Maybe I can track that down by going through some old playbills.  A Christmas tree is visible on the balcony above the Russian Samovar restaurant next door to the theatre.

Outside Neil Simon Theatre - New York City (1998)

Outside Neil Simon Theatre Near Times Square – New York City (1998)

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Join The Preppy Anti-Defamation League

Pete and Trudy Campbell - Lifetime Members of the Preppy Anti-Defamation League

Pete and Trudy Campbell – Lifetime Members of the Preppy Anti-Defamation League

Pete and Trudy Campbell invite you to consider joining or renewing your annual membership with the Preppy AntiDefamation League.   Summer is gotohell season, a time when Madras plaids in blinding primary colors, which have caused traffic accidents, and radiant Lilly Pulitzer tropical patterns are worn to the consternation of the legible-clothing-wearing general public.  Other than your trust fund, a membership in the Preppy AntiDefamation League is the best support mummy and daddy can give.

Kennedy Home Movies in Color

JFK on the Water

President John F. Kennedy and his family defined classic casual style, whether on the water at Hyannis Port, Massachusetts or in the rural Virginia countryside near Middleburg.  The home movie footage below captures the Kennedy sense of ease and comfort while at play.

A few years ago on Ivy Style, Christian Chensvold published Jack and John:  The Sartorial Dichotomy of JFK.  This is an interesting essay on Kennedy’s use of clothing to build a public image that, in many respects, was a rejection of the conservatism of the Eisenhower era.

Kennedy was educated at several elite schools, Choate and Harvard (with a brief stint in an MBA program at Stanford), and his manner of dress was very Ivy League.  As he entered public life and pursued politics, he became aware of the class associations of that style and, fearing that it might alienate certain voters, opted for a hybrid style that combined the apparel of preppy leisure with a more modern presentation in his role as Chief Executive, as Chensvold writes,

 Photographs of John F. Kennedy generally fall into two categories. In the first, we see him at his family’s Cape Cod retreat, sleeves rolled up, wearing khakis grass-stained from touch football, or clad in Nantucket Reds and sunglasses sailing the sea. In the second, his presidential kit, we see another man altogether. Kennedy’s dark suits hang with a certain awkwardness, the shoulders large and high, his two chest buttons both fastened.

Though both are equally iconic, these two images of JFK reveal the sartorial differences between the man’s public and private lives. Privately he was the Choate and Harvard-educated scion of a patrician American dynasty, while publicly he was a progressive young Democrat, commander on the frontlines of the Cold War, and careful crafter of a public image in the new age of television.

This schism makes JFK both the ultimate preppy president — his administration reigned at the height of the Ivy League Look — and an ironic hastener of the look’s decline, undermining the very style he so perfectly embodied.

In 1956, while was serving his first term in the United States Senate, JFK made a bid for the Vice-Presidential nomination at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago.    Although his bid fell short, losing to Sen. Estes Kefauver of Tennessee by just 38.5 votes, JFK became known as a rising star to millions of Americans.  He spoke twice at the cenvention, placing Adlai Stevenson’s name in nomination for the Presidency and later giving a gracious concession speech (@ 23:41) after losing the Vice-Presidential nomination.  Stevenson lost the general election that fall, as President Eisenhower was re-elected in a landslide.

JFK with Dwight Eisenhower

As Chris Matthews of MSNBC’s Hardball commented, “In the 1950s, politics meant men in gray flannel suits – guys like Dwight Eisenhower, Robert Taft, Adlai Stevenson, and Richard Nixon.  They were dull, stodgy…sexless.”  All of that changed in November 1960 when JFK was elected President at 43 years old, the youngest man ever to occupy the White House.   Aside from JFK’s political accomplishments during his tragically short term in office (1961-1963), he became one of the undisputed style icons of the 20th century.

JFK and Jackie aboard the Honey Fitz

Poll: Should WASP 101 Return?

Richard - WASP 101

It’s been a couple of weeks since WASP 101 was taken down.  I wasn’t a regular reader of that blog, and I would never have taken advice, sartorial or otherwise, from Richard.  His peculiar style made him the whipping boy of preppy/Ivy/trad bloggers and those who follow them.  My visits to WASP 101 were almost always prompted by commentary on other sites about Richard’s pretentions or particularly bad clothing combinations.

In the spirit of freedom of expression, I ask you:  Should WASP 101 return?  I have a feeling that your answer may depend upon how much you like being at the circus.  While it can be fun for some, others will feel uneasy, especially around clowns.  The potential for chaos lurks in the background.  If you accept the risk, you might be entertained…but you might just as easily find yourself running for the exit.  Choose wisely.

Clown

TAKE THE POLL

Summer Classics – eBay and Thrifting

Summer Classics

A Madras plaid tie makes a sharp addition to the summer wardrobe.  The one I’m wearing is from Ralph Lauren.  I bought it last spring for $6.99 at Unique Thrift Store in Riverdale, NY.  The retail price of the tie was about $67.99.  Patches, our border collie, decided to do a walk on in this photograph.

Breakdown on the rest of the clothes, a combination of eBay bidding and thrift store purchases:

eBay

  • Brooks Brothers blue blazer:  3-button, undarted, sack cut with natural shoulders for $76.00 vs. $598.00 retail.  This is the only blazer design I’ve ever worn, and it took several weeks of eBay monitoring to find one at the right price.  I would have preferred a J. Press blazer, but people don’t part with them that often.  This blazer is in perfect condition with no signs of wear.  The lining looks brand new.
  • Ralph Lauren buckle back khakis: 100% cotton, plain front with 1 and 3/4 inch cuffs for $19.99 vs. $125.00 retail.  Buckle back khakis were worn for a brief period in the 1950s, if I recall correctly.

Thift 

  • Brooks Brothers pinpoint button down:  100% cotton, traditional fit for $8.99 vs. $87.50 retail at The Nearly New Shop in Greenville, SC.
  • Bass Weejuns in Logan Burgandy for $5.99 vs. $109.00 retail.  Purchased at The Salvation Army in Greenville, SC.
  • Dockers surcingle belt:  navy, braided cotton for $4.99 at Unique Thrift Store in Riverdale, NY.  I am unsure of the retail price for the belt, but I’d guess about $24.99.

The pocket square was a gift from my grandfather (priceless).  

Brooks Brothers Blazer - Retail

JFK in 1946 – Ivy Style

JFK_1946

John Fitzgerald Kennedy’s first political campaign came in 1946 when he ran for Congress in the 11th District of Massachusetts.  He was 28 years old, a graduate of Harvard University and a veteran of WWII, having served as a PT Boat commander in the Pacific Theatre.  He was recognized for heroism, helping to save his crew members after being rammed by a Japanese destroyer.

Kennedy is shown here relaxing in a chair below one of his campaign posters.  Photographs of his mom, Rose, and his father, Joseph, are on the mantle.  He is wearing a white shirt with a rep tie and gray flannel pants.  When inaugurated as President of the United States in 1961, Kennedy brought a dramatic improvement in style to the White House.

Preppy in the 90s

Me_1998

1999 – A professional headshot of me taken by a photographer in Tribecca when my wife and I were living in New York City.  I took my glasses off for this shot because the lenses, as I recall, didn’t have an anti-reflective coating, and because the photographer was going for more of an intense lawyerly look.  I have on a Ralph Lauren navy blue wool suit with gray chalk stripes that I bought for $50.00 at a thrift store in Asheville, NC.  It was memorable because, though a great suit, it was one of the most expensive thrift purchases I’ve ever made, but I still wear it occasionally.  I’m not sure where I got the button down shirt and foulard tie.  Both were likely thrifted.

Wedding_1999

1999 – My beautiful wife and I on our wedding day outside her aunt and uncle’s house.  They hosted the reception.  I have on a charcoal gray suit with suspenders, a paisley tie with navy background and a white button down shirt.

1999_Episcopal

1999 – Outside the small Episcopal chapel where our wedding ceremony was held in Greenville, SC.  I think my wife looks lovely here!  Opting for simplicity, we kept the invitation list to 50 and had no groom’s men or bride’s maids, just a priest, a crucifer and musicians.  We designed and printed our wedding announcement and program for the ceremony and asked that there be no gifts (though this was largely ignored).  We tried!

The coup in the do-it-yourself approach was my wife’s wedding dress.  While we were in New York, she selected her own material from a shop in the Garment District and took it to a boutique in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.  She asked them to design a party dress, which cut the cost down considerably.  The cap toe dress shoes I’m wearing with the charcoal gray suit were polished, but cracked, and had a small hole on one of the soles – likely visible to our guests when we knelt at the altar.

We’ve been happily married for 13 years.  As we look back on the wedding, we’re glad that we kept it a simple ceremony.  The organist was wonderful.  There were solos from a friend who was a professional opera singer.  A string quartet of classically trained musicians, my wife’s friends since childhood, played for us.  It couldn’t have been a more prefect day.

Us_1998

1998 – My wife-to-be and I on the balcony of a friend’s apartment in New York City.  You can’t tell here, but we were on the 44th floor high above 9th Avenue near Times Square.  We had been invited to a Christmas party.  I have on a wool houndstooth sport coat, a sage turtleneck and a pair of khaki pants.  My wife is wearing a vintage (60s) green and black houndstooth jacket whose design was very Sherlock Holmes.  That was a thrift find at Anne Merchant’s Time Warp shop (now out of buisness) in Greenville, SC.  I still have that jacket, too.

Middleburg_19931993 – With friends in Upperville, VA after the fall Piedmont Hunt Point-To-Point races.  I’m wearing a light windbreaker, a classic Norwegian Fisherman’s Sweater from L.L. Bean, a pair of rumpled khakis – rumpled being their usual state – and Bean Boots.  Among my friends is a sampling of Barbour, Burberry and Brooks Brothers.