One of the leading candidates for “Nattiest Dresser of the 20th Century” might well be Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. He graduated from Phillips Exeter, perhaps the most elite prep school in America. He was also an alumnus of Harvard, serving on the faculty there before going to work for the Kennedy administration in 1961. Designated as Special Assistant to the President, he functioned as a roving intellectual in the White House, advising Kennedy on a number of matters, particularly Latin American affairs. Schlesinger was rarely seen without his trademark bow tie and P3 tortoiseshell glasses.
I’ve listed Hampden-Sydney again this year as the most preppy college in the South. It was founded in 1775, when George III was King of England, Virginia was a British colony and the Declaration of Independence was yet to be written. One of only four all-male colleges remaining in the United States, Hampden-Sydney counts Patrick Henry and James Madison as two of its original Board of Trustees members.
Students at Hampden-Sydney take a great deal of pride in their appearance and believe in good manners. In fact, the school has published its own etiquette guide: To Manor Born, To Manners Bred (now in its 7th edition), which has been updated for the social media age. That’s serious dedication! Some gentlemen of Phi Gamma Delta fraternity above display a range of attire: plain front khakis, blue blazers, a navy suit with a Brooks Brothers repp tie, freshly pressed pinpoint and oxford cloth button downs, bow ties, ribbon belts with motifs and a needlepoint belt. This is all standard dress on campus, and one of the reasons Hampden-Sydney is considered a very traditional college.
In the February 2013 issue of Town & Country, Hampden-Sydney alumni were featured tailgating on campus prior to a football game against arch rival Randolph Macon. All of these gentlemen are sporting bow ties, and one is wearing Nantucket Reds with a pair of go-to-hell socks that would make President George Herbert Walker Bush envious. Tailgating was spoofed in Lisa Birnbach’s The Official Preppy Handbook (1980) in which she also listed Hampden-Sydney as the #3 preppy college in the country behind Babson (#1) and Hamilton (#2).
Also in The Official Preppy Handbook, noted both for its finely drawn satire and anthropological treatment of preppies, is a section on body types with representative photos and descriptions of each. The Good Old Boy’s biography includes attending Lawrenceville and Hampden-Sydney, and his stated attributes suggest a fun-loving, if not bawdy, demeanor. He is holding a “genetically attached beer can,” while wearing a button down layered over a Lacoste shirt (Southern collar notably not popped), rumpled, flood level khakis and a pair of penny loafers, one of which is duct taped to keep the sole and the upper together – a practice cultivated at Lawrenceville. He’s the one of the three I think I’d most enjoy being around.
As an homage to Birnbach, whose publication became a national bestseller, the college’s Kaleidoscope yearbook staff responded with The Official Preppy Yearbook.
Birnbach visited Hamden-Sydney a few years ago to promote her most recent book, True Prep, in which she elevated the college’s sartorial place, writing,”… allow us to assure you, in no uncertain terms, that Hampden-Sydney is, without equivocation, the preppiest college in the United States.” In fact, one enterprising student there, Samuel Thomas, recently co-founded a bow tie company called Dogwood Black (originally Southern Ties) and is now marketing his expanding product line nationally after getting requests from upscale men’s clothiers.
In addition to the classic madras bow tie shown above, Dogwood Black offers such unique items as a camo bow tie. I think this qualifies as the Southern version of go-to-hell style, allowing a wearer to go from duck blind to formal party without skipping a beat. One quote on the company website functions as a philosophy about wearing one of their ties, “If you can handle being the center of attention.”
Hampden-Sydney has become more diverse in recent years, and with that change has come a difference in fashion sensibility on campus. The look among some students retains the preppy style but is much more updated. The gentleman on the right (below) looks as if he might be wearing a Dogwood Black Delta Chi fraternity bow tie, but I’m not positive. The gentleman on the left seems more aligned with Unabashedly Prep, which I’ve heard described as “new wave prep” or as “preppy with a twist.”
Dr. Christopher B. Howard, Hampden-Sydney’s 24th president, is a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy. This gentleman was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University, where he earned a Master of Philosophy and a Doctorate of Philosophy in Politics. He also holds an MBA from Harvard Business School. Howard is the first African-American president in the college’s history, and he is proudly a Brooks Brothers man.
In 2010, Hampden-Sydney entered into a formal partnership with Brooks Brothers to provide a 15% corporate membership discount to students, faculty and staff of the college. The program is titled “Dressing for Success with Brooks Brothers.” In this YouTube video, President Howard discusses the program and the investment in college education with parents of prospective students at an event hosted in a Brooks Brothers retail store in Richmond, VA.
Now in its third century of operation, Hampden-Sydney has a beautiful campus, an excellent academic reputation, a long tradition and a very loyal alumni base, many of whom contribute substantially to the institution every year. Its past is distinguished, and its future looks secure.
Andy Warhol, the son of Polish immigrants, left his hometown of Pittsburgh and arrived in New York City by train in June 1949 with $200 dollars in his pocket. He had just graduated from the art program at Carnegie Mellon and wanted to work as a commercial illustrator for a magazine publisher. But he was also obsessed with becoming famous. He really wanted to be a fine artist, but wasn’t sure how to make a living at it. In fact, he was unsure whether that was even was possible.
Warhol’s first job was working for Glamour Magazine, which was one of the Conde Nast publications. He was hired by the art director there, Tina Fredericks, to do illustrations for a story called, “Success is a Job in New York.” Fredericks wrote of her first meeting with this curious looking person in tortoise shell glasses,
“I greeted a boy with a big beige blotch on his cheek, possibly going all the way up to his forehead. He was all one color. Weird. There seemed to be something other earthly or offbeat, different, for sure. Elfish. From another world. He had a breathy way of talking. His voice was slight, unemphatic, whispery, covered over with a smile.”
As a child, Warhol had suffered St. Vitus Dance, a neurological disorder that left his skin permanently discolored. He would remain highly self-conscious his entire life about his physical appearance, famously choosing to wear an outlandish gray wig when confronted with thinning hair.
During the 1950s, Warhol became one of the most sought after and well-paid illustrators in Manhattan. His increasing income allowed him to move into his own townhouse. He began to shop for his clothes at Brooks Brothers. For the remainder of his career could be seen, even during the psychedelic days of The Factory in the 60s, wearing a Brooks Brothers suit and button down – sometimes with a repp tie. He apparently ceased wearing bow ties after the 50s.
Unsatisfied with his commercial success, Warhol longed for something more. He wanted to get exhibitions in important galleries. Presenting his portfolio of drawings, he was rejected time after time – partly because his work was representational in an artworld dominated by abstraction, and partly because of his homoerotic themes, which were taboo back then.
By 1956, the only venues willing to show Warhol’s work were Serendipity, a popular ice cream parlor on the Upper East Side that was also a meeting place for gay men, and the Bodley Gallery next-door. He did not sell a single drawing. Two years later, artists Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg, breaking with the dominant mode of Abstract Expressionism, laid the foundation for Pop Art with their sensational one-man shows at Leo Castelli Gallery.
Warhol’s work was maturing, moving toward a critique of consumer culture and mass production (best represented by his Campbell’s Soup series) in which all traces of the artist’s hand – brush work, dripped paint or process – were eliminated. In November 1962, his one-man show at Stable Gallery in New York City took the artworld by storm and established him as the leading figure of contemporary art. It was instant celebrity. Warhol was on the way to becoming a superstar, one of the most important artists of the 20th Century.
“Hi, my name is Preppy Croc, and I’m a tie-o-holic.” If you’ve never been to this meeting before, the correct response in a very affirming tone would be, “Hi, Preppy Croc!” You’re just seeing the top layer of my tie rack. There are several layers more underneath this one. 52 ties total. All but four were thrifted, some for as little as .99 cents. Most are Brooks Brothers and 100% silk or linen/silk blends. Some are 100% cotton madras. None contains polyester! You may also consider me a tie hoarder. Not so bad. In fact, much better smell-wise than cat hoarding. I sense a new reality show on the horizon, but that would be a decidedly unprep. Hmmm.
At Columbia U. Consignments last fall, I found a Brooks Brothers bow tie with a maroon background and navy and white stripes. The asking price was $25.00. I hadn’t posted any photos of me actually wearing it. So here goes. An unironed and somewhat rumpled 100% cotton blue oxford cloth button hides under a classic navy blazer. But rumpled is preppy, a look that might be taken as an indication that I just don’t give a damn.
Having stripes that are straight rather than slanted, which is more common, makes this bow tie challenging. The correct look is to position the stripes on each end with a block of stripes in the middle, as I have it tied in the photo. Maybe I do give a damn. Mixed messages today.