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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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.

Preppy In Virginia: Steeplechase Gathering

 

Gathering of Friends - Piedmont Hunt Point-To-Point, Upperville, VA 1992

Gathering of Friends – Piedmont Hunt Point-To-Point, Upperville, VA 1992

I was going through a box of old photographs this week when I found an image that summed up the early 90s for me:  a gathering with my friends at the Piedmont Hunt Point-To-Point Races in Upperville, VA .  We spent countless weekends in the beautiful Virginia countryside.  Decked out in Barbour, Burberry and L.L. bean, we look as though we might have walked right out the pages of The Official Preppy Handbook.  The clothes are casual classics of very high quality and, of course, contain natural fibers.  I am second from right; and I still have the L.L. Bean Boots and the  Norwegian Fisherman’s Sweater.  Preppy clothes last!

L.L. Bean Goose Down Vest

I recently came thrifted a men’s large medium blue L.L. Bean goose down vest for $7.99  The vest was made in Freeport, Maine before the company began outsourcing more of its production.

The vest has a nylon shell and lining and a 100% goose down filling that will provide great warmth in the winter months.  The vest has snap buttons on the front and does not have a zipper.  It also has two ample non-zipping front pockets for storing keys and other items.  

My L.L. Bean Field Coat

Yesterday, I posted about finding an L.L. Bean field coat at a very low price in a local thrift store.  I didn’t buy it because I already had one.  Since I wore mine while walking my dogs in the park this morning, I thought I’d post a couple of shots of it.  This coat is very durable, water repellant and warm enough over a few layers well into December.  The lining is cotton/plaid and not the detachable PrimaLoft version.  So when it gets really cold, I’ll have to wear a much heavier sweater than cotton cable nit one I had on today, or else put on my wool duffle coat.

 The fall colors are really starting to look amazing in New York City, and much of the park near where I live is coming alive in brilliant tones.  Fall is my favorite time of year here.

L.L. Bean Field Coat for $24.99

Location:  Unique Thrift Store, 218 W. 231st Street, Riverdale, NY.  Finding an L.L. Bean field coat in a thrift store today was a first for me.  Its saddle color and distinctive green corduroy collar and cuffs stood out among all of the other coats I had been perusing on the rack.  This is the sort of coat you wear while hunting with your golden retriever.

This coat was a large/tall men’s version with a 100% cotton shell and a 100% cotton plaid lining.  It was marked at $24.99.  With Monday being a sale day, I could have gotten 25% off and walked away with this item for $18.75.  (Retail = $99.00.  The savings would have been $80.25).  However, I already own a Bean field coat, which has held up well for years now.  Moreover, the size was not quite right.  A large large would have been fine, but the tall part of the size would have made it a bit too long for me.  I’m a regular.

It is worth noting that this is an older field coat (perhaps 10 years old or more, I’d estimate).  The label shows that it was made in Freeport, Maine, which is where Bean is located and where all of their goods were made until they were outsourced overseas.  I think most of the field coats are now made in Thailand.

The following is the summary of the Bean field coat from the company’s website:

Often Imitated—Never Duplicated®

Our Original Field Coat has set the standard for quality and craftsmanship since 1924. Originally designed for hunting, it’s built to withstand the briars and branches of the thick Maine woods. Made of best-grade two-ply 10 oz. cotton canvas, washed to feel broken-in and treated to repel moisture and stains.

Underarm gussets and bi-swing shoulders let you move and reach with ease. Sewn-in lining: cotton in body, nylon in sleeves. Five pockets with enough room to carry a day’s essentials. Collar and cuffs are 100% cotton 16-whale corduroy. Imported. Machine wash and dry.

Fit  Large back length 33″. Fits over a midweight sweater.

Bean does make another version of this coat for winter that includes a detachable PrimaLoft liner.  The price point is a good bit higher at $149.00 to $159.00.

Layering For Cooler Weather

We’ve been having some cooler fall weather lately in New York City.  Today it was overcast and actually a bit chilly in the late afternoon when I went out to run a few errands.  I didn’t want to wear a coat.  So I  just threw a lightweight down vest on top of my shirt and sweater, turning the shirt cuffs back over the sweater and pushing the sleeves up a bit.

The total cost of all three items was less than $20.00:  goose down vest from L.L. Bean ($7.99), 100% lambswool v-neck sweater from Cullen, a brand I’ve never heard of before ($4.99) and 100% oxford cloth button down from Gap ($2.99).  While Gap is not an overly preppy company, their button down was very well-made, and the price made it impossible not to buy.  I got everything at Unique thrift store (which I post about prolifically) in my neighborhood.

The preppy look never really changes.  Of course, there have been some trendy tweaks recently by Tommy Hilfiger and Thom Browne among others.  Their “preppy updates” were intended to gain traction with a younger consumer base after hipsters began raiding vintage shops and thrift stores, looking to make an ironic statement.  It was not long before big names in the hip hop world began sporting the look.  All of this doesn’t phase me.  I simply like the classic, timeless preppy style I’ve always known – which is well-made clothes without gee gaws or doo dads.  The way I dress hasn’t changed in any important way since college, aside from the addition of more suits or cap toe dress shoes.