Portrait of me with my cousin, Brandon, in 1986. He was not quite a year old when this photograph was taken. I was a sophomore at Wofford College at the time. My look hasn’t changed a lot since then…well, at least the clothes, because I now sport a shaved head and a goatee. Here I am wearing a wool argyle sweater from Brooks Brothers, a blue oxford cloth button down shirt and P3 tortoiseshell glasses. A few years ago, Brandon got his master’s degree from NYU and now works in marketing for Madison Square Garden. He’s getting married next spring. Time goes too fast!
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.
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.
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 – 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.
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.
1993 – 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.
This is a portrait of William Eggleston – one of my favorite photographers. It was shot by his cousin Maude Schuyler Clay. Raised in Mississippi and now living in Memphis, Eggleston is one of the most celebrated modern artists, and his work hangs in major museums all over the world. But his clothing style is very traditional and a rejection of all that is trendy and hip. He opts instead to dress like a gentleman. In this portrait, he is wearing a tweed jacket with a faint camel windowpane pattern and 3/2 roll over a gray wool crew neck sweater (probably a Shetland knit) and a blue candy stripe oxford cloth button down. Eggleston is the epitome of a natty dresser! I believe he is holding a Leica M4 camera – the same model used by Henri Cartier Bresson. A pair of smart tortoise shell glasses complete his timeless look.
Note: Camera experts tell me Eggleston’s Leica appears to be an M3, a slightly earlier model.
Some accessories are just hard to find in a thrift store. One example is this navy and maroon grosgrain watch band which supports a cheapo – but very accurate – Timex watch. I bought the band at J. Press for $9.00. Grosgrain watch bands come in many colors and various stripes. They are quintessentially preppy, and some people change them frequently depending on ensemble. I think the navy/maroon band works well with the Brooks Brothers tattersall shirt (thrift store purchase: $5.00), green L.L. Bean wool sweater (thrift store purchase: $7.00) and navy Ralph Lauren duffle coat (outlet mall purchase: $279.00). With a little more patience, I probably could have found a duffle coat in my size in a thrift store, but the weather in NYC turned cold, and I paid the higher outlet mall price for mine. It’s very warm and has a hood. I’m all prepped out and layered up!
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.
This afternoon at Housing Works on W. 17th Street in Manhattan, I found a vintage Brooks Brothers crew neck Argyle Sweater, which was made in England of 100% Shetland wool. Judging from the label, it is likely from the early 80s. I carefully inspected every inch of the material before buying it. There were no visible signs of wear – no holes or weak spots and no loose stitching at the seams. It was in excellent condition, and I consider it a nice find. Cost: $25.00. While the price was fair, it was a good bit higher than I might have paid in a thrift store outside Manhattan. Located in the fashionable West Side neighborhood of Chelsea, Housing Works commands top dollar among thrift stores. I can’t haggle there like I might at a mom and pop shop. However, it’s still much better than paying retail, and the proceeds go to charity
At my favorite thrift store again tonight (Unique in Riverdale, NY), I found several items that I thought worth showing. L to R: Nautical belt from Leather Man Limited in Essex, CT ($6.99), navy surcingle belt from Dockers ($4.99)…not a preppy brand per se, but passable, dirty bucks with brick red soles from Bass ($12.99), crew neck heavy wool sweater from L.L. Bean (19.99), no name white 100% cotton scarf ($3.99) and a pair of no name 100% cotton, plain front khakis embroidered with whales ($12.99)…though I thought the whale motif just a bit too large. Total cost of all items: $66.94. My guess is that these items would retail for around $300. So what items did I buy? I got the L.L. Bean sweater. It was a large and a perfect fit, made in the USA of 85% wool and 15% nylon for strength. It will be great for winter. I also got the navy surcingle belt. Again, a perfect fit. The nautical belt from Leather Man was such a great find, but not the right size. It was the third belt from that maker I’ve come across in the last month. The Bass shoes were unfortunately 1/2 size too small. The embroidered khakis were not my size either. I passed on the sarf. The shots for this trip were taken inside the thrift store under fluorescent lights (please excuse).
I’ve been looking for a while now for a pair of dirty bucks, but I can never seem to find them in the right size. I wear an 11 and these were 10 1/2. They were in especially good condition, which is rare for thrift store shoes. One guy in the store tonight had found two pairs of perfectly fitting canvas Sperry Topsiders. Most of the time I buy my shoes at factory outlet malls (Sperry, L.L. Bean, Bass and Cole Haan all have stores at a nearby outlet). I’ve also found leather Topsiders, Clark’s Desert Boots and Cole Haan leather, cap toe dress shoes for 50% off at Marshall’s.
Follow Up Note: All of the items that I did not buy on this trip were GONE the next day.
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
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.