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