J. Press Grosgrain Ribbon Watch Bands

J. Press Grosgrain Ribbon WatchbandsOne of the most practical and usable accessories to have in the wardrobe is a grosgrain ribbon watch band.  These three from J. Press are the ones that I use most often. Top to bottom:  red and navy stripe, blue white and red stripe (reversible  to a red,white and navy side) and a solid light blue band.  The latter actually gets the most wear, as it will go with almost any clothing combination.

J. Press grosgrain watch bands retail for $18.00 to $29.00, but they currently have a 40% off sale.  As much as I’d like to find these in a thrift store, it’s nearly impossible.  So I wait for a good sale to buy the ones I want at a discount.  Maybe it’s a lot of fuss over what will support a very cheap Timex with a visibly scratched face, but I’m just quirky that way.

For more about the place of grosgrain ribbon watch bands in preppy culture (and their recent resurgence in men’s fashion), check out Ivy Style.

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Ratty Sweatshirt from the Yale Co-op

Yale Sweatshirt

I have a very old sweatshirt from the Yale Co-op that I bought as a grad student in New Haven in the early 90s.  It is full of small holes here and there and is fraying badly on the collar and cuffs.  It’s 100% cotton – very soft – and I wouldn’t part with it.  I’ll wear this sweatshirt until it falls apart.  Unfortunately, the Yale Co-op, which served generations of students, is no longer around.  They had to file for bankruptcy in 1999 and went out of business the following year.

This shot was taken with a forward facing camera on my iMac, using Photo Booth, and then modified with the oil paint filter in Photoshop, experimenting with a few things there, I guess.  Also visible is the collar of a frayed Brooks Brothers button down shirt (thrifted:  $2.50).  I have on a Timex watch with a red, white and blue striped grosgrain band from J. Press and a pair of P3 “tortoise shell” (acetate) glasses from Coastal.com.  They have great deals on glasses.  I got the frames with progressive lenses and had them shipped for a total of $149.00.

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.

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

Thank You Notes and Threadbare Rugs

Tad Friend, author of Cheerful Money:  Me, My Family and the Last Days of Wasp Splendor (Little Brown and Company 2009), in an interview with WETA’s Bethanne Patrick on her show The Book Studio.  In one segment, Friend (@ 4:50) answers the question of what is to endure in Wasp culture, given its decline.

Tad Friend on the enduring aspects of Wasp Culture

“Thank you notes.  That’s about it.  That is the vestigil appendix of…of Waspdom, I think.  Thank you notes.  Uh, and actually, what endures, at least in my family, is furniture from a hundred, two hundred years ago, books from the same era, rugs that are quite threadbare, but are still around.  You don’t…I mean the old sort of joke, slash truism is that, you know, you don’t buy rugs, you have rugs.  You just keep the things that you have.  So until they positively wear out and would be, you know, no one would even want them on eBay, you’re going to keep all those things around.  Uh, so furniture…I mean it’s actually sort of a long tale.  It’s like a long, slow decline.  It’s, you know, the money is mostly gone, but there’s a little bit of land left.   There are a few houses here and there…that are falling down…and some heirlooms, and a sense that you ought to aspire to these old, uh, systems of achievement that are now much harder to achieve because other people have come in, very happily, and are now…are doing way better.  And, we are just kind of looking on in puzzlement from our sort of petting zoos in Bar Harbor  and Jupiter Island and sort of, ‘how did that happen?  Woah.'”

For related culture and behavior, read my post:  Preppy 10 Commandments – Episcopal Style.

Tad Friend – A True Wasp

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Tad Friend, in his 2009 memoir Cheerful Money:  Me, My Family and the Last Days of Wasp Splendor, reveals in candid detail his complicated upbringing and emotionally insular life in an illustrious family, which includes a signer of the Declaration of Independence, a president of Swarthmore College and generations of Ivy League degrees.  He is a staff writer for The New Yorker and a graduate of Harvard University.

In the first chapter of Cheerful Money, Friend begins to unpack the meaning of Wasp and discusses why that term is not really accurate in describing old money families and their mores.  Given the frequency with which the term Wasp is bandied about by fashion bloggers, and particularly in light of the recent dust up between Ivy Style and Wasp 101, I thought it might be useful to let someone with some expertise on the matter cast some light.

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From Cheerful Money (pages 11-14):

The ACRONYM “Wasp,” from “White Anglo-Saxon Protestant,” is one many Wasps dislike, as it’s redundant – Anglo-Saxons are perforce white – and inexact.  Elvis Presley was a white Anglo-Saxon Protestant, as is Bill Clinton, but they are not what anyone means by “Wasp.”  Waspiness is an overlay on human character, like the porcelain veneer that protects the surface of a damaged tooth.  Worse, the adjective is pejorative:  “Waspy” is reserved for horse-faced women, tight-assed men, penny pinchers, and a capella groups.

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I’m too cheap to spring for a new acronym.  But my family and their friends, as Wasps, were circumscribed less by skin tones and religion than by a set of traditions and expectations:  a cast of mind.  They lived in a floating Ruritania losely bounded by L.L. Bean to the north, the shingle style to the east, Robert Falcon Scott’s doomed polar expedition to the south, and the limits of Horace Greely’s optimism to the west.

That cast of mind is excessively attuned to such questions as how you say “tomato” – a word I now find myself pronouncing both ways, usually at random and always with misgiving.  In this and more important respects I seem to have become, somehow, a motley product of my famously marvelous background.  Oh, sure, I don’t belong to any clannish or exclusive clubs, I prefer beer to hard liquor, I am neither affable nor peevish – the alternating currents of Wasp – and I love pop culture.

pepperidge-farms-milano

And yet.  Until quite recently, I had the Wasp fridge:  marmalade, wilted scalions, out-0f-season grapes, seltzer and vodka – nothing to really eat. (The Wasp fridge is like the bachelor fridge, but Wasps load up on dairy, including both 1 and 2 percent milk, moldy cheese, expired yogurt, and separated sour cream.  And atop the Wasp fridge sit Pepperidge Farm Milanos, Fig Newtons, or Saltines – some chewy or salty or otherwise challenging snack).  I have a concise and predictable wardrobe, and friends even claim that I inevitably wear the same oatmeal – colored Shetland sweater.  I will never experience the pleasures of leather pants or a shark’s tooth on a thong dangling in my chest hair.  I will never experience the pleasures of chest hair.  And, like the Tin Man, I don’t articulate my upper body sections; it moves en masse or not at all.

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I politely stand aside:  no, no, after you.  I have a soft laugh, and I rarely raise my voice.  Though I have an outsize grin, and friends take pleasure in trying to elicit it, I am reserved upon first meeting (it’s Wasp women who are expected to charm).  I used to like being told I was “intimidating,” because it seemed to sanction my verbal jabbing to maintain a perimeter.  Making everyone a little uneasy came naturally.  When I characterized a college roommate’s dancing style as “Jimmy Cracked Corn,” he nursed the wound for decades, and a woman I fooled around with in my early twenties told me years later, that she had to get a new mattress and headboard after I remarked on her “game-show bed.”  I am slow to depend on people because I hate being disappointed, hate having to withdraw my trust.  All this has often led people to read me as aloof or smug.

I am fiercely but privately emotional – I was embarrassed, recently, when my wife, Amanda, found me having put The Giving Tree down while reading it to our twins, Walker and Addie, because I was in tears.  I married Amanda, a strong-minded food writer, seven years ago:  she revamped my fridge, and some of my other disaster areas.  And I convinced her to have children, the best thing we have done together.

The_Giving_Tree

I walk into parties with a confident air but wait to speak until I have a point to make or self-deprecating joke to offer. I can give a handsome wedding toast.  I am slow to pitch in on manual labor and not particularly handy, though I pride myself on the rarely called-for ability to carve a watermelon into the shape of a whale (a sprig of parsley makes the spout).  I am frugal to the point of cheapness – when out to dinner with friends, I used to contribute only for the dishes I had ordered.  I dislike having to eat quail or crab, all that effort and mess for scant reward, an aversion Amanda calls “No sex in public!”

For a long time I didn’t think of myself as competitive, though my friends kept assuring me, as they pointed out where my helicoptored five-iron had landed, that I was.  My belief that you shouldn’t do something you care about in a half-assed way often provokes the charge that I don’t want to take part in any activity I can’t do well, that I fear public ineptitude, which is certainly true for karaoke.  Despite my standoffishness, I am a good listener, and loyal, and friends often turn to me for advice.  A Wasp friend remarks that I would have made an imposing country parson.

Most of all, I am a Wasp because I harbored a feeling of disconnection from my parents, as they had from their parents, and their parents from their parents.  And because, deep into my thirties, most of my relationships had the life span of a child’s balloon.  I felt that I was carrying around a brimming bucket of walnut stain and that if anyone got too close it would spill all over both of us.  So I ended up spending my inheritance and then some on psychoanalysis.  I was in trouble, but it was nearly impossible for anyone who didn’t know me to tell, and I made it nearly impossible for anyone to know me well.