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!
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.
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.
Pete and Trudy Campbell invite you to consider joining or renewing your annual membership with the Preppy Anti–Defamation League. Summer is go–to–hell 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 Anti–Defamation League is the best support mummy and daddy can give.
President John F. Kennedy and his family defined classic casual style, whether on the water at Hyannis Port, Massachusetts or in the rural Virginia countryside near Middleburg. The home movie footage below captures the Kennedy sense of ease and comfort while at play.
A few years ago on Ivy Style, Christian Chensvold published Jack and John: The Sartorial Dichotomy of JFK. This is an interesting essay on Kennedy’s use of clothing to build a public image that, in many respects, was a rejection of the conservatism of the Eisenhower era.
Kennedy was educated at several elite schools, Choate and Harvard (with a brief stint in an MBA program at Stanford), and his manner of dress was very Ivy League. As he entered public life and pursued politics, he became aware of the class associations of that style and, fearing that it might alienate certain voters, opted for a hybrid style that combined the apparel of preppy leisure with a more modern presentation in his role as Chief Executive, as Chensvold writes,
Photographs of John F. Kennedy generally fall into two categories. In the first, we see him at his family’s Cape Cod retreat, sleeves rolled up, wearing khakis grass-stained from touch football, or clad in Nantucket Reds and sunglasses sailing the sea. In the second, his presidential kit, we see another man altogether. Kennedy’s dark suits hang with a certain awkwardness, the shoulders large and high, his two chest buttons both fastened.
Though both are equally iconic, these two images of JFK reveal the sartorial differences between the man’s public and private lives. Privately he was the Choate and Harvard-educated scion of a patrician American dynasty, while publicly he was a progressive young Democrat, commander on the frontlines of the Cold War, and careful crafter of a public image in the new age of television.
This schism makes JFK both the ultimate preppy president — his administration reigned at the height of the Ivy League Look — and an ironic hastener of the look’s decline, undermining the very style he so perfectly embodied.
In 1956, while was serving his first term in the United States Senate, JFK made a bid for the Vice-Presidential nomination at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. Although his bid fell short, losing to Sen. Estes Kefauver of Tennessee by just 38.5 votes, JFK became known as a rising star to millions of Americans. He spoke twice at the cenvention, placing Adlai Stevenson’s name in nomination for the Presidency and later giving a gracious concession speech (@ 23:41) after losing the Vice-Presidential nomination. Stevenson lost the general election that fall, as President Eisenhower was re-elected in a landslide.
As Chris Matthews of MSNBC’s Hardball commented, “In the 1950s, politics meant men in gray flannel suits – guys like Dwight Eisenhower, Robert Taft, Adlai Stevenson, and Richard Nixon. They were dull, stodgy…sexless.” All of that changed in November 1960 when JFK was elected President at 43 years old, the youngest man ever to occupy the White House. Aside from JFK’s political accomplishments during his tragically short term in office (1961-1963), he became one of the undisputed style icons of the 20th century.
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.
TAKE THE POLL
A Madras plaid tie makes a sharp addition to the summer wardrobe. The one I’m wearing is from Ralph Lauren. I bought it last spring for $6.99 at Unique Thrift Store in Riverdale, NY. The retail price of the tie was about $67.99. Patches, our border collie, decided to do a walk on in this photograph.
Breakdown on the rest of the clothes, a combination of eBay bidding and thrift store purchases:
- Brooks Brothers blue blazer: 3-button, undarted, sack cut with natural shoulders for $76.00 vs. $598.00 retail. This is the only blazer design I’ve ever worn, and it took several weeks of eBay monitoring to find one at the right price. I would have preferred a J. Press blazer, but people don’t part with them that often. This blazer is in perfect condition with no signs of wear. The lining looks brand new.
- Ralph Lauren buckle back khakis: 100% cotton, plain front with 1 and 3/4 inch cuffs for $19.99 vs. $125.00 retail. Buckle back khakis were worn for a brief period in the 1950s, if I recall correctly.
- Brooks Brothers pinpoint button down: 100% cotton, traditional fit for $8.99 vs. $87.50 retail at The Nearly New Shop in Greenville, SC.
- Bass Weejuns in Logan Burgandy for $5.99 vs. $109.00 retail. Purchased at The Salvation Army in Greenville, SC.
- Dockers surcingle belt: navy, braided cotton for $4.99 at Unique Thrift Store in Riverdale, NY. I am unsure of the retail price for the belt, but I’d guess about $24.99.
The pocket square was a gift from my grandfather (priceless).