Wofford College Fraternity Men (1980s)

Pi Kappa Alpha Fraternity Brothers - Wofford CollegeMy alma mater, Wofford College, was a bastion of natural fibers long before The Official Preppy Handbook was published.  Fraternity men there had worn heathery, crew neck shetland wool sweaters with their cotton button downs and khakis for generations.  They also had a tradition of wearing blue blazers and ties to football games, though the days of the freshman beanie were long gone.  This photograph of Kappa Alpha fraternity brothers with their dates, most of whom attended nearby Converse College (often referred to as “The Convent” because of its strict visitation rules), appeared in the 1988 Bohemian yearbook.  This moment in the stands during a game captures the look of that era.

I was a member of the Pi Kappa Alpha Fraternity (Nu Chapter).  This is the fraternity composite from the spring of 1985.  A large framed and matted version of this print was hung on a wall in the Pike house.

Pi Kappa Alpha Fraternity (1984-1985)

Pi Kappa Alpha Fraternity (1984-1985)

During rush, my fraternity brothers at Wofford did not behave like Doug Neidermeyer and Greg Marmalard of Omega at Faber College.

But the Pikes did behave a lot like the Deltas when throwing a toga party.  Yes, we actually had those, and we did gator!

College Fashionista recently posted this image of a current Wofford student wearing Nantucket Reds, a motif belt (ribbon with South Carolina palmetto and crescent over webbed cotton backing), a white button down with Vineyard Vines bow tie – also with palmetto and crescent – and a pair of Sperry Topsiders.

Wofford College Student

Motif Belt and Nantucket Reds (from College Fashionista)

Frayed motif belt and Nantucket Reds (Photo:  College Fashionista)

Vineyard Vines - SC Bow Tie

Vineyard Vines – SC Bow Tie (Photo:  College Fashionista)

Is Wofford still preppy?  You bet your plaid cotton boxer shorts!  However, the school is much more diverse today, which is a great thing, and the student body is about 1/3 larger than when I was there.  Total enrollment is just over 1,600, and 40% of them belong to a fraternity or sorority.

America’s Best Kept College Secrets has this to say about the school:  “Like Furman and Wake Forest, Wofford attracts a healthy, happy, preppy, active, sporty student body that intends to take up a career as a doctor, lawyer, or corporate chief.  The students are good looking and friendly, and the campus has the feel of a college in which poise and good looks prevail.”

In the 80s, although we did wear jeans and sweatshirts to class from time to time, khakis and button downs or Lacoste shirts were more the norm.  Blue blazers and ties were added for campus events, interviews and, as already mentioned, football games.  Even students who did not pledge a fraternity wore the uniform.  Note the college seal buttons on the student’s blazer to the left (see detail shot).

Blazer-Clad Wofford Students – Fall 1987

Detail - College Seal Buttons on the Blazer

Detail – College Seal Buttons on the Blazer

Founded in 1854, Wofford has long been known for academic excellence and was the first college in South Carolina to receive a charter with Phi Beta Kappa honor society.  Some recent accolades for my alma mater (as listed on the college website):

  • U.S. News & World Report’s 2014 edition of “America’s Best Colleges” ranked Wofford 65th among national liberal arts colleges, and 27th among 40 national liberal arts colleges as “Great Schools, Great Prices.” Wofford also included in the 2014 “Up and Comers” list of 10 liberal arts colleges noted among peers for their “promising and innovative changes in the areas of academics, faculty, student life, campus, or facilities.” (September 2013)
  • Forbes’ “America’s Best Colleges” lists Wofford among the top 120, the highest-rated South Carolina institution (September 2013)
  • The Princeton Review’s 2014 edition of “The Best 378 Colleges” features Wofford among the best undergraduate institutions, and ranked Wofford 19th for “Best Science Lab Facilities, The college also is the only South Carolina institution listed among the 75 “best values” among the top colleges. Wofford also is noted for its “career services” in the publication. (August 2013)
  • Fiske Guide to Colleges 2014 cited Wofford among “Small Colleges and Universities Strong in Business” (August 2013)
  • Forbes magazine ranked Wofford among the top 120 colleges and universities in the country – 119th overall and the highest-ranked South Carolina institution – in the sixth annual rankings of “America’s Top Colleges” in 2013. Wofford was ranked 20th among the Best Colleges in the South and 89th among the Best Private Colleges. (July 2013) In 2010, Forbes ranked Wofford 14th among all the nation’s colleges and universities for women desiring to study science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
Old Main at Wofford College (Built in 1854)

Old Main at Wofford College (Built in 1854)

Wofford’s 170 acre tree-lined campus has been designated as an arboretum.  On a sunny autumn afternoon, while the leaves are changing color, it is an especially beautiful place to be.

Campus of Wofford College - Fall 2013

Campus of Wofford College – Fall 2013

Gentlemen of Hampden-Sydney

I’ve listed Hampden-Sydney again this year as the most preppy college in the South.  It was founded in 1775, when George III was King of England, Virginia was a British colony and the Declaration of Independence was yet to be written.  One of only four all-male colleges remaining in the United States, Hampden-Sydney counts Patrick Henry and James Madison as two of its original Board of Trustees members.

Phi Gamma Delta Fraternity Members

Phi Gamma Delta Fraternity Members at Hampden-Sydney College

Students at Hampden-Sydney take a great deal of pride in their appearance and believe in good manners.  In fact, the school has published its own etiquette guide:  To Manor Born, To Manners Bred (now in its 7th edition), which has been updated for the social media age.  That’s serious dedication!  Some gentlemen of Phi Gamma Delta fraternity above display a range of attire:  plain front khakis, blue blazers, a navy suit with a Brooks Brothers repp tie, freshly pressed pinpoint and oxford cloth button downs, bow ties, ribbon belts with motifs and a needlepoint belt.  This is all standard dress on campus, and one of the reasons Hampden-Sydney is considered a very traditional college.

Hampden-Sydney Alumni Tailgating - Football Weekend

Hampden-Sydney Alumni Tailgating Prior to a Football Game (Fall 2012)

In the February 2013 issue of Town & Country, Hampden-Sydney alumni were featured tailgating on campus prior to a football game against arch rival Randolph Macon. All of these gentlemen are sporting bow ties, and one is wearing Nantucket Reds with a pair of go-to-hell socks that would make President George Herbert Walker Bush envious.  Tailgating was spoofed in Lisa Birnbach’s The Official Preppy Handbook (1980) in which she also listed Hampden-Sydney as the #3 preppy college in the country behind Babson (#1) and Hamilton (#2).

Off The Wagon:  The Tailgate Picnic - The Official Preppy Handbook

Off The Wagon: The Tailgate Picnic – The Official Preppy Handbook

Also in The Official Preppy Handbook, noted both for its finely drawn satire and anthropological treatment of preppiesis a section on body types with representative photos and descriptions of each.  The Good Old Boy’s biography includes attending Lawrenceville and Hampden-Sydney, and his stated attributes suggest a fun-loving, if not bawdy, demeanor.  He is holding a “genetically attached beer can,” while wearing a button down layered over a Lacoste shirt (Southern collar notably not popped), rumpled, flood level khakis and a pair of penny loafers, one of which is duct taped to keep the sole and the upper together – a practice cultivated at Lawrenceville.  He’s the one of the three I think I’d most enjoy being around.

Preppy Body Types - from The Official Preppy Handbook (1980)

Body Types (Male) – The Official Preppy Handbook (1980)

As an homage to Birnbach, whose publication became a national bestseller, the college’s Kaleidoscope yearbook staff responded with The Official Preppy Yearbook.

The Official Preppy Yearbook 1981

Kaleidoscope 1981 — The Official Preppy Yearbook (Hampden-Sydney College)

Birnbach visited Hamden-Sydney a few years ago to promote her most recent book, True Prep, in which she elevated the college’s sartorial place, writing,”… allow us to assure you, in no uncertain terms, that Hampden-Sydney is, without equivocation, the preppiest college in the United States.”  In fact, one enterprising student there, Samuel Thomas, recently co-founded a bow tie company called Dogwood Black (originally Southern Ties) and is now marketing his expanding product line nationally after getting requests from upscale men’s clothiers.

Dogwood Black: Nantucket Summer Madras Bow Tie ($45.00)

Dogwood Black: Nantucket Summer Madras Bow Tie

In addition to the classic madras bow tie shown above, Dogwood Black offers such unique items as a camo bow tie.  I think this qualifies as the Southern version of go-to-hell style, allowing  a wearer to go from duck blind to formal party without skipping a beat.  One quote on the company website functions as a philosophy about wearing one of their ties, “If you can handle being the center of attention.”

Dogwood Black:  Camo Bow Tie

Dogwood Black: Camo Bow Tie

Dogwood Black - Tie Box

Dogwood Black – Tie Box

Hampden-Sydney has become more diverse in recent years, and with that change has come a difference in fashion sensibility on campus.  The look among some students retains the preppy style but is much more updated.  The gentleman on the right (below) looks as if he might be wearing a Dogwood Black Delta Chi fraternity bow tie, but I’m not positive.  The gentleman on the left seems more aligned with Unabashedly Prep, which I’ve heard described as “new wave prep” or as “preppy with a twist.”

Preppy With a Twist at Hampden-Sydney

Preppy With a Twist at Hampden-Sydney

Dogwood Black - Delta Chi Fraternity Bow Tie

Dogwood Black – Delta Chi Fraternity Bow Tie

Dr. Christopher B. Howard, Hampden-Sydney’s 24th president, is a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy.   This gentleman was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University, where he earned a Master of Philosophy and a Doctorate of Philosophy in Politics.  He also holds an MBA from Harvard Business School.  Howard is the first African-American president in the college’s history, and he is proudly a Brooks Brothers man.

In 2010, Hampden-Sydney entered into a formal partnership with Brooks Brothers to provide a 15% corporate membership discount to students, faculty and staff of the college.  The program is titled “Dressing for Success with Brooks Brothers.”  In this YouTube video, President Howard discusses the program and the investment in college education with parents of prospective students at an event hosted in a Brooks Brothers retail store in Richmond, VA.

Hampden-Sydney Display at Brooks Brothers in Richmond, VA

Hampden-Sydney Display at Brooks Brothers in Richmond, VA

Now in its third century of operation, Hampden-Sydney has a beautiful campus, an excellent academic reputation, a long tradition and a very loyal alumni base, many of whom contribute substantially to the institution every year.  Its past is distinguished, and its future looks secure.

Hampden-Sydney-College

Hampden-Sydney-College

Hampden-Sydney Historical Marker

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.

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)

Summer Classics – eBay and Thrifting

Summer Classics

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:

eBay

  • 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.

Thift 

  • 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).  

Brooks Brothers Blazer - Retail

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.

Thrifted Summer Clothes

Thrifted Summer Clothes

At The Nearly New Shop in Greenville, SC last week, I found a very comfortable Madras plaid short sleeve button down shirt from Gant.  I combined that with a pair of Merona all cotton plain front khaki shorts that I bought last spring at Unique Thrift Store in Riverdale, NY.  The Bass Weejuns were a recent find as well at the Salvation Army Thrift Store in Greenville.  The leather leather belt is about 10 years old, and I don’t remember where I got it.

Price Breakdown

Gant Madras Shirt            $8.00

Merona Khaki Shorts       $5.99

Bass Weejuns                  $5.99

___________________________

Total Cost                      $19.98