There’s Preppy – Then There’s Ridiculous

Preppies like to have their belts and pants embroidered with various motifs. There are spouting whales and signal flags, lobsters and tennis racquets, ducks and sailboats. These are the classics.  But have you ever imagined whales, for example, embroidered on a seersucker jacket?  Well, J. Crew has, and I can tell you the result is neither preppy nor aesthetically pleasing, but something verging on the ridiculous and clownish.  I came across these images on an eBay site.  So I am not sure if J. Crew is offering anything like this for the summer of 2012.

Worn correctly, seersucker is an elegant statement – showing good taste and an understanding of seasonal traditions.  It shows a practical side as well.  Seersucker keeps you cool in the summer.  But this?    This is just fundamentally wrong!  A seersucker jacket does not need gee gaws adorning it.  Unfortunately, this is what happens when preppy goes mainstream, and a retailer like J. Crew fails to grasp the correct way to apply a much loved motif.

Overall, this is a colossal design failure.  Although the jacket is a 3-button model with half lining and patch pockets, a very good start, there is no 3/2 roll to the lapels.  J. Crew committed a further mistake by making the material darted in the front, rounding out the fiasco with the blue embroidered whales.

Now, what would a great seersucker jacket done correctly look like?  Let’s try an example from J. Press – clean, simple and timeless.

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Thrifted Ribbon Belt, Polo Shirt and Khaki Shorts

For a total of $17.97, I recently thrifted a navy/cyan grosgrain ribbon belt ($4.99), an all cotton J. Crew polo shirt of matching cyan with 2-button placket, cap sleeves and ribbed edging ($7.99) and a pair of plain front Bermuda length 100% cotton khaki shorts from Merona ($5.99).

The ribbon belt has no label, but it looks very similar to one made by Vineyard Vines.  The cyan color in the detail shots of the belt looks different from the color of the shirt, but to the eye, it’s an exact match.  Unfortunately, the lighting changed slightly between shots.

All of these items are in excellent condition.  The belt seems well-made and durable, and the quality of the J. Crew polo and Merona khakis is surprisingly good.  You need not have particular brand names or “status symbol clothes” (i.e. with a crocodile or oversized polo player and horse stitched to your shirt) to look preppy.  If you are discerning, you can get away with no name items of classic design and natural fibers, and you will be practicing two key prep traits – thrift and discretion!   Preppy is not about being flashy, unless you count the occasional go-to-hell item.  But that’s really another discussion.

A word about shorts:  I always buy plain front.  In my opinion, pleats are fundamentally wrong (this applies to long pants as well).  I avoid cargo shorts.  Although many people like them, I think they have a very unflattering silhouette.  They seem to be most often combined with legible t-shirts, fanny packs and flip flops.  Enough said.  I regard their popularity as a sure sign of cultural decline.

Detail of navy/cyan grosgrain ribbon belt.

Lacoste – Croc Hunting Consignment Shop Style

My latest consignment shop find is Quirky Consignments & Collectables in Tarrytown, NY.  They have a great selection of preppy clothes at very reasonable prices (yes, higher than thrift stores, but significantly better than retail).  You’ll find a short review of the shop on my Consignment Shops page.  I found a pink, 2-button, short-sleeved Lacoste for $20.00.  The original asking price was $25.00, but being a cheapskate, I bargained.  The shirt was well worth the price.  It’s practically brand new and shows absolutely no signs of wear.  I’ve been hunting crocs for a while and finally bagged one!  Consider that the regular retail price for this shirt is currently $89.50.  That’s a $69.50 savings!

Lacoste (2-Button, Short-Sleeved and 100% Cotton)

Detail of Lacoste Shirt

Note:  I generally don’t button the Lacoste, but if I do it’s only the first button and never the second.  I tend not to pop my collar on this shirt these days…unless I’m in Connecticut, where such a statement would not only be understood, but also welcomed!

Lacoste - Cap Sleeves With Ribbed Edging

Lacoste Crocodile - Quintessentially Preppy

In the same shop, I also found a J. Crew 100% cotton, long-sleeved, plain collar tattersall shirt with pink and blue stripes for $15.00.  The salesperson wouldn’t budge on that price, and I admit that it was very reasonable.  The shirt was in perfect condition.

J. Crew 100% Cotton Tattersall Shirt

J. Crew Tattersall Shirt - Detail

Of course, the most preppy thing to do with the Lacoste and tattersall shirt is to layer them.  The pink Lacoste is going to look very sharp with this shirt.  Unfortunately, it’s been so hot in New York City in October, that layering anything has been out of the question.  😦  I’d wear this combination with cuffed khakis, the preppy equivalent of blue jeans, and Weejuns without socks.

Preppy Layering - Popping The Lacoste Collar Is Optional

Preppy Layering - Detail

Crocs are very well-behaved creatures, when they’re not looking for something to eat.  But I’d just as soon keep my distance from the real thing, unless, of course, it’s on a shirt.

Nearly All Thrift Store Combination

Thrifting starts to get interesting once you’ve assembled the backbone of your wardrobe.  Then you can begin trying different combinations of jackets, ties, shirts and pants – all with comfort, functionality, season and overall style in mind.  Certain pieces will be interchangeable and will work well with many other items.

I found a combination that I really like, and nearly all of it is from thrift store purchases:  tweed sport coat is a 3-button model from Brooks Brothers ($19.00), wool/cashmere sweater from Brooks Brothers ($9.99), button down from Land’s End ($5.00) and the khakis (not shown) are J. Crew ($8.00).  The only item that was not a thrift store purchase was the bow tie.  It’s from J. Press, but I got it on sale for $37.00 (regular $55.00).  Sometimes you need to get just the right item in a retail store, and virtually no amount of thrift store expeditions will produce it.  That was the case with the pattern on the bow tie, which brings all the colors and patterns together in a sharp and very preppy combination.  Total cost:  $78.99 (or the price of ONE Brooks Brothers button down oxford cloth shirt at retail).  Think about that!