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

eBay Purchase: Nantucket Reds ($35.00)

Original Nantucket Reds from Murray's Toggery Shop

Original Nantucket Reds from Murray’s Toggery Shop

I won an eBay auction today for a pair of original Nantucket Reds, a summer prep staple from Murray’s Toggery Shop.   These pants of go-to-hell color are 100% cotton with a flat front and cuffs (1.25 inches).  They appear to be in excellent condition, gently worn, with no stains or tears, and are well on their way to achieving the perfect faded tone.  Price:  $35.00 + $6.00 USPS shipping – for a total of $41.00.  Murray’s asks $72.50 for a new pair.  I spoke with a sales person at the store this week to find out their shipping charges.  If the pants are ordered directly from the store, a $10.00 shipping fee applies, but they don’t provide tracking.  If they are ordered online, they ship via UPS with tracking for somewhere around $15.00 (total cost = $87.50).  So my eBay score gets the the original item at less than half the cost of buying them at retail + shipping.  I love it!  Was this a good bit more than I would pay in a thrift store? Absolutely, but you don’t find Nantucket Reds in a thrift store every day.

Nantucket Reds Won on eBay Auction