Borne Ceaselessly Into The Past

When I entered the family business in 1959, J. Press shirts were made at the now long gone Tyson Shirt Co. in Norristown, Pennsylvania. Patterns were designed, developed and screened by Irving Press, assisted by Tyson honcho Ralph Trichon. They tended to follow the specifications of most of our competitors that were standard for the day, adding a flap pocket for the differential, featuring full-count fabrics knife-cut by hand for uniformity of size, carefully stitched and seamed on slow-running machines, pressed and folded by hand coat-style with broad back pleat and single-button cuffs.

 

The New Haven influence on OCBDs runs deep. When his sons got out of the army at the end of World War II, Bernie Gantmacher asked his pal Jacobi Press if he could give sons Elliot and Marty a job in the stock room at J. Press. Gantmacher had owned a shirt factory in New Haven since the ’20s and occasionally supplied J. Press. Packing the ties, shirts and arranging the haberdashery in the York Street store, the Gant boys inhaled the scent of Ivy and the rest is history.

 

Since the turn of the century until onset of World War II, a majority J. Press shirts were made in England by shirt-makers utilizing our special shirt patterns under the auspices of long term British import resource Welch, Margetson & Co.. When the imports from Europe ceased during the war production shifted to the United States where it still remains today.

 

Holding fast to Irving Press’ original specifications, 2019 J. Press OCBDs are made of the most select 100% combed long staple cotton with the same collar and body patterns that have delighted customers for over 117 years. Their sturdy construction and open weave fabric allows for breathability in either our classic fit or our newer trim fit.

 

For those adopting the current trend of tieless suits and sport coats, button down shirts render a more rational choice rather than broadcloth spread collars intended to be worn with a Windsor knot in the boardroom or over mid-day martinis at 21 Club. Unlike their Savile Row spread collar cousins, J. Press OCBDs define American sprezzatura—i.e. a certain nonchalance so as to conceal all art and make whatever one wears appear without effort.

 

Historical antecedent—the 1970 romantic film drama Love Story with Ryan O’Neal in Harvard Yard with his inamorata Ali MacGraw sporting his J. Press Shetland Glen Plaid and open collar OCBD.

 

The storied pocket flap model features an unlined collar allowing for the perfect roll and a rear locker loop. Author and culture critic Tom Wolfe portrayed 1968 Yale and Harvard undergrads “searching like detectives” over brochures for OCBDs bearing our signature pocket flap. The flap has served as an unofficial brand identifier long before logos began to adorn shirt fronts. Some customers have even compared it to a secret handshake.

 

The current J. Press OCBD inventory features time-honored colors: white, blue, pink and yellow with a flap or standard chest pocket. Additional stripe colors are available in the standard chest pocket model. All J. Press shirts are made in the USA with center rear box pleat for comfort and ease of movement.

 

 F. Scott Fitzgerald captured the zeitgeist in The Great Gatsby, “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

 

 

RICHARD PRESS

8 comments

I really enjoy threading the needle. As a prep school scholarship student in 1959, I envied my classmates attired in J Press. I have since been a lifelong customer. I have lived in Florida for the past twenty years, but I still manage to purchase at least one Shaggy Dog sweater every winter.
Ronald Joaquim September 17, 2019

Richard,

Love this series!

Many think that JPress and LL Bean used the same shirtmaker for a time, given the all cotton flap pocket OCBDs that LL Bean produced in the 70’s and 80’s. Is there any truth to this?

Sean September 11, 2019

I was introduced to J. Press when I attended Prep School in 1959-1963. … coming from “Indian Country” –
which was defined by those in the School: as somewhere that’s west of the Hudson, ‘out there’ all the way out there … in Michigan.
I still frequent J. Press online, or those rare times I’m back in the East.
Still great clothes, excellent quality, and excellent customer service.My Son likes ‘you guys’ too …
Please keep up the good work!

John Baxter September 09, 2019

There is something to be said for the quality, style and durability found throughout the full J. Press line; my closet offers ample testimony. Sport coats, ties, and shirts bought decades ago in your
44th Street stand (or hang) proudly. End-on-end Madras shirts with flap pockets were my favored “signature” item of attire; the problem was that colleagues and clients wanted to acquire these same shirts. Happy to introduce them to J. Press and to Jerry, my salesman, though I lost some of my sartorial exclusivity in the process. FYI, I recently ordered yet another blue end-on-end shirt and expect to wear it next week here in sunny San Diego.

Edward Hansen September 09, 2019

I enjoyed your article giving shirt history.
Some years ago, when there was a threat of discontinuing the flap pocket, I purchased several from the DC Store. They are all still in service.

Jack Cherry September 09, 2019

How true!! The pocket style was indeed unique-set your shirts apart! Have to add as a retired history professor and still wearing some classic JP tweed jackets- church, board meetings etc.-I love your trips down memory lane-keep them coming!! Recall the old days of visits to Press, Chipp,Brooks, Paul Stuart with a stop at Wally Frank to refill the old briar…

Warren Vander Hill September 09, 2019

I can only hope that J. Press will be borne ceaselessly back to sell wool crew neck sweaters.

James Tallon September 09, 2019

I agree, your flap on your shirt pockets were not only in a sense priceless, they were a handshake to something solidly born out of New Haven!

Gary E. Hodgdon September 09, 2019

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