Mr. Cavett's Clothes

Until the 1960s retailers respected the privacy of their celebrity clientele, the producers of The Dick Cavett Show, however, encouraged me to bend the rules.

They are beginning in 1968, the credit “MR. CAVETT’S wardrobe furnished by J. PRESS” appeared at the end of his late-night talk show. The producers had approached me with the idea of dressing Dick Cavett. We agreed that Cavett, a Yale graduate, and J. Press was a good match for brand identification. Cavett entered Yale in the fall of 1953 out of Lincoln High School in Nebraska, an unlikely preparation for sharing cups and Welsh rarebits at the tables down at Mory’s.

 

His breakthrough as a standup comic occurred with appearances on “The Johnny Carson Show.” ABC-TV bought his act and placed him in the time slot opposite Carson. He was not interested in presenting himself as an Ivy League version of Carson, but his manner of dress still said New Haven rather than Johnny’s Pebble Beach. He wore natural-shoulder suits, sports jackets and blazers in the standard J. Press two-button model, front darted, mixing center-hook-vents and occasionally side-vented jackets, which he usually wore open. Trousers were plain front, never pleated, and complemented his rather slight stature. Dress shirts were straight point collar, never pinned, and he kept the collar stays in. Ties were 3 3/4 rep stripe and ancient madder.

 

Throughout the ’70s his sideburns grew longer, and his suit collars wider in equal proportion. Our veteran fitter Felix Samelson expertly crafted the jackets with slight waist suppression and trousers with a 20-inch knee and 17-inch bottom.

 

Cavett’s wardrobe was a mirror image of the 1970s product culled directly from the semiannual J. Press Brochure. The fabrics, colors, textures, and patterns respected his outlier Nebraska roots while staying true to the clothing that surrounded him during his undergraduate years in New Haven. Cavett was never mock-Ivy, draped with buttons and spurs in flannel and tweed. The nine-ounce clear finished worsteds maintained their shape and crisp appearance even on a set bathed for 90 minutes in the sweltering heat of spotlights. Cavett rarely engaged with me in over-the-top banter. Unlike Frank Sinatra whose visits to the store were always accompanied by a keening entourage, Cavett maintained discreet privacy bolting the store the minute he left the fitting room.

 

The guests of his show were uncannily chosen to match his acerbic wit. The Dick Cavett Show captured a niche audience ravenous for the sophisticated repartée of a Yale intellectual. Who would have thought it possible on national television years before cable and the Internet arrived?

 

Richard Press

10 comments

I have worn J Press since 1971. But would have my ties narrowed by my local tailor to 2 7/8ths or 2 3/4” and had some of the filling removed. It looked right to me. Still does. I never liked the flaps on the shirt pockets, so I wore Brooks and Rhodes. While I wear more Italian tailored suits now, steering toward J Press shapes, I still rely upon J Press seersucker, Madras and the perfect blazers of my school youth to help me through most Southern California days. I lament the passing of Los Angeles June Gloom because it means my most recent J Press perfect color cashmere blue blazer joins I don’t even know how many older versions in the winter closet. Thank you for providing the constants and touch points in a work that appreciates change for no other reason than change.

Chris Lucker July 10, 2019

I enjoyed the article and the memories of Dick Cavett’s understated but entertaining show, consistent with his wardrobe. Please, continue the articles on a regular basis.
I live on the west coast (a block from the beach), and I can tell you, genuine traditional men’s clothiers are almost impossible to find, and traveling to Los Angels or San Francisco is not going to happen. Thank goodness JPress has a catalog for the marooned traditionalists.

Virgil Evans July 10, 2019

PLEASE keep the ARTICLES coming!! I especially like the “history” and “details” of clothing worn by past people of interest.

Don K. Dawson July 09, 2019

I purchased my one and only 3 3/4 ancient madder necktie at J Press in New Haven in the late ‘60s, about the same time I bumped into Mr. Cavett and Ms. Nye at the original George and Harry’s . Wonderful memories indeed!

Bob Emmaus July 09, 2019

Mock Ivy a perfect description of non J Press clothing

kenneth maclean July 09, 2019

Just reread Something of Value by Robert Ruark in which he says (of a safari client deplaning in Nairobi) “The young man’s suit would be J.Press or Brooks Brothers and would be cut with no padding in the shoulders, and the shirt would be button-down with a knit tie.” P. 178. Query: was Ruark a J. Press regular?

Richard Landerman July 09, 2019

Great memory: Brooks Brothers to Paul Stuart to J Press. And Chip too.

Guy Cooper July 09, 2019

THE FIRST IMPRESSION A PERSON HAS IS YOUR APPEARANCE AS YOU INTRODUCE YOURSELF,
EITHER IN A SOCIAL SETTING OR IN BUSINESS. WHY WE HAVE GOTTEN AWAY FROM THIS IS UPSETTING & A MYSTRY TO ME. I ALWAYS FELT MORE CONFIDENT OF MYSELF WHEN PROPERLY DRESSED

TJ COOK JR July 09, 2019

Ah. The long gone days when men cared about the way they presented themselves in public . Self confident. Indeed!

George F Schmalz July 09, 2019

Awesome article!

Brings me back to the old days going from Brooks Brothers to Paul Stuart to J Press!

BTW your canvas belts are the only belts I have worn in 20 years.

Robert Goner July 09, 2019

Leave a comment

All comments are moderated before being published