For Yale men, Barrie Ltd. was shoe headquarters since the Isaacs brothers opened their narrow slot of a store attached to J. Press in 1934. Bob and Barry Isaacs always had their shoes made specially for them and sold under their Barrie Ltd. private label, which afforded them very competitive pricing for students and faculty.
Barrie’s birthed Yale White Shoe Chic hand in hand with the growing influence of the natural shoulder style promoted by its York Street neighbor. I remember Barrie’s temporarily warehousing extra stock of white bucks in the J. Press cellar until shelf space opened up to move them into the greedy hands of reunion classes eager to replace their old white bucks from good old days gone by.
The opposite of a guy who was shoe was a weenie. The conflict between those who were shoes and weenies provided longtime fodder for various Boola Boola chroniclers. Humorist, poet, and novelist Calvin Trillin discussed it in a memoir entitled “Remembering Denny.” Recalling his entrance to Yale “as one of the brown shoe freshmen,” a virgin weenie from Kansas City up against the St. Grottlesex elite.
Political Satirist Christopher Buckley explored the dirty white buck scenario in “My Harvard, My Yale: Memoirs of College Life by Some Notable Americans.” Garry Trudeau addressed the age-old conflict regarding his college weenie fixation in his “Doonesbury” comic strip. Trudeau was quoted in The Atlantic, “Ridiculing the non-privileged is almost never funny—it’s just mean.”
But young men who were infinitely privileged titillated “shoe,” the distinctly upper strata Yale phrase, “never, never white shoe.” Buckley was Skull & Bones, Trillin head of Yale Daily News, Trudeau wrote for The Yale Record and was a member of secret society Scroll and Key. If you were shoe you bridled your white bucks until they became so tattered they bared your toes. Accompanying tweed, flannel, linen, seersucker, khaki, and suit trousers all four seasons. Weenies buffed them fluffy white, or God forbid, wore them shiny.
Barrie’s is gone, but other sources instruct nouveau riche fashion feeders how to dress shoe wise. “White Bucks make the gentleman,” declared Rugby’s spiritual advisor Mr. Wooster. Not many took his advice and RL Rugby is a remnant of bygone days along with dirty white bucks.
Cole Porter and Shakespeare exclaimed, “Where is the life that late I led? Totally dead.” I share loyalty with 1930s collector of animals Frank Buck forever pleading, “Bring’em back alive.”