In 1980 The Official Preppy Handbook described our then family business with the following statement: “J. Press has catered since 1902 to the ultra-conservatives of the old guard.” However, during my time on the floor I greeted a flock of dedicated customers, hardly old guard, that included Frank Sinatra, Walter Matthau, Philip Roth, Kurt Vonnegut, TV anchor John Chancellor, playwright Edward Albee, Major League Baseball commissioners Bowie Kuhn and Bart Giametti, spy Alger Hiss, arbitrage jailbird Ivan Boesky. Truly a phantasmorgia of Hall of Famers and regular guys.
The 2020 Spring and Summer J. Press Brochure, pardon the expression, hot off the press, boldly re-engages American Style. Apologies to my Ivy Style mentor Christian Chensvold, for horning in on his customary brochure exclusive, but my heart’s pumpin’ thanks to the fragment that reframes our formerly staid knit club ties as Technicolor striped Walt Disney fantasia. Fence Club morphs into Bambi.
However, no splurge of color would dare go mano a mano against the Lilly Pulitzer spectacle produced in 1970 exclusively for J. Press. The semi-annual order also meant tripping the light fantastic over multiple martinis at 21 Club with Donald Leas. Donald was a sportsman-pilot, man about town, and member of a prominent Philadelphia family and he looked it. He was general sales manager of the men’s division of Lilly Pulitzer Inc., Pulitzer’s partner in a firm he founded called Men’s Stuff. Men’s Stuff manufactured sportswear sold in Lilly’s shops in places such as Southampton, Palm Beach, Newport and Pebble Beach. Leas confined his product to wherever J. Press had stores. Our 21 Club double Martini binges lasted three years until Pulitzer over expanded nationally re-defining the original confinement agreement.
The J. Press-Lilly Pulitzer line included psychedelic Ivy League comic mascot specialties, wild Lilly trousers, corduroy jeans, cotton corduroy vests, swim shorts, swim jams, and 4” wide silk neckties.
The J. Press Spring & Summer Brochure pushes the edge of our former Lilly Pulitzer gig igniting the Vines of Ivy into a color explosion on 44th Street.
Lilly cords were the best in the 20th century!
Preppies don’t need, and have never needed, a handbook. Just more 80s artifice.
I eagerly awaiting reading these vignettes.
The writer is sublime!
As I recall, Mr. Leas married into the John Wanamaker family.