Suiting up Eli frosh in the Heyday of Ivy was do-or-die for New Haven clothiers.
Salesmen at J. Press were instructed by my dad, Paul Press (front right) to memorize the Yale Freshman Blue Book. He quizzed them daily about dorm addresses, hometowns and secondary schools the book provided. Yale freshmen lived in seven ancient dormitories on the Old Campus. The favored boarding choice was Durfee Hall with communal suites designed to house six to nine students mainly populated by St. Grottlesex elites.
My father’s older brother, Irving Press (front left), Yale Law School, Class of 1926, ran the family business out of New York. A mainstay at the Yale Club next door to the company offices then on 44th Street, the blood that surged through his arteries was Yale Blue. The Press Brothers utilized their private Yale CIA info to get the J. Press crew on the inside track.
Little Georgie Feen (back left), popularly known to the cognoscenti as Mayor of York Street knocked on every door in Durfee Hall, offering his calling card, sample swatches, booze and a promise of favors. Georgie was a small “d” democrat, hitting on anybody who walked into the store whether they were“ white shoe” or Podunk High.
“Goodbye To New Orleans,” a memoir by Peter Wolf, recalls coming to Yale from Exeter. Wolf’s roommate turned out to be Calvin (Bud) Trillin, then a virgin outlander from Kansas City, later in life a celebrated American journalist, food writer, poet, fellow memoirist and novelist. Trillin lamented to Wolf, “We couldn’t find the Ivy-look, eastern-type clothes in Kansas City that people wear here, so my folks decided I’d buy some new stuff when I got to Yale. Where do you suggest I go? Five minutes later we were inside
J. Press, a couple of blocks away on York Street. Under the hovering, apprising eye of George Feen, one of the great haberdashery salesmen of all time, Bud replaced key parts of his wardrobe.”
Herman Racow (back right) was the acknowledged elder statesman of 262 York Street. He was constantly combing his full stack of index cards to identify any incoming offspring of his alumni “see you’s.”
Gabe Giaquinto (back row, second from right), with roots in the Italian-American Wooster Street neighborhood bounded by Sally’s and Frank Pepe’s pizza parlors cashed in deploying his ownership of local non-WASPs.
Sam Kroop (back row, second from left) achieved tournament celebrity at the Yale Golf Course ever since caddying as a teenager at Hillhouse High. He picked up country club gossip about incoming Bulldog duffers. Sam was also the West Coast J. Press Road Traveler, collecting names of all his customers’ offspring heading back east to college.
New Haven was Boomtown Ivy from the end of World War II until the conflagrations erupting in the late 1960s. During the heyday hundreds of tailors, salespersons, shippers and schleppers ruled the roost. Thousands of Yalies roamed Elm City byways garbed in J. Press three-button suits, Shetland sport coats, plain front grey flannel trousers, OCBDs, three-inch width neckties, Shaggy Dog sweaters anchored by dirty white bucks—the ephemera of New Haven’s Golden Age.
Looking back through memory’s eyes
We will know life has nothing sweeter than its springtime,
Golden Days when we were young.
With Brooks sloppy handling of their farewell and plans to reinvent brand and their iconic shirt collar on the button dow collar,, what neckwear knot do you recommend, the half Windsor or the four in hand? PLEASE do not make their mistakes and become a joke.
While running for President, G. H. W. Bush was accused of being a Brooks Brothers elitist. Not so, he responded, then opened his suit jacket to reveal a J . Press logo, which brought laughter from the audience, including the reporters.
Irving looks like a young Robert Mueller in that particular photo.
I love all of Richard’s history of J. “Squeeze”. This one was particularly interesting. Keep them coming-they bring back a lot of fine memories.
Thank you, Richard.
Very nice close with lyrics from “The Student Prince.”
For Washingtonians, Lewis and Thomas Saltz and the Georgetown University Shop served a comparable clientele. Fortunately, about the time those greatly-missed establishments closed, J. Press opened a shop in Washington to uphold the standards of quality men’s wear.
Hi. The pictures at the bottom? I notice the one guy has a ticket pocket on his blazer. While very popular in the UK, how popular was that in the US at the time? Also, I notice in another picture, the guy has a “patch” pocket on his breast and looks like the main pockets as well. That…doesn’t seem that J Press to me. Was that a short experiment?
My winter weight J.Press grey flannel suit is tailored with a ticket pocket just like Little Georgie Feen’s shown in the Life magazine photograph!
Keep these great reminiscences coming! I particularly enjoyed the story of Calvin Trillin, not least because it reminded me of my own arrival a Harvard. Trillin’s good taste was evident even in his crisp, lucid prose.
I always wondered who these fellows were? It is wonderful to be able to associate a new with a face. All of these men look like Ivy Leaguers themselves. Mr. Press, although I never met him, I bought several items in the early to mid ’80’s from Gabe Giaquinto via phone and me. My dad had received your brochure for years and J. Press was one of the remaining places for those of in the South who valued this attire. The other go to person in New Haven was Marty Novile. He always seemed to click with me. He had a knack of dealing with a young just starting out. He sold me a charcoal gray suit the day my dad died and had it rushed for the funeral.
Just wondering if George H. W. Bush was a J. Press customer.