Origins Of The Ivy League Look

Origins Of The Ivy League Look

Samuel Goldman, at the behest of The Lamp Magazine, a Catholic Journal of Literature, Science, and the Fine Arts, has penned an incredibly researched treatise in the Arts and Letters section, Layered Separates, depicting history of The Ivy League Look together with a kindly review of my two Threading The Needle tomes. 

Professor Goldman, Associate Professor of Political Science at George Washington University, pictorially clad in 100% J. Press, is no stranger to the Ivy League receiving a Ph. D from Harvard having also taught at Harvard and Princeton prior to GWU.

The crux of his thesis credits my grandfather, the eponymous J. (Jacobi) Press, for improvising his unique Ivy League Look as a gimmick. Eager to differentiate himself from his many rivals at the 1902 opening of his campus tailoring and haberdashery business, Grandpa specialized in clothes that were a touch softer and brighter than his competitor’s wares. The historical perspective delves a century beyond, Goldman proclaiming J. Press still  championship title Imprimatur of the Ivy League Look and its surviving culture.

The Lamp article is available only by subscription. Trust me, the journal provides a wealth of philosophical dissertation, the $60 price tag a great value for even this non-Catholic reader. 

Prof. Goldman brings yours truly into the act: 

 “More than half a century after its heyday, the Ivy Look has become a historical curiosity. And it has fallen to Jacobi Press’s grandson Richard to recount its rise and fall. Although he has no managerial role in the company, which was sold to a Japanese conglomerate in 1986, Press has re-emerged as an in-house elder statesman, historian, and brand ambassador. The two volumes of Threading the Needle combine Press’s recollections of family and his own career in the shmatte business, shopping advice, and social commentary (often elegiac in character). Of course, since the books are by a salesman descended from generations of salesmen, they’re also advertising.”

Prof. Goldman delineating me a salesman recalls Arthur Miller’s classic line:

A salesman’s got to dream, boy. It comes with the territory.





Ever since Brooks has lost its way, I’ve slowly replaced much of my wardrobe with lovely pieces from JPress.
I can only imagine what it must have been like for those who were lucky enough to have been served in person by Mr. Press himself.
Customers dream too.

Don Quixote

Interesting piece! I recently worked at Wm. Fox, in DC—once an Ivy-ish store, but ceding much ground to the contemporary Anglo/Euro/American style synthesis—and thus slid gradually into keeping prices way upscale.

Back in the day (1938-circa 1990), a true exemplar of the university-themed mythos was The Georgetown University Shop. Upscale quality brands down the line but kept prices somewhat moderate where they could.

Of course Paul Stuart and Brooks Brothers, owners changing as if on a merry-go-round, are lamentable casualties of style apostasy.

So hold the flag high, J. Press. Rich and attractive, but always restrained, Ivy tailoring and furnishings suggest respect for the mission, values, and traditions of universities. THAT TOO is under siege!

David Samuel Paglin

The Lamp has removed the paywall for Goldman’s Article. It is found in Issue 15.

Joe Rooney

The curve of his shirt collars say it all, don’t they?

Anthony Chase Fountain

I was a grateful customer of your New Haven store beginning in 1968 (when I was a postdoctoral student at Yale Law School) until 1979 (mostly as a member of the Yale sociology faculty), when I moved to Harvard and began patronizing your Cambridge store. I then eventually moved again to the University of Virginia and started visiting your store in Washington.

And I have long been greatly appreciating all of your writings (as well your clothing)!

Thank you warmly for all you have done to enhance the existences of countless people such as myself! I greatly cherish every item I have purchased from J. Press!

Here is a bit more of the outstanding article by Samuel Goldman:

Donald Black