Just got a note from Linda, a second cousin I grew up with in New Haven and Smith College classmate of my wife. Her late husband and both sons are Yalies and she felt free to throw me a curve ball. “You have really recreated the Ivy League and brought it to the forefront of the J. Press world. Those of us with memories of those days and styles relish reading your words. My question, are the ‘youngsters’ buying the Ivy Look, or close to it? Do you feel that the look will integrate with the spectrum of today’s clothes?”
Her Yale spurs brought me back to my talk several years ago at Professor Jay Gitlin’s wildly popular history seminar “Yale and America.” Professor Gitlin once described his class, “Many students want to attach themselves to that history and hook onto the legends and the traditions. I think there is still a hungering not just to know about the past, but to be a part of a broader tradition.”
The seminar “J. Press and Yale” later morphed into further talks at Mory’s, The Elizabethan Club and Yale Bookstore where I offered my proffer, In Defense Of Tradition. Both a duty and a pleasure to feed all those Elis the history of J. Press and how Grandpa Press founded his eponymous business at the turn of the twentieth century.
“Early on I didn’t know the difference between a college freshman and a senior,” my grandfather expounded in a trade paper, “but I mustered up enough courage to knock on a dormitory door one afternoon. At first the boys laughed at me, but before I was through I had most of them as customers.”
Unlike Grandpa I never knocked on any student doors, just greeted them on the floor at J. Squeeze, acronym from the now deceased Fence Club. A student in the Gitlin class queried me, “Mr. Press, four years at Yale, I never owned a suit and now I gotta dress up for interviews on Wall Street.”
“Get thee to J. Press,” I told him, “Choose a midweight charcoal grey worsted suit, emblematic (maybe your Davenport College) tie and OCBD (white cotton Oxford button-down shirt). You won’t break the bank and as a future Wall Streeter consider it a smart long-term capital investment.
Professor Gitlin was asked why students are drawn to Yale and America. “Students don’t necessarily want to be the way old Yale was, but they are curious to know what it was like and how it has changed.”
Linda, so it is with J. Press, what it was like and how it’s changed, but still universally tagged, “Iconic purveyor of the Ivy League Look.”
Riffing on The Whiffenpoof Song:
Gentlemen tailors off on a spree
Doomed from here to eternity,
God have mercy as such as we,
Baa, baa, baa