A longtime Yale pal periodically sent me bits from his alumni magazine that he knew would buzz me. Here is my favorite bit reflecting obvious changes that have occurred on the New Haven campus as the Class of 2025 awaits the welcoming address by President Peter Salovey.
Marty Nichols ’52, in a 2013 Yale Alumni squib remembered his immigrant father bringing him to B. Gordon Integrity Clothes on the gritty Lower East Side of New York outfitting his son for Yale. Unaware of sartorial nuance governing the Eli power elite, the public-school aspirant came to realize he was entering a world he did not recognize. President Charles Seymour’s welcome address to the freshman class in Woolsey Hall was his first occasion to wear suit and tie. He discovered it was obvious they knew something he did not, all fused in dark grey flannel where his not quite electric, but decidedly sunny blue plaid B. Gordon suit seemed to glow.
His recollection of times past:
Marty Nichols survived his clothing humiliation believing his fashion exceptionalism built character. He wonders if perhaps his classmates learned about diversity and acceptance. His closing remark, “No matter, but I still wish that Mr. B. Gordon had been on speaking terms with Mr. J. Press.”
Perhaps Mr. Nichols is unaware my grandfather, Jacobi Press, himself an immigrant off the boat in 1896, six years later in his early twenties founded the firm bearing his name.
The current J. Press headquarters is temporarily located at 206 College Street two blocks off campus. 21st Century J. Press in New Haven features an exuberant window display of its signature American Style worlds apart from the gray suits light and dark of former days.
Its New York emporium in the Yale Club building on Vanderbilt and 44th Street continues the 119-year historic relationship between J. Squeeze and Old Eli.
Glad to see the blue awning of Barrie’s Booters next to J. Press in the photograph included in the recent THREADING THE NEEDLE message. Bob Issacs, co-owner of Barrie’s, was not only an expert “booter” — he was a splendid coach of local New Haven swimming teams. Clothes make the man, but men make — or made — the school. “Yale” as founded and conceived no longer exists. There is a school — chiefly for women — of that name presently in New Haven, but it is not the “Yale” of Nathan Hale, Charles Ives or Sinclair Lewis and so forth. Often a certain grim mood or desolate wave in history “leaves everything standing but cunningly empties it of significance,” wrote philosopher Soren Kierkegaard.
A good friend of mine came to Yale in the early 1950’s outfitted in a double breasted suit. He couldn’t find another one on the campus! He finally sent it to a company that specialized in altering these suits to make them single breasted. Then he felt more comfortable..
Imagine my public school dismay when I got all spiffed up in white shirt, grey vest and dark trousers to take my SAT exams at the elite Park School in Indianapolis, only to discover I was the only student there not wearing a blue OCBD shirt and khakis!