Jacobi Press, a Latvian immigrant, settles in New Haven, CT in 1896. He intends to continue his rabbinical studies in America, but instead begins working for Goldbaum Tailors and quickly becomes a partner as Goldbaum & Press. In 1908, Jacobi buys out Mr. Goldbaum to form his own tailor shop to be known eponymously as J. PRESS. The rest, as they say, is history.
262 YORK STREET
A PERMANENT HOME
Jacobi Press establishes his business as the premiere tailor to the continuous influx of Yale University students. Obtaining one's first J. Press suit becomes a rite-of-passage for any underclassman.
In 1914, J. Press opens a permanent location at 262 York Street which remains the flagship in New Haven to this day. The location is currently under renovation and will reopen in 2020.
ROOTED IN THE IVY LEAGUE
After sustaining the business through the first World War, experiencing embargo on British goods, Jacobi manages to keep the business active by becoming a certified Military tailor by stocking and applying regulation R.O.T.C. insignia.
The business also branches out to New York City and maintains a modest presence on what is to become the mecca of Ivy menswear in the coming decades on 44th street.
A FAVORITE AMONG THE LITERATI
ENTERING THE LEXICON
Already a favorite among the Ivy League crowd, J. Press becomes a mainstay in the upper echelon of New York society. Cole Porter (Yale class of 1913) mentions J. Press in the script of the hit Broadway musical ANYTHING GOES, signaling to audiences that the character is a "Yale man."
In 1936, author F. Scott Fitzgerald writes in a letter to his then-15-year-old daughter Scottie, “beware of the Yale wolves in their J. Press tweed.”
Some years later in 1955, Patrick Dennis recounts his time spent with his AUNTIE MAME during the Great Depression. A line in the memoir reads, "Auntie Mame said I looked too tatty for words and couldn't I have gone to J. Press and bought something smart?"
THE INTRODUCTION OF READY-TO-WEAR
DEMOCRATIZING IVY STYLE
Predicting the inevitability of another war, Jacobi and his sons Irving and Paul purchase a surplus of goods from England anticipating not only an embargo on imported goods from the UK, but the scarcity of production.
Irving Press, who began working in the family business shortly after leaving law school in the early 1930s, comes up with the solution of creating odd separates (a sportcoat and trousers) to be worn in lieu of a full suit to offset the shortage of materials.
On the home front, most of the Princeton, Harvard and Yale customers and sales associates are drafted or enlist into the Army in 1940.
The Department of War (now Department of Defense) grants Jacobi and Irving the license to tailor military uniforms. At the time, Yale has the largest officers training school of universities on the East Coast therefore it was not just students at Yale who buy their uniforms at J. Press, but men from all over America who are in Officer training school.
When the war comes to an end, Franklin D. Roosevelt signs the G.I. Bill of Rights into law in 1944 providing benefits to WWII veterans. Among many benefits, the bill provides grants for school and college tuition to top tier universities, diversifying what was once an extremely insular educational system previously available to only the wealthiest and most privileged young men who attended boarding or prep schools. For the first time, Ivy League schools have students who attended public schools from diverse economic classes. This contributes to the democratization of Ivy League style. Particularly at J. Press, a growing need to meet the demands of an influx of new customers where custom clothing may not be an option, our now iconic Ready-to-Wear department is born. It is tailorable, custom-made style at a fraction of the cost and introduces a new wave of men to the world of J. Press.
The Ivy Heyday
A FAMILY AFFAIR
The 1950s come to represent modern menswear as we know it today. Known as the "heyday" of Ivy League style, the mid-to-late 50s encapsulates traditional American menswear details that are still fashionable today, and J. Press truly solidifies itself as an heirloom brand; clothing that you pass on to your children and your children's children.
J. Press's visionary, Jacobi Press, passes away in 1951 at the age of 71, leaving his two sons Irving and Paul as Chief Merchandiser and Chief Financial Officer, respectively.
At the end of the decade, Richard Press (son of Paul and grandson of Jacobi) enters the family business and becomes Manager of the New York store.
Ivy League style leaves the campus of exclusive universities and becomes a huge craze throughout America. The phrase "The Ivy League Look" is featured in publications like LIFE magazine and marketed in major department stores, showcasing the styles made famous by university tailors such a J. Press.
The J. PRESS Brochure
THE SARTORIAL SIXTIES
In a decade marked by individuality, J. Press thrives in the early 1960s as a new market of Americans is reached through the famous J. PRESS Brochure and traveling exhibits and trunk shows.
A swift shift in fashion mirroring politics of the time ushering in the "Peacock revolution." Bright colors and patterns infiltrate Carnaby Street in London thus influencing American fashion. J. Press introduces an explosion of color and wider lapels, ties and trouser legs while still maintaining the Ivy League aesthetic. Variations on a theme are birthed from this mélange of influences and, in the late 1960s, J. Press ventures west and opens a new location in Union Square of San Francisco.
As the nation struggles to recover from the unrest of the Vietnam War, J. Press continues to offer classic menswear in a market changing fast with new fads in response to the counterculture of the late 60s.
In a now famed visit from an Onward Kashiyama employee in 1974, the interest in licensing American menswear is piqued when said employee returns to Tokyo with every style of a sportcoat in his size.
With many baby boomers entering young adulthood, the interest in J. Press is very high, and a licensing deal is struck to sell in the Japanese market. J. Press becomes the first classic American menswear brand to license in Japan.
J. PRESS GOES INTERNATIONAL
Much like the decade itself, the 1980s for J. Press sees a world of change starting with the closing of our San Fransisco outpost, and a fresh new retail location in the heart of Downtown Washington, D.C. to serve a wider of range loyal customers.
After a continued, successful licensing deal with Onward Kashiyama in the mid 70s, J. Press is purchased from the Press family in 1986 by Onward. Mr. Richard Press continues his position as President for the remainder of the decade, eventually retiring in the early 1990s.
Maximalist and minimalist 90s
From the oversized logo craze of the early 90s, to the minimalist neutral color palette at the end of the 20th century, J. Press maintains a firm grasp on the fundamental elements that define the brand: quality American menswear made in the United States.
With many work places introducing the phrase "Business Casual" into their dress codes, J. Press remains a staple for classic casual sportcoats and trousers in navys, browns, and charcoals.
A NEW GENERATION
CELEBRATING A CENTURY
J. Press celebrates 100 years of business and continues to be iconically linked to a new generation of young, educated men in films like 21 and television's Gossip Girl.
In Gossip Girl, Ed Westwick's character Chuck Bass lives on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, and costume designers needn't have looked any further than our Midtown location as an obvious retailer of choice for the fictional character.
One accessory in particular, the J. Press Silk Patchwork Polka Dot Scarf, has become a piece of iconography amongst fans, and developed a cult-following. The requests for the "Chuck Bass scarf" still persist 7 years after the series ended.
A Resurgenge in Ivy Style
Entering the age of social media and street photography, the reprinting of 1965 cult classic TAKE IVY reintroduces an early example of photojournalism to the 21st century sparking a renewed interest in "ivy league style." Dozens of menswear brands create collections inspired by the iconic sportswear looks found in the pages of the mid-century gem and a neo-ivy craze is born.
Ben Press (Pictured bottom right), great grandson of founder Jacobi Press, accompanies Elle McPherson to the 2012 Golden Globe awards wearing a dinner jacket made for his grandfather, Paul Press, in 1968. The tradly fashion statement gets Ben dubbed "one of the evening's best dressed" by the London Daily Mail.
J. Press finds a new demographic of customers interested in attaining a piece of American history by shopping iconic mens sportswear looks, and the brand embarks on a new adventure with spin-off label J. PRESS YORK STREET with Brooklyn-based brother duo Ariel and Shimon Ovadia of Ovadia & Sons at the creative helm.
From early 2013 until Fall 2017 J. Press York Street operates a charming club-inspired boutique on Bleecker Street in New York's West Village.
The closing of the Bleecker Street boutique coincides with the re-opening of our new 44th Street in the ground level of the Yale Club of New York.
The Perfect Fit
The future is bright for J. Press as we continue to honor the three Golden Rules established by our founder Jacobi Press over a century ago:
1) Promote longterm value of the product
2) Maintain the quality of the craft
3) Respond to the unique wardobe requirements of a targeted customer base.
Jacobi Press’ craftsmanship focused on the intricacies of construction to establish a silhouette that fits everyone. It then grew in popularity, receiving overwhelming support from Yale students, professors, and alumni. Still today, after 117 years, J. Press remains a pillar of Ivy League style and has stayed true to the quality tailoring and craftsmanship of our historic past.
We invite you to visit us in New York City, New Haven, or Washington, D.C. and become part of our history.