Monday, July 2, 2012

The Influence of Maine Summers and Sensibilities on Preppy: A Quoddy Take


(I received this email from the president of Quoddy.  He agreed to let me post it, and he then supplied the art at my request.)

In reading some of your writing, I was particularly struck by your premise that the Prep aesthetic has been so informed by not only Brooks Brothers and JPress, but also by "summering" in Maine.


This is an opinion that I have long held.    

Practically speaking, since the early twentieth century when the automobile became the primary form of transport, many affluent New England families spent summers in Maine, both in summer homes and at summer camp.  In fact from my own experience traveling the world, I am always surprised at the number of people who went to summer camp in Maine when they were younger.  This includes diplomats' kids, assorted foreign nationals, and of course, New Yorkers, many of whom further tell me that their fondest memories of childhood derived from their time "at camp" in Maine!


After Labor Day, all of it was packed up and taken back to suburbs and cities all the way down to Washington, D.C., with children often enough getting ready to return to their secondary schools and universities.

As they drove down Route 1, these families would stock up on back-to-school supplies, stopping at many now iconic stores, including of course, at Beans, and also at Quoddy stores, and at the stores with  G.H. Bass and Hathaway.

This was how, every year, these Maine-based products purchased there became part of the collective wardrobe and cultural consciousness.  This is how the Prep aesthetic, if not always the ethos in its purest essence, made its way around the globe, from New York and Hollywood (through such icons as Miles Davis, Grace Kelly, and Steve McQueen), to Japan and beyond.

At Quoddy, we still make our shoes where Cole Hahn, L.L. Bean, Sebago, Dexter, and Bass once did.
People worldwide are rediscovering the draw of this classic American sartorial style.  People of all ages are seeking quality, heritage, purposefulness, and a timeless style that allows them to dress appropriately for a wide variety of occasions, seasons, and venues.

With this renaissance, they first think about the values of the schools and other institutions where they were showcased.  But the subsequent thought is always on the source, and the values of the source, of these items.  It now continues to be, as it has been, handmade in Maine.

John Andreliunas
President
Quoddy, Inc
Lewiston, ME

West Quoddy Head Light (The easternmost point in the 50 states)



19 comments:

Age Of Style said...

I maintain high respect for the Maine stream, but let's include New Hampshire in the mix----Richard

Bethany Hissong said...

Whenever I'm in Maine, I want to bring back a reminder of that experience and I'm sure that's part of the whole reason they didn't wait until they got home to shop. And the quality-- John is absolutely right! This whole quest for the "classic sartorial aesthetic" is what brought me here to your website and I hope the interest in it continues to grow among younger generations so that these wonderful businesses continue to prosper!

Chris from New Hampshire said...

I love all of my Quoddy shoes, but especially my Canoe Mocs.

John said...

So true. On our way back from Pine Island Camp (Belgrade Lakes, ME), we'd stop by Bean's (when the Factory Store was just that), the mocassin store in Freeport, lunch at Harraseeket, and then Hathaway in Wells and Bass in Kittery. I was basically outfitted for the year.

Slone Ranger said...

What a great post! We love Maine and my husband loves his Quoddys.

John Murtagh said...

For the first time in nearly 15 years I missed my family's summer trip to Maine. The t-shirts, hats, sweaters and sweatshirts bought on that trip would, and still do, keep us, and our memories of Maine, warm throughout the fall and winter. Missing that trip was tough this year, but the sweatshirt I bought in Maine nearly three years ago now brings me back every time I wear it.

Cubanchem said...

I would add that there are other aspects of life that help form the aesthetics of a person. I, for one, attended prep schools that had very stringent dress codes, particularly khakis and navy, white or light blue polo style shirts. On Fridays we wore our school Blazer, repp tie and charcoal slacks. Coincidently or not, 20 plus years later I still dress the same. Maine had nothing to do with it, but when I look for those items that I feel comfortable in and like to wear, yes, they often come from Maine and surrounding areas. So I think the point of the letter can be expanded to include other influences and paths to forming the people we are as adults. After all, I'm not too sure how much Maine life and culture influenced a small school in Dunwoody Georgia. Love your blog, keep it up!
Pedro

WRJ said...

I suspect many New Englanders might bristle to think that suburban and urban summer residents (i.e., outsiders, inconveniences, tourists (said with disdain)) influenced the vernacular style of their region, as the title suggests. But the content of the letter focuses more on the dissemination of that same style--which makes perfect sense to me. As a former summer resident in a coastal Connecticut town, my time back East certainly had an enormous impact on the way I dress.

Anonymous said...

I love my Quoddy mocs! Mine have lasted so long that they are older than my daughter. A superior product! Your wonderful post prompted me to check out their website and I noticed that they are sold at J. Crew. I seem to remember a post here that said J.Crew is not preppy... But still business is business and if Quoddy is still going strong then Congrats to them - in the meantime I have my eye on a new pair of canoe mocs.

Anonymous said...

I need to get some more Quoddy's. Thanks for the reminder!

JSprouse said...

I always enjoy your posts and the wonderful photographs.
I appreciate John's letter and will have to add Quoddy items to my wardrobe. As a result of your blog I've added a few belts from Eliza B. and two new sweaters from Bean...the classic style. Ah Maine..."the way life should be"...I miss not getting there this year, the finger lakes in NY had to suffice.

Yankee-Whisky-Papa said...

Maine sensibilities are truly the state's greatest export. And this is coming from a lobster junkie!

Gordo said...

I couldn't agree more. I think John's perspective is spot on, and I think the "lack" of a similar sensibility on the West coast (where I, an Easterner, have lived for almost thirty years)is clear in the very different perspective here.

Anonymous said...

Hi. I see you wearing classic Barbour Beaufort from profile picture. Beaufort has two versions, as far as I know. One of them comes in different colors such as sage and navy, and the other comes in only one color (olive) and less shiny. What would you recommend, please?

Katahdin said...

@Gordon - I could not agree more (writing this from southern Marin)

Muffy Aldrich said...

@Anonymous 10:31 - The less shiny one is the Sylkoil wax. My preference is what they call the Beaufort Wax Jacket, in Sage or Navy. (I have been told by a couple of Barbour insiders that the Sage is the original classic Barbour "green", not the Olive.)

Anonymous said...

This is exactly right. I always got supplied on the trip from the cottage to Choate. It was just what you did.

Anonymous said...

Simply said, I absolutely love the clothing, the food, and the traditions of New England. As we speak, my favorite spot in Vermont is gearing up for their annual chicken pie supper, which we will sadly miss this year. --Holly in PA

Anonymous said...

Grace Kelly "summered" (as a child and even as a Princess) not in Maine, but "down the shore"--- ie, southern New Jersey. Ocean City, to be specific.