Saturday, September 29, 2012
Prep is a mature, timeless, American style with British roots. However, there are seven highly-overlapping areas where many people go against the spirit of the classic Prep aesthetic. Here they are.
1. Cheap construction: Using flimsy material and shoddy stitching; using stiff cardboard-like leather to replace high quality leather in a briefcase, shoes, or a belt; having no extra fabric on a jacket so, for example, the sleeves can’t be let out when passed on to the next generation. Funnily enough, cheap construction may be the cardinal sin. Cheap construction restricts activities, and reuse. Cheap construction keeps clothing from being passed on. And cheap construction on expensive items is morally indefensible.
2. Lazy derivative design: bland knock-offs; tasteless patterns; khakis and oxfords missing key details. Many vendors knock-off their own designs to replace the originals.
3. "Preppy with a twist" or "updated classics": adding trendy details; the sartorial equivalent of fan-fiction.
4. Foppery: looking like someone stepped out of a glossy catalog; wearing impractical items such as high heels on the dock; everything too new; dressing to be seen, not to do anything. A self-test is, would you wear it if no one was looking?
5. Iconography: loudly wearing iconic images or brands; copying the look without copying the passion, such as loving the image of a boat more than being on a boat; showing off a brand of clothing because the brand is popular (but often past its prime).
6. Sycophancy: using clothes to try to ingratiate oneself to a target group. It makes everyone in the target group uncomfortable and embarrassed (it does work, however, to ingratiate oneself to other sycophants who want to ingratiate themselves to the same target group).
7. Reactance/ eclecticism: proudly opposing one set of rules by adhering to another set of rules by people who view themselves as "the type who doesn't follows rules". A meta-trend today is eclecticism. People add elements of preppy with discordant other styles in an attempt to be ironic and individualistic, not realizing how trendy they are actually being. It is the equivalent of putting modern art in Monticello.
Preppy clothes should be perfect for smart, productive people who don't want to have to think about clothing. But while this used to be true, so many vendors have embraced the short-term cashing-out strategy of tricking people and passing off shoddy goods and costumes; so regretfully, more thoughtfulness today is necessary.
All of these points have been better stated in T. S. Eliot's famous dictum: "Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different. The good poet welds his theft into a whole of feeling which is unique, utterly different than that from which it is torn."
Tuesday, September 25, 2012
I have long stated that I intensely dislike garments (khakis and oxfords) that have been treated with a Non-Iron finish. The edges wear prematurely, they do not breathe, I don't trust the chemicals, and they simply do not look "right" - at least to me. However, many I know swear by them for their crisp appearance, ease, and for the money they save on laundering.
What are your thoughts? Here is the poll question:
Over the next year, I plan to buy new khakis and button down shirts that are:
- Exclusively with Non-Iron/Wrinkle-Free Finish
- Mostly with Non-Iron/Wrinkle-Free Finish
- Mostly Untreated
- Exclusively Untreated
OVER THE NEXT YEAR, I PLAN TO BUY NEW KHAKIS AND BUTTON DOWN SHIRTS THAT ARE:
Exclusively with Non-Iron Finish
Mostly with Non-Iron Finish
Votes so far: 674
“[New Englanders] very contentedly made a little clique of themselves and intermarried very much, with a sure and cheerful faith that in such alliances there can be no blunder.”
- John Morse, Jr., in Memoir of Colonel Henry Lee, as quoted by Judson Hale.
I was reminded of this quote from Inside New England when I stumbled upon this little piece of our family tree from the 1600s, children of the first settlers of the New Hampshire seacoast town of Hampton. Here, brothers from one family married sisters from another family, and a child from each of those marriages then got married and had children. As a result, our fourth great grandfather had the same great grandparents on both sides. [Insert web feet/banjo music reference of your choice here.]
Sunday, September 23, 2012
|Here is some of this week's farm share and a baking pumpkin.|
|A Baked Kaboocha Pumpkin (Just bake them until soft.)|
|While I eat mine in thick slices, many guest prefer it in the more familiar cubed or mashed form.|
Friday, September 21, 2012
It is no surprise that the big finale of E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web took place at the local agricultural fair. This time of year, the local fairs, no doubt modeled after their U.K. counterparts, provide unique opportunities for all involved.
Some love the food, or the competition, or the fund-raising, or the festivities. They are a surprisingly integral part of New England life and serve as almost a melting pot for the region, connecting people who otherwise might not see each other any other time of the year.
My father loved the variety of people. He would listen to how they spoke, and about what. He would seek out the idiosyncratic. And he just loved the faces.
I believe of all of the pictures my father took, the ones that gave him the most pleasure over the years were his fair pictures. Here are some.
|Simple and High Quality: I buy my honey in bulk from local beekeepers.|
“Design is a funny word. Some people think design means how it looks. But of course, if you dig deeper, it’s really how it works... To design something really well, you have to get it. You have to really grok what it’s all about. It takes a passionate commitment to really thoroughly understand something, chew it up, not just quickly swallow it. Most people don’t take the time to do that... The broader one’s understanding of the human experience, the better design we will have.”
- Wired, February 1996
“Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end.”
- BusinessWeek, May 25, 1998
“In most people’s vocabularies, design means veneer. It’s interior decorating. It’s the fabric of the curtains and the sofa. But to me, nothing could be further from the meaning of design. Design is the fundamental soul of a man-made creation that ends up expressing itself in successive outer layers of the product or service.”
- CNNMoney/ Fortune, January 24, 2000
“Look at the design of a lot of consumer products — they’re really complicated surfaces. We tried to make something much more holistic and simple. When you first start off trying to solve a problem, the first solutions you come up with are very complex, and most people stop there. But if you keep going, and live with the problem and peel more layers of the onion off, you can often times arrive at some very elegant and simple solutions.”
- MSNBC and Newsweek interview, Oct. 14, 2006
“John Sculley ruined Apple and he ruined it by bringing a set of values to the top of Apple which were corrupt and corrupted some of the top people who were there, drove out some of the ones who were not corruptible, and brought in more corrupt ones and paid themselves collectively tens of millions of dollars and cared more about their own glory and wealth than they did about what built Apple in the first place — which was making great computers for people to use.”
- Statement in The Computerworld Smithsonian Awards Program oral history, April 20, 1995
Steve Jobs followed the Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. dictum "I would not give a fig for the simplicity this side of complexity, but I would give my life for the simplicity on the other side of complexity."
And while many clothing vendors think the opposite is true - that complexity suggests not just value but actual luxury - I will stick with simple.
(In all fairness, my husband, Clark Aldrich, has always been a huge Steve Wozniak fan.)
Tuesday, September 18, 2012
(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.|
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.
|West Quoddy Head Light (The easternmost point in the 50 states)|
See also: My Father's Maine
Sunday, September 16, 2012
I bought this pair of moleskin "ratcatchers" when I was a teenager in the 1970s from Orvis (Orvis was the first to import them in 1976.) They still fit and are nicely seasoned.
|100% cotton moleskin is one of the toughest fabrics I have encountered, warm and wind breaking.|
|These were made in England....|
|...and have some slight signs of wear.|
|Lighter weight moleskin is often used for lining pockets, collars, and trim, as with my John Partridge wool houndstooth jacket above.|
|Corduroy and Moleskine|
Corduroy jackets have long been favorites. My father had this heavyweight corduroy lined overcoat that he bought at J. Press in New Haven back in the 60s.
These days I find it very difficult to find corduroy pants for women that have a wide, or even medium wale. Gone are the days of David Brooks wide wale corduroys, a staple for every preppy female, young and old. The Country Store of Concord, Talbots and the like all stocked them in the more muted palettes as well as the hot pink and kelly green varieties.
So I make do with what I can find.
|This pair is from Ralph Lauren Sport and may not make the cut because of the fit.|
|While the fabric in this pair L.L. Bean is quite nice, I will be making a beeline to my seamstress to have the voluminous legs taken in.|
|These are from J.McLaughlin (last season) and have an awfully good (read that flattering) fit.|
|Corduroy is famously used on the Barbour waxed cotton jackets, in part to direct the flow of water away from the wearer's neck.|
|And of course, many summer camp hikers have spent evenings around a campfire cutting out moleskin donuts to layer over blisters.|
Friday, September 14, 2012
|Our friend Caroline|
Travelers play a variation of that. They have to plan, for example, how they might pack if they had to work and play, and be in a variety of social situations, for several weeks, all out of luggage they had to carry themselves over significant distances.
One item that would probably be in everyone's luggage is a white button down oxford shirt. I was reminded just how perfect they can look today. Caroline, a long time family friend (and avid sailor) arrived wearing one that made photographing her senior picture effortless.
Posted by Muffy Aldrich at 8:07 PM
Monday, September 10, 2012
It is easy to remember to photograph the unusual and dramatic events, but it is often the pleasant routines that are the most deserving of preserving. Here is one.
The Camden library is a great place to get some work done. That more libraries across New England have freely available and better-than-hotel speed WiFi (even when they are closed, as long as you huddle close by) is such a public good.
The Windjammers,seen through the window, are always more than the excuse we need to take a break.
We walk down to the hill...
...grateful for the clear day. The ships are perhaps a little too shiny, but appropriate for the cargo.
The entire scene one could drive by in about ten seconds, yet walking and looking could fill days.
And since by now it is close to lunch anyway, we think about our options.
|We go with The Camden Deli, eat on the benches, and watch the Mary Day depart before getting back to work.|
My father took some Windjammer pictures about 50 years ago I will have to put up at some point. Here is a preview of one on The Mercantile that always made me laugh.