Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Reader Questions - Men's Clothing, Wool Sweater Softening

Bills Khakis; Leather Man Belts; Brooks Brother's Shirts; J. Press Navy Blazer and Tweed Jacket (





1. Dear Muffy, I have been following your blog for some months now from my soon-to-be-ending exile abroad, and I truly appreciate the cornucopia of information you provide to your readers on so many subjects: clothing, skiing, sailing, village life, all accompanied by gorgeous photography. The reason I am writing this post is that I am in a quandary about my wardrobe. Due to my career, I've lived abroad for some 20 years now, but I’ll soon be returning to the States. In my official capacity, I've worn mostly suits to the office (no “work casual”) and for evening hours and weekends, I've managed to keep enough men’s preppy essentials to kit me out over time. The problem I am having is that since I've been away, I really have no idea how to do preppy “business casual” in America. I’ll be consulting with physicians and academics, and so suits, at least for everyday wear, are out. I must look “professional,” but at this point in my 40s, I’m not sure anymore what “professional” means. I've seen colleagues in jeans, tee shirts, khakis (creased) and wool trousers, kempt and unkempt; in short, anything seems to go. I feel as if I've crawled out from a cave and now must navigate this strange, new world back home. How does one strike the right balance these days between looking professional at the office in an environment of “business casual”? (P.S. Thank you for any thoughts you may have in this direction.)




2. Hey Muffy, Having both of my parents, as Princeton graduates, and while living in CT my whole life, I have been exposed to a lot of "ivy" culture and style as well. I've studied your blog like its my religion, and I have to say, I think it's amazing. I've taken many bots of advice from it and have incorporated them into my own style although I often come to the curiosity of if I am dressing a bit to old for my age. My style resembles my father more and more each day. Haha. I was wondering, being seventeen, are there things I should keep in mind when shopping preppy, things I should avoid, or look for? I see my friends wearing more Polo Ralph Lauren and Vineyard Vines. I sometimes think my taste far exceeds the years that I have! Is it inappropriate for someone of my age cherishing my Quoddy mocs and my Brooks Brothers chinos? Or are there things I should think about being a preppy male teen, as I do feel like I dress a little older than my age sometimes.




3. Thanks so much for the thorough review on Norwegian sweaters. Although I have enjoyed LL Bean sweaters for years I have never owned one of these - until this week. Which brings up my question: I found one of the original 80% wool 20% nylon sweaters at a thrift store - it is the charcoal version with teal and purple stitching. It was beautiful, looked new, and the LL Bean label sealed the deal. But when I tried to wear it I found it to be very rough - like coarse steel wool. I was wearing it over a cotton tee shirt and, when I took off the sweater, the tee had quite a few gray fibers stuck to it. My guess is the sweater was never washed - since I live in the AZ desert, it may well have been lying in a drawer for 25-30 years (judging by the colors). So my question is: Did you find that single, or even multiple, washings were necessary to soften the original sweaters to remove loose fibers and/or make the sweaters more comfortable to wear? Just for reference, I don't have a problem wearing other wool sweaters - even Shetland wool - over a tee, or lambs wool/merino/cashmere on bare skin. But the Norwegian was prickly even through the tee. Thanks for any help you can offer - the geekier the better.





4. What are thoughts on Vineyard Vines?  Tommy Hilfiger? J. Crew?

90 comments:

Marie said...

As to quesiton #4-for the most part avoid. Quality is just not there for the price. But with that said, I do like the VV outlet for bathing suits for men.

OC said...

For question 1, I would not even bother. What used to be casual now passes as business casual, so khakis in the summer with a button down shirt (white or blue), tassel loafers and blue blazer; then adding a sweater and heavier weight jacket with grey flannel when the temperature drops. In any case, as long as you are wearing high quality garments, I would not worry. As far as I know, Brooks Brothers, JPress and Alden were staples of good quality clothing then, and still are now. What matters is that you feel confident about the quality of your clothes, and that never goes out of style. Regards Oscar Corrales

LG said...

For #2: You are so young to be taking this so seriously! I dressed a little old when I was your age and I regret not having a little more fun. I'm not saying you need to go punk, but a pair of VV pants (if you like them!) isn't going to kill you. And, as a 17 year old male, do you want to date girls who are your female sartorial equivalent? Or do you like a little more punch at this point? That may answer your question :)

nutrivore said...

in response to #2:

don't use others as a barometer on how to dress. do Brooks Brothers chinos make you feel good? well put together? comfortable? confident? then wear them.

if you're finding yourself attired more and more like your father, it mean he has a sense of style that is enduring. what comes and goes is "trendy". i suspect that's not your goal.

i'm in my forties and what i've learnt after a lot of trial and error and wasted money is that a few high-quality garments (they don't have to be new. they can be hand-me-downs or thrifted) are superior to a vast variety of ones made without attention to quality and detail.

now, i'm rediscovering fountain pens, divesting every bit of polyester from my closet and enjoying the pleasures of snail mail.

don't try to emulate your friends. discover what feels right and good for you. you cannot o wrong with items of high quality that are built to last, functional, and most importantly, fit right.

Anonymous said...

No, no. Don't listen to LG. :)

WASP males are born 40 years old. Wear what speaks to you. I think it is absolutely marvelous that someone your age has such a higher appreciation for quality and craft. Go simple and high quality.

binker said...

I would much rather have fewer items of top quality clothing, than many items of poor replicas. You will know good quality by the feel and the fit.

As far as dressing like your father (forget which question #).....however, unless you are a toddler or young child....all quality prep clothing looks the same. Maybe at 17, you can wear more t-shirts, polos, khaki's, and topsiders....yet, I would imagine you will find both younger and elder preppy/WASPS wearing pretty much the same thing.

Flo said...

For #1--husband wears khaki's and button downs, no tie, to work every day and has for years. It works, it makes shopping easy and if you need to make it look dressier, easy enough to add jacket and tie. Bass tassel loafers for him too.

#2--bravo to you for developing your style at such a young age! I would stay to stick with good quality but also to add some "fun" items as well. There are plenty of fun items that can be preppy as well. Variety is the spice of life!

#3 as for the Norwegian sweater, washing it is probably not going to take care of it. Some wool is just rougher than others, depending on what kind of sheep they were and where they were raised. Sheep raised in northern climates tend to be much coarser than ones raised in southern.

#4 no personal experience with VV, but TH and JC--no, don't waste your time. Sizing is iffy from both, quality is iffy too, and you can buy nicer items of similar styles with the same price from other companies.

Sartre said...

For #1 -- in my work, my business casual uniform is flannel or wool gabardine pants, a button down shirt, a sport jacket, no tie, and some form of loafers (penny, horsebit, Belgians, tassels, etc.). I am somewhat of a sport jacket fanatic; I like many of the J. Press plaids and tweeds.

Anonymous said...

Questions 1, 2 and 4 have been ably answered by the blog host in his/her header photo. And such an advantage, too, is the stated mileage on those jackets. Do whatever you need to do to make sure you wear your clothes, and not the other way around.

-Flo

Anonymous said...

For question #3 - Flo makes a good point about sheep and wool. I know the one I have is rough, but also tough. I think it is a good sweater to wear over a collared shirt.

nutrivore said...

here's how i soften coarse itchy sweaters.

first hand wash it with about a tablespoon of hair shampoo (wool is animal hair, after all) mixed with water. don't ever use those washing products marked with "woolmark". they are very harsh on the fibers.

then rinse it with some (about a tablespoon) of hair conditioner. if it is a very coarse garment, soak it for an hour or so. then rinse and squeeze out the excess water. do not wring. lay it flat to dry. doing this a couple of times will soften the fibers.

if you don't use chemical products like conditioners, try 1/4 cup of baking soda with half a cup of distilled vinegar mixed with some water. this works really well.

after i wash any woolen garment (even the soft ones), i rinse it with a tablespoon of oil mixed in with the water. it conditions the lanolin in the wool and makes it stay soft.

Casey said...

Nutrivore, I will have to try your method. It may be easier to use what is on hand. That said, I wash my wool sweaters and socks in Euclan in the washing machine. Put it in for the rinse cycle, let it sit for 30 minutes and spin out (dry flat, of course). I would never do it with cashmere or delicate wools, however. I knit, as well, and the change that comes over wool when it gets a good washing with lanolin is amazing.

Anonymous said...

To question 4: No, no and no

Anonymous said...

I often check out the Tommy Hilfiger outlet on my way to the Lauren outlet store.
My husband had a couple of Tommy Hilfiger sweaters that did not hold up.
I have a couple of TH sweaters that I've had for 5 plus years and are wearing beautifully. I also like there women's Avery khakis because of the fit and they are 100% cotton with not one thread of spandex.

Anonymous said...

Seems like other readers have already chimed in with ample advice on how to care for wool. I'll just add a little more "geeky" background knowledge about wool.

The roughness or coarseness of wool is genetic (I'm not sure about Flo's claim w.r.t. sheep raised at different latitudes). Sheep breeds that are used for wool (as opposed to meat and dairy) are broadly categorized into "fine-wool" and "long-wool" breeds.

"Fine-wool", like the term suggests, indicates a breed which grows a finer, softer fleece. In addition, the fiber is shorter and highly crimped along its length. Merino wool comes from one of several fine-wool breeds which are collectively known as "merino sheep".

"Long-wool" refers to the opposite: these wool fibers are coarser, longer, and smoother.

And, since I've seen mentions of tweed fabric on this blog, I'll add this:

A sheep's fleece yields two different products, hair and wool. Wool is the crimped, insulating undercoat of the sheep, and hair is the coarse, smooth guard coat. The hair itself may be used for a number of purposes. It may be a by-product of wool-production, or it may be the primary product from sheep that are bred to specialize in wool production. Traditionally, tweed is made from sheep's hair (called "kemp").

I hope that was enlightening! Otherwise, the other commenters have been spot-on. Your wool sweater will almost certainly benefit from washing, which will lift the scales along the wool fibers and cause the yarn to "bloom" (that is, to gain loft and softness). I could go on at quite some length about the many interesting properties of wool in all of its varieties, but I've digressed from the topic of the post already!

Anonymous said...

Oh and I just submitted a comment (the wooly one), but I wanted to add upon noticing what someone said above, that commercially produced wool yarns probably do not have lanolin in them. For sanitary reasons (sheep are dirty!), wool is soaked and sometimes more extensively washed before it is spun into yarn. This removes most if not all of the lanolin, which separates quite readily with soaking and washing. Even were this not the case, washing at home would certainly remove it. This is not a fault; your wool sweaters have been great without it, haven't they?

Greenfield said...

#2: I second what Anon. 4:22 said about "being born 40 years old." Not a THING wrong with starting now to build a quality wardrobe around classic pieces that will last you for your whole life. It can be done without tons of cash; do not eschew thrift stores and e-Bay, it's amazing how often great things can be found brand new with the tags still on!

Some "fun" items to be sure to have too: Genuine Madras jacket, several bright-striped knit scarves, crazy colored socks, and several pair of -serious- GTH pants. Just promise you won't wear 'em all at the same time. ;)

Flo said...

@anonymous 7:21--I was told that by a sheep farmer in England. He explained that because of that issue, the majority of the wool from sheep in northern England was not even usable for clothing manufacture and was used for more durable goods such as rugs.

Anonymous said...

@anonymous 7:21- I found all of your information about wool to be so interesting! I have always been afraid to wash my wool sweaters fearing they will shrink. I really do not care for dry cleaning but hate the thought of ruining expensive sweaters. Why does some wool shrink? Or does all wool shrink or am I just washing it all wrong?

Rachel said...

I agree with Greenfield, second hand stores are a great place to find quality items. I've taught both of my sons about textiles and construction so that they will know what pieces are good and which are to be avoided. As far as style read "Take Ivy". You could still wear anything today that you see in there. With classics that you can wear year after year the cost per wear is very little. Good Luck!!

John said...

#2) I echo, to a point, that you have reached the age where prep clothing is going to be about the same for you or your father. The difference may be in the fit and cut. Several traditional prep brands are coming out with lines that are trimmer cut and aimed at a younger buyer. (see JPress York
Street)

Remember, its NEVER bad to be the best dressed person in the room. For example, if you arrive at a party and it turns out to be good one populated by attractive young females, you will be glad you are. (they notice) If it's not a good party, you can leave early and everyone will assume you had some place better to go....

Dave T said...

Answering #4

Vineyard Vines - This sums it up nicely. Just insert VV's name. "Any while we are on the subject, wearing Southern Tide or some other bastardization of pure prep clothing doesn't mean anything for your cause."
Ferd, "Reader Question, Can you still be preppy if..", The Daily Prep, January 6, 2013 at 2:34 PM

Tommy Hilfiger - No, no.

J. Crew - The chinos (undistressed), shorts, and ties are decent. Mine have held up well. I don't do somersaults for the rest.

Wasp Decor said...

Norwegian Sweater: when I was on a long sailing trip back in the 80's off the coast of Maine, I brought along one sweater and it was the Norwegian sweater from Beans. Well after about 4 days of wearing the same sweater, it was time it needed a wash, so, I just washed mine in the ocean. Nothing really lathers up in salt water but I took some Dr Bronners's bar soap and gave the sweater a gentle scrub. Of course it took several days to dry out, but it was worth it.
I still remember my sweater smelling of peppermint. Anyway, My sweater was so soft after that. I suppose at home you could fill a wash basin with icy cold water, add some sea salt and some Dr Bronners's , rinsing it well in very cold water. I highly recommend peppermint Dr. Bronners. Normally, I trust Woolite but after reading these comments, I have some new ideas.
Now I have a question for Muffy. Do you know of any soaps that lather up in salt water? I remember well that trip, bathing in the icy water off of Machias, that nothing would lather up. Any tips for salt water bathing?

Anonymous said...

3) I have had this problem and it appears some people can wear this type of wool and some can not. I think some people have sensitive skin and wool will affect it. I have overcome this, I am from PA so it is not a problem, by wearing a turtle neck under the sweater. If I wear something that does not cover the sweater touching the neck, such as a mock turtle neck, it is itchy.

Ryan P. said...

As a 19 year old male, hopefully I can help with the second question. I don't think it is inappropriate at all to cherish items in your wardrobe that are classic, well-made, and timeless. I think it is better than the alternative - having items that are outdated in a matter of a few years. Don't worry too much about dressing 'too old;' the opposite is the one to watch out for! In regards to what to look out for when shopping, ask yourself if you will like the item in question five years down the road, 10 years down the road, etc., but also ask yourself if the item is likely to last as long as you wish to wear it. In general, items that are the subject of flashy ads and television commercials are the ones to stay away from. But, above all, just be yourself and dress the way you want to dress (forgive me for the cliche). I hope this helps!

LG said...

A lot of good points are made here regarding #2. Quality can be fun, and I shouldn't have implied that it isn't.

Reader #2, are you happy and comfortable in your clothing? If so, wonderful. However, if you are secretly hankering for something a little different but are reluctant to try it because it is "wrong," then I'm suggesting that you not worry about it so much and try what you like while you can.

Last year I was 30, pregnant, and still wearing a pair of Patagonia shorts I bought in 10 th grade. Those shorts carry a lot of memories and I am in awe of how well they have stood the test of time. However, it doesn't mean that I am not also fond of a pair of GAP shorts from that same year that made my waist look tiny for one amazing summer. I'm not sure what the male equivalent is, but if it is one pair of high quality wool pants and a ridiculous VV gingham pair then so be it. Now if you start wearing track suits it's a whole different conversation!

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 8:14 -

Hi, it's me from 7:12 again! Wool absolutely can be washed; save your dry cleaning money!

The reason why wool cannot be washed in the same manner as cotton is that it is an animal fiber. Thus, like the hair off the top of your head, its microscopic structure is quite complex. The length of a single wool fiber (many of which are twisted into a spun yarn) is covered with many scales. By contrast, plant-derived fibers such as cotton and bamboo are smooth strands of cellulose.

Exposure to extremely cold or hot water, as well as mechanical agitation, will cause the scales to lift from the wool fibers and interlock with each other. As the fibers tangle together, the fabric will become denser and smaller. This is the same thing that happens when ungroomed pet fur forms tough mats or human hair forms dreadlocks. This process is called "felting" and is irreversible; as you might guess, if it is allowed to occur and continue, its ultimate product will be wool felt--a thickly matted wool fabric that does not resemble woven or knitted wool fabrics in which the yarn is clearly distinguishable. During normal wear of a wool sweater, this will naturally happen to some degree and will not hurt the garment; however, in a single hot water wash in a washing machine, a sweater can felt to a considerable degree and come out very much changed.

The finer, shorter, and "fluffier" a wool is, the more easily it felts (see above about wool types). Cashmere, which is even finer than wool, felts even more easily. If you are a frequent wool wearer, you should be able to tell the difference easily. Your merino sweaters will have a buttery, squishy softness to them, and your fisherman's sweaters will be much tougher!

That being said, I personally would not recommend machine washing any wool products, unless they are specifically labeled as safe for machine washing (it is possible to chemically treat wool to strip it of its scales, thus eliminating the ability to felt but also some of its warmth and loft). This is especially true if you intend to hold onto your treasured sweaters so that they too will be the coveted "vintage sweater" someday! Handwashing is best. This need not be a difficult process; I recommend filling a washtub or bathtub with enough lukewarm water to soak a batch of wool garments. Dissolve some mild soap or baby shampoo (there are specialty wool rinses, but they tend to be pricey for what you get) in the water, and submerge your garments. Swish the contents of your tub around and squeeze for a few minutes with your hands to make sure everything is good and saturated, and once you are satisfied that it is, you can rinse everything out by soaking it again (or under running water, if you have a small batch).

And, finally, should handwashing prove absolutely too tedious(we're being realistic here), it probably won't hurt your tougher wool sweaters (nothing lacy or thin) to be run in the machine on the gentle cycle, in a mesh laundry bag, with cool water. Never dry wool in the dryer, of course! I hope that helps. Cheers!

Wasp Decor said...

I know I'll get kicked out of the prep club for saying this but here goes: I love Land's End pinpoint Oxford cloth shirts. I know everyone dislikes Land's End but I have to give them kudos for making a good, everyday buttondown shirt. I'm not talking about for work but for around the house/ casual wear. I think they are beefy, generous in fit and have a great roll to the collar.
As for Vineyard Vines, I've never bought from their store, the same for Hilfiger( I do have to admit that I like those advertisement he did, but, that's about it).

Pete said...

For 1# -

If you’re a consultant, a vendor or in sales; Suits would be considered the norm when working with academics or physicians. Also it’s not always a good impression to meet with academics being dressed too casually. When I meet with those from outside the academy, most of the time they are in suits or charcoal flannel slacks and blazer – always a necktie and blue or white dress shirts.
While those who work in the academy dress business casual; those who visit us tend to make a better impression by dressing better than we do.

Anonymous said...

For #3...what nutrivore said. To add, I wash sweaters in baby shampoo with some baking soda. Cold water, delicate or hand wash, air dry. Washing will get rid of a great deal of the "shedding". Someone might have had it dry cleaned. It might never be super soft, but it will be warm and stylish!

H. Ramm said...

#1: I would personally encourage you to continue wearing suits on a regular basis. That being said, if you feel that to dress appropriately you need to dress more casually then I encourage you to try employing the 'High-Low' method of smart, casual dress. This essentially means mixing casual items with more formal ones (the easiest example being a sport coat with plain dark rinse slimmer-fitting jeans). This method enables you to look sharp without dressing so formally that you look out of place. I think that these articles by Antonio Centeno could be helpful, read his thoughts on the topic here and here .

H. Ramm said...

#2: Being only 17 it is likely that you have very few things which force your hand in terms of what is appropriate to wear (eg, if you spent most of your time in a business setting you would dress for business). This lack of restriction means that you are dressing simply for pleasure--so dress in whatever manner it is that pleases you. In short: wear PRL or VV if you want to, but don't stow away your Brooks chinos or Quoddy mocs because they look a little out of place on someone so young.

One final piece of advice--if you do wish to dress in a more youthful manner without sacrificing the quality that your favorite brands represent you can achieve this by altering the fit of your clothing. Shirts which fit close to your body with minimal bagginess and pants which fit slim (without being tight or constricting) and an inseam with minimal break will leave you looking more fit and youthful regardless of the brands you're sporting.

NCJack said...

For question #1, I would say stick with your suits, or at least wear a tie with your Khakis/flannels and odd jackets. The people you'll be seeing are the type who appreciate someone who presents a good appearance, even though it might not be their daily style

Ferd said...

Dear Apostles of Stewardship,

I write from my suite here in the Raj after spending the morning at St. Phillip’s Orphanage just outside the city. Our parish has adopted the facility and each year a deacon from the Church visits in order to assess childcare needs and renew commitments to the squalid among us. This is my year to travel. Thought you all should know. Personally, I love the smell of noblesse oblige in the morning. I do hope that this reveal will allow Flo (the one with the dog who appears better fed than my Indian wards at the Orphanage) to forgive my dalliance in the Czech Republic on the way here.

But, of far greater import to the world is my choice of wardrobe for dinner. Aside from my Alden Shell Cordovan Color #8 shoes, J Press tropical weight wool light gray trousers (not pants, children), no socks, a surcingle belt from Cable Car Clothiers, a white OCBD from Mercer & Sons, Fence Club tie from J Press and my bespoke underwear, what perfect, unostentatious touch would ‘tie it all together’ for my wine and dine with the Indian swells later this evening? Any suggestions would be most welcome as I am desperate to be gracious among the unwashed.

Anonymous said...

@H. Ramm, In my opinion, tight fitting versions of classics is like bell bottomed versions of classics or animal print versions of classics. Wear whatever you like, but do not mistake these for classics. Tight fitting clothes are already a dated look, now increasingly creepily worn by men in the late 20's and early 30's trying to look like college kids.

Anonymous said...

Ferd - Why do I get the feeling that you don't really need/want advice on such matters? :)

Nice list, by the way.

Anonymous said...

"Dear Apostles of Stewardship"

Ferd! I owe you an apology. I called you empty yesterday when in fact you are quite...full.

One of your apologists remarked yesterday that you'd penned an "on the money" profile of persons from the deep south. This sounds like required reading, if only I could find it.

-Flo

Anonymous said...

Cruising Maxminimus this morning, and found some timely advice [if M and C deem this appropriate for a reprint].

-Flo

http://maxminimus.tumblr.com/post/41920259527/jhilla-putthison-if-i-could-speak-to-my

Anonymous said...

Ferd,

Blend in with your environment. If you're dining with Brahmin Gentleman Scholars, stick with historic, English clothiers, preferably tailored suits from Kensington. If your intention is to create potential war profits and you require mercenary assistance from reliable men in the Kshatryia Class, brandish the Rolex because money is the universal language. If you're looking to establish a literary presence in India with reputable agents, publishing houses and market firms, the Viasya would be impressed with your Prada Suit and Gucci loafers. If you need directions to Goa and a few Sudra peasants to assist you with your journey, dress as any other Western Hippy or simply go with The North Face mountaineering costume.

Anonymous said...

I just want to thank the anonymous wool expert for all of that marvelous information.

Edward Appleby said...

#2 - No matter what you wear, if you wear it with confidence, it will look good on you.

#4 - As long as the flag logo is seen only in the lining, Tommy Hilfiger does make some good ties. Or, at least, he did when I bought my most recent one about 7 years ago.

Muffy Aldrich said...

@Wasp Decor - I can't believe you could stay in those icy cold waters long enough to want to lather up!! I haven't gone in the waters north (or Downeast if you prefer) of Isleboro since I was nine years old. But to answer your question, I do not. A sailing friend thought that Defender sold something that fit the bill. And when at sea he washes his clothes by dragging them behind the boat for a few hours.

@Wool Expert - I also thank you for such an extraordinary level of information!

Muffy Aldrich said...

WRJ has posted a very good Office Wardrobe list on his site: http://theswampyankee.tumblr.com/post/41912534001/i-think-i-remember-you-saying-youre-graduating-from

Anonymous said...

How to answer this!

From the start, I think it's mistaken to take a Lisa Birnbaum or Muffy Aldrich as the final arbiter here: preppy is really a group thing.

In my book, I just dislike fake royalty crests. I'm not royalty. My gut guess here is that I'm descended from a long line of nondescript German peasants who lived in muck. So Tommy Hilfiger and Ralphie are pretty much not my bag, although the Ralph Lauren stuff I have (pants) are of good quality, despite the weird homoerotic quality of his advertising.

One great thing about men's preppy clothing is that the stuff can damn well last forever. I just wear ancient stuff. My Norwegian sweater is circa 1983?, and it's scratchy and my take on the sweater's scratchiness is that it is some kind of authenticity. . . but maybe I'm wrong there.

Flo said...

Something to add--years ago I was told by someone who was an expert in fibers NOT to use Woolite--it's one of those marketing ploys to buy something that really isn't good for your clothing. It apparently has an ingredient in it that does not come out and will eventually leave marks on clothing and cause deterioration. He hated the stuff!

Greenfield said...

I would add to Anon. 8:19's most excellent list by admonishing the noble Ferd to be sure and take his white linen breeches, puttees and pith helmet since he will of course be invited for a day of pigsticking. Beware the "Wet Nalla!" :)

BlueTrain said...

Many good comments and tons of interesting things. Here's another question.

I am an accountant, otherwise known as a shiny pants bookkeeper. I really do spend (most of) my days polishing my pants. How do you prevent the shiny seat-of-your pants? It seems to happen only with wool, all wool, any wool, but most noticeably with "fine" wool. By "fine," I mean thin, as in what is called "year-round" weight, which in turn, means summer-weight, or even tropical weight. Maybe I should do more work standing up!

I don't wear sweaters so much any more myself because it isn't cool enough in the office but I love wool shirts from Pendleton (don't wear those so much either, frankly). But they wash up beautifully. Don't bother with Woolite, just the ordinary stuff, but not "washing up liquid."

Anonymous said...

Creative individual expression is the mark of a free society but conformity to philosophical forebears and its varying hues and institutions would aptly weather through epochal changes. Just because overzealous marketing executives and book publishers want to call something "Preppy" does not mean it's Preppy in the etymological sense.

True Preppies are indeed part of a privileged class in the body politic. They are the movers and shakers, the cream of the intellectual aristocracy. The remnants of Tocqueville's ilk and embodiment of Burke's call for duty and service.

You can't buy class. Entertainment Executives or smarmy U.S. Politicians may be able to buy a historic Town House in Louisburg Square but they can't alter their origins in the New England Genealogical Society.

It's an uncomfortable topic for most True Preps to discuss because they're given to the pressures of Political Correctness or the insecurity of belonging to a dying breed. But it's all objectively true and verifiable, just ask Ferd, the resident guardian of class prerogatives [borrowing a line from Prep Filmmaker Whit Stillman].

Ralph Lauren born Ralph Lifshitz is not one of them. His early childhood memories probably entail Eastern European Deli joints, Yankee Stadium and perhaps Lincoln Center. Equestrian was probably low on the list of things for him to care deeply about. Nothing wrong with this. He's brilliant at marketing and sales but don't confuse him for a True Prep.

If the goal is to dress and act as a Preppy, knock yourself you. But you're not fooling anyone, certainly not True Preps who are probably laughing in a chuckling abandon.

Simply put, True Preps are born into it.





CWS said...

I really love it when our host posts questions and leaves it to our community to share our opinions. I enjoy reading what everyone has to offer and always come away with my own better-informed ideas.

I am particularly grateful to the anonymous wool expert. I live for these kinds of practical and integrative facts!

Thank you!

Anonymous said...

If you want a Norwegian sweater, buy one from Norway...:-) There are several good producers still: Dale, Devold and Lillunn.

Here are websites: www.dale.no, www.lillunn.no, www.devold..com

Of course, most Norwegians knit their own sweater. www.raumaull.no.

I have several sweaters that are anywhere from 60-10 years old. All in good condition, all washed.
SebaMed soap which now is available in the US does lather pretty well in saltwater. In Norway, we use Bliw soap, but it is not available here. You can also just use any olive oil based soap, and remember that lather does not equal clean...:-) Good luck!

LG said...

True preps don't care if their best friend of twenty years wears slim cut pants, becomes a dreadlocked ski instructor, or dances naked with a tutu on his head. (Okay, fine, maybe not the last one.). These are people who grew up together, their parents grew up together, etc etc. I don't know how it is for the generations above me, but I really don't see cut of pants being a make or break issue for a "true prep.". They are friends with their friends, who ultimately share commonalities that run deeper than clothing.

Just my opinion.

Anonymous said...

Anon 11:12. You hit upon some interesting points. But "True Preppies are... the movers and shakers, the cream of the intellectual aristocracy" is inaccurate on contemporary political, academic, scientific, and entrepreneurial fronts. As with any ecosystem, strength comes from diversity. I love this blog because it is a pure touchpoint of a culture and values I respect, but it never tries to elevate at the expense of anything but pervasive mediocrity.

Anonymous said...

To LG - I know what you are saying. To take it one step further I would argue that everything we wear is a culmination of many decisions - as with the food we eat, the entertainment we consume and causes we support. If an old friend suddenly started chain smoking or eating nothing but marshmallows and Pepsi, it would not go unnoticed. Like with all decisions it reflects, however imperfect, who we are.

WRJ said...

Thanks for mentioning my post! It was directed at someone in my position--going through the arduous process of building a work wardrobe right out of school. Your questioner probably knows more than I do, but here's my thoughts on question 1: Business casual is kind of awful because it means completely different things to different people. That said, I think you will be dressed appropriately for 99% of biz/casual situations if you're wearing good loafers, a pair of pressed trousers (cotton or wool), an oxford shirt, tie, and blazer/sport coat.

2. Appreciating quality at a relatively young age is great. I still wear some clothing I bought in high school, and tons of stuff from college. (The belt I wear almost every day is from my sophomore year!) That said, I can't imagine that wearing suits to school or adopting an Alex P. Keaton affect will have a beneficial effect on what remains of your adolescence.

3. Grateful for this question because I learned so much about wool!

4. VV has some attractive ties, particularly those with school emblems/mascots, but I know nothing about the quality. I own a couple of their bathing suits and am unimpressed considering the price. Their current design strategy seems to be applying whale motifs and pink logos to completely average clothing rendered in Care Bear colors.

J.Crew is seriously lacking in quality and is slanting more and more trendy in style and fit. I haven't bought anything there in years and don't wear the few items that I own. I don't own anything Tommy Hilfiger and haven't since I was a child. The new ad campaign seems to be a sort of parody of a Wes Anderson film that is itself a gentle parody of prep.

Anonymous said...

To Anon 11:49,

I beg to differ. The political hierarchy for True Preps has its roots in Anglo-American affairs starting from the late 1800's with Cecil Rhodes, Milner, Lord Esher forming an international study group to monitor vital interests and perhaps intervene for England and America. It exists today under what is commonly referred to as The Round Table Group.

Connect the dots with juggernaut academic institutions, research grant groups, think tanks, Sell Side Banks, private clubs, Media Cartel, etc. and they all form a shadowy, potent, highly-influential group which shape policies, ideas and everything else you don't want to know about.

The charlatan in the Oval Office you say or the Feminist at Harvard? They answer to think tanks, donors and the Corporation. In short, people who run things behind the scene.

Sure, I may have conflated Preppy with WASP but they have nearly identical codes of behavior and aesthetics.

Secondly, diversity offers anthropological and social benefits not necessarily strength. There could be diversity in a concentration camp but what good is it without liberty and the pursuit of?

I appreciate your response. I'm not a True Prep, just a casual observer.

Donald said...

For questioner #1: I suggest a good blazer and tasteful sportcoats (Harris tweed, for example). Wear with good wool trousers, neckties, dress shirts, and really good shoes. I can't "go with the Flo" (January 30 4:38): the khaki/buttondown look is way overdone. Where I live and work, it is the unimaginative drab uniform of armies of men--khakis and blue shirts (they are always blue), and always with a white crew-neck t-shirt peeking out. P.S. Keep your suits.

Anonymous said...

I agree and disagree with Donald. He makes a couple of good points regarding Harris Tweeds and good shoes. The khaki and oxford shirt combination is classic and never boring. What is boring is the JCP or Macy's rip-off of that look with their no-iron shirts and no-iron khakis and bad cuts. And I might add he is right about the t-shirt peeking out. Bad.

BlueTrain said...

I don't think no-iron clothing is so bad, though some is. Permanent press is definately a better term, however, since few things are really no-iron, that is, if you want them to look pressed. In the mid to late 1960s there were lots of very nicely made wash-n-wear (as they were quaintly called) pants from makers that have apparently disappeared and there are no longer such things. But maybe I'm just shopping in the wrong stores. It's been years since I've been in a store that was remotely named "University Shop," or even "Men's Wear." All my fault, I suppose.

No one else have a problem with shiny pants or the back of a suit jacket?

John said...

#1: I think Oscar sums it up well. Stylish corduroy trousers also perfectly appropriate for fall/winter as a khaki substitute. The comments regarding suits are also on point; it depends where you will be. Headquarters of Pfizer? I'd go with the suit. Harvard Medical School? Same; can't hurt; JPress sport coat also a good choice. Biotech startup in Rockville? Smart business casual, pack a tie in the car just in case for dinner in DC.

#4: Agree with Marie on VV bathing suits. And for my taste, their tie designs have declined in attractiveness in the past few years. Southern Tide fits well and the quality seems good, but it gives me the feeling I'm wearing a logo rather than a shirt. Peter Millar classics a better choice, I think.

Eric said...

#2: I think there is some great advice above. The only thing I would add is that you want to make sure that your clothing is practical. As a high school teacher, I see quite a few of my kids who wear "nicer" clothes that are not practical for them. The materials show wear and dirt much faster than other options. The point I'm trying to make is that, as a seventeen-year-old, you are much more physically active, all day long, than your forty to fifty year old father. If you have to spend a good portion of your day worrying about whether or not you're going to mess up your shoes or pants, then you're missing out on the fun of being young. Historically, "preppy" became popular with kids because it was a relaxed way to still look appropriate. As #1 has noted, what was once looked upon as casual has now become formal. Making sure that your clothing is durable and practical should answer a lot of your questions.

Anonymous said...

Just to clarify, since there are several anonymous writers, I wrote the one on Norway, but no other posts. Thanks for a great blog!
Nina

Anonymous said...

Anon 11:12 makes a few interesting points. I think it is true that you can't buy class. This has always been the case. Neither can you buy relatives. But this conflates social class/social standing with good behavior, and we know this isn't true. A poor man can have excellent consideration for others (although the practical quantity of his liberality will be less), will a rich man can be an idiot.

My take on this whole preppy clothing thing is that it is just common-sense, basic American clothing. Good stuff, well-made, not trendy gack.

Push on it, and there are aesthetic and ethical values in this.

Flo said...

Don't forget--button down oxfords DO come in colors other than white and blue! My husband has quite a collection in stripes, solids in a wide variety of colors. Keeps him from getting in to a rut!

Anonymous said...

My thoughts on 3: When hand washing that vintage wool sweater, do so in cool water with a wool wash. Other cleaners have enzymes in them that can dissolve the wool. Squish it around long enough to properly clean it, but don't leave it soak. Also, use a wool-safe fab softener. Spin it dry in the washer, give it a shake or two to fluff out the fibers, and lay it flat on a towel to dry. I have many old vintage wool sweaters that I've washed this way with great success. I don't buy merino wool - EVER. --Holly in PA

Wasp Decor said...

Muffy, I just read your response and I'm laughing at how your friend washes clothes at sea. I love it!
I LOVE the bracing cold water downeast. This was more of a run, jump, scrub real quick, and get the heck out type of wash up. If you think that water is cold, try up near Campabello! Some friends and I took a road trip up there one weekend back in the '80's, well, we ended up at a beach and we *tried* to go swimming. If you've ever wondered what it might have been like for the passengers aboard the Titanic, I highly recommend a dip up near Campabello Island.

Paul Connors said...

Most of the Vinyeard Vines stuff for men is JUNK. Some exceptions are their ties. The rest of the men's stuff is poor quality and grossly overpriced.

Claudio Del Vecchio, the new owner of Brooks Bros. is INSANE! His price increases of late are UNCONSCIONABLE especially for the calfskin tassel loafers which had THREE price increases in less than a year. The first was from $378 per pair to $398, the second to $418 and now another WHOPPING 20% INCREASE to $498 per pair.

I have two pair at this time and while I love the quality and style of the shoes, they are NOT WORTH almost $500 per pair. And they NEVER, EVER WILL BE. Del Vecchio is CRAZY to PASS ON TO CUSTOMERS INCREASES OF THIS SIZE. My guess is that eventually, these long time staples of B-B mens footwear will disappear because he doesn't know how to get along with the manufacturer, ALDEN SHOES.

With the exception of the 100% OCBD shirts, men's suits, some of the shoes, men's ties and some but not all of the men's outerwear still made in the USA, a large percentage of the BB products are now made in CHINA and Malaysia. And yes, the lower quality has started to show and show BADLY.

I have been shopping at BB since my Dad gave me a charge account there when I was 12 and the company has been bought and sold many times since. I am now convinced that Del Vecchio is nothing more than a money grubbing fraud, is out to make as much as he can from longtime BB customers and could care less about the product quality or the company's traditions and tradional customers.

Brooks Bros. is now like so many other merchants with some very grossly overpriced merchandise that is of questionable quality. Some of it is still is high quality, but sadly, too much of it is not, so it has become like so many other retailers, a mixed bag.

For men, they are also trending away from their traditional lines and fits toward skinny metrosexual looks that are absolutely appalling looking on any male older than 12.

Sizing on many of their sweaters and trousers are NOT TRUE and are geared to the thinner and skinnier younger men.

I will shop at Brooks Bros., but now wiill do so mch more jusdiciously and selectively.

BTW, they also don't seem interested in the truth in product reviews on their website; any that are negative are not posted.

I hate making these disparaging remarks about a company I used to be so fond of, but sadly, much like L L Bean, they have lost their way.

Kathie Truitt said...

Paul Conners I agree with you. For ladies, Brooks Brothers was the last place I could go to get classic, traditional ladies clothing. And now? They have started catering to the collegiate set. And yes, their sizing has changed dramatically.

3button Max said...

Paul- spot on
max

Laurie Ann said...

Paul-Sad but true.

Anonymous said...

As to #1, there have been some good answers, and I won't duplicate what's been said.

As to #4, I say No to Vineyard Vines. Their things appear to be of low quality. I occasionally buy a Tommy Hilfiger item if it is at a reduced price at Marshall's. As to J. Crew, I like some of their long-sleeve cotton jerseys for use in layering, but I don't buy anything else there. Well, maybe novelty socks, but buying them is almost like throwing money away since I wear them so seldom.

--JR

John Murtagh said...

I personally don't mind VV for certain things. I have a couple pairs of their shorts and think they are some of the most comfortable I own. I buy probably one of their button downs per season and always seem to get compliments on them. On top of that, I received as a gift one of their Shep Shirts my freshman year of college in 2005. After putting it through the ringer in college and since, 8 years later, except for some fading from washing, it looks like it did they day I got it, but feels like the well worn sweat shirt it is. Of the VVines clothes I own, the quality is good and the clothes have held up even after years of wearing and washing. Their prices are really what get you and have gone up quite a significant amount since 1998 (but, so has gas).

Beyond my school tie, I haven't bought one of their ties in a while for the reason someone has mentioned that their patterns just don't appeal to me as much anymore. When I do look at their ties, I tend towards the older patterns that they've had in rotation for a while.

J. Crew is danger close to going off the deep end. Their men's selection was always a little slim compared to their women's but I always felt they were a safe bet for a good polo and khakis. Not anymore. They seem to be more concerned with the next designer they can do a collaboration with than making clothes people want to buy. I said to my girlfriend the other day that J. Crew is beginning to trend towards hipster in the men's department.

If you like it, wear it. If you feel comfortable in it, wear it. I've always felt that pretty much every company worth it's salt usually does the staples the right way.

Bethany Hissong said...

#2 The first thing I thought in response to your question was that you are prepared to enter the adult world. Teens here wear ties and jackets to school (Catholic High) so the comment by the teacher was irrelevant-- you won't be wearing that same wardrobe to gym class! My second thought was that as I was growing up in the 80's and preppy clothing was also trendy (I now see how lucky I was!)... I have come full circle back to some of the same clothing I wore as a teenager! Be yourself. If that means loving high quality clothing which is labeled as preppy, then I say you're much smarter than most kids. I have a 16 year old daughter I'd love to introduce you to! She is a leader, not a follower, and she prefers classic clothing! (And she's pretty cute!) ;)

Anonymous said...

It was fun to read all of these comments, and I must say that it is a little sad that younger people will find it more difficult to purchase the quality that boomers and beyond were able to expect and enjoy.

As a woman, I have given up on BB in general. While I don't have the same wardrobe needs that I did when I was younger, I miss the fact that I once knew which brands were reliable.

I have been told on more than one occasion that companies are aware that most young customers do not want longevity in clothing. So, make it cheap but price it high, then put it on sale (planned promo).

Personally, I haven't ever "embraced" Ralph Lauren's merchandise. I have, however, enjoyed watching his process and progress as a sort of theatre. Forget J.Crew. VV is popular on the nearby college campus.

I think it comes down to cherry picking your way through several lines. Barbour, Burberry, LLB, LE, BB, Talbots, Coach, etc. have done some very strange things in the name of fashion, profit ("cash grab"), and such.

It used to be so easy. Pop into the Darien Sport Shop, and buy a Skyr turtleneck....No annoying crests and logos. Boring? Maybe. Easy and dependable? Yes.

As an aging boomer, I put on my glasses and look things over very carefully. Be wary. Visit good consignment shops and compare quality from then and now.

BlueTrain said...

The shabby gentleman here again (still with shiny pants): I think there's touch of irony in the complaint that Brooks Brothers is catering to the collegiate set. But haven't they always had a collection for the younger crowd? I don't really think preppies are born at age 40 but it has seemed to me that preppies always dressed the way they did in school. I admit, it is confusing, since it isn't clear which came first.

It is true, however, that you will probably branch out a little, style-wise, as you get older but only because you will have different occasions calling for a different form of dress as the years roll by. Naturally, that doesn't apply to everyone, since some preps are rather footloose (as I've mentioned before) and wind up in faraway places. When you're far away from home, you can wear pretty much anything you like because no one knows you. At home, on the other hand, you can wear pretty much anything you like because everyone knows you.

And another thing, all this business about Volvos. I agree, they are highly practical cars (we've had four and still have three of them) but they are not particularly attractive at certain stages of your life. The station wagon, as my daughter says, has mom car written all over it. And when we were young, there were only two models, except for the rare sport model (thought not as rare as a Saab sport). Besides, they've always been pricy and when you're spending your inheritance in law school on the West Coast, you just don't run an expensive set of wheels. There was even a day when a Volkswagen was a car to have, but only the Karmann Ghia (very appropriate to unversity professors everywhere). The Squareback and Fastback may have been far more popular but you never wanted to look like someone who read Consumer Reports. The Beetle (probably used) was a starter car.

Ferd said...

My dinner party was unexpectedly uneventful, hence the long delay in corresponding to my Muffriends. I do have a few anecdotes to share. Whilst sharing an unethically sweet port with my host and other guests someone remarked that the most popular newborn male child's name in London in 2012 was Mohamed, a decidedly un-Anglican name. Upon hearing this remark, one of the other guests, a bored Irish Guard Captain squiring his plumb and un-amiable spouse, left out a deep and abiding 'sigh', which one may suppose is the collective response of the remaining imperialists as they observe their rapid extinction. My host asked me whether the same conditions existed in New England and I expressed ignorance although I knew the sad truth. True prep, not unlike the native British, are dying out for want of large families that so often described the Brahmins in our past. I did remark, in a rate instance of humor on my part, that perhaps the young prep ladies in Boston should take a cue from Queen Elizabeth who once famously instructed her flock of daughters to "lie back and think of England". The Guards Captain actually chortled at this, earning an abusive glance from his missus.

Off to Mén Tóu Gōu, a lovely suburb of the capital of the PRC.

Anonymous said...

Volvo wagons haven't been "Mom Cars" for decades. Minivans and SUVs now scream Mom. I see more Volvo wagons driven by teenagers than any other demographic.

Paul Connors said...

Although confirmation is always gratifying, it is also more sad because I am not the only one who has come to these conclusions about Brooks Brothers. And to top it off, it's not just the men's clothing now, but women's apparel, too.

On another note, I was recently approached by a J. Crew HR recruiter for a position as their IT Sourcing Manager at their offices in NYC. Despite the poor economy and high unemployment, I decided NOT to interview for the position and there were several reasons. They were:

1) The NYC location made for an undesirable commute.

2) The fact that it was J Crew and I have no affinity for the brand or the company.

3) I had just started a new role with another company and considered the recruiter's attempts to persuade me to leave my current role as "unethical and unseemly."

4) The negative comments made by many posters here at this blog who disliked the company's products and direction.

For these reasons, but especially numbers 2, 3, and 4 I knew even without interviewing that J Crew was NOT a company I wanted to work for or be associated with.

Anonymous said...

Nothing new under the sun but if there is a sliver of radiant optimism for Preps, it is the old axiomatic truth: Preps usually don't cannibalize their own. Competition is a given in any sporting event or boardroom squabble between rivals but at the end of the day, Preps are usually reliable for ensuring the furtherance of the Old Boy Network. It's not what you know but who you know and why you know them.

Accounts of Prep demise have been exaggerated. The Somerset and Chilton are not only solvent but still properly exclusive to the inner circle of Prepdom. The Media may longer refer to the power structure of the "Eastern Establishment" due to an influx of competing factions such as the Tea Party but believe me, Tax-free Foundations and their hold on the Academy and other institutions of influence are still pervasive.

Despite the sullen prophecy promoted in Whit Stillman's "Metropolitan" on the inevitable doom of the Urban Haute Bourgeoisie and contemporary ambivalence towards craftsmanship and enduring style, John Forbes Kerry was just nominated to run the State Department and the prospects of Jeb Bush running in 2016 looks promising. J. Press still manages to appear "fresh" without compromising its conservative heritage. And the gulf between have and have nots is expanding thanks to the almighty printing press and dubious Keynesian policies. So this will only enhance Prep standing on the social strata.

Take a deep breathe and enjoy a finger of Johnny Black, the drink of choice for Winston Churchill. The weekend is upon us and from what I understand, an Illuminati ritual will take place at half time come Sunday night.







BlueTrain said...

Oh, my! There are many anonymous contributions here that deserve credit. However, I believe that Volvo wagons are "Mom cars." In fact, my wife drives one. It's is a 1999 and it replaced the DL that we had for 18 years. I drive the V40 myself. My daughter held out for a sedan.

The reason you see kids driving Volvo wagons is because Dad won't let them have the F150 and Mom won't let them have the BMW. Everyone hangs onto their old station wagon, same as your old refrigerator that you keep beer in and which works better than the new one, also true for the old station wagon.

Bob Henkel said...

In Atlanta we have Miller Bros. and J. Press. Also the great mens' shops in Charleston SC are just a day trip away.

BB is awful and not bought anything there in a long time, except for an urgently needed black pants. Their sizing is bizarre and not to be relied upon. Their quality seems to have slipped significantly.

J Crew is indeed hipster wear. Trendy trashy and throw away. Why waste your money?

LLBean is Mecca and yes I know they too have slipped, but I can't go around naked!! LOL!!

Consignment and Good Will are indeed reliable resources for classic quality--hit and miss for sure, but when you score you score big. I speak from experience.

Anonymous said...

In the mid-90's, Boston Magazine published a humorous commentary on ethnic tribes in the State and their obsession with assimilating with the Brahmin Class. Shortly after the Boston Irish consolidated political power from the Cabot-Lodge hegemony, they freely borrowed their mannerisms and aesthetics from bow ties to sail boats. Foundations emerged and Boston College was founded.

Not long after this period, waves of Italians arrived and assumed positions along the Wharf and manufacturing base outside of 495. Many saved their earnings, opened up Italian businesses catering to Italians initially but a few entered the brutal stage of State Politics. But instead of adopting a literal interpretation on Brahmin style, the Italians created their own genre through a combination of high-end, tailored suits from the homeland with a liberal mix-and-match approach but the end result was still conservative. The latter was soon vulgarized by street soldiers of the Patriarca Family which snowballed into an unspeakable decay along the Jersey Shore.

Eastern Europeans were better attuned to Brahmin aesthetics. A possible theory is that residual taste in refinement was handed down to the lower classes in the old Hapsburg Empire where many Ashkenazi Jews originated from. Exceptions to this were few but the baffling use of gaudy limos by new moneyed folks in this tribe made the Old Guard cringe in horror.

Soon, waves of Asians arrived after the Chinese Exclusion Act was lifted. The progeny of small business proprietors eventually joined the Brahmin ranks at the elite private schools. Astonishingly, these Asians not only adopted Prep-wear but many now even speak with a lockjaw accent. Note: they are not to be confused with other Asians living in Asian-centric communities along the North and South Shores of Massachusetts. They typically reside in quaint, charming towns like Concord, Dover, Weston, Wellesley and Duxbury and like to be referred to as "Doctor". Conversely, our dear Brahmin resident Ferd demands to be referred to as "Yes, Master" but that's for another time.

But are they True Preps?

Mr. Kraft, Yo Yo Ma and Paul Celluci would not describe themselves as Prep but I'm sure Birnbach would launch herself into full-scale approval to say they are. The late great William F. Buckley, an Irishman, was perhaps the embodiment of Prep. So maybe Birnbach is on to something...





Anonymous said...

J. Crew is attempting to capture market share from Urban Outfitters but their catalog offerings are not what is colloquially referred to as "Hipster".

The Hipster style in its most recent form emerged from Art Colonies in Wiliamsburg and the Indie Music they worship. There are no rules but individuality and irony.

What was considered Hipster 10 years ago is dismissed as Yuppie today. See: Buddy Holly Glasses, Wolverine Boots, etc.

This is where J. Crew is going but my only issue with them is precipitous decline in quality. Same could be said for LL Bean.

I understand the need for companies to shave off operating expenses on the bottom line and the logic behind outsourcing but inevitably, this model will not only hurt their brand but allow for new players to steal market share.

BantamInChicago said...

To question no. 1, I am not a definition for "business casual" exists today in the same way as it once did, i.e. connoting a specific dress code.

Consistency and quality matter here, though. Even if you go to work in chinos and a button down shirt, with no jacket or tie, as I do, there is still ample opportunity to leave a good impression through your attention and consistency.

For pants, I would recommend alternating khaki chinos with grey wool during the week. My chinos come from Jack Donnelly, but Bill's is another great choice. Wool pants should have some seasonal variation. Heavier flannels and tweeds are best for winter weather, and tropical wool is great for summer.

For shirts, a button down collar is a good choice for workplaces that don't require you to wear a tie. Oxfords are obviously the most popular choice for Daily Prep readers, but if you do not own a tattersall cotton twill or some patterned cotton broadcloth shirts, they are excellent options as well.

For shoes, a leather sole is a must in my mind. I wear leather soled loafers to work every day, alternating between bit and penny styles. I highly recommend Allen Edmonds Verona bit loafers. I also highly recommend Rancourt penny loafers, which can be made to order for your choice of color, width, sole thickness, etc.

But there are other details which can easily make or break a business casual look. For me, it was difficult at first to make time every morning to shave before work, but the effort pays off. The same goes with hair. There is no sense in spending time and money building a great wardrobe if you do not regularly get your hair cut. Personally, I also pay attention to watches. My only piece of advice there is to exercise restraint in your choice and be mindful of where you will be wearing it. Some sports watches look out of place in a business casual environment, others do not.

I hope this helps. I am convinced that despite the ambiguity of "business casual" today, it is easy to adapt to the American dress code if you focus on quality, consistency, and simplicity.

The LMM said...

I'm 24 years old and have worked in he corporate world for about 4 years. I was confused with the whole "business casual" term as well but decided to just wear what I liked. I went to work in professional attire and treated Fridays as "business casual" when the rest of the office was just "casual". I never felt out of place because it actually motivated some of the others in the office to spruce up what they wore everyday. I believe business casual is what you make of it.

To answer question #2 - I know exactly how you feel. I dress closer to how my father dresses who is in his early 40s and I have been doing that since I was probably 15. What I kept "youthful" was the colors I decided to wear and the caps in the summer. Don't worry yourself too much about dressing your "age". Wear what you want and when your my age and you see the great wardrobe you've built you'll be completely satisfied. The only thing you should worry about is buying items of quality.

Matt said...

What a great post and great comments. Thanks!

#1) The safest bet for work wardrobe (or any wardrobe) is the advice that Lord Chesterfield gave his son in the 18th century: wear what the men of sense are wearing in the place you are. You may not know what it is until you get there because it varies slightly between countries, regions, age groups, and industries. It may not always be preppy in the narrow sense. But it will always be understated, handsome, and well-made.

#2) What an interesting question. One advantage of youth is that (within limits) you can do what you want. As long as you are respectful to others, most thoughtful adults will allow wide scope to youthful enthusiasms of all kinds. At seventeen you are still finding your voice, your style, your self, and that means trying out various clothes, books, jobs/internships, relationships, hobbies, etc. Follow your heart. It could take you to many, many worse places than J. Press and O'Connell's. And if you want an example of a young man who dresses traditionally but in a way that does not draw attention to itself, look a the casual attire of Prince William when he was in his teens and twenties.

#3) My Bean Norwegian sweaters stay scratchy forever.

#4) I haven't been in those stores except J. Crew. There, the quality seemed low and the styling was hit and (mostly) miss.

Thanks again for the great conversation!

JSprouse said...

You are taking pictures of things in my closet.

Anonymous said...

Per #4, has anyone else noticed that TH is trying to brand themselves to look like Tory Burch with that large TB screaming on the front of shirts and sweaters?

If I want to wear Tory Burch, then I will wear it. I do not need to "save a few bucks" and buy a Tommy Hilfiger sweater with a bastardized Tory Burch logo.

This leads me to think TH has lost its own brand identification and is attempting to follow the pack.

Ahem...that is not preppy.

The Viceroy said...

Q1 came from ADG in disguise, right?

dE

Paul Connors said...

The Circle is now Complete: B-B and KJP have teamed up. Brooks Bros. is now featuring KJP's bracelets in some of BB's more well know repp patterns.

Good Lord, bracelets from KJP at Brooks Bros. What will Claudio Del Vecchio do next to pollute this storied brand?

Claudio, why not do all of us who have shopped at Brooks Bros. for more than 30 seconds a favor and sell the company again. After all, it's been done at least 4 times in the last 20 years.

You obviously don't know what to do with such a classic clothing company and you're destroying what made it so unique.

You sir, are the Italian version of Ralph Lauren, aka Ralph Lifschitz (no compliments intended).

Anonymous said...

I am reading some of the older posts b/c I just stumbled on this blog. I felt compelled to mention how I wash wool sweaters since I am a knitter,, and will always knit w/ wool ( even for the grandchildren)
I knit a lot of Shetland Fair Isle as wall as many Arans so there is a lot of work put into my garments and I am slowly replacing all our woolen purchased sweaters.
Here is what I do and it may sound odd but knitters know this. I wash my woolens in Orvis,( available at our local feed mill to wash horses) in a large container which costs almost the same as a small container I find at the local quilt shop~. Orvis can be used to wash all clothing should you choose to do so~ Remembering that wool IS hair,,( sheep's hair) I use a quality hair conditioner on our sweaters, then roll them up in a towel and lay them out perfectly shaped to allow them to dry~ One can re shape wool for the most part adding a few inches if it is real wool~( its called blocking in the knitting world) Older sweaters that are no longer needed by us are cut into mittens for children, re using the sweater as well as the ribbing, and make very warm mittens. Sometimes I place the old sweater in a hot dryer to shrink it and tightenthe wool up to keep wind out of the mittens, and then I line w/ a quality polar tech or fleece ( purchased), So far everyone loves them and I get requests for them as presents all the time~ lovely Christmas presents and fun if one adds a cute button or sews an applique on it for the children. I wanted to write this down even though this is an older post, I wanted to share techniques that knitters use all the time. Use a good hair conditioner for your wool sweaters and rinse out. I use all hair and soaps from the Oilery( here in Wisconsin but available on line)This is a soap from Italy that softens well bc it contains olive oil~ there is an entire line they bring back from Italy, soap,hair ad body lotions if you are interested. Your sweaters will smell nicer, not overwhelmed w/ a perfume like smell, and they will soften up nicely. Regards~ Pamela