There has been much complaint of the lack of “Ivy style” at today’s Ivy schools. I am in no way expert on style, Ivy or otherwise, nor am I an expert on the goings on on at other institutions. I am not even an expert on what is happening at my own school.
But I am here and I a have a camera. Well, my phone has a camera and I have no shame. Exhibits A through whatever…
Here is evidence, carry on with your discussions.
I have long-held that being well dressed isn’t just wearing nice clothes, but wearing appropriate clothes for any given situation. Tuxedos are nice, but just don’t feel right while gardening. It has been ten years since I was last a student and back then I operated under the misunderstanding that a Hard Rock Cafe t-shirt was the right thing to wear to class.
While considering the upcoming school year I realized my closet was ready for a boardroom or a boxing ring, but not a college campus. What to do? I called Brian Spaly.
Brian and I have worked together before and as before, he had the solutions to my problem. The solution showed up yesterday.
The way the Trunk Club works, is a shopping averse man talks with a style consultant, in my case Brian, where sizes, styles and situations are discussed. Next the consultant does some leg work, the stuff I did not want to do, and ta-da, a box full of clothing shows up on Mr. customer’s doorstep. I could not wait to see if I got the Red Rider bee-bee gun or a lump of coal.
The shirt was well made and if anything it was stylish, but it was not for me. I am not a glossy person in dress, or in much else and we shall simply say that “slim fit” and love handles should not be paired. This was an easy “no”, but part of the joy of the Trunk Club is giving a garment a shot. I did. The shot missed the mark. Now shoes…
My shoes have recently, and often, been the subject of expert criticism. Fair enough; I’m working on it. I choose to ignore the brand of the above shoes and let them speak for themselves. The digital menswear world will be happy to see there are no square toes here. I do have some recollection of the Trad mocking Philadelphia businessmen wearing grey shoes, and till now I have never seen grey shoes, but I think I like them. I promise not to wear them with a nice suit, most likely I will wear them with the Seven jeans shown in the picture. Mr. Spaly did well here. Not too over the top in price or style, but nor bland. Well done (cue the arguments). Next…
I have read that a Black Watch blazer is required and even prefered. The velvet collar is a nice touch. It was a little tight but not so much that some responsible eating and trips to the gym would fix. The jury is still out on this one but much like new music, one should listen a few times before making a decision. I’ll give myself a minute to adjust and eat more salad. Next, the best reason to let someone else shop for you…
Not in a million years would I have ever chosen a blue and black hounds tooth jacket. I would have walked right past it without a second thought. I felt a bit of disappointment as I pulled it from the box and dutifully tried it on. Once it was on I experienced what Frosty must have felt as the kids put the magic top hat on his head; the world changed. I love it.
After the box was emptied and the contents tested, the Trunk Club takes away the pressure. Brian could feel free to throw me a few curve balls because his customers are under no obligation to keep what he sends. Enclosed with the clothes are a new shipping label, and the final touch of thoughtfulness… packing tape.
Now, as I stroll the campus, attend classes, or even those once dreaded cocktail hours, I will stand out for all the right reasons. Above all, at least for me, I will be appropriately attired for the occasion. Now if I could somehow find a way for Brian to do my sit-ups for me.
I come from a culture where one has “Sunday clothes”.
The closet of my youth held multiple t-shirts, jeans, shorts, maybe a couple of polo shirts. Then, off to the side, was one button down, one pair of slacks, and one lonely tie. Those were the Sunday clothes. The shirt and pants would change as one was grown out of, and was then replaced, but the tie stayed the same. I had that one maroon tie with little white dots, from age 12-19.
It wasn’t just me. I was a bit dressier than most of my peers solely because I wore boat shoes on the weekdays as well. I remember being asked “why are you wearing your Sunday shoes?”
I still on occasion hear echoes from my memory when I leave the house in a tie on a weekday, “where are you going all dressed up?” or even better, “who are you dressed up as?”
Maybe this is why I find fascinating the world of style. I like to look nice, most everyone does, but what that looks like to different groups in different times is subjective and riddled with unwritten rules.
I like art. Rather, I like to look at art. I painted my first painting while in college not as part of a project, or to express myself, but because my walls were bare and so was my wallet. I wanted something cool to look at.
All of this came together while I was sitting at a desk in the Princeton archives looking at stacks of old football programs. Here was page after page of illustrations advertising the fashions of the day. Some of these ads were more than 100 years old, most were more like 85, but they all looked great.
The clothes and the art, both, met the definition of what I seek; they were cool to look at.
The images, like all advertisements, depict not only what you want, but who you want to be.
Isn’t that what style is? Showing who you want to be? maybe it is who we already are, but these illustrations are obviously aspirational.
I do not always dress the way I would like. There are obstacles, just like in all aspects of life; my wallet, my waist line, my schedule and the sort of tasks that fill it.
I do not always paint the way I would like. There are obstacles; time, laziness, skill level, did I say lazy already?
Sometimes, not too often the further time takes me from those days, but every now and again, the obstacles come from where and when I came from. But forget all that.
Just wear and paint things you think are cool to look at… as long as it is within the guidlines set up by whatever function you are about to attend as is indicated by the byline on the invitation reading, “dressy casual evening attire.”
For a large portion of my life I knew of Princeton thanks to Sondra Huxtable. She was smart and rich and by extension so was Princeton. But then I realized that apparently this school also admitted Elvin, so how good could it be? I have waited all these years to find out.
I thought I would be a team player on this stop, so I signed up for the campus tour. About half way through the tour which included answers to questions such as do dorm rooms have air conditioning, and can freshmen choose which dining hall they would like to eat in, I realized I may not be the target audience this tour was aimed at. I was OK with that till I also realized we were not actually going inside any of the buildings. Unacceptable.
As the tour left Nassau Hall, I did not.
I went inside the iconic, ivy covered building in hopes I could see something cool. Thanks to a stanchion and its retractable tape I did not see something, but I did see someone.
Randy did not ask me who I was he simply asked me what I would like to know or see. I tried to look wise and replied “I would like to see HISTORY”. He smiled through his grey beard and told me to go see Dan over in the archives. “Tell him I sent you and he will have them get anything you want to see.”
As I strolled over to meet destiny/Dan I mulled over in my mind what I would like to see. Princeton was founded in 1746 and boasts one of the finest and largest collections of Americana in the country. These archives held the results and artifacts of scholars, leaders, and those who wielded power and influence. I sat at a table surrounded by shelves filled with yearbooks. The numbers embossed on the backs got smaller and smaller as I looked around, waiting for Dan, and getting excited over what I would ask to see.
Dan asked what project I was working on or for whom I was researching. When I told him I was simply wasting time and thought this would be the best way to do it, he looked excited and genuinely happy. I think he was a little confused and surprised when he heard my request.
“I would like to see the programs from football games; the oldest ones you have.”
I think Dan was likely unaware that the first intercollegiate game called “football” ever played in America was in 1869, between Rutgers and Princeton. Thanks to this early start Princeton can boast more national football championships than anyone else, 24, though only four of those happened after 1900.
Dan looked some things up on the computer, scribbled some notes, showed me into another room, another desk, shook my hand, and scurried off. A bit later a young man wheeled in a treasure chest. The first one was 1893. I ignored anything after 1930.
To say I was happy is to say Jim Brown was O.K.
It was not just football. It was sport, it was style, it was deeply American.
I am going to get a little image heavy here. I cannot help it.
They had cameras back then. The oldest program I handled was full of photos. Despite the availablity of lenses, they chose illustrations. Why? Because the illustrations were gorgeous!
Even the ads looked good.