With the recent opening of the GANT Campus Store in New Haven, a re-release of the classic YALE CO-OP shirts was inevitable. Just this past weekend came word that the company started selling a small run of the button-down shirts ($115) at the new campus store in New Haven, as well as at their stores in New York. The wovens, which are based on the original designs that were sold at the university bookstore in the 1960s, are co-labeled with the YALE CO-OP mark and GANT branding. For me the oxford shirt is my daily driver, so I for one am excited to see these classic styles be released. If you are someone who isn’t into oxford cloth and button down collars, this is probably not the shirt run for you. For those of you that look for those attributes in your shirts, I’d say you are in luck.
The Wall Street Journal recently reported on this wacky new Ivy League Look that’s sweeping the nation, radiating out from New Haven, the center of the “Ivy Style” universe. Now, where have we heard that before? Ah yes – Life, November 1954. “The Ivy Look Heads Across U.S.” the magazine proclaimed in an anthropological examination of the natural-shouldered suit and its sartorial brethren. They sent photographer Nina Leen to J. Press in New Haven, dubbing it the birthplace of the “Ivy League Look” when it opened back in 1902, to see the original in action outfitting Yale men. There she located the founder’s sons, Irving (Yale ’26) and Paul Press (seated left to right, below) presiding soberly over the premises. We have some outtakes that never saw print.
Take the train from Grand Central to New Haven and go straight to J. Press at 262 York Street. A few years ago I had the great pleasure of working for the company (sort of a dream come true at the time) and I would occasionally make the trip up to New Haven or Cambridge for business. When we went to Yale we would go by the Yankee Doodle and have hamburgers. The great part of the J. Press store in New Haven was the fact that it still exists. The New York store sort of moved around and never felt perfect (even when it was around the corner from 346 on 44th Street), but New Haven always felt right. In the store there would be nary a student in sight — save maybe someone on an errand for a school boy scarf during the colder months or a guy in need of a repp tie.
The clientele has aged with the company, but the bones of the brand are still there. And never call it preppy. J. Press is “Ivy League style,” because this isn’t prep school. The sack suit is like acid in the eyes of “the kids,” a name my friends and I have for the younger style-set that don’t necessarily get J. Press. I’m not yet an old man, but I have a certain fondness for the sack — even if it is unflattering. I like the natural shoulder too, because that’s about as American as it gets. Like most things, many feel that J. Press isn’t the same chap he was 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 years ago — though some still swear by it. Likely, more the former than the latter. The Japanese have owned it for years and years, but still Press carries on. You can’t say that about a lot of companies or clothing lines. When you think about it, many a mighty brand have fallen and disappeared during Press’s watch. Even the Doodle is gone, as is Mory’s…yet Press persists.