J. Press & the Original Ivy Invasion

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.

Life noted that the original Mad Men on their Avenue, many of them Ivy League grads, had adopted the Ivy Style in about 1944 and spread it thence to the outer reaches of the country (Leen snapped a few as well). “It has also got away from upper-bracket tailors and into the hands of cut-rate clothiers,” though without the same panache, the magazine sniffed. “Sometimes regarded as more of a club than a clothes shop, J. Press is delighted rather than dismayed that its look is now capturing the country. It’s slope-shouldered product, which the Press boys consider the only acceptable dress for a normal Yale man, has scarcely changed over the years.” Here we see among others James M. Brown (above), Yale ’56, being fitted for a tweed jacket by a Press salesman wearing an identical garment. Plus ca change…

Jared Paul Stern writes the Classicist column for Luxist.

Comments on “J. Press & the Original Ivy Invasion

    Kristen on March 3, 2011 5:03 PM:

    That picture of the lace-up oxfords is so slick.

    Ryan on March 3, 2011 5:32 PM:

    Rest assured…the interior of the York St. store has not changed one bit after all these years. A wonderful legacy.

    Paul on March 3, 2011 6:09 PM:

    Photos 6-7-8-9 is the same store layout that exists today. From the older photos 1-5, at some point the Presses expanded out the back of the store. The custom tailoring was done upstairs – and thinking about it, it must have been hotter than hell during the summer. I took a few photos of the store this past summer, and I left with the sense that the “Gentlemen’s Shop” feel is there, just as it has been for over a hundred years. I purchased a blue/green reg tie, and at first we couldn’t find one hanging from the tie bars that skirt the right side of the shop – so the extremely courteous salesman pull the drawers open (that you see in pics 3-4-5-7) and we found a stash of blue/green reps all banded together. I actually pulled a few out of the drawer so that I could “stock” the tie bar.

    Love it!!!

    JRS on March 3, 2011 7:38 PM:

    I would wear every bit of it.

    Isaac Buie on March 3, 2011 10:48 PM:

    These images make me proud to be an American businessman. The look cannot be underestimated in its worldwide influence, and for good reason. Somehow it combines confidence with subtlety; ease with swank. For me it’s up there with jazz, apple pie and baseball, but it’s usually not spoken of in the context of the great American institutions. It’s America’s dark horse, and I love it.

    Dave on March 3, 2011 11:10 PM:

    Posts like this is why I like this blog. Last pic reminds me a lot of Mad Men (Hat, thin tie, ect.)

    Beefeater on March 4, 2011 1:46 AM:

    Great post. Men out of time.

    Sam Gellens on March 4, 2011 7:32 AM:

    I’ve a closet full of J. Press suits and sportjackets and learned to dress that way from my father, who was first a farmer and then an independent entrepreneur in the foods business. The J. Press look used to be the norm for academicians as well as “Mad Men”. Timeless, classic, sturdy . . . looks good anywhere and I wouldn’t wear anything else! A bit on the expensive side these days though for this man!

    Matthew on March 4, 2011 9:17 AM:

    Another great post. I love those images…

    Ferme Life on March 4, 2011 1:49 PM:

    Great read to start my work day. Thanks!

    pmg on March 4, 2011 2:22 PM:

    What the hell did preppys wear before prep was born?? I’m imagining it went from sabretooth tiger shawl straight to herringbone sport coats.

    also, this picture has taught me: if you’re going to be photographed in the 50s, you better have one hand in one pocket. preferably your own.

    Ray Hull on March 4, 2011 3:53 PM:

    “Cuffs, no break.” I had to learn that in the early 70s.

    Ray Hull on March 4, 2011 4:05 PM:

    Check me: Looks like an Indian motorcycle on Madison in the last shot. (by the lighted plastic indian head mounted atop the front fender.)

    Raul & 52nd St. Ghouls on March 4, 2011 4:36 PM:

    J. Press suits, nice.

    Letterman jackets and rugby shirts, juvenile.

    Daniel Heard on March 4, 2011 4:49 PM:

    Love the beat to shit bucks and upturned chinos in pic 6.

    jennifer Press on March 5, 2011 8:56 AM:

    I spent many hours in the J Press stores in NY and New Haven as the Great-Granddaughter of Jacobi Press. I am the proud owner of Paul Press’ (Jacobi’s son and my late Grandfather) silk pocket squares and custom cashmere jackets. Timeless, classic and always chic, these pieces are as relevant today as they were back in the day. Beautiful tailoring, classic lines and fine fabrics NEVER go out of style…you don’t have to attend an Ivy league to appreciate this enduring legacy.

    Jen Press

    Richard Press on March 5, 2011 12:44 PM:

    Veddy interesting. I notice my daughter’s comment and I can only report in that context that I am one generation closer and an ongoing participant in the drama, although no longer on the payroll.

    Richard E. Press, former CEO and President, J. Press Inc.

    Michael Murphy on March 5, 2011 1:32 PM:

    The jacket the young man is trying on is in my closet along with six others nearly identical. My favorite’s elbows are blown but I wear it weekends and occasionally bird hunting when the weather is dry and cool. Note that the man assisting in the fitting has two buttons on his sleeves with a space between. That is the button configuration on about half of my Press jackets with the newer half having three buttons. To all who care about such things I highly recommend putting one or more away just in case. Even Press cannot be counted on. A year or so I went in to replace my covert overcoat and, behold, was told they were no longer carried by Press. Thirty five or more years and then…gone. Be careful not to get what you love.

    dom on March 6, 2011 11:29 AM:

    shoes photo is slick!

    Rich on March 7, 2011 12:37 AM:

    I’ll be making the 1,000 mile trek there in 2 weeks. Very excited.

    Craig Robinson on March 8, 2011 10:29 AM:

    As a tailor and menswear designer, J press has been the reference we have used for many collections,as far as construction. In my teen years I tore some of there garments apart, and put them back together, learning the garment inside and out. Classic american garments are my favorite of all, once you learn how to make a classic the rest is pie. We even use some of there oxford dead stock materials once in awhile on request for are custom clients, requested more than ever actually. Loved this post, thanks ACL-C

    JPS on March 13, 2011 4:28 PM:

    Nice to hear from the Press folks. What an amazing legacy.

    unclelooney on March 14, 2011 9:53 AM:

    Like PMG I wonder exactly when what we consider Preppy was born,
    Notice in 1954 the wider lapels, longer and fuller pants on the boys than what would be typical in 1964. Styles evolve.

    As for pre trad fashion, here is my Notre Dame Law school class of ’35 grandfather.


    Scruff on March 14, 2011 3:44 PM:

    The armhold on the 3-patch jacket is delightfully high.

    Ronald Pelosi on March 16, 2011 3:07 PM:

    Is the gentleman in the first group photo – – back row, second from the left – – the late, great Sam Kroop, who came to San Francisco in the late 50’s to “sell the line”? Surely Richard Press would know.

Comments are closed.