Trad Mannerisms: To Cuff or Not to Cuff?

Duke Of Windsor“Men are from Moors, women are from Paris.”

We owe an awesome deal of our heritage to those fogey old farts across the puddle. Afterall, the United Kingdom damn near wrote the entire textbook that we have been studiously absorbing our tradly and preppy lessons from, right here in the confines of Haberdashery Hall Rm 103, as a Michael Caine lookalike adorning horn-rimmed glasses and academic robe professes to our class the theory of “Advanced Techniques in Windsor Tie Knotting”. England’s lasting effects are really too much for me to individually list, but the following is a rough sampling to help illuminate their vast far reaches into American East Coast Traditional Style.

Well, for starters we pay ode to their military. Their soldiers gave us chino pants, the chukka boot (ie desert boots), the trench coat, and the NATO strap. English high society and university passed on the spirit that will eventually embody TNSIL / The Ivy League Look, through adaption of deep rooted traditions imbedded in the corridors of Oxford and Cambridge that were then relayed unto Harvard and Yale, by way of proud personal affiliation shown through emblem, badge, repp tie, and other official colors of regalia and motif. Anglo Country Gentlemen gave us their tartans, tattersalls, and waxed outdoor coats. Londoners gave us their wingtips, brogues, and chelseas. There is the spread collar. Argyles. Fair Isle. Spread collars. Dainite soles. British Racing Green Range Rovers. G9 Harringtons. Paisley, seersucker, and madras from the days of the Colonial Empire. A glass of scotch beside a cozy fire and accompanying aroma of cigar smoke seeped well into cracked leather chairs. Bond. James Bond. Pennyworth. Alfred Pennyworth.

But as the history of menswear proves, one good ol’ chap in particular has been incredibly influential in our way of life. He is the patriarch – the original Kennedy, McQueen, and Dean. That is, the Prince of Wales, who later ascended to King Edward the VIII only to abdicate, and eventually be known as Duke of Windsor. He isn’t the greatest ruler of the British Empire, and in fact was one of the shortest with a reign of only less than a year (you may recognize the name, as he was portrayed by Guy Pierce, opposite Colin Firth in the movie The King’s Speech.) But without The Great Architect of Trad, we would not have much of what we take for granted today. If Prep traces back to Trad, and Trad traces back to our Anglo-Saxxon brethren; then all of this common lineage can be traced to a single source that confides in the Duke of Windsor. Much like his defiance of the thrown, he went against proper stuffy decorum with the kind of vitality that Uncle Sam could be proud of. He pioneered brown cordovan dress shoes with navy suits, going against the day’s all black standard. He lend his blessed touch on morning coats and innovated now-modern practices like the formality of white waistcoat with black dinner jacket, which gave birth to the tuxedo. And there is obviously the Prince of Wales Check (also known as Glen Plaid) that we see pervasively year after year in elite fashion housing F/W collections of suits and outerwear. Even his popularization of the double-breasted reefer jacket that the Duke used for nautical adventures holds a dear origin story of interest to us, as the reefer jacket (precursor to the Pea Coat) eventually became what we now know as a double-breasted suit jacket; and even more importantly, lead to the classic Blue Blazer we all set prominently for easy access in front of our other suit and sportcoat hangings. The Duke broke through the costume mold of the era with a nouveau approach of blending sporty youthfulness with a gentleman’s casual grace for use in the day to day. The way the Duke of Windsor went about a sensible rendition of honorable, but relaxed demeanor is his single greatest contribution to menswear. It should be no wonder why he passed on the responsibilities of the thrown to his stuttering younger brother in favor of running off with an American socialite into the sunset. He had that intrepid Manifest Destiny attitude that his fellow gentlemates lacked, and his American kinship encouraged. Causing much sensationalism in the tabloids (as if Master Prince Harry today was caught fancying that ghastly Paris Hilton woman, don’t you know), this example of the Duke’s maverick endeavors, in clothing choices and lifestyle alike, seems befitting of his overall demeanor for timeless, practical elegance synonymous with the present and a century ago. He was a style icon emulated by many in his time and in ours, and we remain forever indebted to the Great Architect.

If  “8th Edward” was emulated by all, then he would have found his own style icon in just a few steps up the House of Windsor family tree. His grandfather, King Edward the VII, shares similiar notoriety in our trad timeline. Uncle Ed may not have had as much impact on the Anglo American wardrobe as his grandson, but he did leave us with plenty of distinguished impressions. He never fastened the bottom button of a waistcoat (since his belly fat needed to be released), which began our tradition of keeping the bottom suit jacket or blazer button aloft as well. He also gave us the windsor knot, and the spread collar that was created specifically for the fullness of the windsor. However, there is one golden mannerism that is often overlooked as only a subliminal point of reference, and yet strongly signifies your and my tradly membership.

The Pant Cuff

Minor in decree if we look at the overarching fashion order, and yet a resolute practice for us who are tradlier than thou. Cuffs serve many duties. The first and most obvious is its functionality; as you can imagine, the dreary and wet climate in the UK was of continual annoyance to the gentleblokes born in the Victorian Age. Which is why sometime in the 1890s, the  “7th Edward” came up with the brilliant idea of turning up the hem of his trousers before stomping through the mud. And so, like all historic memoirs of Trad & Prep, this simple act of rolling the bottom hem to avoid the perils of gross cobblestoned streets was born not out of some artificial significance with its only value as an artistic feature, but solely for pure utilitarian function. The King did not want to get his pants dirty. But even so, the Cuff soon became an aesthetic detail copied by the upper crest, who were then copied by the commoners. As it was attributed to the King who first modeled it, the Cuff spread as a sign of high brow sentiment through England and on to our American shores. Tailors and clothing outfitters took notice and started to offer stitching to permanently place the hem’s turn-up (as why the technical term for a pant cuff in tailorspeak is PTU, for “Permanent Turn-Up.”)

The legacy that 7th Edward’s trousers initiated still lives on through current standard of practice. Christian talks of the Cuff’s prominence in preppy circles. The OPH talked about it too, and if you search the AAAC you’ll find many potentially boring discussions about the intricacies of pant cuffs. Who would’ve guessed, huh? For some of you, your eyes have been newly opened to a previously overlooked concept. The Cuff in all of its mundane glory. You aren’t alone. Back in high school I used to think that cuffs were dorky like most everyone else. But this is when I also wore cargo pants too (my enlightenment came shortly after thankfully). Flash forward a few years and I’ve gained a mountain of novel information, including treasures that have eluded mass appeal until the very recent, as even the Cuff somehow becoming cool in these past two or three years as consequence of the blossomed preppy revival.

When To Cuff?

Not all pants are meant to be cuffed for our contemporary aspirations, to the chagrin of extremists who are older than 8th Edward’s skeleton. Don’t mind those guys, they cuff all of their extra relaxed pleated sh*t indiscriminately. No, you must interpret for yourself a sleeker protocol of when to cuff or when to leave the hem alone. My own personal customs are similar to how I arrived at my rules for other related trad mannerisms I’ve talked about before. For example, the type of pants of a given pair will hold the biggest clue on my judgement. I will then consider additionally the color or design, and the body and general purpose of the pants in-question. So like how I prefer the shortest shorts in my closet to be your preppy staple khaki chino shorts, I follow this avenue of reasoning for cuffs too. My strongest preference for cuffed hems are for my chino pants in khaki and other neutral earth tones of browns, greys, and olives.  These are the archetype range of pants that fit the “always cuffed” category. Especially true for the khaki chinos or brown toned variations I spoke of, as a pair of khakis are as classic as you can get. They are the quintessential preppy pants. Bestowed to us by allied squadrons all those years ago, and now live on in squadrons of fraternal orders and superstore middle-managers across the nation. Khakis are referred to as part of “The Uniform” that is makes up the most basic trad platform to build upon. Hence, you can identify a fellow God Mode Prep companion if you see him wearing khaki colored chinos with no-break and with cuffs. This is easy to spot, although still very rare because the majority of guys tend to think cuffs are old fashioned (which makes sense), and these members of the brainless masses are allegedly the same types who think predistressed chinos from Gap are perfectly acceptable as truly preppy. Disgusting. Go back to the hole you crawled out of, and take with you your North Face Denali and Tommy Hilfiger polo, ya lowly peasant! Even some of your closest frat brahs will not be aware of the Cuff either. This particular mannerism is the most subtle of the bunch, in a backdrop of an already-minute scope of behavioral traits that became prized trad lexicon over years of trial that include no-breaks and short inseams. So again, if you see a GMP in your midst, who has mastered the aggregate of our related trad mannerisms going for him, then give him the ultra secret GMP handshake. Always the left hand. And if he has the matching Alden LHS loafers and JPress Pocket OCBD, then don’t forget the whispered code that one shall never speak indelicately of unto others who are not in the know, signifying your preppy approval for thou.

You guys know what I am talking about right?

Cuff your khaki chinos. Check. Next? I like cuffing corduroys, dress trousers, and suit pants as long as they are in your versatile solid patterns and colors. This is because the Cuff has another duty: an unintended but joyous benefit of adding extra weight to the bottom opening. Very useful for your no-breaks, where the cuff’s padded fabric works in partnership to a shorter hem, helping to weigh down your bottom openings as you run across Madison Ave to catch a fleeting unoccupied taxi. Lighter wools and cottons will profit the most from the cuff’s assisted anchoring. Cords are a heavier cotton, so they may not need it as much, and so I’ll break my own rule of wanting to cuff corduroys quite regularly. Only these Brooks Brothers Clark Fit Corduroys in dark olive are cuffed, while most of my chinos are cuffed like the Bills Khakis M3s below.

Always Cuffed: chinos, especially khaki or other neutral solid tones. I buy inseams a couple of inches longer just to accommodate my tailor so there is enough ample fabric for her to cut from. Cuffing is an easy job that should cost under $10 per job.

1Always Cuffed: all of my dress and suit slacks, including this light grey flannel pair from JPress. The Brooks pants in midnavy sharkskin makes up one half of my most fashion forward suit to date, featuring a cosmopolitan custom tapered fit. Even if cuffs are inherently injunction to a traditional pant fit pairing, I still prefer the turned-up hems for slimmer dress trousers. Not limited to just worsted and flannel wools either, as I’d want to cuff my houndstooths, checks, and tweeds. The key is that these patterns are all relatively monotone where a Cuff won’t disappear. 2

What comes next is where it gets more complicated. Novelty pants in GoToHell colors, motifs, and patterns are to be left uncuffed for the most part. This is so that the eye is not overwhelmed by visual complexity; the cuff breaks up the solid empty space of your plain chinos and wool trousers, but you don’t want to add unnecessary distraction to pants that are already loud enough in pattern and/or hue. Less is more. This notion is most apparent for the dark navy Brooks Brothers Milano Fit Cords on the bottom left of the following picture. A cuff diverts the eye away from the snowflake critter motif. Same is true with the Ralph Lauren Blackwatch. The Brooks Clark Fit Seersuckers communicates to a passersby the humidity of summer, so you don’t want cuffs to simulate added weight to freed seersuckers, which can additionally shorten the visual penance from the vertical lines that fully compliments build and height if just left alone. The nanny red Lands End are your typical GTH chinos where likewise you’d want to counter the vibrant red with minimal contour. However, I can see the proposal for cuffs if you are so inclined, as in this case of solid colored chinos having the least rigidity for the cuffed rule. Complicating I know, but you were warned earlier! But what is not in a grey area is all pants labeled for eveningwear. They are strictly uncuffed. No exceptions. Namely for tuxedo pants, as seen by the top left Brooks pair to a one-button peak lapel set (These belong to my older brother who has the discretionary income to pay for such frivolous-but-damnit-all-too-necessary things. I do not currently own a tuxedo of my own…yet, always yet…) Any formal separate, and especially those with a satin stripe on the side, relies heavily on the aforementioned ideal of minimal contour. Tuxedos exude sophistication. You want absent cuffs so people may fair upon you with interrupted visual streamlined complexion. The Style Guy agrees wholeheartedly. I’ve touched on this before too, where I explained in this featured posting that I purported my Ralph Lauren duo of blackwatch variant pants for use of mainly as a festive alternative to tuxedo pants, in instances of holiday dinner parties and galas, and thus adding further reasoning to fastened hems in such formal cases.

Always Uncuffed: novelty and motif pants, eveningwear3

Denim often follows its own set of rules. Jeans also tend to be one of those clothing items that are extremely predisposed to whatever is “of popular fad” at that moment. In the 1970s we had bell-bottoms, acid jeans in the 1980s, in the ’90s those grungy baggy carpenter jeans, and in the early ’00s an overfill of Ashton Kutcher’s sandblasted rags. Thankfully, from what I have seen in recent years, where a combo of Americana and what I like to call “Personalized Style” (which in summary is the championing of finding oneself own sartorial identity for the modern 21st century, where there is a mixing of old, new, and made-on-the-go rules…exactly how I try to keep this blog in proportion to) has made its present mark, we have seen an escalation of denim going from the casual to the dressy. “Raw” denim was once a cipher spoken by the purest of Hypebeast enthusiasts six years ago, while these nowadays it is not unusual to see a horde of men salivate over fresh cuts of raw, unadulterated jeans at your nearest Nordstrom department store. Amazing how a niche obsession that lived in Streetwear culture (normally the embodiment of all that is anti-trad) has carved a robust case as an important variable for a youthful man’s preppy wardrobe as well. And we should take note from our fashionably forward urbananite friends by investing in a pair of our own dark untreated slim raw denim, the kind that becomes a second skin and protects you through thick and thin over the next two decades. Your young buck grandpa rolled up his 501s when his mama bought him a new pair in 1947 (the year model that is highest prized these days and is copied by leading denim house Sugar Cane, among others) when he played baseball with his sixth grade buddies in a nearby empty lot that had since turned into a Starbucks. To break in the jean’s cardboard newness, he slid dirt and weathered summer showers, when by high school it was a trophy of grass stains and blistered knee holes. Gramps’ pair of jeans came unhemmed in those days, so the original style was to turn up the cuff, creating an exaggerated Cuff that was out of necessity to not accidentally trip over himself. Why have dear mother hem these jeans if you’ll just grow up taller anyhow…your dad worked hard for those five dollars he earned at the coal mill. Don’t you know the value of a penny? He can’t buy a new pair each season, Boy!

Badass Nick Wooster doing whatever the f*ck he wants. Showcasing how jeans used to be worn.

STREETFSNAcceptable current practice stemming from Hypebeast groupthink is less accentuated than above, where you may roll the hem twice or three times over in a concise packing. It must be said that this is not in the same reasoning as the chino’s trad mannerism, but more to provide an eying cue of contrast. You get to show off to your fellow hipster friends every detail of your meticulously disheveled outfit, such as your raw denim’s inner stitching, while your cuffs sit unceremoniously on top of your 6″ Red Wing Beckmans as you patiently wait for the next evening concert and sip on a can of PBR at Wonderland Austin. Give your tradly light blue OCBDs a well deserved rest and opt for a Woolrich buffalo flannel in place. Say you are copying a photoshoot you saw in JCrew’s autumn catalog. Or Dean dat motha’ up with a plain white tee, box of Marlboros against your bicep, and some poindexter wayfarer frames.

Cuffing denim would have labeled you a huge nerd back when we had class periods for homeroom and recess, but is perfectly warranted for your one or two pairs of expensive jeans as you’ve grown into a young adult paying tribute to your forefathers. I like to roll “twiceover” with dark raw jean pair, like my Raleigh Denim in Nash Fit seen on the left in the picture a little further down of the page. “Onceover” for my lighter Raleigh Alexander Fit in the middle, positioned beside the rightmost Levis 501STFs (which were my starter pair of nice jeans, and my official CollegeTrad Recommendation for those on a budget.) Oh and one more plug for Raleigh Denim: their jeans profit from cuffing since it adds an additional visual stimulus to Raleigh’s signature white stripe that pays homage to White Oak Cone Mill, where the North Carolina-made denim sources it’s North Carolina-grown cotton. Observed in the wild by those in the know, flagship models carry trademark white internal stitching seen on rolled cuffs, and external white stitching on the 5th key pocket and backloop that hint at the cotton’s namesake source.

The twiceover cuff can be cleanly pressed and have some width to it, like it would for a regular onceover chino cuff, or rolled haphazardly in a finer pencil width. I do both.

source raleighdenim.comOh, and it goes without saying, but DO NOT get your jeans with PTUs. Roll up manually. Never have the cuffs stitched permanently like with chinos and dress slacks. You’ll be a huge nerd fo’ realz if you do. Jeans are my longest inseamed of all of my pants in my wardrobe. Length hemmed or purchased at 32″, and for reference, I have my tradly chino and dress pants cuffed at 29 to 30″ depending on rise. This is so I can have the option of a slight break with twiceover cuffs with my denim as previously explained, or with a full break sans cuffs if felt like it. Afterall, the trend in a few years may go back to bunched up cotton around the ankles (what I deem affectionately as Lil Wayne Status)

Notsrs. Never doing that ever ever never.

Sometimes Cuffed: twiceover with dark raw denim, onceover in pencil width for my lighter denim. *** I’ll leave the choice to cuff your denim up to personal preference. It is the cool vintage flashback thing to do right now, but it does not have to be followed.***5

I break my own rules, remember? Like wearing my Adidas Sambas sneakers instead of hard-soled loafers to a house party. Or *gasp* flip flops to pick up my monthly fill of schizophrenia meds at the pharmacy (makes my precious grimace as I type out these failures of single tracked conscious….wait what did he say?) I keep a pair or two of khaki chinos uncuffed just to have it, as these Lands End tailored fit noniron chinos seen below are. I will leave it to your individual matter of taste once again, but try to obey the no-break trad mannerism, which these LE uncuffed chinos still do. I also keep uncuffed jeans that are primarily reserved for the everyday, like outdoor labor or beer runs, pictured by my 505s, and suggest the same to you. You’re not really going for trad mannered fashion here. Jeans that are straighter in body and are not as slim, yet have cuffs, just seem anachronistic to me. Your Sugar Cane 1947s foot the cuff’s bill. Your Kmart grandpa jeans, in extra comfort fitting with elastic waist, rightfully do not. The mission is to emulate your gramps when he was a strapping wee lil’ lad; not when he was catching the early morning buffet line at Golden Corral at sunrise this morning.

Always Uncuffed: odd pairs, relaxed casual denim4

Other Cuffing Considerations

Ms. Birnbach, editor of the OPH, recommended a pant cuff measuring 1.25 inches in width. Personally, I go up to 1.5 inches on some of my cuffed slacks, while others of tradly groupthink prefer to go up to, or dangerously flirt with 2 inches. Don’t bother to go there. Typically these are AAAC guys who saw the moon landing live ;)

From a strictly aesthetic account, slim denim work in harmony with the no-break, because as mentioned it has the added functional cause of providing an anchor that weighs the shorter hem down to decrease the chance of pants riding up in an undesirable and geeky “high water” look. If you are to cuff though, then make sure your hem is not any lower than a slight-break, or you’ll risk yourself a terrible appearance where a cuff just adds to an eyeful of nastiness that comes with a baggier full-break and subsequent baggy ankles. Your daddy called, he wants his work slacks your borrowed for pay time back, and it’s time for your nap time he says. But on the flip side, do not go shorter than a no-break either, or cuff them super high like your hipster friends or diehard Bruno Mars fans enjoy doing…is it called a negative-break? If you are esteemed to the likeness of Steve Urkel by your peers, and not in an IQ bragging kind of way, then you have gone full retard, pal. Our preppy saddle bucks still have not yet completely shed its ingrained geekiness, much less the audacity that comes out of high waters (I still don’t understand how it got so popular on the pages of GQ and Details. But Mr. Browne undoubtedly shares the blame.)

Do not be this.

urkel source imdbChinos and trousers are often pleated for you Southern Preps, and the cuff again is preferable here for  reflecting a balanced unison. Flat front pants have more leeway and can go either way naturally. So this is where I’ll abide to my [much substantiated] justifications in the essay above for when to cuff or not. Review: Chinos in khaki and other neutral tones? Always. Wool trousers in subdued pattern? Always. Embroidered chinos with turkey critters? Never. Patchwork madras? Never. Houndstooth dress slacks? Always. Your $385 Simon Millers? Sometimes. The rare light tan chinos you keep in the back of your closet for rainy days? Sometimes. Tuxedo pants? Dare you to answer Sometimes and see what happens.

One last consideration. You may have picked up the protip before of always regarding your physical stats in the decision to cuff vs. not. Someone who is shorter and/or stouter may want to avoid cuffing, because it can amplify as opposed to complimenting your proportional lines. Some experts also prefer you to never cuff your fuller cut pants in similiar deduction, with trimmer pants looking best with cuffs. While you should always take these great examples of sartorial self-assessment seriously, I nevertheless still campaign in the name of all things tradly to have at least most of your mainstay khakis and chinos to abide by this “off the cuff” trad mannerism.

As you may have guessed, The Great Architect of Trad is the dashing gentlechap in the title photo. No-break. Cuffed.


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Vintage Campus USA

source Trad.blogspot.com1 source Trad.blogspot.com2 source Trad.blogspot.com3Jeebus. Impossibly Cool, eh? These strapping young gentlemen pictured above represent our forefathers who paved the way to our present rendition of traditional American dress. Before Fratty. Before Preppy. There was only Trad. TNSIL. The Princetonian. The Ivy League Look. The photos above were taken from TinTin’s uploads of his copy of the original Take Ivy that you have heard me reference countless times throughout the blog before, and I unabashedly pay ode to once more. Originally published in 1965 for the Japanese market, the Americana-preserving measures like the Take Ivy photobook have firmly supplanted our Pacific brothers as the principle connoisseurs of modern Prep (as indeed the notable cases of both their acquiring of J.Press and a strong demand for classic Western haberdashery that has since triumphed over our domestically based, ADHD-focused fashion senses.) Take Ivy carries as much literary importance to our cause as the OPH does, in my book (boom pun!) I have the 2010 reprint. Why so? Because without Japan’s efforts, and in addition to the entire menswear internet community’s homage and preservation of Trad, us younger guys would have never taken up the torch that has now been entrusted to us. And new apparel companies would not have the heritage to source from.

My moral compass, which happens to be made out of cedar wood and is situated on top of my dresser right beside my velvet casing for my wrist watches, points due north with the starlight from Take Ivy’s constellations shining the way throughout. Those half century old pictures of our once-youthful grandfathers, found also in old issues of Life, in dusty basement cabinets of Fashion House archives, and other secretive vaults; gave us a celebrated rediscovery that was purported by an initial set of male clothing bloggers like SirTrad (TinTin). And once surfaced, our appetite turned to a supposedly new, but familiar hunger, for what we have always known as the flavor of the tried-and-true. Our wardrobe turned back from the array of ridiculous trucker hats and tight ringer tees as worn in the early-2000s, to the classically influenced garments that hone on to the understated, with a post-2008 apocalyptic duty that returned us to familiar ideals in brace against a newly violent and unpredictable world market. So too, did the fashionably forward designers coordinate in partnership for a mutual drive to “returning to the basics.” The overture of Americana rang in our ears once again. Result: our clothes became trimmer, J.Crew and Alden became partners, we romanticized our beloved 1960s in Mad Menlow breaks became a thing again – showing a plethora of hairy ankles, and most importantly, we were acclimated to perfectly tailored suits that Kennedy himself would be proud of.

It’s been a few years now since Trad and Prep’s reinvigoration. We are now on the elastic part of the demand curve in the years following. Ivy-inspired collections and collaborations are not exactly a new thing hitting Milan’s runway anymore, and we have already experienced diminishing returns of Americana. We have seen Michael Bastian’s Gant. Thom Browne’s Black Fleece. Ralph’s Rugby and the Brothers’ Flatiron. The thousands of new “Southern _____” frat labels. However, I don’t see us reverting back to primordial soup like we had in the latter parts of the 20th century. This time is different, no? The soul of McQueen and Dean may have gone over the heads of our parents’ generation, whose acid-tripped minds gave us bell bottom jeans and 1990s triple pleated slacks and balloon office suits, but their teachings live on through us; even if the Fashion Houses have moved increasingly forward in finding the next hottest trend, such as in metaphorically “picking ourselves up and dusting ourselves off”. From the 2008 Crash, to the Americana revival, and finally onwards and ahead once more. Fashion is an art that can’t keep looking to the past. But hopefully, as we transition again to the boldly stated, the echoed voices of Princeton’s Class of 1967 will keep yet-to-be-drawn fashion forward silhouettes somewhat grounded, however ridiculous they will undoubtedly be seen by us Trad elitists.

Further still, you will get an occasional snappy newcomer out of the woodwork that adds something fresh to the pile of worn-out brainstormed ideas. Enter: Vintage Campus USA. Established by University of Chicago alums Chris Stavitsky and Tiffany Young, this duo set out in 2012 to try their hand in reconnecting the past with the now. With the full disclaimer that the marketing team behind Vintage Campus USA reached out to me first, I reviewed their burgeoning efforts and was left impressed by their “Take” on Ivy (pun..hah!….ok fine). Companies have reached out to me before, but only if my sage eyes like what they see, and my judging opinion approves of a dedicated reasoning for an unfilled need; do I relay a particular endorsement to the reader. I serve you afterall, and I try to keep an integrity paramount in the name of giving you my candid and unbiased interpretation. Also for the record, I do not have any affiliation with the brand nor receive(d) compensation and/or percentage of sales revenue via this article or any other source, as of posting date.

A patronage described by a meeting of the clean cut, red-blooded preppy American (as exemplified by the aforementioned photo archives of Ivy Leaguers of years past) with a reenactment of that same physical archetype in tune to a sensibly modern approach is the real reasoning behind this editorial. This is my purpose I am leaving to you – not to necessarily sell you sweaters from a specific company, but to showcase that intrinsic attitude for which to combine the two adages effectively without looking like a victim of a Ralph Lauren advert. And if done so with just the right amount of taste, you come forth as an intrepid individual on campus. One who can effortlessly manipulate an innate ability to seemingly walk out of a certain prized Japanese photoessay one day at school, to playing beerpong as a hardened party animal rocking a snapback and Chubbies at the fratcastle over the weekend.

The concept of varsity lettered garments is not new, and it’s clear to me that Vintage Campus got their mission statement influence from those same handsome fellas and their collegiate clothing at the top of this article as I do. Nevertheless, the brand’s direction gives us commanding inspiration. I appreciate a grassroots small company with a monstrous vision that seeks to change our ingrained habits, with this case being the uphill battle of replacing techprep fleece jackets and bookstore souvenir apparel with a vastly more refined alternative to show our school spirit. They have no other theme nor expanded clothing line. They are the origin species – the (re)innovator. Right now, there is a lost art of prominently featuring BLOCKHEAD lettering across your chest in pride of your school or fraternity, as was a trend that once was so popular, but nowadays so rarely seen done right. Vintage Campus wants to change that. Your University of Texas tee is probably made with a loud Longhorn graphic and printed on artificial textile of sticky polyester, a la Nike DriFit. Am I right? Or your Vassar College sweatshirt that keeps you warm as you walk to your morning lecture at the inhumane 8 o’clock morning hour – does it have a hoodie attached? Drawcords you’ve chewed through? Predistressed logo perhaps? That front pouch that is not any better than pant pockets in keeping your paws warm?…You are all plebs!

Not without constructive criticism for Vintage Campus mind you. Understanding that the company is in its infancy (primarily relying on crowdfunding), I still wish they embarked on Made in USA manufacturing. There are other niche brands that have started out on that route, and you know that I am all up for domestic sponsoring. Want to attract customers by selling a higher range priced sweater that looks like it lasted half a century, to literally do exactly that? American made quality communicates to us a perceived durability that China just fails to deliver. Plus, as domestic goods have become the last frontier for the preppier than thou (as in, with the hyperstate of brand competition where every John and Joe can buy a Lacoste polo, we the consumers demand the final bastions that prove our membership to the most authentic of the preppy clans, that is only done with Hecho in USA labeling.) It’s been accomplished with school spirited knitwear before. Harder to do and more costly, yes. But hopefully a goal to strive for eventually as upward scale allows. The current retail price is $89.99 for a sweater. 100% wool.

There is still honor in looking to the past. Sure, have your frockets and brand logo everything and Patagonia Synchillas. But just FYI, the crewneck Varsity sweater was the “first” Synchilla of its day. Your ol’ Gramps would have worn his Class Year on his chest the same way you now wear a fleece or your school’s team merchandised jacket out to the library. A simple capital “C” on a maroon wool background is all that is needed to prove you are a UofC econ major/smartypants. Not some loud graphic portrayed on baggy outerwear with an attached hood that makes you look like you are waiting for mommy to pick you up at the quad after nap time. Wear Vintage Campus with a bengal striped oxford shirt peeking from the crewneck, cuffs slightly rolled back to reveal a minimalistic Reader watch with NATO band adornment, slim no break chinos, and a pair of pennies. Or update and go neoprep with a plaid tartan shirt tucked underneath, raw denim, a tannery belt, and ranger boots. Yes, yes indeed. This was the Ivy League Look that Mr. Hayashida sought to capture all those years ago for Japanese fans to feast upon and emulate! And this is a contemporary model I can stand behind for which to judge all timeless appearances by.

Horses. Hold them. Do not think this is a blanketing statement left hook that knocks out all of my past sartorial suggestions. I strive for a continual balance between the old and the new, the traditionally placed and the forward bound. Don’t throw away your Synchilla just yet, but just know that you have choices. I love my Synchillas; and I love my Shetlands, my Cashmeres, my Cable Knits and my Ragg Wools. There is a time for Fratty. A time for Prep. A time for Trad.

University of Chicago, c.1897

source vintagecampususa.com1c. 2014

source vintagecampususa.com2

A hymn worth repeating:

In fifty years when you’ve now become Grandpa, what kind of young man do you want your grandchildren to see and aspire to in your old picture albums? A budding professional that could just as easily look impossibly cool in 1964 as he does in 2014?

Or some 20 year old pimple faced kid in a baggy hoodie, dated cargo shorts, and nasty flip flops?


Click the logo to preview the initial collection of select Universities and Greek organizations. Expect an expanding selection in the near future. Campaign funding and reservations end September 10th, 2014. Shipments of met minimum quantity estimated out by February of 2015.

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Generations of Style: Continued

Warning: potential man tears ahead.

In Memoriam

Every Trad Family has a loyal companion and dear friend.

Two weeks ago, my mother noticed our family dog was acting differently. He stopped eating and drinking quite suddenly on Saturday, and his hind legs became very weak. He had been suffering from Chronic Heart Disease for the past two years. We’ve had our fair share of scary CHF episodes and emergency trips to the Vet, but this looked like the journey’s final end. My older brother happen to be planning a visit soon anyway, so he took the early flight on Tuesday to say his goodbyes (we had gotten our dog for his 15th birthday as an awesome present all those years ago, so he was the “official” owner, and probably felt the closest out of all of us.) My brother was definitely an emotional wreck to see how skinny our dog had gotten in just the few months between his last visit. We were all hoping he would pass peacefully in his sleep, but he sadly started to get violent seizures that Tuesday evening.

I ultimately made the push. No reason to make him suffer any longer, and followed the backup plan accordingly. I drove us in the rainy night. Very surreal experience.

My mother wrapped him up in the same blanket that my sister had when she  passed from SIDS (before my time, but she was smart to sell her position and get out, before my brother and I got to play up her middle child syndrome. Ain’t that right Big Sis ;))

Amazing to have a nearby 24-hour animal center built just before our dog became ill. The amazing facility, staff, and doctors all heroically served as our safe landing zone in the following years, time and time again (just recently received a beautiful card and handwritten condolences to prove it.)

Thankfully we were the only visitors at that late hour. We all each held him in the hospital patient room as we waited for the Vet. I was petting his head as the Doc injected the serine. My brother and mother were crying of course, but I told them to face the back of him. I didn’t want him to see his family being sad in his last moments. I kept strong in front of his lying head; softly rubbing behind his ears as all dogs do seem to enjoy, just as his eyes drifted to sleep. Mom soothed his stomach, my brother held his paw. It goes very quickly. They each carried his now-limp body one more time, but I refused because my last memory with him was when he was alive. That’s how I wanted to remember his vessel. We left him wrapped in Big Sis’ blanket on the table. My brother and mother stepped through the hall door back to the lobby. I grinned at our little guy through the patient room’s door window. He seemed peaceful.

Very somber, but it was exactly how I wanted it to go. My brother in town and all of the people who loved him surrounding as he passes. The house feels weird now and I still catch myself not opening the garage door too fast since he used to sleep on the carpet waiting for us to get home, or wondering if I had brought him outside before his bedtime, or had given his medications this afternoon, or why I didn’t hear his claws on the hard wood this morning. But it’s been getting easier to adjust to the thought. My mother picked up his ashes and our family blanket this past week. He is currently snoring away on the dresser beside her rosary. Still keeping her company bedside, as he had done faithfully for his last tour of duty in these recent years.

As mentioned, it was a rainy night and I had drove. Exactly how it was when my father passed, when I drove my brother and I to the hospice on that rainy late night to meet my mother and grandmother. My father, who passed away 2 years ago from cancer, was very adamant against having a dog at first. He didn’t even fully adore him the way my brother and I did. Yet, Dad happened to give our dog his very namesake. And what is even more ironic? The lovely couple shared the same birthday. My brother and I used to joke with our father that we’d forget his birthday in place of the dog’s. Just like with Homer Simpson….our oddball nuclear family mirrored America’s most famous, to a tee!

Both Dad and dog learned to live with each other in a classic love/hate dynamic, or at least; Dad didn’t get as furious when he took him out to pee, and our sometimes frustrating-but lovable and enduring canine thanked him by pooping on our expensive Arabian carpet (for the fiftieth time.) And that weird bond between them kept going even after my father departed, with our dog getting his very first episode and ensuing CHF diagnosis on Dad’s one-year anniversary. Getting the last laugh in both birth and death. Although my Mom was not immune either; having his last attack on her 60th birthday. Forcing me to whisk away from the festivities and making her momentarily anguished on her own day of joy (got the Vet’s okay just shortly after I arrived, kept over for only a night.) Swear life is like a staged television comedy sometimes! “End of an era” I like to think, because our dog’s passing is sort of like a middleman point of reference between fond memories and hopeful, upcoming new chapters. The next dog I own will be shared by my children.

My brother and I were thinking of sneaking in and burying our buddy’s ashes alongside my father to keep him company, where eventually my mother will rest too. Sometime during a foggy moonlit midnight probably: we want to be sure graveyard spirits haunt our wretched souls forever after.

We like to think our dog was waiting for my brother to come home one last time. He had it in him too, since he lasted longer than all of the life expectancies my Vet gave him. Maximum was a year. He gave us two, like a Champ!

DexterRIP Dexter. 1997 – 2014. 17 cherished years!

trad familyForever part of the Trad Family ;)

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