Put This On’s Inside Track for the week of September 13th - September 20th

Here are our hand-selected favorites from eBay for this week, plus heads-up on recommended sales. If you’re a member of the Inside Track, click through, and log in with your Member.ly username and password.

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When Undergrads Wore Tailcoats to Parties
Ivy Style somehow tracked down the man you see above. In the photo, when Life Magazine shot him for a 1954 issue that featured J. Press, he was being fitted for a soft shouldered, 3/2 roll, tweed sport coat. The photo has circulated forums and blogs for many, many years now, making it a famous image that every guy interested in classic American style has seen — oh, I don’t know — maybe a 1,000 times.
Apparently, the student originally came in to be fitted for his custom tailcoat. As Ivy Style reports:

It was the fall of 1954 when a simple errand put him on a collision course with Ivy style history. “J. Press, or J. Squeeze as we called it, was the New Haven substitute for Brooks Brothers,” says Brown. “Best I can remember was that I had walked in to check on tails they were making for me.” 
[…]
Many Ivy devotees have mooned over the jacket he is wearing in the photo. “I don’t think I bought that jacket,” Brown recalls. “As I remember, they wanted to feature it and it fit.”
The tailcoat he’d commissioned was another matter. It saw plenty of action during the debutante season. “There were a lot of great coming-out parties with lots of alcohol, legal then,” he recalls. “I remember rolling down the hill of John Nicholas Brown’s daughter’s coming-out in those tails, to the breakfast tent at 2 AM. That house is now Harbour Court, the New York Yacht club station in Newport.”

There was a time when some undergrads commissioned custom tailcoats to get drunk at parties! You can go over to Ivy Style to read the whole thing.

When Undergrads Wore Tailcoats to Parties

Ivy Style somehow tracked down the man you see above. In the photo, when Life Magazine shot him for a 1954 issue that featured J. Press, he was being fitted for a soft shouldered, 3/2 roll, tweed sport coat. The photo has circulated forums and blogs for many, many years now, making it a famous image that every guy interested in classic American style has seen — oh, I don’t know — maybe a 1,000 times.

Apparently, the student originally came in to be fitted for his custom tailcoat. As Ivy Style reports:

It was the fall of 1954 when a simple errand put him on a collision course with Ivy style history. “J. Press, or J. Squeeze as we called it, was the New Haven substitute for Brooks Brothers,” says Brown. “Best I can remember was that I had walked in to check on tails they were making for me.” 

[…]

Many Ivy devotees have mooned over the jacket he is wearing in the photo. “I don’t think I bought that jacket,” Brown recalls. “As I remember, they wanted to feature it and it fit.”

The tailcoat he’d commissioned was another matter. It saw plenty of action during the debutante season. “There were a lot of great coming-out parties with lots of alcohol, legal then,” he recalls. “I remember rolling down the hill of John Nicholas Brown’s daughter’s coming-out in those tails, to the breakfast tent at 2 AM. That house is now Harbour Court, the New York Yacht club station in Newport.”

There was a time when some undergrads commissioned custom tailcoats to get drunk at parties! You can go over to Ivy Style to read the whole thing.

eBay Roundup

Check out some of the stuff Jesse and I found on eBay this week, plus a little thing I found on Etsy: a woman who custom paints vintage military bags with retro WWII iconography. The kind of stuff that used to be painted on bomber jackets. I’m told that each one is custom painted, so you can request changes here and there, and that in the future, she’ll be introducing other repurposed vintage items (more bags, old military leather jackets, etc). You can read about her process here.

As usual, if you’d like to find more menswear related items on eBay, you can use our customized search links. They’ll help you quickly narrow in on high-end suitsgood suitshigh-quality shirts and fine footwear

Suits, sport coats, and blazers
Sweaters and knits
Shirts and pants
Shoes
Ties
Bags, briefcases, and wallets
Misc.
“I’ve always said that I dress as sort of a sartorial mullet. I like it one way on the top and some other way on the bottom… I like contrast and tension in rooms and in clothes.”

Nick Wooster in an interview on Styleforum.

-Pete

Mat Ricardo is sort of a magician. Sort of a circus performer? Sort of a monologuist. A professional charmer? It’s hard to describe. Certainly he’s the only one of any of those things I know with his own clothing sponsor (Walker Slater).

I met Mat at the Ediburgh Fringe last year, and he was fantastically charming and did an amazing trick with a tablecloth. It seems he’s kicked things up a notch. This is pretty damned impressive.

“'Youth culture, in general, is not always decipherable to those outside of the inner circle,' Alvarez responded. 'In many ways, our dress and our vocabulary and our vernacular becomes powerful because [outsiders] can't understand it.'” — Gene Demby in an excellent essay about sagging pants, and the long history of “dangerous” street fashion.

Repeat Performance Vintage

Lately I’ve been indulging my love of vintage menswear by paging through the mid-century vintage section of eBay, looking for stuff to link to in our eBay roundups and Inside Track. Yesterday, I came upon a dealer with some really remarkable stuff: Repeat Performance Vintage, out of Los Angeles.

The owner doesn’t do shows or have a store, and sells only through eBay and a website. The stock isn’t huge, and the prices are, well, full retail, but the quality is extraordinary. I’m barely able to keep myself from buying the ivory wool suit above, which is nearly a thousand dollars.

No matter what your budget, the website’s worth a look, and there’s even more lovely womenswear than menswear. And if you need some pink poodle panties for the lady in your life, you’ve just hit the jackpot.

Real People: Mixing Patterns

Once again, our friend Peter in San Francisco shows us how to mix patterns easily and successfully using just two rules-of-thumb:

  • Vary the scale and density: Scale refers to how large the pattern is, while density refers to how closely things such as dots and paisleys are set next to each other. However you’re mixing patterns, just be sure to vary the scale and density of your pieces. Otherwise, you risk looking like this guy
  • Cheat: Subtle patterns are the easiest to use. Such as a hairline striped shirt with lines so fine that the color resolves to a solid from more than a couple of feet away. Or the wool tie Peter is wearing in the first photo above, which features a pick-and-pick weave with dusty greens and golds. That’s more of a texture than a print, but the effect of textures is the same: they help add visual interest to what you’re wearing.

Of course these are just general guidelines — things to help you choose what to wear in the morning. In the end, dress according to your eye. If it looks right, then it looks right. And know that if things get too complicated, it’s always easy to wear just two patterns. That’s pretty much failproof.

This week on one of my favorite public radio shows, On the Media, they did a wonderful segment on the ever-blurring lines between advertising and editorial. Publishers are required by law to distinguish between the two, but the push towards “native advertising” has started to render the distinction, well… indistinct.

"Native advertising" is advertising that is disguised as content. It’s troubling because it undermines the trust readers have in their content providers. Of course, convincing readers that an ad is actually independent editorial is an effective (if deceptive) form of marketing, so advertisers push for it. I know that in our case, we get six or eight solicitations a month for paid content.

The number of publishers who agree to these schemes - including some of the most prestigious in the world - is disappointing, and it affects our ability to sell traditional, not-a-trick advertising.

If you’re wondering about our policies, here they are. And do give the OTM segment a listen - it’s fun and very informative about something that touches your life every day.

Are You Wearing Knockoffs?

When we think of knockoffs in fashion, we typically think of the cheap imitations of luxury brands such as Chanel and Gucci, which can often be found in the back alleys of major metropolitan centers. But the practice of copying designs is much more pervasive than you think. Peek behind the curtains of fashion production rooms and you’ll find that many — if not most — designers are ripping off designs in some way. 

And it’s not just the companies you’d expect, either. We all know that fast fashion brands are quick to mimic the latest looks. Just check out this collection from Zara, for example. It’s essentially a rip off of avant-garde designers such as Rick Owens, Yohji Yamamoto, and Maurizio Altieri (for those keeping track, this is the fifth mention of Rick Owens at Put This On). Companies like Zara have built business empires by copying runway looks and offering them at more affordable prices to the high street consumer. 

No, the fast fashion stuff is obvious, but copying happens elsewhere as well – even among “top designers.” Maison Martin Margiela’s German Army Trainers and Common Projects’ white Achilles Lows, for example, are essentially rip offs of earlier designs by other companies (albeit with ever-so-slight modifications). Then, of course, there are all the rip offs of Common Projects’ work. Nigel Cabourn also often mixes and matches things he sees in vintage pieces, but sometimes, things are pretty straightforward reproductions. Speaking of reproductions, many of those niche Japanese labels many of us covet (e.g. Buzz Rickson, The Real McCoys, Toys McCoys) are just reproducing vintage garments they’ve found at flea markets

Free Culture and Innovation

Johanna Blakely, who serves as a Deputy Director at a media-focused think tank at USC, gave what I think is one of the best talks on this issue at TED. In a nutshell, her argument is: fashion’s free-for-all culture drives trends, which in turn, pushes innovation. In other words, fashion evolves like this: one company introduces a risky, but good design, and when it proves successful in the market, other high-end designers copy it. This creates a trend. Eventually, the trend becomes safe enough for mass-market fashion retailers to copy (since they have to wait until they can move millions, not just dozens, of units). These retailers milk it for all its worth, and when high-street consumers start wearing the style, early-adopters move on to other things (perhaps out of snobbishness, or just not wanting to pay top dollar to look like everyone else). This gives those earlier experimental brands an incentive to innovate. As Blakely puts it, without this free-for-all copying culture, the world of fashion would be much less vibrant. 

Naturally, the argument is not without its opponents. This week, The New York Times hosted a discussion on intellectual property rights in fashion, and a few writers argued that the industry needs much stronger protections. Admittedly, I wasn’t terribly convinced by their arguments, but one good point they did touch on is that, when a big brand rips off a smaller company, it can be a devastating blow to a young designer, who can’t afford to have the wind taken out of his or her sails. Those “hot trend” moments can make or break their career. 

Of course, there are also the ethics surrounding intellectual property, which is a separate (and perhaps thornier) issue. One thing is for sure, however — we as fashion consumers can avoid the kind of knockoffs with fake luxury labels (the kind sold in those downtown alleys), but it’s almost impossible to not wear something that has stolen a bit of design from somewhere else. When Oprah asked Ralph Lauren in 2011 how he’s been able to keep designing for so many years, he answered: “You copy. Forty-five years of copying; that’s why I’m here.”