Critical Shopper: J. Press Is for the Ivy League Faithful (or Those Who Like Preppy Drag)


Still, I had high hopes for its new store, just north of Grand Central Terminal. The stretch of 44th Street that runs from Avenue of the Americas to Vanderbilt captures both the elegance of New York as it once was and the reality that New York is no longer that way. There are the Harvard and Cornell Clubs, the New York Yacht Club and the Algonquin, Brooks Brothers and Allen Edmonds. But also at least three huge empty storefronts.

This street is as close to a conceptual cul-de-sac as Midtown can manage, but also reflects the receding influence of a certain generation of the city’s elite.

J. Press perseveres, however. The new location is cozy and carefully segmented: suits and sport coats and pants on the back wall, sweaters and ties on tables in the middle, slightly fancier jackets and blazers in a small alcove on the left, and a modest made-to-measure setup in the rear.

No surprise, but the cut of the jackets was cylindrical, with little nuance. Not that Harris tweed ($895) is the gentlest of fabrics, but the rigidity was a challenge. I tried on a cheeky pair of wool pants in a black and white check ($330), but the legs were 1990s wide.

In the back alcove, I found a compromise: a tweed Golden Bear varsity jacket ($595) that had aristocratic zest. One of the salesclerks walked by and offered an assist: “It’s a tweed jacket without looking like you’re an extra on ‘Downton Abbey.’”


For prep accessorizing.
Credit Stefania Curto for The New York Times

This style, though, is best consumed in tiny, accessory-size doses: knit ties in bold colors ($89) or something from the circular racks of needlepoint belts, maybe in your Ivy League motif of choice ($165, PTSD optional). The array of trad college scarves ($98) have some gems: Try the hypermodern colorblocking of the Yale School of Management.

I admired what seemed like an out-of-season raw silk regimental tie with pastel pink, blue and yellow stripes ($79), probably the only item in the store that could go with the pink velvet Gucci slippers I’ve been coveting for a year and not had the courage to buy.

Such fabrics — such garments, as Lil Uzi Vert might say — were in short supply, though. Instead, I spotted corduroy. The return of corduroy is always unwelcome. It bespeaks a dowdy period to come. To this day, I’ve never met a pair of flattering corduroy pants (though I have a lovely forest green jacket). I did see a yellow pair here, but to be fair, I’m skipping the coming regatta season, so it was tough to feel at home.

Before I left the store and stepped back out into the December icebox, I took a look at some lovely British wool knit caps in bold colors ($58), but got distracted by something very unlikely: a corduroy baseball cap. It was floppy and unstructured, a dad hat made for actual dads. The way it sagged suggested wealth around long enough to have heated, and then settled, like the earth itself.

I was trying on the green one when the clerk informed me there was a pink one as well. I couldn’t decide between the two, so I got both.

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