Archive for March, 2013

Ivy Inspired: An Interview with Tom Nascone

Ivy Inspired Logo 2

I wrote about the Ivy Inspired tumblr last summer. It is a “timeless adventure through the classics” and one of my very favorite tumblrs. The young man behind Ivy Inspired, Tom Nascone has expanded his creative outlet beyond tumblr and opened up the Ivy Inspired store offering handmade bow ties and pocket squares. I recently had a chance to catch up with Tom.

Ivy Inspired Logo

OCBD: First off, I have to tell you that I really enjoy the Ivy Inspired Tumblr. What inspired you to start it?

Tom: Thank you. I started Ivy Inspired as a virtual inspiration board for myself early in my sophomore year. I wanted some place to keep a collection of all the clothing and looks that I enjoyed and wanted to use it to influence my own style.

OCBD: I have been interested in style from an early age as well. I have to add that I don’t think I would have been able to curate such a cohesive collection of images at that age. So, hats off to you. What is it about classic or traditional style that attracted you to it?

Tom: Being a product of catholic grammar and high school, I have been in a uniform/dress code all of my life. Having a clean, crisp outfit everyday was nice, I felt well put together. Through my childhood I have been surrounded by people such as my grandfather, who always had that classic style. I guess it just became a part of me. What I enjoy most about the “trad” style is its functionality. Clothes are meant to be worn. They should have character and patina.

 Tom from Ivy StyleA classic look from Tom

OCBD: I could not agree with you more about functionality being one of the most attractive aspects of trad clothing. You are lucky to have been surrounded by men who could teach you a thing or two about clothes. How would you define your personal style?

Tom: My style is rooted in the classic American “trad”. I would say that I also like to infuse little additions of sprezz and quirkiness into that traditional base, to update it and make it a little more fun.

OCBD: I definitely get that “trad with sprezz” vibe from the images that you feature on Ivy Inspired. Do you have any style icons aside from your family and friends that have helped you develop your style?

Tom: I have a lot of style icons that I like to regularly follow: Fred Castleberry, Sid Mashburn, Maxminimus, John Wrazej, Michael Bastian, The Armoury, and so many more that I can’t think of at the moment. Of course there is plenty of inspiration on tumblr which is where I get most of my influence from.

Tom from Ivy InspiredOne of my favorite looks from Tom that is both classic and fun.

OCBD: I concur that Maxminimus is the man! Do you have a favorite brand?

Tom: My favorite brand was Rugby, but since that section of RL has closed down, I will probably stick with Polo. I haven’t been amused by Brooks Brothers lately, and J.Press is out of my price range. I try to diversify my closet as to avoid an overflow of the same label, but RL is consistent and it’s hard to find a variation of price, quality, and style now a days.

OCBD: [Laughing] I’m still saving for a J.Press sport coat, too. It was sad to see Rubgy close. I have a few pieces from them and I thought that their sweaters had the most bang for the buck. How have your friends and family responded to Ivy Inspired?

Tom: Most of my friends know about it, some of them read it regularly, because they enjoy what I post. In the beginning no one knew about my blog, but as it started to gain more and more of a following, I started to take pride in it. Now I am pretty open about sharing it with people. I have even brought it up in job interviews just to help demonstrate my passion and mindset.

Club Collar Knit Tie

OCBD: I am glad to hear that you have been getting a positive response to your site. I was really excited when I saw that you opened up the Ivy Inspired shop. I was even more excited when I saw that you were not only selling, but manufacturing bow ties. How did this come about?

Tom: I started making bows right after my grandfather passed away 2 years ago when I ended up inheriting a bunch of his ties. This was right around the time when Brooks Brothers started debuting the Social Primer reversible bow ties. One day I was choosing between ties for school, and I realized I had a navy polka dot, and a nice madras (exactly the Social Primer bow tie patterns I wanted). I have always been a pretty creative and hands on person, so the thought hit me, what if somehow I made my own reversible bow tie? I spent a few weeks researching and developing what I thought to be the ideal bow tie pattern, shape, and construction. Eventually I sat down and cranked it out! It was a little shabby at first, but I managed to do it, and I was damn proud. As popularity for my bow ties between friends and family grew, people started suggesting I make a business out of it. And that’s where I am today!

Striped Flannel Bow TieStriped Flannel Bow Tie from Ivy Inspired’s Fall/Winter 2012 Collection

OCBD: That is a great story. I have heard nothing but good things about your bow ties. The consensus is that they are a quality product for a great price ($25). Do you have any dreams for the brand?

Tom: Someday I definitely want to open a great, classic haberdashery in the city. This has been my dream for quite a while now and each day I look forward to it and try to put myself in a good position to get there. I have chances to meet with CEOs of clothing companies to gather great advice and network. Hopefully I’ll be up there with Ralph Lauren one day.

OCBD: I think that you are well on your way. Independent haberdashers are definitely something that we could use more of in today’s big-box store world. I wish you all the best in your future endeavors. Before I let you go I wondered if you would weigh in on the whole trad/ivy league/preppy argument?

Tom: This is definitely very prevalent on tumblr. Ivy League and Trad pretty much go hand-in-hand, then there are the “preppy” New England fratsters who worship their Vineyard Vines critter pastels while downing their Natty Lights in front of Reagan campaign posters.

OCBD: Hah, I appreciate such a candid response. I want to thank you again for taking the time to speak with me. I encourage all of my readers to check out the tumblr and to support your shop. I am looking forward to watching your brand grow and I will be picking up a bow tie from you in the near future.

Kent Combs

Kent Comb

Just a few weeks ago I wrote about traditional American haircuts such as the Princeton and the Ivy League and I mentioned that I keep a bi-weekly haircut appointment. Keeping a regular appointment with your barber is just one of the necessary chores (or life’s small joys in my case) required to maintain a neat appearance, but that alone is not enough. Styling your hair on a daily basis is just as, if not more important than the frequency of your haircut and to style your hair you must have the proper instrument. You can use a brush or a comb depending on your hair type, style and personal preference; I myself prefer a comb.

Kent folding pocket comb 1

I carry a comb with me everywhere I go. Often the weather likes to send my hair into disarray and it is nice be able to put everything back into its proper place upon my arrival indoors. I usually pick my comb up at the grocery costing me little more than a dollar, but I thought it was high time that I invest a little bit more into an item that is always by my side.

After a little online window shopping I decided to purchase a Kent comb. I ordered the Kent folding pocket comb from O’Connell’s Clothing for $16.50. Kent combs was founded in 1777  (more history here). They are handmade out of block cut acetate which is designed to create less static and due to their hand polished and buffed teeth they will not damage your hair or scalp.

Kent Folding Pocket Comb 82T

I want to love my Kent comb. It looks great, it is much sturdier than the throw-away combs that I buy at the grocer and of course I was attracted to the heritage of the product. However, after a few days of use I was a little disappointed in my purchase. The fine tooth end of the Kent comb is not as fine as my disposable comb and the blunt end of the teeth couldn’t “grab” my hair as well as the cheap comb. Kent does offer a comb with finer teeth, but I am hesitant to test it out when the disposable combs work so well.

If you don’t need your hair to be “slicked” (for lack of a better word) back, down, or over when you comb it then this may be the perfect comb for you. The quality and cool factor are there without a question, but unfortunately the performance for me was not. I guess it is back to the cheap disposables.

Brooks Brothers Jacket Illustrations (1979-1982)

Spring 1982 Brooks Brothers

It wasn’t too long ago that Brooks Brothers catalogs contained more illustrations than actual photographs. Their illustrated sack jacket sticks out in my mind as having one of the most perfect sack silhouettes that I have ever seen. The proportions and the lapel rolls are great, but the shoulders are simply perfect. I bet that it’s a lot easier to draw soft soldiers than it is to make them in real life, but these illustrations sure make you long for one of those jackets. I have included a few of these illustrations from 1972-1982 Brooks Brothers catalogs.

BB Blazer Jacket 1980 SpringSpring 1980 Brooks Brothers

Spring 1982 Brooks Brothers Sport Jacket

1981 3 piece Brooks Brothers

 

Grey Herringbone Sack Sport JacketFall 1981 Grey Herringbone Sport CoatBrooks Brothers Jacket Fall & Winter 1981Spring 1980 BB Sport CoatBrooks Brothers Jacket Winter 1981 PlaidLight weight BB Winter JacketBrooks Brothers Jacket Spring 1982Spring 1980 Seersucker JacketSpring Sport Jacket 1982 Brooks Brothers

 

Sneakers by BIllax

US Rubber Keds Ad 2

This post is a reprinting of a post on a forum that is frequented by Billax. Billax is not only one of my style role models, but a friend and a man that was Trad back when it was called Ivy League. If you have not read the other posts that I have reprinted of his I strongly suggest that you do: Uprising by Billax & Loafers by Billax

I first started noticing clothes as a HS Senior in 1958, when two of my college-attending cousins came home for family Thanksgiving. While one cousin went to Northwestern and the other to Cornell, they showed up for Thanksgiving in near-identical outfits: OCBD, Shetland sweaters (one a crew & the other a V neck), khakis, Wigwam socks and Bass Weejuns. I deduced a uniform for college attire. Keds 1960Since I was in the middle of college applications myself, I asked my folks for Christmas presents of “clothing the cousins wore.”

Once in college, I had the great good fortune to work in a Men’s clothing store that catered to the “Natural Shoulder” crowd. I learned more about men’s clothing from the proprietor of that store than I have learned since. I considered him a great mentor. He’d open up OCBDs from Sero, Gant, and Troy Guild and take me through the – often minute – differences among them. Stuck with me. It was his contention that “Natural” meant more than shoulders. Natural shoulders, natural fibers, natural (vegetable and insect) dyes all went together, according to my boss. I lapped up every distinction he threw at me. To this day, he remains the best teacher I’ve ever encountered.

In March of this year, my youngest son was accepted to his dream school – Yale. His Christmas presents reprised the requests I made to my parents more than 50 years ago. I hope the my gifts to the boy “take.” But, turning on the “way back machine,” here’s what was on my mind 54 years ago.

The Choices I made:
When I started getting interested in clothes in late 1958, I had to select shoes, socks, pants, shirts, sweaters, ties, sport coats, suits and outerwear in preparation for heading off to college in the Fall of 1959. Based on recollection, pictures from my photo albums from the time, and limited by a faulty memory, I propose to go through my preferences from 1958-1964 in every category of apparel. Here were the contenders in each category, from the bottom up:

Sneakers

All white was the only way to go in my High School and throughout my college days (1959-1964).

Vintage Converse Ad

Converse All Stars: The company was founded in 1908 and has been a leading factor in plimsolls ever since. Their Converse Chuck Taylor All Stars and Jack Purcell tennies were legendary sport shoes even then. They soared in popularity in the late 1950s and ’60s, but never rivaled Sperry or Keds. Here’s the current Converse All-Star model:
White Chuck Taylors

Chuck Taylors 1960
College kid in Chuck Taylors 1960

Keds champions: US Rubber, now Uniroyal, created its iconic shoe, “The Champion” in 1916. Popularly known as the “sneaker,” Keds created a new category of footwear – a shoe so quiet you could sneak up on people! It’s been embedded in popular culture ever since. In four more years, the Champion will have been on the market for 100 years! Here’s the current “Champion Original” model:

Keds Champions

College Kid in Keds 1960College kid in Keds 1960

Sperry Sneaker Topsiders:  Sperry started making sneakers in 1935. They continue making them to this day. They became quite popular and their ubiquitous blue stripe around the top of the sole made them easily identifiable. In my circles, Sperry’s rivaled Keds for “most sought after” sneaker.
Sperry SneakerVan’s: Van’s didn’t come along until 1966, long after I’d made my decision to go with Keds. They were a part of the skate board phenomenon, but they were – and are – very popular. The company was founded in Anaheim, California and has always had a slightly “bad boy” vibe to me. I’ll admit that it appealed for that reason, but it was too late for me. I was a Keds guy. Here’s the current version of their original sneaker, the Authentic:

Vans Authentic

Which did I choose and why?
In late 1958, sneakers were just starting to be cool in my High School. I went to the department store and saw the Converse, Sperry and Keds sneakers. I chose the Keds Champions because:
• they had a slightly thinner sole, they were entirely white (no stripe)
• the eyelet layout looked more like a regular shoe than Converse. All in, they were more modest and minimalist. As one who finds the foot the least endearing appendage, I’m not inclined to dramatize it. For that reason, Keds were an easy choice.
Which sneaker became more popular?
In my circles, Keds by a smidge over Sperrys and by a mile over Converse! Vans wasn’t in business then. Still saw a fair number of Converse All Stars, but Keds simpler, slimmer, less decorated look was what the market wanted. These were among the first Unisex apparel categories. They were just as popular with girls as they were with guys. If someone told me I couldn’t wear Keds, I’d be OK with Sperrys. If I could only buy Converse sneakers, well, I’d give up sneakers entirely.

If I had it all to do over again, would I change?
Nope. Still wear Keds Champions – fifty four years later – probably once every ten days – more often in the Summer, less frequently in the cooler months.
Keds King of Courts Ad

Wittenberg University 1967

Witt 1967

I was flipping through one of my old Wittenberg University yearbooks and I thought I’d share a few pictures. The year was 1967, often remembered as the “Summer of Love”; it was a time of long hair, bell bottoms, and hippies. However, outside of the counter-culture movement, traditional American style was pretty much the same. Albeit lapels and ties were skinnier, the frames of glasses thicker and, yes, even those with conservative style had longer hair. However, this isn’t so different than trends we see today. Even J.Press (2.75”) and Brooks Brothers (2.5/8”) are offering ties under 3”, as well as skinny lapels, and hair styles are still all over the place. I guess the more things change the more they say the same. I hope that you enjoy these images as much as I do.

 

Homecoming Queen 1966

Professor on Bicycle

Lapel Roll

Hair Cut 1967Professor Walking to class 1967

Sack Sport Coat 1967

P3 style Glasses 1967

Cool Freshman

Class President 1969

College is funAlways remember to have fun!