drpeter

Senior Member
I don't know, the capitalist culture offers up a lot of options and then the people choose. Had the people wanted the old-style Brooks, Press, Banks, Gorsarts, etc. - all had big businesses in NYC in the '80s - they wouldn't have changed, shrunk or failed.

If people wanted those clothes, that wouldn't have happened and Press, O'Connells and the other niche businesses selling Trad clothing wouldn't be niche. Even today, Press is right there on 44th Street off of Madison in its new location with plenty of Trad clothing. Also, the store has a nice website, puts out beautiful catalogues and gets a reasonable amount of press, but it's still just a small store.

The people have spoken. You and I might think the people have chosen poorly - or have poor taste in clothing - but the people had, over the last three decades and right up to today, the opportunity to choose Trad and they passed. BB, Press, etc., didn't go down without a fight; Ralph and others didn't somehow force "bad" taste (to some) on consumers - the consumer chose.

And when we think about Ralph's model, I've mentioned it before, we should recognize that he has an intentionally different business model than the old BB or Press. Sure, BB and Press were innovators in their day, but by the '80s, the model I saw in those stores was structured to sell, basically, the same staples and classics tweaked a bit now and then. Ralph has always had a different business model as it is a fashion company. He takes those staples and classic in new directions intentionally.

That's why he participates in fashion shows, has collections, does some outré things with, especially, his fashion stuff, but even with his regular advertising and windows. Let's not kid ourselves, Del Vecchio was trying to do the Ralph thing with the Thom Browne Black Fleece effort - it just failed where Ralph succeeds.

I'm happy to admit, the whole fashion business is odd to me, but my friend in it says that all those things - the shows, the weird ads, the extreme stuff in the windows - is done to create buzz and drive sales. Even though most people don't buy or wear the "out there" stuff, it's believed in the industry that it works.

And those in fashion firmly and passionately believe it. Yes, one of the goals is to get "hot," as we've seen with Ralph over the years with different segments. But more importantly, those in the industry deeply believe that even when that doesn't happen, the noise and notice of the "fashion stuff" gets the middle-aged guy just looking for a few polos and chinos to choose Ralph.

To be sure, as you note, all these stores want to make money, but at the end of the day, the consumer is the one with the vote. And the American consumer has voted BB, Press, etc. all but out of office and Ralph and a lot of new brands in. I don't think a Ministry of Style based on some bureaucratic view of what people should wear - your or my view of "good" taste is someone else's vision of horrible taste and vice-versa - would be a good solution. I might not like the clothing choices people make, but I'm very glad they are free to make them.

I wish people wanted more of the clothes from Press or O'Connells, etc., but I don't blame Ralph or Uniqlo or Suit Supply or any of the new brands as no one has ever been forced to spend a single dollar in any of those stores and nobody has been stopped from spending their dollars at Brooks, etc. People vote with their pocketbooks and they voted the Trad style all but out of office. That, to me, is just people individually exercising their freedom to choose.
I understand the points you are making. They are much broader, however, than the situation I was referring to.

My comments were directed towards the mishmash of clothes that appear in the RL adverts, the practice that some of us have decried in this forum. And my argument was that Ralph probably found it increased sales, so he uses it, regardless of taste, poor or otherwise. This is mainly because any route to increased profits is legitimate in a profit-oriented capitalist culture. So my comments are very much limited to a practice that I suspect RL may be using rather cynically to sell clothes, the practice that you and I probably agree is in poor taste. I fully understand that the vast majority of consumers don't care about our predilections or choices in clothing, they simply go with their own feelings about what they like. That is as it should be, I agree that tastes differ, and we can all dress any way we please. (I must say, though, that I have never seen an actual human wearing quite the combination of things seen in an RL advert!)

Now about choice. Consumers don't choose their clothing (or anything else, for that matter) in a completely free way. Free choice is a kind of ideal we talk about (mostly to indicate lack of coercion, I suspect), but in reality, our choices are influenced quite heavily by the messages we see and hear, both from others in our social circles, as well as from the enormous machinery of product advertising in modern societies. As a cognitive psychologist and neuroscientist who spent his career doing experimental research on attention and memory, I can confirm with confidence that the directing of consumer attention and the creation of desire in consumers are critical to advertising. If this is not true, why advertise at all, right? There was an old line about this: "When people are given complete freedom to make the choices they want, they choose what the person next to them chooses." Or words to that effect.

I include all of us living in our culture in this assessment, we are all subject to the influence of our peers, and this forum is itself a testament to that factor. I see my taste in Trad styles as something that came out of decades of influence, from reading magazines like Esquire and The New Yorker, and admiring the clothes advertised in them, from designing my own clothes with my tailor to reflect those styles (since such ready-made clothes were not available in my country at the time), and from finding satisfaction in my own sense of style that I developed in those decades -- conservative, classical approaches to colour, material and form in clothes. The books I have in my library about menswear, especially those by authors like Bruce Boyer, were very supportive of my own developing taste, and has continued to influence my thinking about style in general, and clothing in particular. My tastes in literature, music, cinema and other areas are, in many ways, of a piece with my personal sense of style and my taste in clothes. Not a whole lot of free choice here! All heavily influenced by the things I read and saw over the years. And I am happy with my taste.

So I would discount the "style vacuum" in which the consumer votes. That vacuum has been amply filled with the words and images of the advertisers, and the opinions of that consumer's peers. Quite understandable. But it is far from a scenario in which the consumer sits as an impartial judge, systematically examining the merits or demerits of a particular style or some set of clothes, and making a selection based on this "rigorous" analysis. IMHO, it is not accurate to say that RL wins out because the consumer has chosen him over J Press or O'Connell's. Ralph wins out because his adverts have won consumers over through a barrage of influence much stronger than Press and O'Connell's.

Lastly, you have taken my observations to a far extreme when you talk about a Ministry of Style. Let me gently add that a prescriptive approach was never the intent behind my words. I do not want prescriptive practices or sumptuary laws regarding dress (although the business dress codes of the past that we have been discussing in another thread are actually just that, a ministry of style laying down a dress code). One of the things I loved about working in academia was the freedom from dress codes. But my plea is for us to be aware that all of us are subject to influence, and that none of our clothing (or other) choices takes place free of the enormous amounts of influence ever present in our world. The greater "market share" of this influence is precisely what advertising is all about, isn't it?
 
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Fading Fast

Connoisseur
I understand the points you are making. They are much broader, however, than the situation I was referring to.

My comments were directed towards the mishmash of clothes that appear in the RL adverts, the practice that some of us have decried in this forum. And my argument was that Ralph probably found it increased sales, so he uses it, regardless of taste, poor or otherwise. This is mainly because any route to increased profits is legitimate in a profit-oriented capitalist culture. So my comments are very much limited to a practice that I suspect RL may be using rather cynically to sell clothes, the practice that you and I probably agree is in poor taste. I fully understand that the vast majority of consumers don't care about our predilections or choices in clothing, they simply go with their own feelings about what they like. That is as it should be, I agree that tastes differ, and we can all dress any way we please. (I must say, though, that I have never seen an actual human wearing quite the combination of things seen in an RL advert!)

Now about choice. Consumers don't choose their clothing (or anything else, for that matter) in a completely free way. Free choice is a kind of ideal we talk about (mostly to indicate lack of coercion, I suspect), but in reality, our choices are influenced quite heavily by the messages we see and hear, both from others in our social circles, as well as from the enormous machinery of product advertising in modern societies. As a cognitive psychologist and neuroscientist who spent his career doing experimental research on attention and memory, I can confirm with confidence that the directing of consumer attention and the creation of desire in consumers are critical to advertising. If this is not true, why advertise at all, right? There was an old line about this: "When people are given complete freedom to make the choices they want, they choose what the person next to them chooses." Or words to that effect.

I include all of us living in our culture in this assessment, we are all subject to the influence of our peers, and this forum is itself a testament to that factor. I see my taste in Trad styles as something that came out of decades of influence, from reading magazines like Esquire and The New Yorker, and admiring the clothes advertised in them, from designing my own clothes with my tailor to reflect those styles (since such ready-made clothes were not available in my country at the time), and from finding satisfaction in my own sense of style that I developed in those decades -- conservative, classical approaches to colour, material and form in clothes. The books I have in my library about menswear, especially those by authors like Bruce Boyer, were very supportive of my own developing taste, and has continued to influence my thinking about style in general, and clothing in particular. My tastes in literature, music, cinema and other areas are, in many ways, of a piece with my personal sense of style and my taste in clothes. Not a whole lot of free choice here! All heavily influenced by the things I read and saw over the years. And I am happy with my taste.

So I would discount the "style vacuum" in which the consumer votes. That vacuum has been amply filled with the words and images of the advertisers, and the opinions of that consumer's peers. Quite understandable. But it is far from a scenario in which the consumer sits as an impartial judge, systematically examining the merits or demerits of a particular style or some set of clothes, and making a selection based on this "rigorous" analysis. IMHO, it is not accurate to say that RL wins out because the consumer has chosen him over J Press or O'Connell's. Ralph wins out because his adverts have won consumers over through a barrage of influence much stronger than Press and O'Connell's.

Lastly, you have taken my observations to a far extreme when you talk about a Ministry of Style. Let me gently add that a prescriptive approach was never the intent behind my words. I do not want prescriptive practices or sumptuary laws regarding dress (although the business dress codes of the past that we have been discussing in another thread is actually just that, a ministry of style laying down a dress code). One of the things I loved about working in academia was the freedom from dress codes. But my plea is for us to be aware that all of us are subject to influence, and that none of our clothing (or other) choices takes place free of the enormous amounts of influence ever present in our world. The greater "market share" of this influence is precisely what advertising is all about, isn't it?
We could go down this road as I agree with some of the above but not all. I could argue about the meaning of freedom of choice, why I think Ralph did win and BB, etc., did lose, why there are many companies that don't look to maximize profits in a capitalist economy (private not public ones) and why I used a reductio ad absurdum (as you implicitly did a few times) and at the end, we will have five (or ten or twenty...) more long post each and no one will have changed anyone's mind, probably, one little bit.

I enjoyed both your post and thank you for your thoughts and observations.
 

TKI67

Super Member
I find it interesting that the Trad Forum devotes so much consideration to Ralph Lauren. He is clearly influenced strongly by Trad but also by British country. He evokes both but copies or reproduces neither. He has an eye for color and a penchant for clashes that would deeply rattle a Trad but might appeal to a certain type of British country aficionado, the sort who wears a glen plaid tweed jacket over a gun check waistcoat over a tattersall shirt. Generations before me schooled me never to mix plaids with other plaids or stripes. Never mix stripes with other stripes with the sole exception of a repp striped tie with a seersucker jacket or suit. I know these rules have been set aside over the years.
 

Fading Fast

Connoisseur
I find it interesting that the Trad Forum devotes so much consideration to Ralph Lauren. He is clearly influenced strongly by Trad but also by British country. He evokes both but copies or reproduces neither. He has an eye for color and a penchant for clashes that would deeply rattle a Trad but might appeal to a certain type of British country aficionado, the sort who wears a glen plaid tweed jacket over a gun check waistcoat over a tattersall shirt. Generations before me schooled me never to mix plaids with other plaids or stripes. Never mix stripes with other stripes with the sole exception of a repp striped tie with a seersucker jacket or suit. I know these rules have been set aside over the years.
Good points and very consistent with the too-many articles I've read and documentaries I've seen on Ralph.

Yes, Trad is one of his influences, as is, as you note, British clothing and, also, Golden Era Hollywood, the "Old West" (real or imagined), classic military and many parts of America's clothing history.

While he's thought of by some as "taking over" from BB, he really just incorporated some of BB into some of what he does. As mentioned before, he's a fashion brand that borrows (as they all do) from many past influences.
 

drpeter

Senior Member
We could go down this road as I agree with some of the above but not all. I could argue about the meaning of freedom of choice, why I think Ralph did win and BB, etc., did lose, why there are many companies that don't look to maximize profits in a capitalist economy (private not public ones) and why I used a reductio ad absurdum (as you implicitly did a few times) and at the end, we will have five (or ten or twenty...) more long post each and no one will have changed anyone's mind, probably, one little bit.

I enjoyed both your post and thank you for your thoughts and observations.
We can happily agree to disagree. After all, it is a question of differing viewpoints on style and influence for the most part. BTW, you are absolutely right that even in capitalist societies not all companies are there just to maximize profit. I agree that there are such exceptions, I was making a general statement.

LOL, as an undergraduate mathematics major, I used reductio ad absurdum a fair bit! It has its uses.

And I agree, no point in carrying on with long arguments and theses, although I have been known to change my mind based on evidence and argument, at least in scientific matters. And happily concede a well-made point, such as the one you made on companies not oriented toward profit maximization.

On occasion, I have had to let go of a pet theory or mathematical model that I really loved, because experimental data from my own repeated studies falsified the model. And dealing with peer reviews and editors of journals has taught me the value of listening carefully to other voices. Recently a collaborator and I had three different journals turn down a paper, and the message is clear: It's time for us to rethink the whole thing! I suppose it is not quite the same degree of precision in the questions we have been discussing.

I respect and value your opinions and arguments (and agree with many of them). To me, these discussions are enjoyable precisely because our statements are well-considered and civil. Too often, especially on the net, people take positions doggedly and refuse to yield to persuasive arguments, and come to verbal blows. My tactic has generally been to listen to what others say, add my contribution and do all this in a civil manner. Thank you for your comments.
 

drpeter

Senior Member
I find it interesting that the Trad Forum devotes so much consideration to Ralph Lauren. He is clearly influenced strongly by Trad but also by British country. He evokes both but copies or reproduces neither. He has an eye for color and a penchant for clashes that would deeply rattle a Trad but might appeal to a certain type of British country aficionado, the sort who wears a glen plaid tweed jacket over a gun check waistcoat over a tattersall shirt. Generations before me schooled me never to mix plaids with other plaids or stripes. Never mix stripes with other stripes with the sole exception of a repp striped tie with a seersucker jacket or suit. I know these rules have been set aside over the years.
I agree with your assessment of Ralph Lauren, and I will also add that I am somewhat mystified by the space and time we devote to him. There must be something compelling to those here in the Trad Forum, over and above RL's approach or adverts. Is it simply that there are more images from RL available for us, compared to J Press, O'Connell and so forth? I am not sure.

It could be that the British elements evoked by RL meshes in a historical way with the origins of Trad in English traditions and styles generally. An analogy that comes to mind is the British public school (Eton, Harrow, Charterhouse, Winchester, etc.) and its counterpart here, the American prep school (Philips Exeter, Choate, St Paul's, Hotchkiss, etc.). A lot of Trad is linked to such schools. The eastern establishment traditions echo English traditions, and perhaps all this comes into play in RL's clothes echoing English styles.

Your thoughts about British country styles reminded me of a British tradition that I have not seen very much in American clothing. The use of a very loudly coloured (and even patterned) lining, bright red or purple, say, inside a very sedately coloured and styled blazer or suitcoat. I am not sure I would wear such a jacket, but I confess it has a bit of an attraction for me!
 

Peak and Pine

Connoisseur
There must be something compelling to those here in the Trad Forum....is it simply that there are more images from RL available for us, compared to J Press, O'Connell and so forth? I am not sure
Ralph Lauren is a desjgn company, some of which makes its way into production. O'Connells and Press just sell stuff.
 

Fading Fast

Connoisseur
I agree with your assessment of Ralph Lauren, and I will also add that I am somewhat mystified by the space and time we devote to him. There must be something compelling to those here in the Trad Forum, over and above RL's approach or adverts. Is it simply that there are more images from RL available for us, compared to J Press, O'Connell and so forth? I am not sure.

It could be that the British elements evoked by RL meshes in a historical way with the origins of Trad in English traditions and styles generally. An analogy that comes to mind is the British public school (Eton, Harrow, Charterhouse, Winchester, etc.) and its counterpart here, the American prep school (Philips Exeter, Choate, St Paul's, Hotchkiss, etc.). A lot of Trad is linked to such schools. The eastern establishment traditions echo English traditions, and perhaps all this comes into play in RL's clothes echoing English styles.

Your thoughts about British country styles reminded me of a British tradition that I have not seen very much in American clothing. The use of a very loudly coloured (and even patterned) lining, bright red or purple, say, inside a very sedately coloured and styled blazer or suitcoat. I am not sure I would wear such a jacket, but I confess it has a bit of an attraction for me!
I was going to answer the implied question in your first sentence, but then you went on to answer it exactly how I would. My short version: he gives us a lot of interesting material to work with; whereas, Press, O'Connells, etc., don't. When Press releases its (seemingly) semi-annual catalogue, we tend to post some pics and discuss it here for a few days and, then, we've beaten that horse dead. But with Ralph, we have fifty years of neat old stuff plus he keeps giving us new material.
 

drpeter

Senior Member
I was going to answer the implied question in your first sentence, but then you went on to answer it exactly how I would. My short version: he gives us a lot of interesting material to work with; whereas, Press, O'Connells, etc., don't. When Press releases its (seemingly) semi-annual catalogue, we tend to post some pics and discuss it here for a few days and, then, we've beaten that horse dead. But with Ralph, we have fifty years of neat old stuff plus he keeps giving us new material.
Yes, I agree. I wish there was actually more in the way of images and information from Press or O'Connell's, but I doubt if they would ever do advertising at the level of RL. I wonder if their reluctance to advertise is partly because they don't want to spend the money, or because they are disdainful of the business of selling to those outside the Trad circle. I know that Richard Press has his own blog, but I am not sure how popular that is.
 

Fading Fast

Connoisseur
Yes, I agree. I wish there was actually more in the way of images and information from Press or O'Connell's, but I doubt if they would ever do advertising at the level of RL. I wonder if their reluctance to advertise is partly because they don't want to spend the money, or because they are disdainful of the business of selling to those outside the Trad circle. I know that Richard Press has his own blog, but I am not sure how popular that is.
Just a guess, it's probably a chicken and egg as they'd advertise more if their biz increased.

Press has, IMO, upped its advertising substantially over the past few years, but is still a rounding error vs Ralph as you imply. The catalogues and blog are relatively new and both are really good - but I also remember reading that the catalogue is a very expensive effort that you got the feeling was on a short leash. Hopefully it will survive.

IMO, Press, right now, is the exact company that we here should want to do well. It's very Trad, but is also trying to bring in a younger audience with two kinds of fit and some updated styles, etc. and with a lot of community outreach (night lectures at the store, etc.).

O'Connells is great, but it's not trying to be updated or actively attract a younger client like Press is. I'm not very optimistic, but I'm really hoping Press grows.

If we want a new generation to embrace, at least, some of the Trad style, then the new Press store in NYC is one of our best hopes as it feels new - fresh with a knowledgeable young staff - not musty or with a bunch of old-men salesmen (I'm 56, so not making fun of them, but Press' young salesmen probably appeal more to Millennials).
 

Peak and Pine

Connoisseur
I wish there was actually more in the way of images and information from Press or O'Connell's, but I doubt if they would ever do advertising at the level of RL.
This post from above may have been overlooked...

Ralph Lauren is a desjgn company, some of which makes its way into production. O'Connells and Press just sell stuff.
Ford just introduced the new Bronco with a series of exquisite ads. They designed and manufacture it. Your local Ford dealer has lousy Bronco ads. They simply sell them. RL Company designs and manufactures clothing. Press and O'Connells sell stuff.
 
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drpeter

Senior Member
This post from above may have been overlooked...


Ford just introduced the new Bronco with a series of exquisite ads. They designed and manufacture it. Your local Ford dealer has lousy Bronco ads. They simply sell them. RL Company designs and manufactures clothing. Press and O'Connells sell stuff.
Thanks, Peaks, I did not quite understand the implication of that first statement, although I did see the statement. Now, this leads me to wonder where J Press and O'Connell's are getting their suits, sport coats, trousers and shirts made. I started searching the net for this information on J Press, but did not get far, other than finding out that a Japanese company has owned J Press since the late 80s, roughly. (Makes sense, since the Japanese are more Trad than the Americans, LOL). I haven't searched for the same information for O'Connell's yet. Perhaps you or others might know where these two Trad icons get their clothes actually made. I had assumed that, except for the outsourcing by Press (the York Street stuff) they had made their clothes in their own tailoring rooms. It seems I am wrong!
 

drpeter

Senior Member
Now this is more like it -- no huge clashes! I think a bit more colour in the tie or the pocket square would enhance the ensemble, but that's just my personal taste. Dark reds, maroons, creams and olives in some combination in a necktie or pocket square would make the browns in the jacket and trousers look less uniform. Likewise, a brighter tattersall shirt with lines in these colours would also enhance the outfit.
 

Fading Fast

Connoisseur
There's a Madame Tussauds quality about the way these models look, especially their faces. To me, they give the impression of people posing as mannequins!
I agree. The whole "fashion" thing is bizarre to me, but those in the industry believe passionately in what they are doing and how they do it.

I think they play to each other more than a general audience, but they'll tell you that getting that fashion "buzz" translates into sales to their target audiences.

Another much-smaller thing that I notice all the time is that the pants, quite often, are meaningfully too long on the models - like the one at the far right today. I'm amazed they don't either fit the clothes ahead of time or have a few tailors on site to make real-time adjustments.
 

drpeter

Senior Member
I agree. The whole "fashion" thing is bizarre to me, but those in the industry believe passionately in what they are doing and how they do it.

I think they play to each other more than a general audience, but they'll tell you that getting that fashion "buzz" translates into sales to their target audiences.

Another much-smaller thing that I notice all the time is that the pants, quite often, are meaningfully too long on the models - like the one at the far right today. I'm amazed they don't either fit the clothes ahead of time or have a few tailors on site to make real-time adjustments.
Yes, you're bang on target regarding the trouser legs. In this and other images, especially in the last few years, the narrowing of trouser legs has also been accompanied by a carelessness about their length, so that over the calf and at the ankles, the trousers exhibit "concertina'd" wrinkles. They could just pin the cuffs to the right length for the photo shoot, couldn't they? These trousers remind me very strongly of the pyjamas that are worn with kurtas in northern India and Pakistan, especially in the Punjab. Not a good look for trousers in Western-style dressing!
 
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