Flanderian

Connoisseur
23,483
United States
New Jersey
Flanders
From time to time mention is made here to the effect that the '70's was all tie-dyed bell bottoms, and the '80's all Miami Vice and Armani. While such styles may dominate the public imagination, and old TV shows, they largely weren't main stream, and clothing that was both more traditional and quite handsome could still be found. This was particularly true among better Manhattan retailers such as Brooks, Press, Chipp, F. R. Tripler and Paul Stuart. All having varying degrees of TNSIL (Ivy/Trad) antecedents.

Paul Stuart's early roots were as more adventurous Ivy clothing, and when I purchased my first suit there in 1971, this was still true, and this influence continued until comparatively recently. The last decade, or so.

My Internet wandering last evening yielded an unexpected reward; a high quality, large format photo from either a very late '70's or very early '80's fall and winter catalog. I still have the catalog around somewhere, but am too lazy to look for it. :D

But I'm offering it here for any whom it might interest, and as evidence that it wasn't all bell bottoms and Miami Vice.


 

Fading Fast

Connoisseur
9,669
United States
New York
NY
To support Flanderian's point, I had my first summer job on Wall Street (back then, it wasn't called being an intern) in '82 and began working full time after college in '85.

From '82 on, I started regularly going to BB, J.Press, F.R. Tripler, Stuart and Gorsart (and a few others) mainly just to look or when one of the other guys who actually had money to spend went and I'd tag along.

Those stores back then were - compared to today - Ivy heaven. To the best of my memory, you weren't buying any of the current fashions - Miami Vice, etc. - in them. The only way fashion impacted those stores was in lapel and tie widths, some color options and things like that - but the core Ivy cannon was, especially for BB, Gorsart and Press, their stock and trade.

As a kid not from a Wall Street background and knowing (honestly) nothing about Ivy dressing then, I could feel that I had entered another clothing world when I started to see what those stores were doing. In college, I had worked in Sterns department store (a basic, mid-level affair) and, while there were some trad clothes - especially in men's suits, ties, etc. - it was a hodgepodge of trad mixed in with a lot of fashion (watered down for department store) stuff.

But BB, Gorsart and Press felt different - mature, thoughtful, with a confidence and vibe that said "we know what we are doing, we've done it this way for a long time and [mistakenly] we'll be doing it this way for a long time to come." I connected the well dressed guys at work - I could tell they had a style, I just didn't understand it then - to those stores and started to learn.

Those of us who love Ivy, would kill to go back to the '80s and be able to shop in any one of those stores - BB, Gorsart or Press. That said, Stuart was different - somewhat Ivy / Trad but with an English or "fancy" overlay. Stuart still hewed to the overall construct, but it brought a more "fashiony" and upscale feel. To the true Ivy guy, Stuart was too fashion-forward and too expensive (part of the Ivy ethos was not paying too much and, definitely, not looking as if you paid too much).

But to Flanderian's point, nobody was going to any of those stores to look like Sonny Crockett.
 
Last edited:

peterc

Super Member
1,340
United States
california
san francisco
Fading, another well written and insightful post from you. Thank you. I feel the same way you do. Those shops were indeed Ivy Heaven. Gorsart, in particular, felt like you were entering a secret club. I still have, at my parents' house, the 36R Paul Stuart CDN. made navy herringbone double breasted overcoat I bought in the winter of 1987/88. It looks like it was bought yesterday and, because it is cut "oversize" (i.e., properly), it almost still fits me despite the fact that today I have to buy a 46R suit/sportcoat.

Good days indeed.
 

wildcat1976

Active Member with Corp. Privileges
191
United States
Massachusetts
Newton
+1 Flanderian and Fading Fast.
Arriving clueless on Wall St. in 1976, my first boss sent me to Gorsarts on me first day of work. Climbing up the creaking staircase and yanking open the solid metal door (gosh it was heavy) led me into a clothing world I had never seen before. Soon I was introduced to Brooks and Press by observing the wardrobes of my colleagues. I also noticed senior management types favoring Paul Stuart and Saville Row suits. Indeed it wasn't all Miami Vice and bell bottoms back in the day.
 

Fading Fast

Connoisseur
9,669
United States
New York
NY
+1 Flanderian and Fading Fast.
Arriving clueless on Wall St. in 1976, my first boss sent me to Gorsarts on me first day of work. Climbing up the creaking staircase and yanking open the solid metal door (gosh it was heavy) led me into a clothing world I had never seen before. Soon I was introduced to Brooks and Press by observing the wardrobes of my colleagues. I also noticed senior management types favoring Paul Stuart and Saville Row suits. Indeed it wasn't all Miami Vice and bell bottoms back in the day.
So funny as my first boss - a scripted out of central casting Ivy guy (Volvo in the garage) - was a Gorsarts acolyte who claimed "same stuff as BB, 30% cheaper" (he wasn't wrong, overall). He sent me there, like you, to start to learn how to dress.

I love your accurate and redolent description of the creaky staircase and factory like door. Also, do you remember the exposed pipes overhead and the long row of "dressing" rooms - little cubbies of cheap plywood with a curtain for a door?
 

fishertw

Super Member
1,981
United States
North Carolina
Boone
So funny as my first boss - a scripted out of central casting Ivy guy (Volvo in the garage) - was a Gorsarts acolyte who claimed "same stuff as BB, 30% cheaper" (he wasn't wrong, overall). He sent me there, like you, to start to learn how to dress.

I love your accurate and redolent description of the creaky staircase and factory like door. Also, do you remember the exposed pipes overhead and the long row of "dressing" rooms - little cubbies of cheap plywood with a curtain for a door?
Not having a great deal of experience in NYC, as I read this recollection from many years ago, it reminded me of a visit to LS Mens Wear in NYC just a few years ago. Somewhat the same experience with the pipes running overhead and less than street level access to the shop.
 

wildcat1976

Active Member with Corp. Privileges
191
United States
Massachusetts
Newton
Fading Fast
I do indeed remember the factory-like atmosphere of Gorsarts. It was the polar opposite of the refined interior design of Paul Stuart, where one walked on carpet, changed in wood paneled dressing rooms and spoke in hushed tones. Great memories.
 

Fading Fast

Connoisseur
9,669
United States
New York
NY
Fading Fast
I do indeed remember the factory-like atmosphere of Gorsarts. It was the polar opposite of the refined interior design of Paul Stuart, where one walked on carpet, changed in wood paneled dressing rooms and spoke in hushed tones. Great memories.
That first boss I referenced used to say that you paid 30% more for BB's mahogany wood, fancy address and comfortable fitting rooms.

And I hear ya on Paul Stuart which is another level up of luxury-store emersion from even BB - I think Stuart imports its store air from Nepal.
 

Matt S

Connoisseur
8,017
United States
NY
New York
I was not in Paul Stuart in the 1980s, but I do have a jacket that I believe is from them from the 1980s. It's something I took a chance on from Ebay, and it paid off. There's no brand label, but everything points it to being from them. I met a friend of mine for dinner wearing it, and he told me that he had a Paul Stuart jacket just like it back then, down to the exact same fibre contents.