“I think that the downward fall is going to be very fast…for the entire preppie class,” warned the serial deb escort Charlie Black in Whit Stillman’s 1990 bougie romp Metropolitan. Two decades later, for those preps still hanging on by a thread, that thread may as well be bright seersucker from the just-opened J. Press York Street, the sister line to the preppy label J.Press in Midtown East.
J. Press York Street – the college-oriented, slimmer-cut line by J.Press – opened its storefront last week on Bleecker, far enough from old-guard pinstripers to forge its own following. The clothing itself, designed by Ariel and Shimon Ovadia of Ovadia & Sons, has a playful way of pushing what one can wear and still command any respect. A madras blazer ($525) and all-white bowtie loafers ($430) would make a solid Tigertones getup for the springtime concerts. If you’re going for the Pete-Campbell-working-on-a-Sunday look, v-neck cricket sweaters in navy and white ($225) ought to do it.
Other items can come across as equal parts awesome and completely unrelated to the general theme. American-made red jeans ($195) would go great with a bright red cotton Barracuda jacket ($290)—like a Thriller getup that breathes and doesn’t kill cows. I asked the clerk if the designers themselves grew up in America. He confirmed they had (“they’re Jews from Brooklyn.”)
A room hidden behind faux bookshelf doors keeps an appropriately tame suit collection ($1450 for mid-gray heather or chalk-striped navy). Soft, draping pocket T’s in navy and sun-washed red ($85) come dotted with bandana-style paisley graphics, in lieu of sailboats or tennis rackets. Of course, there’s plenty of that club shit, too. A white shawl-collared cardigan ($225) bears a chest patch with crossed rackets that reads “York St. Tennis Club,” not unlike the hand-me-down “Polo Tennis Academy” sweater I rocked as a one-year-old. Similar juvenilia are peppered about; a multi-colored striped woven belt ($89) takes close examination to confirm it’s not needlepoint.
Throughout the shop, glass cases hold old wooden pipes, tattered Playboys from the ’70s, and tchotchkes from the personal collection of Scott Hill, who designed the layout. The first-edition Horatio Alger novels seem a bit out of place in what’s otherwise a debatably sincere shrine to Skull and Bones nepotism. You can buy a Yale lapel pin for $49 (J. Press itself debuted on the Yale campus), although Princeton’s looks cooler, so maybe go with that one.
What’s notably absent from the York Street label is eveningwear; you’ll have to trek uptown for those classic J. Press coattails and cummerbunds. What you can pick up, however, are four variations of a madras bowtie ($69), which just might be what the next deb season needs. After all, where’s the fun in taking yourself too seriously?