Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Preppy Companies, 2013

Here is the 2013 Preppy/Trad companies chart.  For the most recent chart, see 2014 Preppy/Trad Companies.

For those new to this, this chart plots the current state of representative preppy/trad clothing and accessory vendors as they evolve from young, innovative companies (on the left of the chart) to company shells/cautionary tales (on the right).

The characteristics of each stage are as follows:

  • A company serves demanding clients in authentic environments significantly better then competitors.
  • The company’s founder is hands on.
  • Other people often love the products without necessarily recognizing the company that made it.
  • Fiercely passionate customers, who are "in the know", are very loyal to the company.
  • The company has significantly higher prices than competitors.
  • Quality is paramount.
  • Customers can still call or email and get the owner (and often work through any problems).
  • Some new products are added.
  • The company has widely recognized popular and unique items.
  • Great pride is taken in the brand.
  • Items are expensive, but high quality.
  • New items, extensions of old, are added.
  • Companies gain increasing brand recognition well beyond passionate base.
  • A short term flattening of growth can cause panic.
New Markets
  • The company is often under new management.
  • The new management purges many of the old employees and suppliers/branded vendors.
  • Companies in this stage are very interested in new categories of customers, and take the existing customer base for granted - many loyal customers find themselves buying less and less.
  • The new management seeks to "leverage the look and the feel of the brand and brand experience" by lowering the quality and increasing the channels, supported by heavy marketing, including social media outreach.
  • Vendors open mall stores, for example, in this stage.
Cash Grab
  • There is significant confusion from traditional customers.
  • Some classics remain (but fewer and fewer).
  • There are wild fluctuations of prices (higher prices, then massive sales).
  • New products are low quality and relatively expensive.
  • The companies increasingly outsource production to low-cost providers.
  • A cash grab company has a significant PR budget, first spent trying to differentiate the company from their past, then relentlessly trying to invoke it.
  • Long time customers start to experience return-fatigue
  • There is a big opportunity for upper management to personally cash in with a one-time windfall, sacrificing long-term employees and customers in the process.
Company Shell
  • Companies are no longer differentiated in the marketplace.
  • They shift, almost overnight from an external market perception, from relevant and interesting to irrelevant and over-exposed.  
  • They bear no resemblance to their original selves.
  • These companies are included on this chart as cautionary tales.


Anonymous said...

I just realized that I've never seen Pendleton mentioned on your site, and it's not on this list. Do you consider it to be a preppy company?

Anonymous said...

Brooks Brothers, LL Bean and Lands End are all just PR shells these days. I want to keep supporting them, but they now only really have so precious few items left to buy. Move them to the right. Maybe start a section of brands we would like to see come back into the fold...

DT Chase said...

It pains me to say, but the last pair of shoes I'd had made by Quoddy were slightly less well-made than the two I own from a couple years earlier.

How? On my Maliseet mocs, the "collar" (not sure if this is the right term), the top of the shoe, forming the lacing base, going around the heel, used to be one piece of leather. Last pair? two pieces stitched together. I notice this "style" on the pictured shoes from their website.

However, the Rancourt Ranger mocs I had made last year (and expect to have made again this year) still are cut from one piece of leather.

Major, heartbreaking alteration? In the grand scheme of things, no. But, at the level of "handmade in Maine" shoes that is currently a market segment, it kinda is.

I'm consistently impressed with Rancourt's customer service, their friendliness, availability, and most importantly, the favorite pair of shoes I own. Is it possibly that Quoddy has just gotten a bit too overwhelmed, or diffuse? How can you make "product" for J. Crew, and not suddenly find your supply chain drastically changing?

(it should be made abundantly clear that I am in no way affiliated with Rancourt, other than as a fan and paying customer).

Oh, and while some of the youth-targeted Brooks Bros. wares are fairly risible, you would have to prise their OCBDs from my cold, dead hands.

Cranky Yankee said...

I don't know what to say about J. Press. If you want an ancient madder or challis tie or a three button sack, Press is the place. Plus their salesmen know what they're talking about.

My problem with Press and your chart is that they have made themselves into two companies: J. Press and York Street

Zach said...


I cannot find fault with any of your analysis, or the placement of the companies. The most auspicious thing to me is that no company has ever moved as fast into PR/Company Shell as Vineyard Vines did. I once heard it called a "mockery of preppy" and I think that's a very accurate way of describing it. I wouldn't buy anything from there, aside from their ties, which are still made in the US, for now.

Anonymous said...

We've all watched the decline of the Coach brand and quality in their products since the Sara Lee acquisition, and history justifies the placement of the brand on the graph. However, recent changes in the organization have resulted in a dramatic increase in style and the return of the quality men's leather goods of the 70's and 80's. So I do not think their placement accurately reflects the recent changes and future of the brand. I don't work for Coach. I live in NYC and know Coach employees and have owned a bag from their Bleeker collection for a few months and could not be happier with the quality and price.

Anonymous said...

Your charts are brilliant. I see that Eddie Bauer and Talbots have fallen off when looking at last year's chart. I was also wondering about Pendleton. Then there is Abercrombie & Fitch. They have been off my radar since they became whatever it is they are now--thinking of A&F way back in the day. I was thinking that they probably shouldn't even be on your chart. Sad about Barbour, but they are really sinking in their effort to become a "fashion brand." J.Peterman isn't exactly preppy, but now and then I find a gem. Anyway, good work, as always.

Pete said...

On the whole I agree with your chart. A couple of additional things: if Lotuff is on the chart I think Frank Clegg Leather works should also be included, and possibly in the crucible category. He has gotten bigger in the past few years, but he still is hands on and can be seen in the factory working on his bags to this day. Also I can vouge for his quality as my wife and I each own a bag/breifcase. Also how would you classify some classic "trad/prep" clothing stores? Thinking along the lines of O'Connells in Buffalo, Royal Male, etc.

John said...

I think the placements are once again dead on, at least for the companies with which I've had direct experience. A few random observations, not least in the hope that some representatives of some of these companies are reading the post:

1) Leatherman: Can they please get the sizing right? I've noticed that some belts are simply shorter than they were 10-15 years ago. Still good quality, but the sizing issue is a bit annoying.

2) Orvis. Its placement is exactly right. Still expensive, quality varies somewhat. Some products are still of very high quality, even some of the imported are good quality. Generally speaking, I've found that the more traditional the Orvis product, the better the quality. Shoes and boots have held up well.

3) J. Press/BB. I would move J. placement slightly to the left or else annotate it ("excluding York Street".) Or, stating the point a bit differently, I think the gap between J. Press and BB is sufficiently large that they should not be placed next to each other. A shopping experience at J. Press is still a pleasure, and the quality is generally very high. A few disturbing trends that have been noted elsewhere, but on the whole the main brand remains fairly secure.

3) LLBean. Placement is correct, even beyond Signature. Thanks for bringing back a version of the Norwegian sweater; please continue this encouraging trend with other classic products, preferably made in Maine (or at least one of the other 49).

4) VV. Agree with the comment above; I only purchase the ties.

Once again, thanks for this helpful and well-done chart, Muffy.

Ryan Lee Waldron said...

I can't see any justifiable reason for having Alden to the right of Allen Edmonds. AE has had some atrocious styles recently, and though the custom colors were nice, they basically sold out to MLB with the last webgem. Not to mention, I have found the quality of the construction of their shoes to have left me wanting.

Also, Brooks does still have some redeeming products, so I wouldn't let them fall of the cliff just yet. The non-iron made in the USA OCBD is still perfect in my eyes and the unlined cordovan loafer will always be a classic. The White Tie, Detachable-collar Shirt is both necessary and amazing.

Also, Anon was correct about the Coach Men's goods. the Water Buffalo wallet I have from coach seems to be a decent product (even if it isn't guaranteed like coach products of past).

No O'Connell's?

Also, I've been hearing things about Oak Street Bootmakers; I don't know if they belong on the list, but it may be worth investigation.

Charleston Khakis?
Smathers & Branson?
Wasn't Frank Clegg previously on the list?
Ray Ban?
Rolex or Omega? (though they might fall at the far right side)

Anonymous said...


Very happy to notice that you have added Allen Edmonds to this years chart. I remember your chart coming out last year and wondering your thoughts about this American made brand. Thank you for adding one of my favorite brands to your list.

sara said...

I second the comment about Dubarry of Ireland. Their boots and boat shoes are expensive but have been well worth the money.

The only thing I buy from Bean these days are the OCBD shirts because they are comfortable and sturdy for working around the house. I gave up on the rain shoes and switched to Le Chameau rubber boots. They are made in Moracco but wear like iron and are very comfortable. (If you're familiar with them, they are having a 60% off sale for the next day or so. All final so if you're unsure of size, it might be better to buy the first pair elsewhere so you can return if necessary.)

Tim Walker said...

Great chart. Does Anderson Little need a broader product line to feature on it?

Fraser Tartan said...

I'd move Filson squarely into New Markets.

They've been introdcng a lot of Asian-prodced product over the past few years that I've looked at and can see aren't up to the same standard as their U.S.-made products. Look at their catalog and you'll see more synthetic bags and Imported outerwear. Their core products remain intact.

BlueTrain said...

While I did not go to prep school and feel no loyalty to any of the brands mentioned (except Filson, which is probably not preppy), I do find the chart exceptionally interesting. I'm probably going to make the same remarks that I did the last time you put it up.

For one thing, the chart reflects more than anything the conflict in both manufacturing and retailing. Time stands still for no one. Both taste and markets change, like it or not. Gone are the days when fashionable young folks wore detachable collars, knickerbockers, real felt hats, and even wrap-around skirts. Not all of the above would have been worn by the same people, of course. At any rate, one could do a similiar chart for the outdoor industry, of which L.L.Bean and formerly, Abercrombie etc, were a significant and innovative part. They and many others shared a history of introducing a new product that was better than the competition and was backed up by a guarantee. They were hardly all American, either. There was for example Vitale Bramani. You probably have something with his invention: Vibram soles.

I'd say the one thing that is missing from your chart (don't ask me how to incorporate it) is the death of the founder. A company will invariably go through something of an identity crisis once that happens and sooner or later it always will. It can be like a death in your own family. It isn't immediately obvious but eventually you begin to realize that things will never be the same thereafter. Of course, this happens to companies that make lesser products for the masses. That's the kind of stuff I buy anyway, if I buy something new.

There is tension here between the pressure to grow and the pressure to stay the same. Some companies don't grow, although it can be argued whether or not they stay the same (in theory, impossible). Russell Moccasins are largely the same as they've always been, along with a host of real American boot manufacturers, nearly all in the northwest and nearly all catering to a relatively small market. But except for Russell, none make boat shoes and none have a store in a mall.

Frankly, it's hard to imagine that closing a store would be an improvement to anything.

Fraser Tartan said...

One brand you might consider adding to your list is New Balance. They continue to manufacture several models of athletic shoes in factories in Maine and Massachusetts.,default,pg.html

I also see "preppy" people favoring this brand.

Caroline said...

SailorRose - handmade Liberty of London clothing made in NYC.

Unknown said...

Ralph Lauren should not be further to the right on the chart than LL Bean, Sperry, and Land's End. All four companies have done essentially the same thing, and have followed the same course; however, RL has managed to maintain a much higher quality base to their products (whether they be manufactured domestiacally, or abroad), and the customer service is still far superior to the other three companies. Also, the "in your face" PR by RL is significantly less than with the other three companies.

WRJ said...

I'm curious if there was a specific reason for moving Ralph Lauren even further to the right this year. For me, it's the same as it has always been: some reliably attractive, simple, high-quality, and (relatively) reasonably priced items that change little or not at all over the years, and a bunch of overpriced, trendy, costume-y, and/or just trashy items to ignore.

Allen Edmonds, I think, should be much further to the right--their shoes are not truly made in the USA, but are sewn overseas and then assembled here, and the awful-to-decent ratio for their designs is way off. I would also probably move Alden further toward iconic--not because of anything they're doing wrong, but simply because they've become very widely known through various collaborations (which are thankfully much less cringeworthy than most) and certainly have recognizable designs.

J. Press should, sadly, be further to the right. The cynicism, ineptitude and greed demonstrated by the York Street line screams cash grab. And though the design of the main line is still solid, the tailored clothing is, as I've mentioned before, at least sometimes made in China, and the several sales they've had in the last two months alone leads me to believe something is off.

mary anne said...

I also bemoan LL Bean's decline in quality. However, they still have wonderful customer service. There is still hope for them. Agree re VV. their catalogues remind me of movie characters that are supposed to be preppy.

Grace Schmidt said...

I would love to see a transition by consumers to start to demand quality and fair treatment of garment workers. In 1950 almost 100% of apparel Americans purchased was made in USA, today: less than 2%.

Supporting growing businesses that manufacture in the United States is so important, and getting easier everyday as more small players enter the market. How about rewarding some of the following "Made in the USA" companies with some of your business: Polo Shirts, Classic Women's Shift Dresses, no garish fabric, Women's Clothing, cute Lilly alternative, Women's Clothing, great shirts.

I'm sure others could make additional recommendations.

Anonymous said...

Muffy-- Just out of curiousity why do you have L.L. Bean further to the right than Lands' End?

I am 30-something and dislike both Signature and Canvas-- I simply ignore them both- but LE to me seems to have strayed more. (Does anyone else miss their old catalogs?) For example, LE did not have any cotton turtlenecks available this past season, only a mix with that dreadful modal fabric.

That said I am forever grateful to have LE available to me in the EU (L.L. Bean really needs a presence in the EU as they have in Japan) as it is my source for decent, well-made kids' clothing that doesn't cost a fortune and that doesn't have a bunch of nonsense English written all over it. (I just wish they made girls' tops as well as the boys'.)

L.L. Bean continues to be my favorite, although I wish they would go back to some earlier cuts of things (does anyone else find that the tees have gotten shorter over the years?) and a few of their older styles (long-cleeved crewneck version of the French sailor's Shirt comes to mind.)


Bluegrass Class said...

This is quite amusing to me. Coming from the South, our versions of "preppy" differ I'm sure, but I think there are a few things forgotten here.
First off Vineyard Vines, I will agree have some funny catalogs, however, I personally know Shep Murray from VV and the preppy life is bred into this family. The ties are second to none ( including J Press) and the Shep Shirts are a staple in my wardrobe and have for years. Vineyard Vines collection for the Kentucky Derby is wonderful down here for us Kentuckians!
Now on to Sperrys. Sperry Topsiders, the original will always be preppy. The colored, animal printed, high top things they sell to younger clientele are not preppy, however, this issue puts them in the same category with Patagonia, Abercrombie( which has been gone for years) and even ll Bean with the emergence of Bean Boots bought by literally everyone over the past few years.

J. Robert Kane said...

Aside from the last two, possibly three, companies, I find that the continuum is strongly right-sided.... This may be due to the choice of terms describing them, but I would most certainly consider such companies as Brooks Brothers, J. Press, and L.L. Bean iconic companies that have created some sort of differentiation. While their markets has widened, let's face it- the vast majority of us still shop there and will continue to shop there. While they have made some less than preferred decisions in terms of their product line and to an extent, their sense of quality on certain products, they still are the "essence," if you will, of our clothing tastes.

Similarly, while we treasure an array of pieces from the likes of Patagonia, etc., our tastes lie primarily in the likes of Brooks Brothers, J. Press, etc. These lines still are the "hallmark" models of the preppy, ivy league style that is coveted by so many of us today.

Among the troubles we face in certain products and lines for which we have purchased and/or viewed, we must not let such personal bias relegate such brands to the past and no longer the present.... To be candid, I would not even place Abercrombie and Fitch on this continuum as its time has past in, frankly, it is in a league all its own that cannot possibly be considered remotely similar in nature to the others. We, as consumers of the prep lifestyle, are best to leave the likes of Abercrombie to the folks who tread that style today as we certainly cannot hold onto their name any longer (The same can be related to Coach).

But, all in all, we recognize some truly comforting brands, yet we must realize the epitome of our tastes and who does cater to them. While many will speak in harsh terms of Brooks Brothers, etc., we must realize that they truly do satisfy our tastes on the whole....

Anonymous said...

I think Bonobos should be featured on this chart. They have exceptional customer service and high-quality products. Their pants, khakis especially, are constructed with high-quality materials and actually fit properly and consistently. That holds true for their Oxford shirts, too. All of the pants and Oxfords I have ordered from Bonobos were made in the United States. One doesn't see that very often these days.

LP said...

I just ordered today my first pair of Quoddy Boat Moc's. In large part due to Muffy's post about them. DT Chase@9:27, please don't tell me there is a recent quality issue!! Ugh! (and I don't mean the footwear).
Second the recommendation of Dubarry as great quality.

Anonymous said...

LLBean-- While the brass at the top are less than admirable, I can say the following:
Been a customer for 35 years.
Quality has remained constantly good.
Prices have always been (slightly) higher than average)
Value, however, has always been exceptional.
Unchanged is the service component: I recently returned a pair of three year old shoes that I felt had failed prematurely-- the process was seamless and as easy as returning a week-old unworn shirt whose color I had decided was wrong for me.
Yeah, they've branched out into other locations, but the price structure/quality/value and service components all remain unchanged. So I'm not sure where or indeed whether this fits in your matrix.

Erg said...

Regarding Bill's Khakis - are there any women wearing them? I'm giving this a try - I just hate the way that the new LL Bean khakis feel and fit. I purchased them at Wm. Fox in Washington DC and the gentleman in the store seemed to be tickled pink about putting a woman in Bill's...They are being hemmed by my local tailor...will report back!

Anonymous said...

The styles at Talbots have gotten better this year. Some of their shoes are good quality, and their "super crop" pant are "charming cardigan" and Pima cotton tee are very good.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Cranky Yankee--rather unfair to consider J Press and York St as a single entity. J Press should be further to the left, while York St would not even be on the chart.

B. Murtagh said...

Muffy, I think your chart is spot on. Dubarry footwear might be considered as an addition in the precious to iconic range.
I remember when Abercrombie and Fitch was where we went for fly fishing gear. And traveling to L.L. Bean in Maine was like going to mecca.
It is sad when places and things we hold dear fade away. The name of A & F was requisitioned for use on items that have nothing to do with the original brand. L.L. Bean, well,I still get a few things from them. But, I really have a problem embracing them any more. From what I understand the chairmen of Bean has not behaved like a gentleman to his neighbors. My grandfather knew Leon Bean and thought highly of him. But now, it is all about money. Nothing they make really stands out as quality like it used to.Sorry to have rambled on. Old men like me tend to do so.

Anonymous said...

I enjoy the chart and your readers' comments.
I am only qualified to comment on these companies:
- Allen Edmonds, Quoddy, Sperry and LL Bean are placed about where they should be.
- Bills Khakis is great! Please consider moving them and Orvis a bit toward the left.
-Brooks Brothers is now just a joke. Please consider moving them and Ralph Lauren to the right.
I agree with the comment that we should place more emphasis on Made in USA.
Thanks for your great Blog.

Anonymous said...

Does Tommy Hilfiger fit in anywhere on the chart?

BlueTrain said...

I thought perhaps I'd add a word or two to what I said earlier about these companies. To begin with, you must realize what a tiny market true preppy customers constitute. That is, current and former prep school students and perhaps the school staff as well. So if companies are to grow, they must immediately find additional markets. Of course, in some cases, ironically, it meant actually entering the "preppy market," to coin a phrase. That's what L.L. Bean did, although I'm not sure when that happened. Probably pre-1940.

I realize that this blog is not, in spite of the name, strictly about a preppy lifestyle (It's about New England coastal living). Be that as it may be, some of these companies do not so much market to preppies as much as they market a preppy lifestyle. Ralph Lauren is the king of that sort of thing. But while I do see "real" prep school students walking on the street sometimes (my wife's aunt and uncle live around the corner from Episcopal High School in Alexandria, Virginia), that makes me no expert on preppies. I have no idea where they buy their clothes. But that reminds me: there's something else missing from the chart and again, I doubt it would fit in anywhere.

Along with the current near-absence of American made products, there are no longer independently owned "men's shops" to be found, at least if you exclude the big shops that Ms. Aldrich sometimes drops in to report on. I cannot comment on women's shops and of course there is no longer such a thing as a woman's hat shop. Lord knows where they get the hats they wear in Louisville. But I happened to be going through the Louisville airport a day before the derby and sure enough, most of the women were carrying hatboxes. But I digress.

Even small towns had tiny but entirely adequate men's shops selling (almost) everything a gentleman might need to present himself in public with Amy's approval. Now, even places like that are chain stores. Amy would be appalled and I can only imagine what Miss Manners would say about the current state of the gentleperson's behavior.

Where something is made, however, is really a separate issue, I think. I believe it is a mistake to imagine that, say, in 1950, when indeed most products were American made, that they were of uniformly high quality and represented great value. This is not to suggest that there has been no decline in quality since then. Still, I find it significant that many brands from the mid-1960s, which is really my basis of comparison, are long gone as well as the stores that sold them.

Anonymous said...

Regarding Vineyard Vines, I find there clothes to be of the highest quality. In fact, I believe there polo shirts and their chinos are practically without peer in their quality. I've owned virtually every other company's versions listed and do not understand other's perspectives. (Maybe their women's clothes are of lesser quality?)

Also, consider Bill's Khakis....

Re: Brooks Brothers... Outside of their "364" (or is "346"?) line from heir outlet stores, their quality has been relatively maintained on most items. Again, maybe I'm missing something?

LG said...

I'm curious about J McLaughlin's placement. Many items are still made in Brooklyn (I think) and I don't think they've changed significantly in recent years.

Pete said...

@Bluetrain - while the decline of Men's shops within small towns is something to be lamented, the Internet has opened up a world of possibilities. Growing up in upstate New York I was able to visit O'Connells in Buffalo only infrequently. Since moving to other locals O'Connells has greatly improved their website and ordering process allowing you to be able to purchase items from anywhere. Does it replace the experience of going to the store itself? Obviously not, but it does feel good to support the little guy in a world where they are increasingly pushed out.

LG said...

When I worked for J McL two years ago all of their cut and sew pieces were made in Brooklyn- dresses, shirts, pants etc. They have special machines to work with the stretchy fabric. I don't know what has happened since they were sold, which is why I qualified that statement. Hopefully this explains their pricing a little bit. There are some occasional issues with fit but I do find that the clothing wears extremely well.

Zach said...

@ Anon 7.46--- I'm curious about your comment. I worked at VV during college and in my experience outside of the ties nothing in the store was of very good quality.

Their shirts are either plastic feeling or far too thin,
and trying to find something in a normal size was a dizzying experience. For instance, I am 42L, and my only choices were the boxiest shirts imaginable, to get the proper arm length, or the slimmer cuts which always fell far too short in the sleeves.

Not saying you're wrong, perhaps you haven't shopped there recently, or you're looking for something that I'm not.

Greenfield said...

Hi, Muffy:

I would pop Dubarry in right between Alden and Quoddy, but that's just me. Certainly the quality and price point would seem appropriate there.

Very interested to hear how Bill's Khakis work on a woman's figure--especially one with a waist. The "low-rise" fad Bean is now pandering to is vile and has unfortunately not faded away.

If you're over 35, you should dress with dignity. Go run THAT test on what you see out in public! :O

I have been known to wear VV men's shorts for sailing, also a very cool pair of quick-dry ones from Jack Wills that are just super. The VV women's clothes, unfortunately, are all teensy-tiny shrunken looking, making them unwearable for those of us who think that showing vast expanses of uncovered thigh, "booty" and upper arms (ack, thpptt!) is not genteel.

Clothing should improve the landscape harmoniously, fitting the person and the activity as a practical thing; not involuntarily drawing the eye for purposes of showing off.

LG said...

@Muffy: yes, I realized while typing that it's kind of strange that they don't. They are expanding very quickly so I'll watch that with interest.

Anonymous said...

I think Ella Vickers should be on your chart between Precious and Iconic.
Their bags are made from recycled sails. The quality is good and guaranteed for life. I had problem with a snap on a duffle bag and they replaced it promptly
They have done custom work for me which turned out nicely. I do not know if their bags are made in America ,however.
I agree about VV. a Yuppie brand.
Do we still have Yuppies?
Coach is a joke. Every community college student in my area has a Coach bag. Each one uglier than the last.
Probably bought at the outlet mall

Anonymous said...

I actually think that Boden should make your list. Some of the patterns and styles are a bit strange but they make some great staples-- wool trousers and Breton-striped tops, just to name two.


Anonymous said...

@anon 12:04 So going to a community college and shopping at an outlet are what.....not preppy?

BlueTrain said...

Oh, my! College is beyond preppy. Preppy starts in--wait for it--prep school. But I'm not sure exactly what defines a prep school. West Point has a prep school. However, you can still be collegiate, even without trying. Ideally, you can stay collegiate for well beyond the typical four years and I would even recommend it in some cases. Some accomodation on the part of the school may be necessary but really, there's no hurry.

But collegiate is not the same as Ivy League, which is a small subset. I belive it is not done to linger beyond the necessary four years at an ivy league (Ivy League!) but I suppose there are exceptions. While your there, you can do all your clothes shopping at a local store always called the "University Shop," usually prefixed by an additional name like "Georgetown." (Which is now gone). You will still require a new wardrobe soon after graduation mostly because of the poor care given to your clothes while you were still in school. If you went to law school, however, you're probably fixed for proper clothes. But be sure to pick up as many things as you think you might need from the university store with the school name and crest before you leave town, although you can always pick up some more when you come back for homecoming games.

There's also this business of the so-called natural shoulder look but that will have to wait until another day.

Anonymous said...

What a fun list! So good to see a young company like Lotuff there. Go Dubarry! I live in those boots all winter long!

Anonymous said...

I would definitely include Ella Vickers. She's a hardcore sailor and her sailcloth products are beautifully designed and crafted--and are virtually indestructible. She shows (often in person) every year at the fall Annapolis Sailboat Show, which is prep heaven. I might also add Col. Littleton for gorgeous leather products, especially the English-style briefcases, all made in his Tennessee workshop.

Anonymous said...

Dear Muffy,
I would like to recommend a book that I am certain you will enjoy. It is called "Deluxe - How Luxury Lost Its Luster" by Dana Thomas.
It is a great read, in my opinion, and also an eye-opener into the lamentable state of consumerism our society now experiences, and the human zombies that fall for it.
I suggest you consider it for your summer reading list.

R.A. Sasayama said...

I think you may need a bigger chart. =)

Anonymous said...


I agree on VV that some of their button downs are of poor quality. However, I truly have not found a better polo anywhere. I've yet to try some of the smaller companies' offerings (i.e., southern proper)...

Again, the only chino I've found that betters the VV in quality are those from Bill's Khakis.

I do agree that some of VV's button downs are embarrassingly poor quality. I do own some of their older OCBD that are great though!

Anonymous said...

I agree with Andie's recommendation on the book by Dana Thomas. I read it when it was first released, and I kept it on my shelf. I might read it again, and I know that along with Muffy's chart, it will remind me of the purges of my past that I now regret. I took good clothing for granted because I thought it would always be available. Back in the 1970's I remember ordering a wonderful tweed blazer from a small catalogue called Dunham's of Maine. Does that ring any bells with anyone here? I wish I still had it--both the blazer and the catalogue.

Navy Blue Blazer said...

I recommend Jack Donnelly Khakis. They are made in the USA and are of excellent construction and materials. Free shipping and returns. My recent order was a pair of khaki shorts and included a handwritten thank you note from the owner Mr. Greg Donnelly.

BlueTrain said...

I keep coming back to your chart. It's fascinating; almost a business school project, at least within the limitations of the chart. For instance, I haven't heard of all the companies on the chart and no doubt you could think of a few more to include, although it would become cluttered. But it keeps me thinking.

For one thing, what happens to companies when they reach the right hand side of the chart. Do they fall off the edge, so to say, and disappear? There are also, no doubt, companies large and small that prosper and have never produced anything remotely preppy, although your chart is limited to mostly companies that sell clothing and footwear. I would think that a company could successfully sell differentiated products to different markets, although I appreciate the damage it does to the upper end of their product line, status-wise, even if the product itself is unchanged.

A basic problem, which your chart is all about, is change. I think change is inevitable, although it may happen so slowly as to be imperceptable. It is only when you make comparisons with something decades ago that the changes become more evident and sometimes alarming. But we should all live so long for that to be a problem.

Yet another factor missing from the chart (and again, I can't suggest how to incorporate it--do another chart)is value. I think the middle of the scale on your chart is where you find it but it suggests it could be a fleeting thing. On the left, it is too expensive to be of good value, on the right it becomes unworthy at any price.

Caroline said...

Abercromble is disgusting - an oversexualized parody of preppieness. The clothes are cheap, shoddy, and intended to fall apart within two seasons so your kid is begging you for another trip to a store that smells like a Parisian whorehouse (to use my very preppy day's saying). Can you have some kind of ritualized excommunication ceremony to axe them from the list?

Anonymous said...

A couple of days ago, someone asked about Tommy Hilfiger. The answer to that question is in their advertisement on the back page of the "Sunday Styles" section in today's NYTimes. What the heck is that supposed to be other than very funny.

Anonymous said...

I don't see the low-rise issue with L.L. Bean-- although I do find that the knit shirts (specifically the Bean's Tees and turtlenecks) are cut very short, both in the torso and in the arms. I would prefer a bit more coverage. Sadly I had to reture a white turtleneck in bought in the late 90s with a newer model-- and although they were both in theiry the same size the 90s one was still longer in both the arms and torse (despite probably hundreds of washings and dryings.)


Anonymous said...

Thanks for another good chart this year, Muffy!

In re: the discussion of J. McLaughlin in the comments here-

In the recent book Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion (by Elizabeth Cline) the author mentions J. McLaughlin's manufacturing in the context of a larger discussion of the decline of the American garment industry. Some is now overseas, while some is still in Brooklyn. I assume the lack of country-of-origin labels on their garments is because it is in flux.

I would recommend the book, especially the chapter called "How America Lost its Shirts" those commenting here with concerns about garment manufacturing. It offers some real insight into the dramatic changes in the garment industry in the past 15 years. A very gloomy insight, but insight nonetheless!

Paul Connors said...

The egomaniacal cash grabber, Claudio Del Vecchio continues to wreak havoc at Brooks Bros. with such atrocities as the Thom Browne collection of clothes for men aspiring to look like teenage homosexuals on the prowl and who don't care who knows it.

The Gatsby collection with almost eveything (except the ties) made overseas in China or Malaysia.

The inconsistent sizing on men's sweaters where one must constant err on the side of larger and larger sizes to get a correct fit.

In men's casual trousers, the increasing number of Clark and Milano fits (the latter for the very skinny, while other sizes are not carried or need to be ordered).

In men's suits and sports jackets, a preference for the narrow waisted Fitzgerald jackets that allow little freedom of movement or ability to be tailored.

And lately, several unconscionable double digit percentage increases in pricing from such items as socks to the signature Alden manufactured calfskin tassel loafers.

These are all examples of the excessive ego of Claudio Del Vecchio, chairman of the Retail Brand Alliance that now owns this once fabled brand. Like a certain President of the USA, CDV knows better, doubles down on policies and ideas his customers hate and in the process, turns us off and forces us to abandon a ship we once loved to sail on.

Claudio Del Vecchio is living proof that money does not buy "class" or taste, design brilliance or even loyalty. Claudio Del Vecchio is THE WORST THING to happen to Brooks Bros. since it was founded in 1818.

And if by chance, I ever have the chance to meet him, I will tell him so to his face.

Muffy, move BB farther to the right. Better yet, put in in the chart's margin, that's where they belong under CDV!

Anonymous said...

I'd be curious to see a chart (or at least a list) of the best online or catalog-based clothing companies, i.e., companies that don't maintain any brick-and-mortar stores. Mercer Shirts is an example. There might be some quality firms I've never heard of... I've read about web-based suitmakers who will visit your house, take your measurements, and send you a suit. Given the way LLBean and others are headed, is that the way of the future?

Anonymous said...

Company for consideration for your list. Atlantis Sailing gear. Great vests.

Anonymous said...

Today I had my first nagative experience with L.L. Bean after literally decades as a customer. Someone put the wrong item into the correct package (I ordered a zip-front Double L cardigan, the package said zip Double L cardigan, but it was the open-front in the package.) I live overseas and a family member sent it along (there are cheaper ways of shipping than whatever method it is they are using for their int's shipping!) and the mistake was discovered this morning. I took photos. I took photos-- which CS does not want to see-- and they told me that to do an exchange I will have to send the sweater-- this will cost more than the worth of the sweater!! And then I will have to pay yet again to get the right thing shipped to me!!! So Bean CS is telling me I have to pay for their labelling/packaging mistake! (I have taken to their Facebook page to publically complain.) As I sit here in my Bean sweater, turtleneck, and jeans with my Bean backpack next to my desk, my Bean tote in the car for the grocery shopping I will do in a few hours, etc.-- seriously they should see thousands in my order history over the years-- and now they want me to pay for their mistake if I want the correct product?!?! Unbelieveable!!!


BlueTrain said...

Coincidentally, the same thing happened to me. I had ordered a coat and the sizing on the coat was not the sizing indicated on the packaging. But this was probably over fifteen years ago and even before the local branch (Tyson's Corner) opened. While I realize that some don't care for their mall stores, it makes it easier to exchange or return something and of course, it's nice to be able to examine something in person. So basically it isn't something new.

To tell you how long ago it was, I bought a different style coat which I still have and wear. It was made in the U.S.!

Anonymous said...

Update: I took my incident of the mistake to L.L. Bean's Facebook page. The handling of the incident was then handed over to a staff member with the initials MT (I am not using her full name to protect her privacy) and MT has handled it in a way that I will be receiving the product that I originally ordered and will not be paying to ship the other item back. In fact I was told to keep it-- which in fact I even find above and beyond of them. But I appreciate it that they saw that the mistake was on their part and MT was able to recognize a loyal Bean customer and made the situation better and has restored my trust into their stories customer service.

Mistakes can happen-- I really understand it and in all of this I know it was a First World problem-- but I was honestly startled by the attitude of the original CS rep I dealt with as it was so unlike the Bean I have known over the years.