Photo by Salt Water New England

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

From Our Archives: A Classic Blog Post with an Updated Twist and a Contemporary Flair, Inspired by Leo Tolstoy and William Gaines

Many would agree on the basic sine qua non of classic clothes.
  • Have a style that will not be soon dated;
  • Are usable over a wide range, from business casual when new to working the field when old;
  • Have tough construction;
  • Err on simplicity and well thought out functionality;
  • Blend in, and only occasionally and subtly are witty, jaunty, and dashing;
  • Are wearable across ages;
  • Are relatively expensive but fairly priced;
  • Do not hinder physical activity;
  • Have a style that is a continuation of their UK roots, but optimized for the New England culture, activities, and climate;
  • Are repairable and alterable;
  • Get better with age;
  • Have a bias towards natural fibers and non-fussy care.
For all of these reasons, and unlike many other clothes available today, classic items do not end up prematurely in landfills.
However, so many American companies seems to be replete with - not classic preppy clothes but according to the vendors' emails and web sites - something even better.  Clothing vendors seemed to have learned from some bloggers and Instagramers that they should be unabashed in the superlatives they use to describe themselves, unbothered by decorum or pesky reality.

In some cases, aimless clothing companies are now copying the preppy cosplayers on Instagram, who themselves were re-enacting the 'Meet the Hilfigers" advertisements, which were riffs on the earlier Ralph Lauren campaigns, that were based on the work of Slim Aarons.

Here are some enthusiastic phrases, and speculation as to what the vendor is actually saying.

What they say...What they mean...
Technical FleeceNothing to do with actual fleece.
Wrinkle- and stain-free fabricsRash almost guaranteed.  
Please fill out this survey.  We value your opinion.Our marketing people want to know what we should pretend to be.
Fresh take on old favoritesIt will be dated before it is paid off. But we fired all of the workers and sold the factories, so you are not getting your real favorites back. 
Our largest collection everWe have given up on taste and market research. You decide.  
Legendary styleLast season's attempts to sell to hip 20 year-olds didn't work, so now we are posting stolen pictures of JFK and Paul Newman like some unemployed blogger.
Inspired by MaineMade in China.
Inspired by fall in MaineInspired by our year-end bonuses.
Fresh take on classic New England styleWe stole the design, slapped lighthouses on it, named it after a New England town, and tripled the price. You're welcome.
Inspired by our archivesIn the old days, other companies made low-quality knock-offs of our clothes. Now, we make our own knock-offs.  
New take on an old classicAn intern had a great idea.  Now if we can find highly-influenceable twenty-two year olds with a lot of disposable income, we are perfectly positioned.
Top of the lineExpensive.  Technically, it's the mid-range offering of the company we sourced it from, but since we mark everything up 4x, we thought we'd throw in some superlatives. 
Updated classicWhy wear one pattern when you can wear five? Why whisper when you can yell?  Soon to have an updated price: 80% off.
Vintage-inspired with a contemporary twistHipster
Expertly hand-craftedThe first two weeks were rough, but the expert's third week has gone much better.
Updated Heritage CollectionIt will fall apart the third time you wear it. Luckily, most people only wear it twice.
Our exclusive designsIt may be made in the same factory as Kohl’s and Wal-Mart, but the colors and tags are different.
We brought back a classic itemAlmost as good at four times the price. Hey, our CEO likes a lot of compensation. And social media doesn't come cheap.
Traditional with a modern flairFor people who confuse reality with Instagram. Just take the picture of yourself quickly before you try to move in it.
We are just a couple of kids with a dreamThat is what the PR firm we hired told us to say, and our investors, who keep threatening to cut off our funding, agree. 
Authentic New EnglandFor people who can’t find New England on a map.
Updated renditionIf it weren't for the changes we made to this classic item, you would love it.
Nautically inspiredThe only real boats we encounter are for photo shoots, but high heels are always appropriate.
New classicsBecause you can’t have too much costume gold. For people who are, in the words of Oscar Wilde, "a peacock in everything but beauty."
Building on our outdoor traditionDry clean only.
Selected just for youWe put a lot of money into our big data program. If this doesn't work we are firing our MBA consultants.
Exclusive friends and family event for our most valued customersBig sale.  Next week we are selling it by the pound. Frankly, we can’t give this stuff away. 
Legendary craftsmanshipOr so our outsourcers have assured us.
New updates on traditional classicsWe secretly replaced all natural fibers with synthetic ones. We managed to reduce the amount of material by 40%, and the weight by 80%. And we made it black. Tah-dah!
(Learn more) About usHere is self-promotion so shrill that it would make a presidential candidate in the last week of a campaign blush. Bring a shovel.


  1. The. Best. Post. In. YEARS. Well done, SWNE.

  2. Thank you for the early morning laugh!

  3. Spot on. If it is different from what has served me since I got out of short pants in the early 1950s I don't want it!

  4. Superb. Most of what they say boils down to "We're going to turn a buck at the expense of young people who don't have a clue, and the rest of you will just have to put up with it or go elsewhere and cause us to go el foldo."

  5. Very, very funny. I like "Building on our outdoor tradition." As an English major, though, I'm embarrassed to say I don't get the Tolstoy reference.

    1. Same here (English major and teacher). But English majors rarely get to read "foreign" literature in school.

    2. I am seldom convinced when companies claim to be "inspired by" great people or great locations. Ergo, for my tiny writing effort to be inspired by one of the world's greatest authors (In his book Intellectuals, Paul Johnson perfectly referred to Tolstoy as "God's Elder Brother") seemed to satire such epic overshots.

  6. Love this! I cannot understand why so many clothing brands continue their race to the bottom in well-made, fairly priced apparel. I cannot understand why someone would pay, say, $20 for a cheaply made O.C.B.D. that will be ill-fitting and last six months at best. Perhaps I am better off not understanding that mindset.

  7. Amusingly Astute.

  8. Well done Muffy! Thank you!

    " Vintage inspired with a contemporary twist"- SPANDEX, rayon, lyocell, bamboo and a synthetic Performance fabric so you're clothes smell clean even when they are filthy.

    I was searching for 100 percent Turkish cotton baby washcloths and all I could find were "luxury" bamboo or cotton muslin cloths. The next version will probably be microfiber.

    The other day I realized that I now have the mindset of someone who endured the great depression. Not only do I have a garage full of toilet paper, paper towels, bleach and Lysol wipes, I find myself keeping quality vintage clothing that I really don't want or need anymore simply because it's such great quality and fear not being able to purchase such items ever again. I doubt that I'm the only one who thinks this way. But as long as I'm 'hoarding' my vintage quality clothing, I won't be purchasing anything new.

    1. I also hoard vintage clothing. Thrifted, ebayed, or just rediscovered in the back of the closet (Grandpa's Dale of Norway cardigan, please!), it makes me happy to give quality garments life again. One of my favorites to find are vintage Pendleton wool skirts, usually the pleated kilt-type. Classic, modest, and stand the test of time with proper care. When we do buy new, we search for brands that emphasize quality, which is why I'm so thankful for this blog.

  9. Brilliant -- reminds me of the sting of Paul Fussell.

    Could also be titled: "101 Ways to Fool and Defraud the Suckers."

    1. Paul Fussell's book CLASS is the very best. Iconic.

  10. Oh my word, I've just spit tea over my keyboard from chortling! Great post to read in these days of upheaval.

  11. I grew up wearing clothes from G.C. Murphy and I'm not from New England, so most of this is meaningless to me. Don't even live near the ocean. I have, however, owned a Land-Rover, two Rover sedans, one MG and three Volvos.

  12. OMG! This is brilliant!! And will also put me more on guard. (At least it would if I planned to buy any more clothes, which I do not.) Super posting, Muffy!

  13. This was accurately and, somewhat, sadly observed. There are almost no members of the old crowd that I can buy from any longer. I hope what I own lasts. I'm of the philosophy that two is one and one is none which translates to having bought multiples of my favorites in past years (like BB button down shirts) because Land's End and LLB, even Orvis are off the list and BB is running to catch up. Now, there's just O'Connels, Ben Silver, and?

    1. The Andover Shop

    2. Orvis's Signature chino shorts are excellent - very good fit, Pima cotton cloth and superb tailoring. They are worth the full price but great value with a discount code or in the sale.

      Drake's, Mercer and Budd shirts should be added to the above recommendations but quality does not come cheap. Cording's coats, cords and moleskins are unbeatable.

  14. “Facts are irrelevant. What matters is what the consumer believes.” – Seth Godin. One of the many reasons I enjoyed Mad Men so much.

  15. Well done Muffy. As someone stated above, reminiscent of Paul Fussell. GLH

  16. And if one doesn't have any vintage clothes, one may be out of luck trying to buy clothes. My needs and climate have changed: college instructor teaching from home in a hot climate (NorCal Central Valley).

    Muffy: please start a capsule wardrobe service or a rental service (ala Stitch Fix). Save us from Target and LL Bean!

  17. These are brilliant. “Fresh take on classic New England style” Is my favorite. I second the tea-spit-take when I first read through this. It’s like what we were all thinking was just perfectly laid out for us, grid-style.

  18. Don't forget "these minor slubs and imperfections are not defects but part of the original integrity of the fabric." Having been in the industry I think I'm one of the few people who actually reads the tags. Good work, Muffy. I almost fell off my chair reading this!

  19. Not exactly "New England Preppy," but more like the Preppies' UK cousins, the "Sloane Rangers" .... I've loved my charming Laura Ashley clothes from the 1980s-early 1990s, and I'm so glad I saved them all. I was going to eBay them, but if I lose a few pounds, I'd be delighted to wear them once again! They're very well-made and still in excellent condition.

  20. I rolled on the floor with laughter at this listing .

  21. Hilarious; thank you! Muffy and community, please provide me with some quality women's clothing vendors. Thanks....

  22. I love it!! Thank you so very much!

  23. Excellent! A very obvious one is missing, though...

    Slim fit - we removed 25% of the materials and added 25% to the price.


  24. I think there should be a requirement that everyone attend finishing school before they graduate high school. I may be sounding like an elitist but I do believe that a proper education in good taste and etiquette would improve the quality of life for most and quality of goods sold in America.

  25. They charge more for Plus sizes than for Misses, but do not charge less for Petites.

  26. The first one, technical fleece, needs refinement. "Technical" when describing any garment is just a means of charging premium prices for polyester and nylon. Even premium hunting and shooting brands like Beretta and Schoffel have adopted that practice.

    So how on earth did Rene Lacoste, Fred Perry, Ben Hogan, Jack Nicklaus etc win their respective titles and establish brands without the need for "technical" clothing? They looked stylish on and off the court and courses.

    Sadly, the Ben Hogan brand has succumbed to the temptation and sells through Walmart. How tragic!

    1. You should read "Invisible on Everest: Innovation and the Gear Makers," by Parsons and Rose. However, clothing for tennis is not mentioned.

  27. Here's a good one: "We consider leopard a neutral..." Sad.

  28. I just learned that as of this fall, we will be able to purchase LL Bean products at Staples, Nordstrom and Sheels.