The Trad Explains The Trouble With American Menswear

The Trad — the pseudonym of a southern-raised Manhattan insurance broker — has been blogging since 2006, but with the recent explosion of the menswear blogosphere, he has become the de facto spokeman for the traditional American style referred to as “Ivy,” “prep,” or simply “trad.” Not to be outdone by the likes of the New Yorker, the New York Times, and Esquire, Styleite sat down to interview him about the motivations behind his blogging, his view of style journalism, and the future of menswear retailing. This is the second part of that interview; the first part appeared on Monday. 

The Trad has remained semi-anonymous throughout his writing career, in contrast to the high-profile approaches of many style bloggers.

 

STYLEITE: What you think it will take for these old-line retailers like Brooks Brothers and J.  Press to wake up and realize that they can bring younger customers into the fold?

THE TRAD: There have to be reasons they’re not doing it. They have to be cost reasons, I don’t know. Otherwise, you might think these people were brain-dead, that they couldn’t sell a golf ball in a pro shop. This is just stupidity. For Brooks Brothers to go so far the other way with Black Fleece, that stuff is made so well, but it’s vulgar. When we did the khaki tasting, one of the contestants complained and said, “Well, we could do a great khaki for $165.” I wrote them back and said, “Well one of the khakis that won was $65.” But also, they took something that needed to be simple, and put make-up all over it and made it look like a whore. That’s what [Thom] Browne does in his own way. And some of his stuff I really like — his leather goods, some of Black Fleece. You see how well it’s made, and you know it’s an heirloom piece. But I don’t know why Brooks lined up with this guy, instead of going with something like Brooksgate…

And J. Press is sitting here complaining that all of their customers are dying. Well, why isn’t J. Press doing a Rugby line? You’ve got this great reputation such that the branding is already done. The other day I was in there, and this kid comes in and says, “Hey! Do you have any of those Rugby skull and crossbone ties? These are like the Rugby ties, right? Did you guys copy this from Rugby?” (sighs) It’s…it’s a club at Yale. But there’s their customer! You can laugh at him, but he is ripe to be taken in by J. Press! You walk into J. Press now and it’s a bunch of mean old men who make fun of young guys when they come in.

S: What has it been like entering into the world of menswear bloggers, with people like Giuseppe and ADG?

T: I think they entered into mine. All of those guys share one thing in common; they all have a point of view, they all have an opinion. But I think most importantly they all have this wonderful voice…Unfortunately, there’s a lot of guys now who don’t have a voice. There are a lot of guys who have come to this party late, and they basically Wikipedia everything…

But then I look at Giuseppe, he’s just running with it. He’s doing his own things. He sat there and was pretty critical of Michael Williams’ Pop-Up Flea, and so he went and did his own…later, I introduced him to Williams at this Levi’s party. But I love meeting these people — it’s like computer dating. You get put together based on your interests. Even Wasp 101; I think that guy is a complete and utter asshole, but you know what? I also know that a lot of work goes into blogging. Anyone who does it is opening themselves up to all kinds of criticism. Much of it is not pleasant.

S: The recent popularity of Trad, classic American, preppy, Ivy…everyone has their own theory about where it’s coming from. What’s yours? Do you think it has a deeper meaning? Or is it just another fashion trend?

T: I think it is directly related to people wanting to dress better. Here’s one thing — in cities like New York, where people use mass transit to get around, like London — people dress well, because people see them. People drive cars in Jacksonville. You could be naked in your car and no one would notice. Where people commute, people don’t invest in clothing. In New York, people are parading around, walking up Madison Avenue, so they dress well. I’ve seen more well-dressed men in New York the last couple of years than I remember in the 80s…but I don’t think this stuff is affecting everywhere. Is this stuff going on in Fort Wayne? Where everyone is wearing Kenneth Cole shoes?

NEXT: “What’s really worse is that most Americans are happy to be stupid. They don’t want to have to know how to dress.”

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