Shaggy Dog Sweaters and the Heyday of J. Press

Summer is wearing on me.  Tee shirts.  Jeans.  Sneakers.  It’s all just getting a bit tedious, I mean where’s the fun in that?  I miss the complexity of the cold.  Tweeds.  Knits.  Wools.  Sure, there’s something liberating about the simplicity of summer, but it’s also remarkably easy to just become complacent.  I’m tired of wearing the same shirt and jeans for days on end simply because it’s just too hot for anything else.  With it being next to impossible to put any effort into summer right now, I’ve started turning my focus towards fall, and the days ahead that’ll actually require some forethought.

My first step towards fall came about a week or so ago at Antonio‘s moving sale, where I was able to pick up something I’ve been after for about a year now: a J. Press Shaggy Dog Sweater.  There was a time when Shaggy Dog’s were just one small chapter in J. Press‘ encyclopedia of American sportswear, but those days are long gone, and nowadays Shaggy Dogs live on as a remnant of a brand that seems nothing less than lost.  For a brand that’s now notorious for their inability to adapt in the modern age (barring very recent developments), the Shaggy Dog is a reminder that there was once a time when J. Press were the innovators.  Much of this can be attributed to Irving Press, (son of the brand’s founder, Jacobi Press) who led J. Press during their mid-century heyday and spearheaded their most legendary work, including the Shaggy Dog.  Legend has it that Irving got the idea for the Shaggy Dog after watching someone that got caught in the rain while wearing a shetland sweater.  Now, I don’t know how true that actually is, but what I do know is that what Irving came up with was nothing short of a masterpiece.  He teamed up with Drumohr the legendary Scottish knit-wear company to source the wool, which was then literally combed to give Shaggy Dog’s their signature fluffed-out texture.

Shaggy Dogs represented J. Press in their peak. Customers flocked to the store in search of the sweater’s broken in vibe,  and loud colors that hit the traddy sweet spot of brash yet classic.  They were everything you’d expect from a maverick brand like J. Press and they became integral to that era.  Looking back on images of New England icon John Updike sitting on his porch wearing a shaggy dog, coeds sporting them on the quad, politicians donning them during their days off, it’s obvious that these were the prime years of prep and Shaggy Dogs were nothing short of an essential.  While this full blown trad lifestyle is no longer the norm, and nowadays other brands have their own version of the combed-out shetland sweater, J. Press continues to crank out their Shaggy Dog year after year, even bringing in some new colors, as a rare sign of life from an otherwise dull brand.  Full disclosure though this design hasn’t been updated in decades so don’t expect anything close to slim fit.  They’re pretty much what they’ve always been, a fuller cut, borderline boxy sweater with unparalleled warmth, which quite frankly sounds like exactly what I want right now.

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1 comment
  1. I totally miss the complexity of the cold, too. I mean, I can wear dresses in the summer, but still… no jackets? No layering? lame.

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