J. Press

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After making it’s debut half a year ago, J. Press’ York Street collection finally hit stores this past month. Coinciding with the launch of the line, and as a continuation of J. Press’ efforts to win over a younger audience, the brand decided to open up a York Street flagship, the first such store of it’s kind, in New York’s West Village. Situated on Bleecker Street, which is rapidly becoming one of the most important blocks for shopping in the entire city, the York Street flagship has been unofficially open for roughly a month now, but it wasn’t until this past Tuesday night that the team over at J. Press and Ariel and Shimon Ovadia of Ovadia & Sons, (the duo behind the collection), properly flung open the doors to christen the new space.

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One of my favorite sentiments to pull out when talking about our friends over on the other side of the world, is that “the Japanese do Americana far better than we ever could.”  Of course, it’s a blanket statement holds about as much weight as a bag full of feathers, but nonetheless it sure is fun to say.  I first came up with the line during a spur of the moment discussion with a few colleagues about the state of the Japanese vintage market, which by now is probably stocked with more U.S. made deadstock pieces then any of us could even begin to fathom.  It’s a cheeky line and makes me seem much more well-versed on the topic than I am, so I’ve kept on saying it, but each time I repeat it, it becomes that much more evident to me just how much of a double-edged sword those ten words are.

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Looking back on these past ten or so days, I would have to say that the best way to describe Fashion Week is like watching a thousand movie clips, all at once.  Sped up, slowed down, spliced together, forward, backward, until I can’t even tell what I’m watching anymore, everything just becomes a two dimensional blur.  Sitting through show after show, picking up on a random shirt here, a fabric there, maybe a pair of shoes, or a full suit in a rare moment of clarity, it all became really difficult to process.  And I won’t even try to touch upon the nauseating circus of try-hards in their best “please-take-my-photo-please-please” outfits that congregated outside the show.  All I know is that by the end of the week it was next to process anything.  Each show had some takeaways but trying to interpret them instantly just became an exercise in futility.

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For me, New York Fashion Week, and really all fashion week’s in general, bring about the disconnect between what is wearable and what is simply admirable.  Even taking cost out of the equation for a moment, there’s this notion of “how far outside the norm can I go,” and when it really comes down to it, I love so much of what I see during NYFW, but I rarely end up buying that much of it.  Yet with what I saw a few days ago, this year is a bit different because, If I suffer from a condition of appreciation over action, then J. Press’ York Street collection was the antidote to all that.

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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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