Back in college, my goal was to be a true “Prepster” so I could fit in; what I thought ‘college life’ would be all about. I was coming from a rather intellectual or “boho” sort of family that didn’t fit the prescribed formula. Like all artists, we go through this period where we want to be like everyone else so dressing in conservative clothes in college was my answer to this desire to belong and ‘fit in’.
This was my first encounter with a Brooks Brother’s shirt.
I walked into the San Francisco store and the world of Brooks Brothers. Stepping into the elevator it whiosed up to the upper floors; the smell of beautiful leathers, cottons, silks, etc. was overpowering and somewhat intimidating. I used to go to kids department, so I could get the “boys” shirts in both solids and stripes of all colors, including my favorite: the Blue and White Button down. The store was very much a man’s domain. The gentlemen were always quite nice, but they sort of looked at me with a variety of bemused expressions. There were simply NO women in the store at that time. No, this wasn’t the dark ages, this was in the early 1980’s when women were not really represented in the top echelons of business and the reign of the ‘bow-tie’ blouse was pretty much a required piece of wardrobe for those few women who had made it above the secretarial pool.
What those Brooks Brothers shirts represented to me was their “American Classic” heritage, great fabrics and tailoring, and of course, the idea of wearing boys shirts also amused me. I lived for that moment when I could go back and further “bemuse” the men behind the counters at the store who wrapped up my shirts with the utmost seriousness in tissue and box. I lived for those moments when the crisp white tissue would crinkle as I opened each shirt. It was a solid fashion statement. I was telling the world that I was part of something with a past, as I moved forward to discover my future.
I recently went to the store and found my new version of a “blue and white’ striped shirt, and opted for the classic shape and non-button down. I plan to wear this with leather jeans, motorcycle boots and perhaps even my vintage pearls. I don’t really worry so much what people think of me, having now navigated both the creative and corporate worlds alike. I find that a true and authentic expression of oneself, does come from within, after all. I can’t wait to see what Zach Posen will do with the new collections, taking the heritage and re-interpreting it; will he refresh the idea of womens wear in business? I hope so- it needs some definite tweaking so that girls don’t have to sneak into the boys department, anymore. They can discover the beauty of classics in a new age that welcomes and celebrates their unique differences.
Editor’s note: Many thanks to Brooks Brothers, who gifted me with a shirt that I will wear with pride as I navigate my future endeavors in the 21st Century.
Special Note: My mother, now 94 years young, also went to the Brooks Brothers in New York City on Madison Avenue, when she was an Art Student at Cooper Union, telling me her favorite was the ‘Pink & White’ stripe she wore with her jeans.