01 October 2010

J. Press - Cambridge

























Just around the corner from the Andover Shop is the Cambridge branch of J. Press. "Just around the corner..." I was just struck by how unfair that is. In a country teeming with soulless malls, white bread franchises and cookie cutter chains - Cambridge is in damned good shape. There are those who will tell you Cambridge is changing. Pushing the unique shops out for the higher rents paid by Micky, Ralph and Tommy, et al. But for now, and I have no idea how much longer, you can take a step back in time.

Denis Black is the manager and is born of the cloth I reckon. Growing up his father managed the Boston Brooks Brothers. His blood must be oxford blue. I don't think anyone is prouder of this store than Denis. In a time when retail is run by accountants with zero interest in what they're selling - - Denis is the real deal. He reminds me of the very best I worked with at Brooks Brothers in the '80s. That is, people who had forgotten more than I'll ever know.

While the J Press in NYC is mid 20th century, Eames, Barcelona, bright and modern - the Cambridge Press is warm, worn, soft and comfortable. I would give anything to have a cocktail here on a rainy and cold autumnal afternoon. If Charlie Davidson is king of English goods at Andover - which he is - Denis heads up NAG (North American Goy). NAG, by the way, was first coined by me and I'm proud to say has never been used by anyone other than me.

This isn't a store as much as it's a museum. And in that knowledge Denis Black may be the only man working in apparel who has the right to be called a curator. Crammed in every nook are the ephemera of old brochures, catalogs, '60s store boxes and Harvard football scores. None of it was shipped here. It was born here. Authentic isn't strong enough a word for what you'll find at 82 Mount Auburn Street. I was even able to research khaki versus chino via a book Press used during WWII for uniform orders. Denis, don't ever sell that book to Ralph.

22 comments:

Silk Regimental said...

I'll bet the place smelled fabulous! It's also true of the New Haven store - the furnishings and cabinets "grew there" - as if they were the first ever - and haven't been moved in 70 years.

I agree with the cocktail notion - if only they'd let us.

Anonymous said...

These trips to venerable grounds, so to speak, continue to be unbelievable! And your insider's take on them is praiseworthy.

One thing they all have in common: unhidden stacks of boxes and overstock. Blows away the quarterly hand-wringing, corporate manifestos of Gap, Old Navy, J. Crew, et al.

Thanks for making us privy.

-DB

Farrago said...

I really hope that's a not so subtle swipe at Chensvold's "PITA."

TRVS said...

The exterior of the building alone is making me weep....an exact replica of my vision of a home for "The Shoe".

The Sluice Box said...

Hard to believe this is the same company that has the sleek and antiseptic store on Madison. I can't help but think that the introduction of a bit of grit and clutter might help sales in NY.

J. Press had a small outpost in San Francisco. I have faint memories of it, but I can at least recall it being a small place stuffed full of things.

www.thesluicebox.com

Alice Olive said...

You can see the authenticity from another time in your photographs.

Even the fact that the lighting is not the 'mood lighting' that you tend to see in so many stores these days (although I confess that sometimes I don't mind because we all look better in lower light....) Looks like a gem.

John said...

Another great post -- the Cambridge Press is one of my favorite stores of all time.

I hope you stopped by Colonial Drug during your Boston trip as well!

http://www.yelp.com/biz/colonial-drug-cambridge

Anonymous said...

When I saw the title of the post, I immediately thought of Denis Black. I'm glad you got to meet him.

Oyster Guy said...

The money quote:

"None of it was shipped here. It was born here."

NCJack said...

"NAG"...perfect! I shall use it publicly forthwith.

And I know what you mean about "born here". Like the men's stores all across the country that started out all squared away, then over the years and decades of "Ahhh, just put 'em over there, I guess" developed that individual homey feel.

"Cocktails at Press", the sequel to "Breakfast at Tiffany's"?

Anonymous said...

Now you're back on track.

The topic of bespoke officers' uniforms would be interesting and one which I don't think too many people, even trads, know much about. I thought that even the JCOS still wore awful polyester blends. The Savile Row shops also do military uniforms, from what I understand.

Anonymous said...

Along the same lines of bespoke military wear, recall that Patton apparently insisted that his troops in North Africa wear ties at all times. What are your thoughts on jumping wearing a regimental?

Anonymous English Female said...

A clothes mad European friend who is being seconded to Boston will love visiting here - and Keezer's and The Andover Shop. I'll insist on accompanying him so I can 'art direct' his purchases... thanks for posting.

Nigel Wankersleigh said...

As long as you're reviewing Cambridge shops, any interest in paying a visit to Drinkwaters on Mass Ave? I've hear they're pretty good, but would love to see some pics and your take on it, that way I'd know if it was worth visiting next time I'm up there. Thanks in advance for any reviewing you can do, even if it's just in the comment section.

Sam said...

Is goy a nice word?

3button Max said...

well done-

Trailer Trad said...

I don't know which is more sickening; the new inventory displayed at Press in Cambridge or the thrift scores had at Keezers.

-Sickening in a jealous, covetous way of course.

Brummagem Joe said...

An amazing survival as is the New Haven store. The NYC store was very much the same flavor before they moved onto Madison. Personally I think the NY store needed the facelift because the retailing environment is so totally different from that in these University cities. I actually drop into the Madison Av store these days after I'd more or less stopped in the behind BB days. Despite the revival in interest in men's clothes (I couldn't get into JC store in Soho last weekend) the fact is Press are going to have to move with the times if they want to survive. A bit of blonde wood and glass, and getting rid of the detritus of centuries (appealing though it may be to traditionalists who include me btw), seems a small price to pay.

Anonymous said...

Glad you enjoyed your Cambridge visit. Also, in case you missed it in the weekend FT, thought this would be of interest to you: http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/27176eb6-cce9-11df-9bf0-00144feab49a.html

ADG said...

It is. Unequivocally, the Parish Church. While Davidson's Andover Shop is the muthah effin Vatican.

Easy and Elegant Life said...

That seals it. I've gotta get back to the Boston area and make the rounds. I missed too much. And I, too, am scared to death of Charlie Davidson.

Patrick Byrne said...

Loved the post about Cambridge. I'm in Newburyport, about 35 miles north. I'm down in Boston several days a week, but rarely make it to Harvard Square. The closest I get is Emma's Pizza in Kendall Sq. You've motivated me to wander over to J. Press, The Andover Shop and Drinkwaters. It's been far too long! Thanks for the great reading.