08 November 2010

J. Urban Press Outfitters: 'More is Less'

Jeremy Dean of Urban Outfitters - He's really not a bad guy

Navy Blazer $148

Black Watch Wool Trouser $88

Unlined wool

Khaki $78

Golf Jacket $118

Stripe Button Down $68 Grosgrain Belt $28

Rep Tie $34

"My philosophy is: As the face gets worse -- The clothes have to get better." Steve Martin

Two years ago Jeremy Dean from Urban Outfitters was introduced to Mark McNairy from J. Press. What comes to mind is the, "You got your peanut butter on my chocolate." "You got your chocolate on my peanut butter" Reese's Cup commercials. I love Reese's Cups but I'm not so sure about this collaboration.

McNairy and Dean hit on this idea of Urban Outfitters putting out a budget J. Press line with all the right details but at a lower price point. No different from Brooks Brothers and Brooksgate of the '80s or RL's Rugby of today. Cheap clothes for kids without a lot of money but hitting 12 on the style meter via not so subtle design tweaks. Already, I'm too old for this.

But they're not making it for me. Hell, they're not making it for themselves. The pant has one of the lowest rises I've ever seen. The fly looks like it's 3" long. If you're a gal looking for a khaki this just might be your ticket. Same with the wool Black Watch and grey flannel.

I can't imagine anyone with an appendage south of the belly button getting into these pants. It's a great price but you sacrifice comfort for the goods. The hand is rough and not unlike the winter wool trousers I was issued in the army. I wore those once in four years.

The blazer has the right details. Working buttons on the sleeve, a patch pocket and the required narrow lapel. But again, the wool comes up short. Pea coat-like and a lint magnet but it may be hard for a 19 year old to walk away from $148. Or, the parent who's looking to spend as little as possible on a blazer with the kid who'll never walk into Brooks or Jos. Bank.

There's a definite target audience here but the shirts may turn everyone off. Details galore. Flap pocket, three button collar, university stripe but all wonky. The collar is too short like the Rugby button down of a year ago. It looks flat and soulless. There's a cheapness here but I've been spoiled by David Mercer -- so again -- I am not anywhere near this area of operation. You can buy two of these for every one Mercer. And what 19 year old can walk away from that? If you're over 30 -- consider the Mercer.

Onward Kashiyama designed the collection for Urban Outfitters citing influence from the movie, Animal House (I see it) and the TV series, Happy Days (I don't). Onward insisted the collection be made by Urban Outfitter's vendors in China. That's interesting. It makes me wonder if this isn't a trial balloon of a Rugby / Brooksgate line for J. Press. It's not a bad idea if the quality with Urban stumbles.

There are scarves ($38), the required narrow ties ($34) as well as a couple Shaggy Dogs ($78) I didn't see. What I did see and liked was the Black Watch golf jacket($118) -- and I hate golf. It's perfect except for a cheesy lining with bizarre J. Press smiley faces. Jeremy was quick to point out that was a Onward design. Still, it's a great looking jacket perfect for Fall and even Winter if you live down south. It's traditional, hasn't been screwed with and while the design is understated -- the Black Watch speaks to its Trad origins. The kids should hate it.

For me, "less is more" is an ideal I strive for. In writing, cooking, clothes, cocktails, just about anything in life except for a pay check. I might even apply it to my diet someday. For under $500, you can kit yourself out pretty well with this line. Blazer, couple shirts and trousers, ties, belts, etc.

For the same $500, you'll get a blazer at J. Press. On sale. I don't see J. Press going the way of Pierre Cardin. What concerns me are the issues of the quality. When I buy the golf jacket and it falls apart in less than a year... I won't blame J. Press. That's not to say others won't.

Look for it at select Urban Outfitters in early December - -If you're young and good looking.


Li Xiaoli said...

I'm 24, and I don't think I'll pick anything up, except maybe the golf jacket, and a belt or two. Maybe I've been ruined by An Affordable Wardrobe, but I just don't see the point in spending $150 on a blazer of questionable quality when I can work a little and maybe get something really special from a thrift store.

Just one opinion from a young'un.

Rev. Dr. Potato. said...

I'm at the edge of Urban Outfitters demographic. I'm thirty, but still in school, so down in that poor bracket of shopper. So, I was excited about the potential until I saw the goods. They may be easier had than usual, but at the cost of quality and looks. These appear to be just... bad. I'll pass.

bmackintosh said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
bmackintosh said...

"It makes me wonder if this isn't a trial balloon of a Rugby / Brooksgate line for J. Press."

That's what I am worried about. Another great line bites the dust.

Great review. Thanks for the clarity.

Patsy said...

If the navy blazer is that linty in the store, I can't imagine how it will look in real life. You'd hve to carry a lint brush. The trousers look linty too.....maybe I have an issue.

those tricks said...

Reading about & seeing that rough, unlined wool makes me itchy from here.

But do most kids know better? nah.

I'll be waiting anxiously for your follow up on what this collab does to the J Press rep.

jake said...

If you look at old Brooks and Press catalogs, they were trying new stuff all the time. They were responding to changes in taste, using new fabrics, etc. Press today is a museum, and I'm not sure what they have that you can't buy elsewhere. Their shirts are nothing special, their trousers are dull, their sweaters are nothing to write home about, people say the shoulders in their jackets are too padded, (the one I have certainly is) and their ties aren't as nice as J. Crew's. So that leaves... ribbon belts? That scarf that kid wore on Gossip Girl?

TC said...


Glad you commented on this, as I'm deeply conflicted.

As a law student with a in his mid-20s (with a mortgage), this stuff is a godsend: at this point in my life, I'm not, shall we say "financially established" enough to justify dropping five bills on a blue blazer.

But, on the other hand, part of what attracts me to the old uber-Trad brands is the relative commitment to quality. Part of me wants to spring for the real-deal Press that I know will last me for 20 years; part of me can't possibly justify it at this point.

Furthermore, it's a matter of principle. I *hate* Urban Outfitters. Living in a state of perpetual adolescence is the scourge of my generation, and UO has made a killing off of what I call "arrested development chic" - clothes that make you look forever like the guy who took 6 years to finish his undergrad and immediately moved back in with mom & dad. It's disgusting.

I dunno. I'll have to mull this over some more. Sorry for taking up space in the combox. I'll hammer things out on the back of a napkin next time.

Greg said...

I'll be picking up the Princeton colored tie as well as the matching belt. The golf jacket doesn't look like something I'll be able to resist suggesting for a christmas gift thought.

GQ1 said...

I would love to try the slim fit traditional style clothing from this line. Quality does matter but fit matters as well. Brooks Brothers have realized that and since then they've introduced the "Slim Fit" and "Extra Slim Fit." I don't think I would've tried the "Regular/American Fit" Brooks Brothers clothing but with the new fitting options, I'm a very satisfied customer. I hope J Press also offer slim fit options for the newer generation. Thanks.

Main Line Sportsman said...

Hold on there Gentlemen...unlined wool trousers...like selling steel-wool boxer shorts...I am not interested...

James Brown said...


I hope you went to Princeton or like awkward conversations.

Mr. James Brown, P '29

Greg said...

Mr. Brown -

I'm not in college yet, but I doubt anybody but Princeton alma marta would recognize the colors, and even then, I doubt they would be offended. At least is isn't this tie: http://www.pustore.com/TiesBeltsSocks/Princeton-Shield-Tie---Vineyard-Vines---Orange/PAAAAAHCFMACDGFH/3458-3690/Product

Easy and Elegant Life said...

Thrift stores... dress in the real deal. It'll last. Thrift stores (look for Junior League ones) and a good tailor are all you'll need. "Trad" hasn't really changed in the last few decades.

Alice Olive said...

Well, because of you, I will be taking a wander through Urban Outfitters in December (which I don't normally do). Seems as though there's potential here. (PS. Loved your description of the low rise trousers. Very funny!)

Anonymous said...


tintin said...

Li Xiaoli- Thrifting is a no brainer. That's why Giuseppe is so good at it. I wanted to understand why an understated traditional clothier would join a very different retailer and what it means for both.

Rev- Take a look for yourself before deciding. You might like some of it or, you're a very smart 30 year old.

bmack- I was doing some wild ass guessing. Still, why didn't Onward use their vendors? They designed it.

Patsy- Very linty not to mention scratchy. God knows what this stuff is like when it gets wet.

tricks- Itchy. Linty. Scratchy. Cheapy. But I love that golf jacket.

jake- You were in Jos Bank not J Press.

TC - You're allowed to mull. You have time and feel free to mull here and not on a napkin.

Greg- Let us know what you think.

GQ1 - Fit isn't always about hugging your body. Even when I was fit, a shirt had some sail to it. It was vulgar to have form fitting clothing. It still is.

Main Line- That's a nice picture.

Mr Brown- Orange and black is long gone.

Easy- Agree 100%. Look to my first comment. Interested in what you think.

Memphis88 said...

"It's a great price but you sacrifice comfort for the goods."

Shouldn't that say OF the goods?

Giuseppe said...


I went to bat for this stuff in the initial post, but this just doesn't look good.

I love me some plaid trousers, but not if the plaid is as badly matched as that.

Cripes, the lint!

I think the idea behind these collaborations is a good one, but the goods will speak for themselves.

There's got to be a middle ground between crap and luxury. When I was a boy I wore Sero and Hathaway dress shirts as part of my school Uniform. My mother bought them at Sears. What's happened to us, collectively? (That question is both loaded and rhetorical, don't answer).

Not as good as it was.....

Anonymous said...

More thoughts on the recent attempts of Urban Outfitters http://mensstyle101.blogspot.com/2010/10/in-defence-of-urban-outfitters.html

I'd love to know what The Trad thinks of Topman's recent collaboration with Harris tweed.


Anonymous said...

I live in Gtown, DC and I have both Rugby and UO right down the block...judging by all the teens and college kids running around, there is a huge market for these types of lines in the area. And I think thats the point, dumb down the quality, lower the price marginally, and make a ton of money. The Rugby Oxford I bought was horrible of horrible quality, although I did get it on sale for around $50.

tintin said...

Alice- I think your red hair would pair well with the black watch.

Anon- Sad? Perhaps. In some odd way the offerings here only add lustre to the J. Press stores. Perhaps it'll motivate those introduced to J Press via Urban Outfitters to search out the source. Not so sad, yeah?

Memphis- I need an editor.

Giussepe- Never pass judgement until you see the stuff. Too many folks do. What happened to my crabs comment relative to your moleskins?

Mens Style- Dope.

Anon- When I think about the all the crap I bought because it was on sale I wanna cry. $50 is half way to a Mercer or a MTM shirt. But impulse rules some of us.

Easy and Elegant Life said...

tintin, I think that with all the brouhaha over "heritage brands" Urban is trying to cash in. And it's true, if you can get 'em young, they'll stick with the brand. J Press' regular line isn't tailored enough for the jeans wearing crowd (remember ADG's comment about the guy getting fitted and wondering why his trousers didn't fit like his jeans and whether they had to be creased?)

Giuseppe said...

Tin Tin,

You're right about seeing the goods in person, I grant you. But that pattern (mis)matching on the plaid pants is reaching out of the screen to slap me in the face.

As for the crabs comment, I deleted it by mistake. It did inspire me to write a post about doing the laundry, though.

Li Xiaoli said...

Having an Asian mom and frugal girlfriend go a long way towards curbing those purchases.

Especially when the latter expresses it as artfully as "You know, $60 is about 1/3rd of the way towards a Shaggy dog."

ADG said...

"For me, "less is more" is an ideal I strive for..."

No you don't. For the same $500, you can go to Bobby from Boston and rock the dookie out of wardrobe choices.

Friday...lunch...in Gotham...you buy...for a change.

Trailer Trad said...

SPLASH! -That's the sound of J. Press jumping the shark.

Scott Alexander said...

As another commenter noted, J Press' creativity has been stagnant for quite some time. At a time when Rugby's making a killing, Brooks is going young and Tommy 'copycat' Hilfiger is going even younger, J Press is behind the curve and playing catch-up. I'll stick to thrift shopping, but at least J Press is seeing the need for change. However, I think Urban Outfitters is the wrong outlet.

Enzo AGC said...

Anon 23:48 - This whole quality argument really gets me going. Have you ever been to an Asian shirting factory? How about an American one? As someone who has been to both I can tell you that machine made goods are machine made goods. To say that a shirt stitched by middle-aged white southern women is somehow better made than the same shirt stitched by middle-aged asian women is nothing more than racist. 99% of the people that make the claims of "horrible of horrible quality" wouldn't know quality if it punched them in the neck. I've been to Rugby's factories and I can attest that their goods are as well made as any other machine made garment (domestic or otherwise) on the market.

Scott - Rugby is doing anything but making a killing. It runs close to a million dollar deficit every month. It exists because Ralph sees an opportunity to introduce younger customers to the lifestyle he hawks day in and day out.

tintin said...

Giuseppe- It was mentioned earlier that the UO customer isn't gonna know Press from Charmin. Some 16 year old in Jacksonville, FL won't know Press even after he buys it. Still, there may be the customer who searches out the authentic source.

I think a cheaper Rugby / Brooksgate line for Press (call it J Pull?) is best offered in Press stores where price (and quality) expands concurrently with waist size.

Li Xialoi- You need to turn her advice into a phone app so it can remind all of us.

ADD- You're the Liberace of bespoke. Email coming your way. I know a nice cart on the corner of 58th and 8th Ave.

Trailer Trad- Not so sure it's a splash as much as it's a toe in the water. Still, Press could lose a toe.

Scott- I'll let Enzo answer your comment.

Enzo- Well done and thank you for the insight. I will add that I too saw the inside of many US (GA, NC & SC) apparel factories in the late '80s and early '90s.

They were not happy places. I remember women sitting on pillows sewing and hating their jobs and management. Patti Smith's, Piss Factory comes to mind. "But it's a paycheck, Jack."

These women were used for cheap labor. When the labor could be secured elsewhere for less--it didn't take a CPA to do the analysis. And it didn't take a poet in Macon or Greensboro or Spartanburg to realise, "you don't know what you got until you lose it."

But there's a whiff in the air of apparel manuf coming back. Where employees work for a fair wage and fair benefits. Where it makes sense for everyone. Worker and management alike. And where a "Made in NYC" label means something. I'm Tintin and I approve this message.

Josh said...

J Press for Uniqlo would have been so much better.

Scott Alexander said...

I should clarify. I'm aware the company's been losing, but they've made the greatest push at quality goods for a younger market while creating a fresh 'lifestyle brand.' In that way, I meant they're making a killing.
Keep up the excellent work, Tin Tin.


Matthew Hranek said...

i tried on the jacket yesterday. the cut was NOT sooo bad but the 50/50 fabric and construction makes this garment a bit embarrassing to wear the JPRESS name.