07 October 2011

J McLaughlin & Shep Miller

Norman Polonofsky outside the old Shep Miller

Fall In (did I already use that?)

Norman's Blue, White, Yellow Red, Green & Pink Collar

Bamboo Toile


Dressing Rooms

Horizontal Cords

Gray flannel

Corn Husk Khaki

Canvas Jeans
Patch Crew Neck Shetland

Canvas Jean

Shirts to try on

Shawl Collar Cardigan

Lavender Horizontal Cords

Rep Tie Dopp Kits

Inspirational Colors

Knots &...

Socks

Critters

Linen Shirts


Old timers love to tell stories of the small town haberdasher. I remember Smith's Robertsons in Lake Forest. Hardwood floors haphazardly strewn with worn runners and Kilims. Labels like Gant, Talbot, Corbin, Gitman, Ruff Hewn, and British Khaki spoke to the absensce of any name ending in a - God forbid - vowel. Air hung heavy with the scent of lime, cinnamon and clove from sample cologne bottles. And I didn't seem to exist. I could've fired off a signal flare and I still couldn't get help.

Norman Polonofsky manages the J McLaughlin Men's store in Southampton, NY. It's easy to tell when someone's happy about what they do. Loaded with knowledge, he was in the apparel business as a buyer before he retired, Norman oversees a store that in many ways represents him...much like those haberdashers of the past. Shep Miller comes to mind. J Mac Women's now occupies Shep's old space.

Shep Miller was the haberdasher of New York's '70s and '80s Hamptons jet set. The aesthetic wasn't Ivy so much as it was resort. Bright colors, tweaked classics and an ease that comes with...Well, having a lotta money I guess. That's not to say J McLaughlin is aspirational. It's hugely affordable for what it is. But the tweaks are there in horizontal cords, bright colors and a mature aesthetic. Maybe this is what Vineyard Vines will be when it grows up.

Southampton streets are empty. Parking is everywhere. The drive from midtown is two hours but 45 minutes of that is getting from 8th Avenue to 2nd. Time it right and you can sail east in the HOV lane like you were tacking in a 41' Morgan. Throw a line to Norman when you get there.

Update: Robertsons in Lake Forest, IL was the haberdasher I remembered. Closed more 20 years ago, a reader and old friend reminded me it occupied the recently closed Blockbuster Video. Two floors with boy's clothing downstairs and menswear upstairs. Smith's is still open in Lake Forest and while I have a coat hanger from Smiths, I don't remember ever being in the store.

8 comments:

Alice Olive said...

Love your images here. The colours and textures are great.

Makaga said...

All of these road trips! When are you gonna host a Trad fieldtrip?

Kathy said...

You know ADG is going to be all over those lavender horizontal cords.

Anonymous said...

Sorry to hear about your poor experience at Smiths. I moved to Lake Forest in 1984. I walked into Smiths, picked up a Sero university stripe OCBD and a lambswool crewneck sweater. Walked to the front, offered a credit card, was told "Sorry, we dont take those". Stated to put things back and he said "Do you live here in town? I'll just open an account for you". Never had that kind of experience before or since.

Oyster Guy said...

And I love the maturity and self assurance on exhibit in the pics. The bullion blazer badge is a little Scots Guards Regimenty dontyathink?

As I young fellow, I always found the service in small town shops to be pitch perfect. Attentive but not pushy, helpful and always gentle. The one time I felt truly invisible was in a big city shop, Perry's in Toronto back when it was on Bloor Street. I was 17 and on a mission to buy a suit for a wedding. And cashed up! I had been in the shop a few times so I knew their stock. It happened to be very busy that day, the staff was scurrying in all directions. I looked around and eventually stood my ground at a counter. Only one fellow made eye contact at all and only offered a slight smile. There were no hellos or good afternoons or we'll be with you in a minutes. After a good 15 minutes of this I just left. I wasn't angry, they really were busy but I was surprised I didn't get a greeting.

I have never gone back. In that afternoon they lost 27 years and counting of business from me. I am honestly not angry about it, they really were busy...it's just that I really really enjoy holding it against them.

Anonymous said...

"British Khaki spoke to the absensce of any name ending in a - God forbid - vowel."

Uhhh...wasn't "i" a vowel back in the day? Just askin'.

Main Line Sportsman said...

What the hell is the origin of "Dopp" kit anyway...always wondered.

SuperFerndale said...

I loved Shep Miller & still have lots of clothes from Shep's wonderful that was once Bonwit Teller.
Jeffrey