The Times Tackles Harvard’s Preppy Clothing Line


Are we recovered from the long weekend, or perhaps dragging just a little bit? We’re not ashamed to say that here at the Prepatorium we are more of the latter, remaining in denial about the seasonal transition.

Today’s topic involves something we first posted about back in early August: “Harvard’s New Clothing Line. Seriously.” The news was about the line of clothing the University has officially licensed, dubbed Harvard Yard.

Photos: Robert MItra/WWD via

Photos: Robert Mitra/WWD via

Since that occasion there has been a multitude of coverage in all manner of publications, including the follow-up story published here, “About That Harvard Clothing Line…” That post looked at general reaction to word the school is selling its name, as with this story in The Globe:

“… last week, the news took on a life of its own, dividing the blogosphere into those who either love or hate the slim-cut preppy collection inspired by a New England collegiate look circa 1962.”:

Now the Old Gray Lady has weighed in, setting off a new round of salvos and slings.  The Times story “Crimson and Green” ran on Friday, heading into the holiday weekend.

“So more than a few brainy Cambridge brows began to furrow last month after word trickled out that Harvard had entered into a 10-year licensing agreement for a line of preppy clothing…(a) New England patchwork of tartan, seersucker and old-school plaids, the collection is to arrive in national department stores beginning in February, under the name Harvard Yard.”

PHOTO: via NY Times

PHOTO: via NY Times

The primary criticism leveled in the story centers on the perception of Harvard as elitist, an image the University has been trying to shed. A 2005 graduate, Peter M. Conti-Brown, worked on efforts to “broaden Harvard’s appeal to students from poorer backgrounds” and he is quoted in the story:

““Every move to paste the Harvard name on symbols of prosperity, wealth, privilege and class erects a subtle, insidious ‘Members Only’ sign at the university admissions office,””

““We were going up against 400 years of history,” he said. “Without a doubt, licensing preppy clothes with the Harvard brand is a move in the opposite direction.””

In addition to offering more reactions to the planned apparel line, the story looks at today’s on-campus styles:

“A ramble through Harvard Yard this week, as students returned for a new academic year, revealed more bow ties, polo shirts and Lacoste crocodiles than one might find on the average college campus. But for the most part, today’s Harvard students dress however they like. The usual hoodies, jeans and flip-flops are common.”

PHOTO: Jodi Hilton for The NY Times

PHOTO: Jodi Hilton for The NY Times

To read more of the Times’ story, click here.


PHOTO: via NY Times

Perhaps one of the more fascinating stories on the issue can be found in the Crimson, “Harvard Licenses Brand for Preppy Clothing Line“.

“The clothing deal has amused many bloggers since it was first reported by the trade publication Women’s Wear Daily. Celebrity gossip blogger Perez Hilton asked: “why???” The IvyGate blog quipped: “You know Harvard’s broke when they start competing with Hollister.””

“Even the Chronicle of Higher Education couldn’t resist, and published a blog post called: “My Khakis Went to Harvard.””

The paper’s best coverage comes in the reaction from students, including a young man from the Class of ’11, J.P. Stilz:

“…a member of Harvard’s men’s polo team, and is playing the sport this summer in his home state of Kentucky. He said that he sees two sides to the clothing deal, some of which mirror challenges the polo team has faced. “I think it’s going to be bad for Harvard’s image,” he said. “We already have an image that all of our students are aristocratic, preppy bastards, frankly. So as an undergraduate student I’m kind of taken aback a little bit that that’s going to be happening, and I almost want to laugh at it.””

Again, click here for the Crimson’s story in all of its pithy glory.

Amazingly, NY Fashion Week kicks off this Thursday! We close with a few looks at last-minute preps, shown in this story from Women’s Wear Daily. Below, Carolina Herrera in her studio:

PHOTO: Thomas Iannaccone/WWD

PHOTO: Thomas Iannaccone/WWD

Next, looks from the Tommy Hilfiger Spring 2010 line to be unveiled at the Hilfiger show September 17.

PHOTO: Thomas Iannaccone/WWD

PHOTO: Thomas Iannaccone/WWD

We’re guessing the navy and white dress is meant to conjure images of nautical flags… ?

One of First Lady Michelle Obama’s favorites, Thakoon Panichgul:

PHOTO: Kyle Ericksen/WWD

PHOTO: Kyle Ericksen/WWD

And one of the masters, Oscar de la Renta with a model in one of next Spring’s confections.


PHOTO: Thomas Iannaccone/WWD

With this we say G’Bye until next time!


Filed under preppy, Preppy clothing & brands, Preppy Fashion, preppy lifestyle, When Preppy Goes Wrong

15 responses to “The Times Tackles Harvard’s Preppy Clothing Line

  1. I’m just going to say it: what to me is frustrating is they are trying to shed their elitest image or whatever the quote was, yet they’re capitalizing on their name and Harvard as a brand. Is anyone really interested in purchaing clothing from a line called North Dakota Central Technical College that is preppy because they are trying to sell their image? 10 years?

    I shudder.


  2. I still can’t believe Harvard is launching a clothing line. I first thought it was a clothing line! They should stick with academics….. btw, I love the Herrera dress!

  3. LPC

    I so hope a wise cultural anthropologist somewhere is writing about Harvard’s clothing line. I think it’s a far-reaching event. If the modern concept of brand extension extends even to the world’s great temples of intellect, what then? Either genius or disaster. The clothes are cool. This could possibly be huge and everyone else will follow. Much as I hate to think it’s possible.

  4. I read this piece in the NYT and thought to myself, “couldn’t it have been a more clever name referencing Harvard?” You know like, Harvard Square or Newbury St.
    College kids and people in general love “insider stuff.” I fear that there will be a total backlash. The elite will not buy because it is too obvious and the masses might stay away because it might appear too elite.
    just my thoughts on it 🙂

  5. Oh, how I adored the irony of the Ivy-League-worshipping NYT being sniffy about this Harvard Yard line. Warmed my snarky little heart, it did.

    Cannot wait for Fashion Week – thanks for the reminder!

  6. I drool over Carolina Herrara, she is my Style icon, those a-line skirts, and crisp white blouses with red accents…. If only I could consistently be that polished!

  7. Amy

    I’m still in shock that Harvard is launching a clothing line. I agree with the polo player, this is going to just have a reverse affect than what they intended. Branding their name is going to make them seem way more “elitist” than before!

    Love love Oscar de la Renta!

  8. Love love Tommy Hilfiger! And a note on campus wear….I’m happy my oldest had outgrown that hoodie look. I’d buy him nice clothes and he’s cover them up with the same hoodie every day. LOL!

  9. When I saw that article, I thought of you first!

  10. That is so crazy Harvard is doing their own clothing line! Love Oscar de la Renta!

  11. Jen

    I find the whole thing amusing and completely predictable. Why can’t Harvard cash in on its image like everyone else? It may be a bit crass but it is commercialism at its best. As an Ivy Leaguer myself, I am not entirely keen on perpetuating the elitist attitude the clothes market. But, I do like a good Madras print.

  12. There is a strong drive for this clothing line to succeed. One thing remains certain, those Harvard Students pictured, are just like all the other students, if they aren’t converted to the Harvard style , the rest of us may take even longer!

  13. I want that tartan plaid shirt in the NYT photo for my He-weasel. Cuteness!

  14. paisleypetunia

    Definitely sending the Monique line to my newly engaged friends…and thanks for the reminder about Target’s new line tomorrow, guess ill be sneaking away at lunch xoxo
    p.s. thanks for the tips on Detroit!

  15. roselinke

    there’s a great article on the new clothing line & what it means for the harvard image over at the naming & branding blog ‘on the button.’ read more over here:

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