Dartmouth Rugby Takes 4th Consecutive Ivy Title

January 18, 2011

The Dartmouth Rugby Football Club ended its 2010-2011 Fall season with a 31-0 trouncing of Harvard of a brisk New Hampshire Saturday afternoon. That win marked the end of regular-season Ivy League play, and the fourth time in as many years Dartmouth has captured the Ivy League title. Said co-captain Tommy Brothers: “Four Ivy League championships in four years is something very, very special, and I think it’s a great testament to the work that we’ve put in and the winning culture we’ve been able to establish since 2007.”

The match was also the end to another undefeated season for the DRFC, and the 11th time the team has taken Ivy gold in the past 14 years. While it will continue participation in Ivy contests next season, Dartmouth will also join the competitive D-1 National Premier League group of rugby-playing colleges and universities. Its first match in that league will be against Delaware on March 5th.  

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The (Inclusive) Tables Down At Mory’s

November 30, 2010

Yale University is unique among top colleges, and even among other Ivies, in that it boasts a private club on campus. Well, not completely unique: Dartmouth College fully owns and operates the Hanover Country Club, membership in which is open to Dartmouth students.

But Yale really has something special in Mory’s: a private club in New Haven, right on York Street, catering to (and offering) the exclusivity and pedigreed stratification of a social structure which grew out of the same university responsible for Skull & Bones.

Mory’s came into being one evening after crew practice in New Haven: a group of oarsmen from Yale’s Class of 1863 found an unpretentious ale house at 103 Wooster Street, between Franklin and Bowery, and stopped in for a drink. The rowers found themselves served and entertained by Frank Moriarty, proprietor of the tavern “whose hospitality and dignity belied its dingy surroundings.”

After temporarily closing due to financial difficulties in 2008, the newly opened Mory's is trying to be more inclusive as it seeks to expand its membership.

Word spread, and Mr. Moriarty’s pub gained in popularity at a steady clip: soon, he had all the Yale business he could handle. He died in 1876 and his wife – known locally as The Widow – moved the business to Temple Street, and into more aristocratic lodging. When The Widow died, her longtime manager Edward G. Oakley took over and immediately gave every undergraduate $20.00 worth of credit at the newly christened Temple Bar. As students neared their limit, Mr. Oakley would gently remind them of their debt and thereafter accept only cash from that customer. He never dunned any man beyond that gentle reminder and nobody ever asked to have his limit extended; in ten years, Mr. Oakley lost only $25.00 in that system.

In 1912, The Mory’s Association was formed to ensure the longevity of the bar. The Association began issuing shares of the venture to Yalies and, eventually, converted the shareholding membership into a private club. The Association bought a new house for the club and many of the old bar’s original furnishings and fittings were bustled into the new property and installed there: windows and door casings, wainscoting, the entire front entrance, tables, chairs, and fireplace mantels.

The club fell on hard times in 2008 and shut its doors temporarily; the Association raised money for a grand re-opening and renovation and, in the midst of it, secured financing by loosening membership requirements in a bid for a greater dues-paying base. And it worked: membership among undergraduates is nearly 2,000 now, 75% of the club’s goal. Christopher Getman, president of the Mory’s Council, couldn’t be more pleased. His administration’s goal of increasing inclusivity by relaxing membership requirements has seen the to club prosperous times, and Mory’s financial footing, if not its original character, is solid again.


DRFC Leads Ivy Scoreboard

November 15, 2010

The Dartmouth Rugby Football Club lead the Ivy League in Rugby Magazine‘s annual compilation of top-scoring collegiate ruggers; seven DRFC players made the top scorer’s list, and the team lead the League in overall scoring and points.

Ed Hagerty, who edits the magazine, divided the top scorers into two categories: top try scorers and top point scorers, the latter recognizing points scored by kickers. This season, Dartmouth ruggers scored a total of 436 points against opponents, while allowing only 30 points scored against themselves. 


Dartmouth Rugby Round-Up

October 4, 2010

The Dartmouth Rugby Football Club downed the University of Pennsylvania last weekend, at Penn, by a final tally of 78-7. The match was the first of the Ivy season for the DRFC, which also notched a 38-7 victory in a B-side match played later that day.

The next day saw Dartmouth in Princeton, New Jersey, rolling over the Tigers 52-3 amidst strong play by back Will Lehmann ’12 and DRFC co-captain Tommy Brothers ’11.

This past Saturday, Dartmouth took the pitch in New Haven, set to play the Bulldogs at Yale. Match reports aren’t yet in but Yale came into the came with a 2-0 record, similar to Dartmouth’s, after downing Ivy rivals Columbia and Cornell. Details forthcoming.  


In Decline, Graciously

July 2, 2010

Via The New York Times:

Satisfaction with our national progress should not make us forget its authors: the very Protestant elite that founded and long dominated our nation’s institutions of higher education and government, including the Supreme Court.

Unlike almost every other dominant ethnic, racial or religious group in world history, white Protestants have ceded their socioeconomic power by hewing voluntarily to the values of merit and inclusion, values now shared broadly by Americans of different backgrounds. The decline of the Protestant elite is actually its greatest triumph.

Like any ethno-racial or religious group, the population of white Protestants is internally diverse. It would be foolish to conflate the descendants of New England smallholders with the offspring of Scandinavian sod farmers in the Middle West, just as it would be a mistake to confuse the Milanese with the Sicilians, or the children of Havana doctors with the grandchildren of dirt farmers from Chiapas, Mexico.

So, when discussing the white elite that exercised such disproportionate power in American history, we are talking about a subgroup, mostly of English or Scots-Irish origin, whose ancestors came to this land in the 17th and 18th centuries. Their forebears fought the American Revolution and wrote the Constitution, embedding in it a distinctive set of beliefs of Protestant origin, including inalienable rights and the separation of church and state.

It is not as though white Protestants relinquished power quickly or without reservation. Catholic immigrants, whether from Ireland or Southern Europe, faced a century of organized discrimination and were regularly denounced as slavish devotees of the pope unsuited to democratic participation.

And, although anti-Semitism in America never had anything like the purchase it had in Europe, it was a persistent barrier. Protestants like Abbott Lawrence Lowell, a great president of Harvard in the early 20th century, tried to impose formal quotas to limit Jewish admissions to the university. The Protestant governing elite must also bear its own share of responsibility for slavery and racial discrimination.

Yet, after the ideals of meritocratic inclusion gained a foothold, progress was remarkably steady and smooth. Take Princeton University, a longtime bastion of the Southern Protestant elite in particular. The Princeton of F. Scott Fitzgerald was segregated and exclusive. When Hemingway described Robert Cohn in the opening of “The Sun Also Rises” as a Jew who had been “the middleweight boxing champion of Princeton,” he was using shorthand for a character at once isolated, insecure and pugnacious. As late as 1958, the year of the “dirty bicker” in which Jews were conspicuously excluded from its eating clubs, Princeton could fairly have been seen as a redoubt of all-male Protestant privilege.

In the 1960s, however, Princeton made a conscious decision to change, eventually opening its admissions to urban ethnic minorities and women. That decision has now borne fruit. Astonishingly, the last three Supreme Court nominees — Samuel Alito, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan — are Princeton graduates, from the Classes of 1972, ’76, and ’81, respectively. The appointments of these three justices to replace Protestant predecessors turned the demographic balance of the court.

Why did the Protestant elite open its institutions to all comers? The answer can be traced in large part to the anti-aristocratic ideals of the Constitution, which banned titles of nobility and thus encouraged success based on merit. For many years, the Protestant elite was itself open to rising white Protestants not from old-family backgrounds.

Money certainly granted entrée into governing circles, but education was probably more important to the way the Protestant elite defined itself, which is why the opening of the great American universities has had such an epochal effect in changing the demographics of American elites. Another key source was the ideal of fair play, imported from the ideology of the English public schools, but practiced far more widely in the United States than in the class-ridden mother country.

Together, these social beliefs in equality undercut the impulse toward exclusive privilege that every successful group indulges on occasion. A handful of exceptions for admission to societies, clubs and colleges — trivial in and of themselves — helped break down barriers more broadly. This was not just a case of an elite looking outside itself for rejuvenation: the inclusiveness of the last 50 years has been the product of sincerely held ideals put into action.

Interestingly, this era of inclusion was accompanied by a corresponding diffusion of the distinctive fashion (or rather anti-fashion) of the Protestant elite class. The style now generically called “prep,” originally known as “Ivy League,” was long purveyed by Jewish and immigrant haberdashers (the “J.” in the New Haven store J. Press stands for Jacobi) and then taken global by Ralph Lauren, né Lifshitz. But until the Protestant-dominated Ivy League began to open up, the wearers of the style were restricted to that elite subculture.

The spread of Ivy League style is therefore not a frivolous matter. Today the wearing of the tweed is not anachronism or assimilation, but a mark of respect for the distinctive ethnic group that opened its doors to all — an accomplishment that must be remembered, acknowledged and emulated.


Watering Holes: Mory’s Temple Bar

June 28, 2010

Mory’s Temple Bar is a New Haven institution, having served thirsty Yalies since its founding in 1849. Membership in the club is generally open to anybody affiliated with Yale University (which is annually less the compliment it was the year before), and has lately been overrun, via lax membership standards, by co-ed student government types.

Despite its reputed $2 million endowment, Mory’s was forcibly shuttered during the financial upheaval of 2008. Its president has since promised to re-open in the summer of 2010, after renovations.

The Whiffenpoofs at Mory's.

Mory’s occupies 306 York Street, a white frame building which was formerly a private home, built sometime prior to 1817. The clubhouse made the U.S. National Register of Historic Places in 2005.

The Whiffenpoofs, Yale’s effeminately-named a cappella troupe, regularly entertain in the club’s dining rooms. Their hoary staple, The Whiffenpoof Song, makes mention of Mory’s as “the place where Louis dwells.”

A Mory's Cup in the offing.

Since its opening, one of the constants at Mory’s (it held an all-male tack until 1972 when, three years after Yale admitted women, Mory’s did too) has been the tradition of Cups. A Cup is a ceremonial drinking event in which silver trophy urns are ordered by color (red, gold, purple, green, blue, velvet, and more) and each color corresponds to a drink, drunk from the urn. Whomever is left holding the urn at its completion, cleans it dry with only his mouth and hair while the rest sing the Mory’s Song by way of encouragement. When the Cup is dry, it’s turned upside-down and set on a napkin, then raised again and the napkin inspected for any sign of unfinished drink having dripped.

Another Mory’s tradition is that its bar rooms serve as retreat to the members of the Yale Political Union, recent notables of which have included George H.W. Bush, the late Gerald Ford, John Bolton, and the late William F. Buckley, Jr.


Of Brooks, via Plimpton

June 1, 2010

Via the always well-stocked, if only occasionally well-worded Ivy Style web log… “Under the Golden Fleece,” by George Plimpton:

Asked to check out Brooks Brothers on its 175th anniversary, I thought it best to outfit myself for the visit from head to foot in their clothing. It was not too difficult, since I have been a patron for years, as was my father before me, and his father before him. I missed out only on the shoes. I have an unnaturally wide foot, a triple E, and their shoe department stops at a single E, shoes that would have caused a wince at every step if I could have squeezed into them.

But the rest was all theirs — socks, underwear, tie, a white button-down shirt, and a slightly rumpled seersucker suit, which was appropriate because it was a hot summer day. The blue flag with its legend attesting to “175 Years of American Style” hung listlessly in the heat over Forty-fourth Street.

The author at ease.

Once inside the pleasant cool of the store, I was taken in hand by Wayne Sheridan, a salesman on the first floor. He has been employed by Brooks Brothers for thirty-five years. That is by no means remarkable. Indeed, the employment record is held by salesman Joseph Mancini, who retired in 1992 after sixty-six years of service. Another salesman, Frederick Webb, worked in the store selling suits up through his eighties.

Among his steady customers (”see you” patrons, in the jargon of the store) were members of the Morgan banking family. He served five generations of them during his sixty-five years of service. He could never bring himself to judge when the young Morgans reached an age when it was no longer appropriate for him to call them by their first names: no easy solution. So he simply continued on a first-name basis with Morgan family members throughout their lives.

Mr. Sheridan, being on the first floor, which features ties, shirts, and men’s accessories, does not have quite the “see you” patronage situation enjoyed by the suit salesmen on the fourth. But he told me he had once sold a button-down shirt to Joan Collins. He remembers John F. Kennedy in his senatorial days, walking past the tie counter with his hands in his coat pockets.

We walked over to his tie counter. I asked how many were sold on a good day, and he said upwards of a thousand. Noticing one with a pattern of seals balancing beach balls on their noses, I commented that I had expected only regimental ties.

“The animal ties do very well,” he told me. ‘They bring in the younger group.” He smiled. “Ralph Lauren started his career standing just where you are — selling ties. He worked here for two years and then started designing ties on his own. Paul Stuart up the street started selling them for him.”

“Why not Brooks Brothers?” I asked.

“His designs were before their time — at least that was the opinion among the marketing people: too wide they thought.”

Mr. Sheridan smiled again and asked if I’d like to take a crack at selling ties. He said he’d try to steer some Japanese patrons to the counter; there were bound to be a lot of them in the store. In fact, he went on to say, these days the Japanese head the list of foreign patrons. They carry their calculators with them, their eyes widen when they figure out what extraordinary bargains are available. The Italians come next. Giovanni Agnelli, the gentleman who runs Fiat, buys at Brooks Brothers frequently. “He buys lots and lots of shirts,” said Mr. Sheridan as he went off looking for some Japanese.

They wandered by eventually — a solemn-looking couple. “How about these seals balancing balls on their noses?” I said. “Very popular with the young crowd.” The pair inspected the tie gravely, and then moved on without a word.

I remarked to Mr. Sheridan that Ralph Lauren probably had had his bad days, and then I wondered aloud if his innovative design ideas would have been accepted by today’s marketing people.

“Oh, there have been many, many changes in company policies,” Mr. Sheridan said. “Many.”

A bit of background. The store was founded — “established” is the proper Brooks Brothers term — on April 7, 1818, by Henry Sands Brooks. A dapper dresser, he often traveled to Europe to supplement his wardrobe. What he brought back, especially his colorful waistcoats, was the envy of his friends. Considering that the bulk of his transatlantic luggage began to consist of materials, coats, waistcoats they had begged him to purchase for them, it was a natural step to go into the business professionally.

For $17,000 he bought a frame building with an arcade that stretched over the sidewalks of Catharine and Cherry Streets, on a corner near Franklin Square, then the center of New York’s mercantile district and within blocks of the more fashionable residences of the time. The articles that could be purchased ready-made were folded and laid out in neat row on tables. On pleasant days some of the suits were hung outdoors on hangers, flapping in a breeze like laundry on a line — a primitive precursor of the display window.

The store moved five times — each time farther uptown toward its present location on Madison Avenue and Forty-fourth Street and bringing with it traditions that became increasingly hallowed over the years. Throughout its history it catered to a clientele that prided itself on its sense of taste and its fastidiousness. Andrew Mellon, the banker and philanthropist, spent long minutes at the tie counter before selecting what he wanted —always black with small white figures — which he would invariably take outside to see how it looked in the sunlight. So staid was the organization that its credit department would not allow Rudolph Valentino — who fancied Brooks Brothers hats — to open an account at the height of his career.

In 1976, when the company lowered the top button on its suits by half an inch, it was considered a cataclysmic step by die-hard customers. All of this was very much in keeping with the principle laid down by the founder, namely “to make and deal in merchandise of only the best quality, to sell it at a fair profit only, and to deal with people who seek and appreciate such merchandise.”

This attitude of exclusivity was best summed up by Frederick Brooks, company vice president, in 1889. He closed the store on Saturdays because of the “outsiders” who crowded the premises on that day. “Who are all these people?” he asked. “We must save the merchandise for all our regular customers.”

Of course, it was exactly this brand of elitism, carried on through the years, that made Brooks Brothers a world-famous institution, and indeed lured “outsiders” into the store. Given this tradition, one might suppose that the company’s policies have remained rather rigid over the years. Not at all. The store — to the surprise of many — has often been a pioneer in men’s fashion.

The famed Golden Fleece has been Brooks Brothers’ trademark since the 1850s. Often jocularly referred to by the saIesmen as a “pig in a sling,” it is in fact a sheep suspended in a ribbon. It was a symbol of British woolen merchants, and before that of the Knights of the Golden Fleece, founded by Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy. Each knight wore the emblem over his heart; it symbolized the Lamb of God.

The logo has become such a familiar status symbol that it apparently has value even when it isn’t attached to anything. There are stories of customers buying the least expensive item in the store bearing the Brooks Brothers logo and then transferring the Fleece to something more substantial — perhaps to a suit of inferior make. “An empty gesture,” a salesman informed me. “That certainly wouldn’t fool us.” He went on to describe a man who nervously asked for an athletic supporter and then turned it down because it did not have the Brooks Brothers label.

“So it’s safe to say that the logo itself is responsible for many of the sales,” I suggested.

“Oh yes. A cap with the Golden Fleece insignia on the front is a big seller,” he told me. “Pique-knit sports shirts with the logo on the front sell easily over a hundred a day.”

I asked about the colors the patrons of different nationalities seem to prefer and was told that the Italians buy the entire spectrum available but that the Japanese shy away from the reds, the hot pinks. “They stick to navy, black, and white and only rarely venture into color.”

“Do they buy seersucker suits?” I asked.

“Very American,” the salesman said obliquely

“I trust you’ve noticed that I’m wearing a Brooks Brothers seersucker.”

“Without a doubt.”

The fourth floor is the sanctum sanctorum where customers are introduced to the Number One Sack Suit. A suit at Brooks Brothers these days costs anywhere from $295 to $895 (the readymades, popularly described as “of-the-rack”) on up to $1,600, the so-called “special order” where the suit is tailor-made to the client’s specifications.

Often as many as fifteen new orders are made during the day, and, of course, customers come in to have second and third fittings as well. The fourth floor remains very much as I remember it from my first visits — the cavernous room almost ecclesiastically quiet. I said to a salesman that it looked about the same. He shook his head. “There have been changes,” he said emphatically.

I went up to the executive offices on the eighth floor to hear about some of them with William Roberti, who has been in charge of operations at Brooks Brothers since January 1990. We met in his office — a comfortable corner room, complete with fireplace, quite clublike in tone, which in fact does not reflect Mr. Roberti’s background at all. He admits to not being a tried-and-true customer, though to my unpracticed eye he appeared to be wearing a Brooks Brothers suit. I asked, and he was. A powerfully built man, he is a lieutenant colonel in the army reserve, and indeed had just returned from maneuvers. A no-nonsense character.

“What we’ve tried to do is make the store more customer-friendly,” he explained. ”The notion for years was that Brooks Brothers was a private club, and that doesn’t make good business sense. The fact is that the only denominator is good taste, good quality, and good value. And that means for everybody.”

I asked how one went about removing the Ivy League stigma.

“Well, expansion, of course, is part of it,” he said. “We have expanded the operation not only nationwide but around the world. There are fifty-eight regular stores in this country, not including twenty-two “factory outlet” stores in places like Freeport, Maine. Then there are forty-five stores in Japan, and over a hundred· odd locations in Italy that sell Brooks Brothers products.”

“Hardly Ivy League territory,” I said.

“Exactly. Then we are getting involved in licensing operations — home furnishings, eye frames for glasses…”

I asked if the Golden Fleece was carried on the eye frames.

“Of course,” he said. “On the inside, rather small. But it’s there. What is is important,” he went on, “is never to stand still. No business can. The secret is to add products and not mess with what works.”

When I asked about the new products, Mr. Roberti mentioned pigment-dyed washed-twill sports shirts, Brooks blue jeans (”years ago could you imagine that Brooks would one day carry blue jeans?”), and more recently a baseball jacket — what is referred to as the “varsity jacket” — snap buttons down the front and available in burgundy, bottle-green and navy.

I asked him what he thought the founding brothers would have made of all this — the varsity jacket, the blue jeans, and the most radical change of all, getting into the wholesale business.

‘They were traditionalists but also practical.” He smiled. “I think they would have come around.”