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The Fashion Geek Podcast

65 | Berkeley Breathes Has An Opinion About Ivy, Trad, Prep And Especially Rowing Blazers

Reg talks with the man behind the Instagram account. What’s all the hubbub about a style specific to education and elitism? Is there a way to break down the gates and make it a style for all?



Guest Links

Timestamps

00:00 Introduction to Reg Ferguson
00:45 A Solo Episode: Virgil Abloh Tribute
03:18 Virgil Abloh's Impact on Fashion
04:19 The Journey of Virgil and Kanye
06:51 Off-White and Beyond
07:34 Breaking Barriers in Fashion
12:06 Virgil's Legacy and Collaborations
20:16 Personal Reflections and Condolences

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Transcript

Berkeley [00:00:00]: Rowing Blazers is a good example. I think that there are great things about rowing Blazers. I don't think that rowing Blazers is a bad company doing bad things. However, I think that they have flaws and issues, and those are important flaws and issues. And I think that rather than Jack Carlson patting himself on the back for being the next Steve Jobs of of fashion or whatever, I think that he should be, you know, working from his dad's home in Florida to, you know, address some of those issues rather than seeing everything as hunky dory, and they have been resistant to do that. So you're a 100% right. There are issues with it. I think that they're perpetuating the same elitism and classism, that has always existed in preppy clothing. Berkeley [00:00:49]: They're just doing it under the banner, under the kind of lip service banner of inclusivity. Reginald Ferguson [00:00:56]: I'm Reg Ferguson, and I'm a fashion consultant from New York City, born raised. I've been helping men look fly for years. And now, I wanna help you learn more about menswear, the entrepreneurs, the brands, and top fashion tips on The Fashion Geek Podcast. When I was little, I went to Riverdale Country School. I loved it. I didn't know it at the time, but it was the best school for me. The environment was enriching. Again, I loved it. Reginald Ferguson [00:01:33]: I thank my late mother for having the belief, the vision, and the sacrifice in getting me enrolled there. I was dressed in my family's version of PrEP since birth. So when I entered RCS, I fit in but at a different level. My classmates wore the golden fleece, Brooks Brothers. I wore eyes odd. There were other things that denoted a higher echelon from my station and, of course, I would inquire in need of my mom about it, which I'm sure annoyed her. I remember wondering why my friends were all inviting me to their bar mitzvahs at the same time. I have wonderful memories of being new. Reginald Ferguson [00:02:19]: Thank you, Brian Krex, Ben Kaufman, Craig from Philston. It was also where I was called a nigger. Thank you, Cord. Is there a particular way you have to look or dress to be accepted in a prep school? Does the word tradition include everyone? Is Ivy Prep Trad embodying America while giving off an exclusionary vibe? Yo. This is Reg Ferguson, fashion geek number 1. How are you? Welcome to the ride. Thank you so much for listening. I'm a men's fashion consultant here in New York City, and I help fashion challenged men go from confused to confident. Reginald Ferguson [00:03:09]: Consider me a personal trainer for fashion. If you ever found yourself staring at the closet, not knowing what to wear, or the idea of shopping for clothes makes you feel physically ill, then this is a show for you. My goal with every episode is to help make looking good feel easy. If you ever want my help, email me at reg@nyfashiongeek.com for a consultation. If you have a friend who's looking to level up his fashion style wardrobe game, please share an episode with them. While you're at it, if you dig the show and haven't already left us a review and a rating, please consider doing so now. Your shares, ratings, and reviews help us grow the show and help us get the best possible guests and help more men dress their best. Today, we're gonna talk with Jonathan Wortham AKA Berkeley Breaves, which is his Instagram profile. Reginald Ferguson [00:04:08]: And he and I are gonna talk about something that the everyday man should be interested in. We're gonna talk about Ivy, Trad, and Prep Styles and their impact on popular culture. Berkeley Breeds in the building. How are you? Berkeley [00:04:22]: I'm good. I'm good. How are you? Reginald Ferguson [00:04:24]: I'm well. Can't complain. It's Friday. Are you keeping safe out there? Berkeley [00:04:31]: Yeah. Yep. Just trying to trying to make it through the day. You know how it goes. I'm, you know, I'm a teacher, so, obviously, a lot of mask wearing, a lot of lot of social distancing, a lot of lot of that good stuff that everyone should be doing. Reginald Ferguson [00:04:47]: Sure. Yeah. Well, we're in the, we're in the same city, so I'm doing the same thing. Yeah. I never I never stopped masking. Berkeley [00:04:57]: Yeah. Yeah. No. It's it's it's our reality now, it seems. So, you know, embrace it is my my attitude. Reginald Ferguson [00:05:05]: Absolutely. So before we go into our topic, please tell us. So what do you do? So what do you what do you do? Berkeley [00:05:31]: I run an Instagram account, called Berkeley Breathes. I started it a little more than a year ago, really just to share the images that I find and like from a variety of old yearbooks, whether they be prep school yearbooks, or college yearbooks, and also images from movies, magazines, various other things like that. And along with those images, I, I write down some thoughts about those and and this particular style that you mentioned. A lot of words for it. None of which I particularly like, but Ivy style, prep style, whatever you wanna call it. Reginald Ferguson [00:06:12]: Hey. It's the, it's the 3 in 1. As a Christian, there's a lot of symbolism for me there. Berkeley [00:06:20]: Exactly. Exactly. Exactly. You know, you got your father. You got holy ghost. You got all that kind of stuff Reginald Ferguson [00:06:25]: in there. The way, the truth, the light. Yes. So we met on the gram. Mhmm. And, you know, I just wanna let the I wanna let you know along with the listeners, you know, I hope that you, reconnect with me because, you know, I follow you. You don't follow me. Berkeley [00:06:45]: But, you know, I, yeah. I don't play the Instagram game that well, but, I I do, keep tabs on on the show and on you, and on a lot of people. If I don't follow you out there in the in the podcast audience universe, don't take it personally, but I'm probably keeping tabs on you even if I'm even if I'm not, seeing you every single day on those new posts. Reginald Ferguson [00:07:11]: Okay. Fine. I still, I still feel slightly miffed. Berkeley [00:07:18]: Well, you got me here. I'm on your I'm on your schedule, and I'm on your, you know, I'm on your, your your schedule today. So you, you know, you've got me working for you. Reginald Ferguson [00:07:28]: Yes. Well, I I really like to think that we're working for one another. This is a this is a win win, Berkeley. Sure. Sure. But, you know, certainly, you'll feel guilty probably at the end, and you'll Of course. You'll click follow. Berkeley [00:07:41]: You know? Of course. Reginald Ferguson [00:07:42]: And if you don't, you know, I'll just give you a jaundice eye. Berkeley [00:07:46]: Yeah. Exactly. Yeah. This this podcast episode will never see the light of day. Reginald Ferguson [00:07:50]: No. Of course, it will. I mean, this is this is the reason that I I've seeked you out, and I'm really I'm really happy that we're that we're doing this. You seem to be very, excited about it too. Of course. More so than I on the DM. I'm like, okay, buddy. Okay. Reginald Ferguson [00:08:03]: We're doing it. We're doing it. I'm sure. Sure. Positive. You know, Berkeley [00:08:06]: I don't get a lot of opportunities. I burned so many bridges. You know, I don't have a lot of opportunities to to do this kind of thing. So Reginald Ferguson [00:08:11]: Well, we're gonna talk about that, in this conversation because I'm aware of at least 1 or 2 bridges, and I want you to elaborate on the burning. Sure. There's no question about that. So I think we have a lot of interesting things to talk about. We don't have much time to do it. What led you to be interested in doing this? Berkeley [00:08:36]: I think that it was a combination of, you know, seeing the clothes around me. I grew up in New England and, you know, was kind of surrounded by academia growing up, went to a private school myself in Maine and was in that world to a degree, and, you know, just kind of the the that kind of background that I had, and it primed me for it. I think my own interest, as you mentioned, in in popular culture, American culture, you know, seeing these factors at play. You know, I I was an English major in college, and I went to graduate school for English literature, and applying that kind of critical thinking and analysis, not just to work of literature, but to a film, to the clothes in that film, to, you know, a particular school environment, whatever it might be was really interesting to me. And then, you know, I had done some work like blogging many, many years ago when that was more of a thing, and wanted to kind of get back into a place where I could share some of my thoughts, and Instagram seemed like the place to do it. So all the factors kind of came together where I was like, hey. This is something I'm interested in. Here's a place where I can be sharing that. Berkeley [00:10:01]: Hopefully, someone's interested in it. And, yeah, it's it remains just as fascinating now as it as it was when I very first started doing it. So Reginald Ferguson [00:10:08]: Well, that's good. I mean, you know how the algorithm works. You were presented to me one day, and I found it very, you know, interesting and fascinating as well. I'm glad. I've liked I've liked your takes. Some of those takes are hot as you know. Yeah. You come out guns blazing, Berkeley [00:10:26]: and Sometimes, yeah. A lot Reginald Ferguson [00:10:27]: of people yeah. Not all the time, but a lot of people can't handle that. And, yeah, we won't be popping shots at each other, but like I said, I certainly am gonna ask you questions in relation Sure. To a lot of that. Berkeley [00:10:40]: Good. Reginald Ferguson [00:10:41]: And full disclosure. I am concerned that you have maybe stumbled on to one of my school's yearbooks. And, Berkeley [00:10:53]: just have. Reginald Ferguson [00:10:54]: Yeah. You probably have. And because I went to prep school. Berkeley [00:10:58]: In New York City. Right? I did. Yeah. I I probably did. Reginald Ferguson [00:11:02]: Yeah. I know you did. And I just keep saying, please, Don't put me up there if you find me. Berkeley [00:11:12]: Alright. Noted. Reginald Ferguson [00:11:13]: Noted. Cheese or wheeze. I have no problem being proud of my school. That's that's not the issue. Just don't wanna be put on blast. Berkeley [00:11:21]: Well, you know, that actually connects to something that I think is important, that I that I think about a lot, which is I I try to not emphasize the names, of people that I post, although sometimes it it works its way in through, you know, a lot of yearbooks put the name right on the photo, and I do try to steer away from those. But I also try to steer away from really emphasizing the name even of the school, that I'm posting from. So if you look through my posts and stories, you won't see, hey. This is, you know, Groton School in 1973. This is Andover 1985. Like, I really don't think that that's the point. I'm not trying to emphasize a specific person. Sure. Berkeley [00:12:02]: It's fun to find Henry Winkler at Emerson or whatever, but, like, you know, the point is not the people, the point is not the name of the school. For me, the point is to close, and part of what I'm trying to demonstrate is that that kind of allegiance to this, you know, reverence for these elite environments, it's not all bad, but it's not all good. And if we can move away from that and just see these people as people wearing clothes, that's a that's a good thing. So if I ever come across you, I'll I'll remember that. But also, if I accidentally have posted anyone in the past, know that I wasn't trying to, you know, put anyone's face or name out there intentionally. I think that that goes against the purpose of what I'm trying to do. Reginald Ferguson [00:12:41]: Understood. And, yes, I I looked through your Gram thoroughly when I had to do this search. No. I frankly, I have to. I mean, of course, this is for everybody. I mean, we met on the Gram, so what better source to doing my research Exactly. But said platform. Yep. Reginald Ferguson [00:12:58]: So no. I I know you keep it in anonymity, and I appreciate that. But I always wonder one day if I'm if I'm gonna realize that these photos are from my school Berkeley [00:13:11]: Sure. Reginald Ferguson [00:13:11]: You know, much less my era. And I know I know you've hit my school. I know you have. So and that's, you know, that's all good. That's fine. And like you said but you also brought up something interesting because I think maybe because the 2 of us have something in common in terms of our educational rearing and background, you are not doing what other people are doing who didn't go to those institutions. They deify it. Mhmm. Reginald Ferguson [00:13:41]: I think what you try to do is is demystify it. And I mean, unless I'm speaking out of turn. Berkeley [00:13:49]: No. Not at all. No. I I think you're right. I think there's a demystification of it. I think that, as I said, just trying to say the most important thing here is not the trappings of, you know, an elite institution or an elite background, the important thing here is the the people, and that could be pro or con. You know? It could be important in a good way or a bad way. But trying to, there's a quote from Tobias Wolf's memoir, this boy's life, that I always try to shoehorn into any conversation. Berkeley [00:14:26]: So, you know, humor me for a minute, but Reginald Ferguson [00:14:28]: Certainly. Berkeley [00:14:29]: It says it it takes a corrupt mind to make symbols of other people. And I I think that that's a great sentiment that, making symbols of other people, ultimately, it reduces people more to a 2 d rather than a 3 d, image. And I think I'm trying to put some depth back into this style by saying, hey. These are humans. They have their faults. They have their, you know, their their strengths. But it's not just about, as you say, having this deified idea of, wow, you know, Buckley, Saint Paul's and and Yale, you know, like Sherman Coy. But, hey. Berkeley [00:15:03]: These are just real people going through their lives, and we can examine them and relate them to our own lives on that basis. Reginald Ferguson [00:15:09]: I think what's tricky about delving into the subject is that one can argue, and I think you do this occasionally, there can be an egalitarian aspect to all this. Mhmm. But I feel that most people miss that mark. Let's say you on that. Berkeley [00:15:28]: I agree. I was actually just talking about this with somebody on Instagram over, direct messages where I was saying, you know, yes, there is this egalitarian attitude that a lot of people take towards these clothes, and it's a defense that a lot of people use, and I think it's there. Right? Like, these are clothes that are fairly flattering on pretty much anyone, you know, sack jackets, baggy cuts, you know, if you're if you're a beanpole, you know, or if you're if you're not, you're you're gonna look good in them, you know. Women look very good in these clothes just the same way as men do without having some special fit or special cut or special whatever, you know, it's it's very versatile and egalitarian in that way, but at the same time, there's all of this coding going on in it, where you have to know the right way to wear these clothes. You have to know which clothes are the right ones to wear. And while back at Exeter in 1965, no one really had to call anyone out that much because everyone came from exactly the same background. You know, that was exclusionary in its own right. Now you have people perpetuating that exclusionary image by on the Internet being ready to jump on you if you're doing it slightly wrong. Berkeley [00:16:40]: Right? That's not what the photos look like. That's not what the official official preppy handbook says, you know, insert eye roll here. You know, I'm trying to say, look, the pictures show a bunch of different stuff. The pictures show pretty much everything under the sun. So stop gatekeeping this. You know, if you want it to be egalitarian, put your money where your mouth is and let people do what they wanna do because that's what people have been doing in these clothes since pretty much their inception. Reginald Ferguson [00:17:08]: So this is a great moment for a segue. You talk about gatekeeping. Mhmm. We both come from a prep school background. Mhmm. I do not look like you. Mhmm. And my experience for the most part. Reginald Ferguson [00:17:28]: And I'm gonna, I'm gonna keep it real with you because you've been very, you've been very kind. You haven't asked me where I went to school, but it will be revealed in in the in the in another part of the interview or the show rather. But the point is I went to a Riverdale Country School. Berkeley [00:17:44]: Okay. Yeah. Sure. Problems problems at Riverdale. Yeah. Reginald Ferguson [00:17:48]: Yeah. Well, I feel like I preceded those problems. I mean, I think the problems at all these schools come in waves. It's and it's certainly not unique to RCS. Sure. You could talk about fields and ethical culture. Yes. You can. Reginald Ferguson [00:18:02]: Yeah. Come on, man. Like Berkeley [00:18:04]: Yes. You can. Reginald Ferguson [00:18:05]: Spread it around Berkeley. Berkeley [00:18:06]: Oh, yeah. Reginald Ferguson [00:18:07]: No. For sure. Focused on my school. No. No. So it's and I'm sure you caught the Times Sunday article around 3 weekends ago Mhmm. About critical race theory Yes. Through these schools. Reginald Ferguson [00:18:23]: And I don't know if we have time to talk with about that. I'm a have all these notes here in front of me, and I'm just gonna have to go and, yeah, you know, you may wanna come back. Yeah. Because we are not gonna cover everything. It's just it's just gonna be impossible. But you use the word gatekeeping. Mhmm. And I think of my late mom who had the presence of mind, the vision, the determination to get me into RCS. Reginald Ferguson [00:18:52]: Of course. And, obviously, when I first joined RCS as a little kid, I thought nothing of it. Mhmm. It was just naturally where I was supposed to go to school. I went to Montessori. I went to Riverdale, Montessori. So from there going to RCS from 1st grade, you know, up made a lot of sense to me. Mhmm. Reginald Ferguson [00:19:15]: But what I realized now, and this is always the beauty of time, is that one, she had made the proper choice. Berkeley [00:19:22]: Mhmm. Reginald Ferguson [00:19:23]: That was the right environment for me. I missed it when when, you know, when I left. There's no question about that. But I literally remember the 2 other classmates that looked like me. Berkeley [00:19:39]: Sure. Reginald Ferguson [00:19:41]: And Byron Johnson is one of them, and Barrington White is the other. And I see them and also there was a guy, Randy, who came a year after us. Mhmm. And I remember them distinctly, obviously, because one could argue we were kindred spirits. Berkeley [00:20:00]: Sure. Reginald Ferguson [00:20:01]: But I also want to be clear. And I know you've done discords. I know you have you know, done some blogs on some of these posts. I read those. I never felt isolated, to be honest. I can only remember one clear cut act of racism. And I and I literally thought about that yesterday, about what my mom did to try to enlighten this child, something that I think at this day and age, a parent wouldn't be allowed to do at an institution. Mhmm. Reginald Ferguson [00:20:33]: This kid named Cord dropped the n bomb on me, and I hurled back. Mhmm. And, obviously, it was within the vision of a teacher. I think it was mister Michaelson. And I told my mom, and my mom came to the school. And now it gets a little fuzzy, but still And now I realize it was all active of heroism. She spoke to Cord and explained to him how that word was a no no. I don't think he was contrite at Berkeley [00:21:09]: all. Mhmm. Reginald Ferguson [00:21:10]: And that's that's the beauty of entitlement. Berkeley [00:21:13]: Right. Reginald Ferguson [00:21:14]: But the point is I never felt I never felt isolated. Sure. But it's funny sometimes in those posts that I see, I mean, those kids are the chocolate chips in a glass of milk. Yes. Berkeley [00:21:30]: I mean, yes. And I think I mean, I would say, first of all, what you're speaking to is is exactly that idea of, you know, not making symbols of others. Right? Like, we can we can see these institutions and deify them for being primarily white spaces, which I think is wrong. On the other hand, we can go to the other extreme and say, you know, obviously every single person who went to, you know, one of these schools and didn't look like the majority must have had a horrible miserable time, which is just doing the same thing in reverse, and and and generalizing. Right, and I think that any generalization is going to fail, because people had great experiences, people had mixed experiences, people had terrible experiences no matter what their background was, and and no matter where they were coming from. So I think that, as far as gatekeeping, I think what you're speaking to is exactly my objective is to, again, restore the humanity and the individual individuality to some of these stories. But what you're saying is a 100% true whether the experience was good or bad. If you were a black student or a student of any color at a New England prep school for sure, to, you know I only say New England because they were one the few regions that was accepting those students in the mid to late sixties. Berkeley [00:22:53]: You know, you you have to deal with a lot. I see racist stuff in every single yearbook that I look through pretty much, and some of the worst ones are Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont. I see Nazi flags. I see Ku Klux Klan insignia. I see, you know, Chinese laundries drawn under the yearbook photos of of students, from Asian countries. You know, it's it's all over the place, and people, I think, are uncomfortable with that because it reflects on on us and our place in this. And by us, I mean people who look more like me and sound more like me Reginald Ferguson [00:23:27]: and have the time where Berkeley [00:23:28]: I come from. So, you know, we get defensive and we say hey, but look it's not like that anymore. Hey, that was an outlier blah blah blah or we just choose to paper over it completely, but I I prefer to say, hey, look, I'm not indicting you and I'm not indicting the style and I'm not saying all of this should be thrown in the garbage. I'm saying it's worth looking at it in its fullness and complexity because, actually, it helps us understand more than just, the cut of a jacket or the way a tie is tied. It helps us understand history and culture more widely and our and our place in it. Reginald Ferguson [00:24:03]: How do you feel, because you hinted at it earlier, about individuals who look like you, who rail against any diversity in the IV prep space? Berkeley [00:24:17]: I think that they're screaming into the void. I don't think that the style is still in that place. I don't think that there's still a viable, you know, ear that's listening to those people. Unfortunately, they exist, and, unfortunately, they feel that there is still a place that they can say those things and and have those opinions. But when you look at the major outlets for promoting and writing about these clothes, on on the Internet and brands as well, you can see that the people in charge, whether it's in a good way or a flawed way, they're all trying to move away from that and they're all trying to embrace a different vision. So, if someone is really railing against any diversity at all in this style, I mean, you know, there's no point in really treating it seriously, because I don't think it is anymore the majority view, and I don't think anymore it even has a handhold in this style in any meaningful way. That doesn't mean that it shouldn't be condemned, and I would say now the objective is now that that is gone, for the most part, no longer a majority voice, now we can focus on building even higher and saying, hey. You're trying to do the right thing, but is there a way you can do it even better? I think that that's largely what I've shifted into. Berkeley [00:25:41]: I could keep talking about the problems with Christian Chienzvold, the Ivy style. Well, he doesn't run Ivy style anymore. He doesn't write about, you know, the stuff that he liked to write about, and the people who agreed with him in those comments are now the minority over there. So I could keep expending energy on that worst case scenario, or I could try and build something up a little bit better and focus on that. I think that that's the next step for Reginald Ferguson [00:26:05]: us. Well, again, I think what you're alluding to is the role of criticism Mhmm. On this topic. Yes. And I'm certainly not trying to put words in your mouth, but I believe the role of criticism, which I think is the path you have chosen, is to improve one's craft. Yes. So I feel there's some people that you have singled out, that you have challenged, and who have not received the criticism or the challenge well. Berkeley [00:26:37]: Yeah. That's for sure. Reginald Ferguson [00:26:41]: So why don't we get into one of those? Sure. I know to an extent, but maybe the listeners don't, and I certainly want more detail and elaboration. What's the beat with Rowan Blazers, son? What's going on? Every month when something important is going on, I send out my New York Fashion Geek newsletter to my fellow geeks. It drops on Fridays, and it offers a quick glimpse into the world of The Fashion Geek. I offer some tips, and it's a nice breezy read. To sign up, just head over to nyfashiongeek.com and fill out the welcome sheet. Berkeley [00:27:22]: As I say, always when rowing blazers comes up, I own rowing blazers, stuff. Yeah. You do. I like to wear it. Reginald Ferguson [00:27:30]: I know you do. Berkeley [00:27:31]: And, yeah, you've done your research, so you've seen me say this every single time. Yes. But, but, yeah, I it's interesting that you talk about criticism. I've talked about this with quite a few people, who are in just kind of the menswear community in general, let alone a specific subset of it, there's not a place for criticism in in menswear right now. There's not a place for someone to be trying to build the community into a better version of itself through both praise and pointing out flaws and issues. There there just is not a place for that, right now. Reginald Ferguson [00:28:08]: On this podcast. Berkeley [00:28:09]: Well, and that's why I'm happy to be here and and, and I really mean that genuinely because I think there need to be more places like that. Rowing Blazers is a good example. I think that there are great things about rowing Blazers. I don't think that rowing blazers is a bad company doing bad things, however, I think that they have flaws and issues and those are important flaws and issues, and I think that rather than Jack Carlson patting himself on the back for being the next Steve Jobs of of fashion or whatever, I think that he should be, you know, working from his dad's home in Florida to, you know, address some of those issues rather than seeing everything as hunky dory, and they have been resistant to do that. So you're 100% right, there are issues with it. I think that they're perpetuating the same elitism and classism, that has always existed in preppy clothing. They're just doing it under the banner, under the kind of lip service banner of inclusivity, that, you know, hey, Bavar's a great example, and I'm sorry to all, I'm sorry to you for all the people who are going to stop listening right now, but Bavar is, you know, problematic. Does that mean Bavar should be thrown in a trash pile and burned? Of course not, but Babbard is a problematic series of books that intersect with colonial themes, from, you know, a French author, you know, who was in a culture that did not critically examine colonialism or racism. Berkeley [00:29:42]: Now if you're a company and you're gonna use that iconography, go ahead. It's a loved children's book series. However Reginald Ferguson [00:29:49]: We both loved it. Berkeley [00:29:51]: For sure. To do that uncritically though, to not even acknowledge the issues with it and frame it as look, here's these issues and we are going to send those issues and try to reclaim this iconography for something that we believe in, that's for me the obvious path, but instead to just uncritically echo it as empty nostalgia, without acknowledging any of the issues while at the same time saying that this is all you think about, these deep issues about inclusivity in class are your mission statement, I think it's disingenuous, and I think that they're they're kinda doing that all over the place. I think playing into kinda Lady Diana stuff, princess Diana stuff, like I mean, I like the crown, I like watching it, I think the sweaters are nice looking. I certainly appreciate that they're amplifying and supporting a very small business that makes these sweaters. At the same time there is again that uncritical echoing of a deification of the elite, of class systems and structures that is at odds with their stated mission and, you know, the Babar thing, I mean, they pulled out all the stops for their models of color on those Babar shoots. I mean, you barely saw white models in those Babbar clothes, and I think that speaks to a knowledge on their part that they need to be doing something to counteract the problematic aspects of that, but they're not speaking to it explicitly. I think there's other issues with it too. The closed cost so much so they're not accessible. Berkeley [00:31:17]: They're accessible to rich kids. They're accessible to rich kids of any color, and that's great. But they're only accessible to rich kids, and that's still a problem. I I think that they're not transparent about where the clothes are made. They're not transparent about how the clothes are made. There's just a lot of talking the talk, and there's some walking the walk, and that is important and good, but I think that as they are no longer the underdog, now that they're the tastemaker, they were doing their FILA collaboration before Brooks Brothers. So that's that's a difference in the power structure. They have an increased responsibility to push themselves and to address these things that they say that they are addressing. Berkeley [00:31:57]: If they weren't talking about it at all that might be different, but they are really putting stock in these values as part of their appeal. And so I think that they should be backing that up with real, you know, at least transparency. If they're doing it, they should be telling people, and if they're not, they should be. But to come back to my original point, it's hard for people to hear that point for what it is because I get a lot of messages and a lot of reaction about, why can't you let just let people enjoy things? You know, you must be mad because you didn't get something from Rolling Blazers that you wanted. You're mad because Jack Carlson is successful and you're not. All of this stuff. And look. Is Jack Carlson successful? Sure. Berkeley [00:32:40]: But that idea of criticism is not being personal, as not being motivated by some personal vendetta or animus, even if it's phrased in a jokey way, even if I'm making memes about it, whatever it might be, I'm not trying to do hit jobs. I'm not trying to just, you know, be all negative all the time. I'm trying to present a more or less balanced view, and I think that, that's why it is important that you're making a space where criticism can exist. I think that other people are feeling the need for more spaces like that because when we don't have that, you know, we get Brooks Brothers where people were saying, hey. Look. They make a couple things that we like. We don't wanna rock the boat, so we're just gonna take those and not point out the ways that Brooks Brothers could be better because, you know, then we'll lose the things that we have. But what happened? They went bankrupt and now we're waiting to see if they can get those things back that they had that we liked in the first place. Berkeley [00:33:36]: So I do think pushing institutions, pushing people, pushing communities to be better, improving the craft as you said, is a vital piece of any community. Otherwise, it is stagnant and and just, you know, grows a bunch of algae on the top and then, you know, that's no fun. Reginald Ferguson [00:33:53]: So essentially you're saying they're lazy. Berkeley [00:33:56]: I'm saying that they are having a hard time being critical and I think a lot of that comes back to being critical of ourselves and our own place in things. I think that's hard for people to do. I think that a lot of people might perceive me as purely taking shots outward, but I think if you do go back through what I've done and really read what I've written, a lot of it is about my own journey of coming to more awareness and understanding more and trying to see this community for what it is, whereas in earlier times, I might have struggled with that. I think that that's the responsibility that we all have is to understand our place in our world, in our community, in our context, and to try and make that better. So I think that people are, I wouldn't say lazy, but I would say reluctant to do the hard work that needs to be done. Reginald Ferguson [00:34:45]: Okay. So they're lazy and inconsistent. Berkeley [00:34:49]: I think that they are abdicating responsibility to a certain extent and they're doing it in a way that ultimately benefits them and their own comfort in the community. Reginald Ferguson [00:35:03]: I'm not gonna let you off the hook. We're gonna deep dive a little bit more. Berkeley [00:35:06]: Sure. Reginald Ferguson [00:35:07]: So I know you're ready for it. So you're built for this, Berkeley. So why don't you share with the listener and myself your thoughts about rolling blazers and the Asian community. Because you had mentioned earlier, hey. No matter who wears these clothes, no matter what color Yeah. So speak on it. I mean, Berkeley [00:35:33]: I was frustrated after the horrible, horrible shootings in Atlanta that were specifically targeting people, of Asian descent, I was disappointed that rowing blazers chose to respond to those in a way that I saw as deeply cynical, that they chose to it's exactly what we're talking about. Right? They chose to make matching donations to charity, and I think that that is a good thing. I do not think that money going to charity is bad. And even if you're doing it for your own reasons and your own ego boost, the money is still going there. So I do wanna acknowledge that. I'm not discounting that. On the other side though, it was matching donations. So it was buy something from us and we will send money here, right. Berkeley [00:36:23]: And I think that that adds some complexity and nuance to the pure goodness of giving to charity, and the other layer of that was, well, where was their Asian representation? On their Instagram, on their website? Was it there as much as the representation of other people, of other faces? No, it straight up was not and I was very frustrated that when I brought that point up in actually for me a very mild and nice way, I was just summarily blocked by Jack Carlson, by the rowingblazers Instagram account, by the rb mood board account even, which I didn't even know there was a human behind that. I thought it was just like a robot that someone had set up to post pictures of princess Diana every week or so. But I was disappointed that there was not even interest in the conversation. Now the next day, they did a post of a whole bunch of models of Asian descent on their, Asian heritage on their on their Instagram feed. So they heard the comment, and they recognized that it was speaking to a truth, but they were unable, and I do lay this at Jack Carlson's feet, they for the environment that he's created, but they were unable to engage with the conversation and take responsibility and say here is a way we've recognized a failing, and we are going to address that failing. They wanted it to look like it was something that they were crushing all the way along, and I think that that is exactly what I'm speaking to as far as abdicating responsibility and avoiding the hard work that needs to be done. Reginald Ferguson [00:38:04]: So they were reactionary. Berkeley [00:38:10]: I I wouldn't use the word reactionary, on my understanding of it which may be incomplete. I may be an English teacher, but that that doesn't mean I know English that well. But I wouldn't say reactionary because I think actually rowing blazers is trying to move the conversation forward, and they are trying to do good things. They are trying to advance inclusion and diversity in a style that they've seen less of. The problems I think are you have a rich, white, elite educated man who's decided to be the face of that and to say that he is the best qualified person to do it. Right? I think that that's wrong. I think that he's taking up space that, a woman might occupy, a person of color might occupy, someone who is non conforming in one of the kind of normative ways might occupy. He's taking up that space, he's getting the GQ profiles, He's, you know, out there, in his yellow Land Rover, being the face of diversity. Berkeley [00:39:06]: I think that that's an issue. But I do think that it's a sincere effort. I just don't think that it is a reflective effort and I don't think that it is an actual honest effort in the way of acknowledging their own place in creating the problems that they are at the same time trying to solve. Reginald Ferguson [00:39:26]: So is it convenient altruism? Berkeley [00:39:29]: Yeah. Yeah, it is. It's convenient altruism. It's a way for them to do something good while not being uncomfortable. And I do wanna pause and say, look, they may be uncomfortable at moments. They may sincerely and earnestly believe in what they're doing. I'm not saying it's all cynical and they just sat down at a table one day and schemed about how to get popular and use this as their tool to do so. I believe that they're trying their best. Berkeley [00:39:57]: But, I don't believe that that is their best and I believe that if they actually stopped and listened to what some people were saying rather than just living in an echo chamber of likes and praise comments and sending stuff to celebrities so that they can get those paparazzi pics to post on their mood board account, you know, I think that maybe they would understand that they could do more and do better. Reginald Ferguson [00:40:22]: So their definition of diversity is having models generally that look like me. So I'm gonna bring up this word again. If they're only using African Americans as a sphere of diversity Berkeley [00:40:42]: Mhmm. Reginald Ferguson [00:40:43]: From a marketing and specifically a modeling perspective when there's so many other people, as you said, who attend these schools, who, you know, who do row Mhmm. And they could be yellow, red, what have you. Mhmm. Isn't it lazy? They had no Asian representation. You made a post. You claimed it's not reactionary. The next day, they post, and they have Asian models. Berkeley [00:41:18]: Sure. I mean, I do wanna they Reginald Ferguson [00:41:20]: launched when they initially launched, it was it was African it was those twin African Americans with dreads. Yes. No other people of color. Berkeley [00:41:30]: I mean, I do wanna give them the the the benefit of truth, which is, I mean, they they did use Asian models. They have used, you know, you know, models from the LGBTQ plus community, prior to my saying anything about them. I did not believe that it was emphasized to the degree that it should have been. And when you did look through the rowingblazers Instagram feed as they were making their AAPI call to for charity while also encouraging people to buy their own product those models were not visible on that feed. So in that way a 100% I I agree with you, but I do also wanna say they didn't rush out after I made that post and hire a bunch of agent models and take photos of them. They they were using those people and I do wanna emphasize that. But I think that in a way I mean you mentioning you know, yes there are people who who look all kinds of ways in these schools and in these communities. I mean, I do think that rowing blazers has positioned itself as, preppy clothing looked one way, and now we're making it look a different way. Berkeley [00:42:43]: Sure. And I think that that is a fallacy. I think that preppy clothing always looked a whole bunch of different ways, whatever the official preppy handbook might say has 2 people of color in it, you know, and it's 200 pages or whatever, so it was painting a portrait of those clothes, but the reality, as I'm presenting on my Instagram, for example, is very different, And I don't think that rowing blazers is acknowledging that. Instead, it's kind of riding in on its white horse in its shining armor to say, hey, we are changing the game. Jack Carlson rides in, you know, and says, look, I'm gonna make this, inclusionary for everybody. I'm gonna make everybody feel like they have a place and I think it's important that a company with that mission is as popular as it is and has the media presence that it does. On the other hand, it is a white savior thing, I think, that he's saying, look. I'm changing all of this. Berkeley [00:43:39]: I'm the one. I'm the Steve Jobs who's gonna revolutionize this, when in fact, he's building on the effort of actual people who were in those schools, who were the chocolate chip cookies in the milk, you know, the chocolate chips in the milk to say, you know, they were all on their own doing this. And now Jack Carlson's gonna come along with his Oxford PhD and say, actually, I'm gonna hire some people to be you, and I'm gonna make money off of that. That's fine. That's capitalism, but acknowledge it. Be transparent. Acknowledge that you understand the history of what you're doing in a full way, not an official preppy handbook way, and acknowledge that you're not really the guy who knows, that really you're just a voice in in a crowd, that you're not the one dude, that maybe it's not really your place to be that one guy. But I understand. Berkeley [00:44:32]: I'm a white man. We have problems not understanding that we're the center of everything and that we're the ones who should be always speaking on every topic. Right? So I understand it's a struggle. We've been, you know, taught from the beginning that we're the masters of the universe. So that's my second bonfire of the vanities reference in this podcast, but we're the masters of the universe. So it takes effort to unlearn that. When you're using Caroline Callaway as your, like, celebrity spokesperson for your brand, maybe you haven't learned that lesson to the degree that you should have. Reginald Ferguson [00:45:04]: How did it make you feel when Jack Carlson blocked you? Berkeley [00:45:13]: It's just silly. You know? I think it's the same thing that I feel when people really come after me as, you know, as some kind of moral arbiter of these clothes. I'm not. I'm just a person. I'm just a I'm just a guy who spends far too much time looking through old yearbooks. I wear glasses now because of it. You know, that's what I do, and I have my own thoughts, but I'm not speaking for some kind of hegemony, for some kind of power structure that I'm imposing on anyone. And so when people react to me in this way of kind of, like, don't oppress my worldview, with your saying racism is bad, I think it's silly because, I'm not. Berkeley [00:46:02]: Ivy is for everyone, and I think that a diversity of opinions is good. I don't think a diversity of racist opinions is good, but I don't think Jack Carlson is a racist. I think he's a privileged, entitled person who needs to do more work to understand his place in his actual culture and context that he hasn't done. So it was silly to me that he would just block me without having a conversation, partly because he could've just deleted the thing that I commented on his post and moved on. Right? He's more successful than me. He has more Instagram followers than I do. He has more famous friends than me. He has his little blue check. Berkeley [00:46:38]: Right? So he didn't need to be offended by it. He didn't need to be angered by it. So I think it speaks to the truth of what I said, honestly, that it would upset him and anger him enough just like how I mean, I don't wanna get into stuff that I've heard about the way that he runs his business and, the way that he reacts to different things, but it's of a Reginald Ferguson [00:46:59]: piece, I would say. What is your feeling about issues of quality of the product? Berkeley [00:47:12]: I've had varying experiences. I've also had varying experiences with J. Press. I think that rowing blazers is a small company that's growing fast, and I think that there's probably issues with that. I think that the people who work there seem to care about what they're doing. I think that the price tag is extremely high. For what it is, I think the price tag at JPS is extremely high, for what it is, if we're being honest. I think that if we're gonna start talking about how expensive rowing blazers is, we need to have and for the quality that it is, we need to have a larger conversation about just the accessibility of fashion and the supply chains and manufacturing processes that are involved. Berkeley [00:47:58]: I don't think rowing blazers is standing up to anything in that regard. I think it's doing what everyone else is doing. I wouldn't pay for one of their made to order shirts. I'll put it like Reginald Ferguson [00:48:09]: that. Well, as I tell every guest, you're always welcome back. The door is open, Berkeley. Berkeley [00:48:19]: I appreciate it. Reginald Ferguson [00:48:21]: Berkeley Breaves, why is fashion important? Berkeley [00:48:25]: Fashion is important because it tells the story of who we are. And because it tells the story of who we are, it also helps us understand the stories of others. If you choose to see clothing as just clothes, I think you're ignoring that story, and what I try to do is to emphasize those stories and to paint fashion as a way that we can open the doors into the experiences of others and illuminate our own experiences a little bit more. Reginald Ferguson [00:48:57]: Because in your words, clothes are never just closed. Berkeley [00:49:00]: That is exactly right. Reginald Ferguson [00:49:02]: What difference has fashion made in your life? Berkeley [00:49:06]: I think that it's of a piece. It's helped me understand who I am. It's helped me understand why I'm comfortable in certain things and not in others. It's helped me understand where I'm comfortable and where I'm not. It's challenged me, certainly wearing the clothes that I do. I am always trying to be aware of the way that, you know, I look like a young republican from 1983. I'm not a young republican in 1983. I'm a left leaning young person in 2021. Berkeley [00:49:40]: And understanding the context, understanding the history, but also understanding how I reinforce challenge those things today has really helped me grow as a person. So I think for me, the clothes that I wear and the fashion that I'm interested in is a way of of helping me grow and expand my understanding of my own world. Reginald Ferguson [00:50:00]: So you're still rocking prep? Always. Very cool. I think I do too, but from a roots perspective, from a foundation perspective. So Berkeley [00:50:13]: Well, I think that's exactly it. Right? We all have our own perspective, and we all have our own anchor points, and we all have our own reference points. You can make all the rules you want about what this is and what that isn't, but you're always gonna run into the problem of people are different, and people see things in different ways, and I prefer to go along with the diversity of human life than the, you know, hegemony of the right and wrong. Reginald Ferguson [00:50:41]: What's the top fashion tip you would give the everyday man so he could look his best? Berkeley [00:50:47]: Wear stuff you're comfortable in. Wear stuff you are comfortable in. Not what someone told you you'd be comfortable in or that you read online would be comfortable. Try stuff out, make mistakes, and find the things that you yourself are comfortable in and wear that, And if someone doesn't like it, they're not you, so screw them. Reginald Ferguson [00:51:09]: I think you you can apply that ethos to a lot of things you do, Berkeley. So Berkeley, what does the phrase always be fly mean to you? Berkeley [00:51:27]: I guess I'd repeat my previous answer. Right? You're comfortable in yourself. You're doing the things that work for you, and, you know, you're consistent. You're not changing your look for, you know, this Instagram selfie or for that different situation, you are able to walk into any room and say, this is who I am. I'm comfortable in it. I know myself, and I'm ready for you to know me. Reginald Ferguson [00:51:57]: I like that. One day, maybe you'll DM me your steez so I can because, you know, you're just a monicker. Berkeley [00:52:08]: I know. I know. I know. Just an empty shell. Reginald Ferguson [00:52:11]: No. I didn't say that. You're just a moniker. Exactly. Big difference. Exactly. But you're keeping it real. Appreciate it. Reginald Ferguson [00:52:20]: For you. Berkeley [00:52:21]: Exactly. Reginald Ferguson [00:52:26]: So what do you think? Is Ivy prep and trad for everyone? Is it inclusive? Is it egalitarian? Can it be all those things at once? Can it be weighted down by tradition? Is there a chance for it to elevate? Or is it just the same game with younger white men? Going to prep school, I'd like to think I was part of the solution, a consciousness raising. Are there still issues? Of course. Read one of the August Sunday Times editions about the role of critical race theory in New York prep schools. Let this style of dress, which does reflect class and schooling, guide you in the right direction and not the white direction. Well, that's a wrap. Thank you so much for listening. We hope you had fun and are down for another one. Please tell a friend who could use some fashion help about the podcast or share an episode with them directly. Reginald Ferguson [00:53:36]: If you enjoy the show, please give us a rating and review on Apple Apple Podcast. Lastly, if you constantly struggle putting an outfit together and are looking to turn that confusion into confidence, I'd love to talk about how we can improve your life. Check me out at nyfashion geek.com and email me at reg@nyfashion geek dotcom for a consultation. Special shout outs for our producer, Serge, and everyone down with the Fashion Beat Podcast. If you have a story suggestion, you can email me at podcast@nyfashiongeek.com or hit me up on the insta at New York Fashion Geek. And remember, always be fly.
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