another rake's progress: from creative niche company to desperately seeking funds

In his series of eight paintings (later, engravings) A Rake's Progress, Hogarth depicts the fall of a promising and beloved young man from a happy life into depravity and lunacy through lust for short-term pleasures and bad choices.

I have just read the most astounding analysis  - including a mind-boggling chart - of  "the current state of preppy/trad clothing and accessory vendors as they evolve from young, innovative companies (on the left of the chart) to company shells/cautionary tales (on the right).The author, Muffy Aldrich, proprietress of the really nice Daily Prep blog, has reduced the development vel non of apparel and gear purveyors to A Rake's Progress, and it only took her one etching to do it! The discussion that follows the post is also worth reading; there, as here, as at JCA and other places, opinions vary, mostly politely. So you may disagree with the placement of a company or two on the road to rag-trade perdition, but I think you will agree with the analysis of the stages. The broadest conclusion that can be drawn is that the apparel industry eats its young. Further head-scratching pays off, however: why are some companies not even mentioned on a list that includes everything from Brooks Brothers to J.Press to Eddie Bauer? Could it be that someone who takes prep/trad really, really seriously is unaware of J.Crew's very existence, when the trajectory describes J.Crew with such terrifying exactitude? Perhaps, but when you hear hoofbeats you shouldn't expect to see a rhinoceros, the simpler explanation is this: the author - does not consider J.Crew a preppy company. It has not even earned the right to appear the chart, or perhaps had it but lost it. 
I thank the amazing Ms. Aldrich for her spot-on analysis, and for those of you who are too shopped-out to click, I replicate her chart here.
The companies that are listed at the top, are listed at the points where they fall on the "life lines," that is the Quality Line, the Growth Line, and the PR Line. As we know, it is dangerous to believe one's own PR.
I think you'll need to click the link I provided above to get the full definitions of the stages listed along the bottom of the chart. It's worth doing.

Update: a lovely and gracious reader (see below) has directed my attention to an earlier post on the Daily Prep, which is seriously thought-provoking:  "Why J.Crew is not preppy."  This should be required reading by anyone who leaves the house with credit card in hand. Or for that matter, sits in front of a computer with credit card in hand...


  1. Thanks for finding this! And having a big LOL that J.Crew didn't even make the list.

    From the comments at Daily Prep:
    "I like Abercrombie alot." 'Nuff said.

    After 1) doing some reading about the fashion industry and 2) some terribly disappointing purchases, I put myself on a shopping hiatus until I can get my closet cleaned out and I can make some decisions about what I want my wardrobe to accomplish. I have a couple weeks to go until my deadline and I was certain that my credit cards would be terribly itchy by now. Quite the opposite--the longer I go without dropping my $$ on overpriced mediocrity, the easier it gets. (Kind of like my anorexic college days, ha.) Only truly a truly interesting and top-quality item will get me to open my wallet now . . . and, at least from the usual source, that doesn't seem to be in sight.

    1. Hi, Hexicon, I actually felt sorry for the poor girl who thought she had been spending her money wisely at A&F. I did really love the gentleman who treated his life-long Brooks Brothers salesman to a night out in LA. I found the discussion encouraging in kind of a twisted way: that people "out there" recognize that many, many retailers are in a downward slide, and that at some point there comes a time when only the name recognition is of any value at all: generally in a Bankruptcy Trustee's sale.

  2. Thank you for bringing this to my attention! She does this each year. You are correct that she does NOT consider J Crew to be preppy and actually wrote a post probably two years ago which was entitled something like...why J Crew is not preppy... I was looking for a place to search for it on her blog but did not see one. Probaby should have googled the title as it frequently does appear when I search for her blog. It was an interesting article. I did read a few months ago that she was actually wearing a pair of J Crew pants that she had purchased two years ago. I was surprised!

    Hope you and Himself continue on the mend from last weekend. You have both been in my thoughts and prayers (you know God...the lady in NYC who writes The Whining Diner and Wellfedfred blog)...what can I say? Anyway, don't forget the thick, stretchy white hose when you fly...for Himself!

    Thanks again.

  3. Hi, anon, thank you for your kind wishes! I would call this progress: Himself has agreed that perhaps he should follow up with some of the specialist appointments.

    I found the link to the post about "why J.Crew is not preppy" and will try to include it in an update to the post above, Blogger permitting. Thank you!

  4. This gives me a marvelous idea for a similar post as to the current status of "preppy" decorating.

    For some reason the sorority fave of acid brights, trellis patterns, and poorly-thought-out monograms has now become the go-to definition of "prep," though to me it seems a cartoon version. When I think true prep, my mind wanders to plaids, brown furniture and designers like Bunny Williams and the late great Albert Hadley.


    1. if anyone could do this, it would be you, Raina! And while you're at it, how about deconstructing the so-called "shingle style"? If I drive past one more house that looks like its composed of 5 small Dutch Colonials stuck together and topped off with a turret or two...

  5. Fascinating reading, thank you Fred. Almost as good as this very first episode of "Justified" DH and I are watching. We are in the denial stage of grief since somehow our DVR erased the Men's NCAA Basketball Championship Game in favor of the Olympics while we were on vacation. D@Mn! Anyway, I'm afraid J Crew's fall collection is going to end up on "The Island of Misfit Toys",(I can easily see an animated little chicken sweater crying because she was so itchy no one would wear her) but I don't even think Santa and Rudolf will be able to rescue them this year. Glad to hear Himself is thinking clearly and going for his follow-ups. The Lord helps them that help themselves.

    1. Hi, David, thank you! Yes, there will be a lot of animal wear in the stores this fall. This is not just because JC is turning back to its "core customer," there are strange creatures everywhere. My tailor will be able to retire on what I will be spending to update shoulders, waists and so on, but it will be money well spent.

  6. Thanks Fred! Glad to see Quoddy is still relatively to the left, given it is such a good iconic Maine company!

    Surely the rise of the internet and big box stores is somewhat to blame. All those possible new customers! The opportunity for growth (and greed) and making shareholders happy! It must be difficult to resist...

    I am now searching for brands no one has discovered yet. Or at least that I have not discovered yet nor my chums in this neck of the woods!

    Okay - I am living in lalaland - I know! I am hoping to find a magical shop in some little village in france where some lady is making all of the clothes and I they all fit, make me look thin and I can afford the entire fall line...

    1. Well, somebody has to find them, right? It could just as easily be you as someone less deserving.

  7. I have often found Muffy Aldrich to be a Voice Of Reason, I have read that "Why J Crew Is Not Preppy" post a couple of times. I will hopefully have some sense talked into me yet!
    I can't wait to go over and read this latest post, thanks Fred.

    Great news re Himself on the mend and on track to see some specialists. I hope you can celebrate your birthday properly at some point as well!

    1. Thanks, Dani!
      I hadn't visited Daily Prep in some time, and after reading the chart and puzzling abut it, I searched the blog for J.Crew. wow. underneath the ladylike dissertation, there is a lot of anger. The first few things she bought there let her down badly, well, we know that feeling, and she is unforgiving. Interestingly, she respects Ralph Lauren, despite mall presence, despite logos, despite PR and silly outfits, because in the things she buys from that brand, the value is there. But she is one tough lady.


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