Sunday, September 13, 2009

Harvard {Yard} Sucks: A rant

I'm not entirely sure why, but I find the idea of an internationally-renowned university signing on to "design" its own fashion line to be fundamentally distasteful -- and a little bit sad. Rather like seeing a formerly A-list celebrity sign on for his or her own reality show, Harvard's new mens' clothing venture, the uncreatively named Harvard Yard, is tantamount to a public admission that money is its prime motivator (reputation be damned).

Of course, just about every college in the country has licensing agreements with a host of clothing and accessories' manufacturers. These days, you can buy just about anything emblazoned with your alma mater's name, insignia or mascot (longhorn cufflinks, anyone?). In truth, these traditional licensing deals are more akin to sports merchandise: in other words, they're catering to their own fan base, their own students, and their own alumni. It's not fashion, it's a t-shirt. But I'd argue that Harvard Yard is fundamentally different.

Not only does Harvard's forway into the fashion world smack of opportunism, it also appears to champion (in potentially unflattering ways) an image that Harvard and its rivals have been battling for decades. Like many fashion labels, Harvard Yard is selling a lifestyle just as much as its selling a shirt or pair of slacks. And, with its prepster/Gossip Girl style and its higher price point, this lifestyle is precisely the type of elitist, prep school image that Harvard and its peers have been trying to shake for the past few decades. While Harvard, Yale and the like have made great success in the past thirty years or so transitioning from blue blood, mens' clubs into true meritocracies, these institutions still carry with them a reputation for being elite (for all the wrong reasons). Besides, if my experience (at Yale in the early 2000s) is anything to go on, most Ivy League students dress as casually as any other college students. T-shirts, jeans and flip-flops are the order of the day, not smart plaids, trench coats or loafers. In short, I find it incredible that Harvard is willing to cash in on this somewhat unflattering (and in many ways unfair) reputation simply because being elite and preppy carries a certain cache for a subset of the ├╝ber-trendy.

But I'll get down off my soapbox and get down to the heart of the matter: is Harvard Yard any good from a fashion perspective? As is the case with most celebrity fashion designers, Harvard Yard is fairly ordinary and unoriginal. It's also predictably preppy --almost to the point of caricature. Sockless penny loafers? Check! Seersucker? Check! Plaid? Double Check! All in all, you could find just about all these pieces at your local J.Crew (and for a good bit less, to boot).

So what do you think? Am I being overly sensitive? Or lacking in vision? Is this really just a genius move by Harvard that other schools will be sure to follow? (In my mind's eye, I'm currently envisioning what great fun schools with partying reputations could have with their own fashion labels....)

15 comments:

cousin said...

Can you imagine the Aggie label? Overalls anyone?

p.s. you're spot on! IMO

Kellie Collis said...

Loving that last striped blazer!

sarah @ realestatestyle said...

I think this is just strange. You are right, just go to your local Jcrew!

Christy said...

No you're not being too judgmental - I agree with you wholeheartedly. For shame, Harvard. Excellent post Averill!

Anonymous said...

In a time when (almost?) all universities' endowments have taken major financial blows and also when schools' alumni are ill-equiped to provide additional donations, I would expect that schools are looking to make money in new and different ways.

I say, "Bravo, Harvard, for trying out a new money-making scheme that doesn't involve raping its endowment or harrassing its alums!"

Laura@JourneyChic said...

OMG - this is utterly obnoxious. There are enough preppy clothing lines out there. And Harvard has enough dough. I'm forwarding this to my friends who work at Harvard to see if they've heard of it!

Liz @ It's Great To Be Home said...

I'm with you, I think it's totally bizarre!

Sam said...

I read about this in the New York Times....

I do like the shorts.

xx,
Samantha

Patch said...

It sucks. Yet another example of stupid, a-hole like Ivy League elitism, claiming not to love that image and then rolling around in it like a pig in mud, and the H-bomb selling out whenever as they often do with movie licensing, etc. PATHETIC! I'm with you Aves.

Cristin said...

OMG! This is the first I have seen this. Must show my hubby, an HBS grad. LOL.

xo,
cristin

Style Redux 2 said...

Pathetic.

Sarah Klassen said...

This is hilarious!

I had no idea they had a brand, although, as you aforementioned, anyone can, and I think perhaps too many do. I am curious to see the publicity that is floating around the net, and I rather like your witty take on the collection, Averill :)

Dumbwit Tellher ♥ said...

I though you made a tremendous point. It just strikes me strange. All that aside, I don't even care for the fashions @ whatever price point.

Great post Averill ~

Kitty said...

those outfits are a hot mess. you nailed it when you alluded to "caricature."

Our Porch in Hillsborough said...

Just found your blog and love your insight into the HY collection. Cheers!

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