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The Awl’s Cord Jefferson launched a few shots against preppidom yesterday, singling out J.Crew’s “Plantation madras” button-down and a pair of Ralph Lauren pants in “Old Money Green” as perhaps not the best naming choices in the world.

It should definitely be a wakeup call to a few marketing departments—even if we’d vouch for Mr. William’s niceness, in both the traditional and early 90s hip hop sense of the word—but there’s something else at work here, and it’s worth a little digging to find it.

Allow us to elaborate.

Jefferson isn’t wrong to wonder about the web of references and cultural envy that leads to something like the Take Ivy revival, but it’s a good deal more complicated than simple nostalgia. (Take a walk around Tokyo if you don’t believe us…or better yet, talk to Andre Benjamin.) Old Money Green pants are infinitely more accessible than actual old money, which puts both the Rockefellers in a more awkward spot than the pretenders. What used to be a bonafide social class is now just another style.

Someday, after enough J.Press knockoffs have passed through boutique shelves, Ivy League privilege will be just another subculture. It’s in a different socioeconomic spot than the punks were, but the mechanics of authenticity and cooption are the same. Provided you can afford $60 slacks, it puts you in a pretty democratic place, regardless of the cultural grace notes you happen to bring along for the ride. After all, Mr. Lauren (née Lifshitz) wouldn’t have been hanging out at those country clubs either—but these days, he doesn’t have to.

—R.B.

CONTRIBUTORS

  • Russell Brandom