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Designing a Perfect Summer
July 5, 2014 12:17 PM   Subscribe

Kiel James Patrick and his fiancée Sarah Vickers spend much of their time meticulously photographing the many splendors of a certain strain of New England life - the world of "prep". But are the people who appear in Sarah and Kiel's photos really their friends? Do Sarah and Kiel own these incredible homes? Or are they just taking social media marketing to a whole new level?
posted by SkylitDrawl (55 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
Yes.
posted by infini at 12:23 PM on July 5 [2 favorites]


Good for them.
Mr. Patrick was not raised old-money but as the son of a detective in nearby Warwick. He and Ms. Vickers, who are both 31 and have been a couple since their teens, started Kiel James Patrick in 2008. They taught themselves to sew, handmade the first several thousand bracelets and dyed the rope by boiling it in lobster pots at his parents’ house. The Ivy League aura is an affectation: Mr. Patrick did not attend college; Ms. Vickers graduated from the University of Rhode Island.
For people who aren't local: Warwick is a relatively low-income area, Pawtucket is about the same ("the Bucket"), and URI is one of those state schools that can be a really terrific education if you make it happen for yourself, but it also has a lot of the typical state-school problems and it's not often anybody's dream choice.
posted by cribcage at 12:34 PM on July 5 [8 favorites]


To Mr. Patrick, the difference between those iconic Abercrombie images, which captured a similarly preppy American milieu, and a KJP shoot is genuineness.

This is great -- it's total performance art and marketing, but so holistic that it becomes a certain kind of authentic. It's not my aesthetic at all, but I'll give them a lot of credit for doing it and doing it well.
posted by Dip Flash at 12:42 PM on July 5 [7 favorites]


I really liked them both a lot more after reading this article. Knowing their surrealist wasp lifestyle is nothing more than a calculated affectation makes me appreciate the work that must go into producing this style of marketing.

However, why can't they be more honest about the constructed facade in their work? Couldn't they reveal their hands more as the artists? Isn't the narrative of their inventiveness and entrepreneurship is more appealing than that of the silver spoon?

Or does committing to the lie sell more bracelets?
posted by Harms at 12:51 PM on July 5 [2 favorites]


I remember seeing images of his closet before. This is "fall/winter" of a year or two ago, this is what he packed for the fourth of July weekend. It blows my mind how many similar items he has: do I want to wear the blue corduroys or the navy corduroys or the slate corduroys. Do I want to wear the vintage pink Lacoste polo or the vintage pale pink Lacoste polo or the vintage mauve Lacoste polo.
posted by 2bucksplus at 12:52 PM on July 5 [3 favorites]


Or does committing to the lie sell more bracelets?

I'm curious how much of their market is outside New England, just because I can't imagine many born and bred New Englanders dropping $40 for a run-of-the-mill beach town corner store rope bracelet. I'm thinking they must sell a lot to just-out-of-college New York finance kids from the Midwest and elsewhere, like the intern in the NYTimes article -- and for them, it's precisely the lie that would sell.
posted by oinopaponton at 12:57 PM on July 5 [1 favorite]


My only problem with this is the fetishization of the preppy lifestyle; I don't mind that Mr. Patrick and Ms. Vickers are from Warwick/Pawtucket (where I got my first tattoo!) or that she attended URI*, but I hate the continued implication that this way of being is so desirable. I definitely don't begrudge Mr. Patrick and Ms. Vickers taking advantage of this; if someone is going to get some benefit from the cachet of old money preppiness I'm glad it's a couple of people from Warwick, but I hate that it feels like the superiority of people with more money than responsibilities is continually reinforced.

*My first girlfriend went to URI; I met her through the internet when she was in college and I was a sophomore in high school. This is on the list of things I still haven't told my parents about my adolescence.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 12:58 PM on July 5 [15 favorites]


It blows my mind how many similar items he has: do I want to wear the blue corduroys or the navy corduroys or the slate corduroys. Do I want to wear the vintage pink Lacoste polo or the vintage pale pink Lacoste polo or the vintage mauve Lacoste polo.

What I wonder is how many of these accumulated and often photographed items he bought as supply for his now defunct vintage clothing shop and then just never managed to sell.
posted by SkylitDrawl at 1:03 PM on July 5 [3 favorites]


Interesting stuff. I know of a couple who do something very similar, except they don't own a company. They approach companies and get free clothes, trips and even money for just featuring various items on their blog.

While part of me finds the whole enterprise distasteful, they do a great job marketing themselves and getting large corporations to pay them for it.
posted by elwoodwiles at 1:14 PM on July 5


Where are the customers' yachts?
posted by jfuller at 1:16 PM on July 5 [2 favorites]


However, why can't they be more honest about the constructed facade in their work? Couldn't they reveal their hands more as the artists?

Designers who work mostly in turquoise and silver and vaguely aboriginal motifs don't usually prominently convey "I'm not actually an Aridoamerican who received any of this by descent", do they? This seems not much different, although of course these people aren't as limited by the culture that inspires them having been whittled down to a handful of stereotypes in the mind of the broader society.

(Though I suppose that aspect of it, as well as giving them more latitude, actually means that what they're doing requires a more comprehensive and skilled effort to pull off.)
posted by XMLicious at 1:17 PM on July 5


"Well," quipped a minister
plenipontiary,
"something is Groton
in Denmark, at least."
posted by jfuller at 1:32 PM on July 5 [1 favorite]


I grew up in New England and had a bunch of those Lacoste polos. I think I hate myself.
posted by Justinian at 1:38 PM on July 5


However, why can't they be more honest about the constructed facade in their work?

Short of watermarking every picture with "THIS IS AN AD FOR KIELJAMESPATRICK.COM," how much more honest can they be?
posted by Etrigan at 1:41 PM on July 5 [2 favorites]


I'm curious how much of their market is outside New England, just because I can't imagine many born and bred New Englanders dropping $40 for a run-of-the-mill beach town corner store rope bracelet.

You're right. It's precisely the type of shit tourists buy up by the truckster load. Do they have any with little lobster trap charms?
posted by Spatch at 2:01 PM on July 5 [1 favorite]


It doesn't hurt that she looks like a slightly mysterious Kate Middleton, right down to the sapphire engagement ring.
posted by Anitanola at 2:12 PM on July 5 [5 favorites]


It's a little too artfully constructed for my tastes, but I'm glad that they've managed to find a way to sell preppy fashion back to the preppies.
posted by arcticseal at 2:43 PM on July 5 [1 favorite]


That ring is a big honking emerald. Sarah would not display the ring on camera for months after she accepted the proposal. She would go through the trouble to angle her hand away in every single shot, so people could see she was wearing an engagement ring, but couldn't tell what it looked like. For someone who is constantly photographed for hours every single day, that's a lot of awkward angling.
posted by SkylitDrawl at 2:44 PM on July 5 [1 favorite]


This puts a vague friend's paracord bracelets (instructions to make a bracelet, not a sales site) in a different light. Before this, I thought of bracelets as something one would make along with other items, then try to sell on Etsy.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:52 PM on July 5


It's always the same ten or so people in these photos.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 3:04 PM on July 5


Cultured affectation? Carefully cultivated live art project based on aesthetics? Red pants? appropriation of upper class signifiers by outsiders?


I was driving down the coast the Maine this afternoon and wondering why my ears were burning.
posted by The Whelk at 3:18 PM on July 5 [10 favorites]


Wow, those pictures threw me back (hard!) to my first year of college. I got my first taste of the prep aesthetic as a freshman at a small Midwestern school that drew a large number of New Englanders, too - probably a fourth to a third of the student body. In the midst of all of the other self-reinvention I tried that year, I bought my first genuine Polo shirts, button-downs, and cable-knit sweaters.

This led to the prompt realization that preppy casual wear is not flattering to women with body types that are more than little bit curvy (especially chesty - button-down shirts are a nightmare), so that ended up being a mercifully brief phase and I've since gotten rid of the evidence.
posted by Austenite at 3:21 PM on July 5 [3 favorites]


( my own personal take on why the look is appealing? It's very rule-bound and many of these rules are widely agreed upon and long ranging. follow the rules, you will fit in. )
posted by The Whelk at 3:22 PM on July 5 [3 favorites]


This led to the prompt realization that preppy casual wear is not flattering to women with body types that are more than little bit curvy (especially chesty - button-down shirts are a nightmare), so that ended up being a mercifully brief phase and I've since gotten rid of the evidence.

It can be extremely flattering to men of many body types and makes every woman who isn't rake thin and outdoorsy look sexless and frumpy. Fashion-wise it fails women completely except at the highest formal levels.
posted by The Whelk at 3:24 PM on July 5 [13 favorites]


I can't think of any informal clothing style that doesn't make women who aren't rake thin and outdoorsy look frumpy.
posted by The corpse in the library at 3:48 PM on July 5 [8 favorites]


my own personal take on why the look is appealing? It's very rule-bound and many of these rules are widely agreed upon and long ranging. follow the rules, you will fit in.

Yeah, towards the tail end of when I was presenting as male, despite being a lifelong jeans-and-a-ratty-t-shirt wearer in real life, I was intermittently fascinated by preppie fashion for just this reason. Like, "Wait, there's a classier version of masculinity that I can still totally just sleepwalk my way through with no interest or conviction at all? Fuck yeah. Maybe I could do that."
posted by nebulawindphone at 3:51 PM on July 5 [2 favorites]


Like, it pretty much struck me as the menswear equivalent of the generic BEER in Repo Man. Just CLOTHES — or maybe just NICE CLOTHES, since it's still definitely a strong class signifier.

Around the same time I was similarly fascinated by the Steve Jobs Uniform, and by a friend who wore blue jeans, a white oxford shirt and a brown leather belt every single day of his life. I guess the theme was "How might I trick people into thinking I'm an adult man with a clear sense of personal style when the idea of actually paying any attention to what I'm wearing makes me want to curl up and die?"
posted by nebulawindphone at 4:06 PM on July 5 [2 favorites]


Uh, which is clearly not the appeal of the preppie aesthetic for everyone, and there are totally people who are drawn to it for positive reasons and who make it look awesome, and most of those people aren't even closeted self-loathing trans women at all! Just in case that didn't go without saying!

But oh man, yeah, clear and immutable rules for getting dressed. Useful in all sorts of situations.
posted by nebulawindphone at 4:08 PM on July 5 [2 favorites]


Oh yes - I mean my main draw to it is that it's DEAD EASY to find in the vintage/thrift stores I shop in and I have the kind of "foofy schoolbooy" face still that makes a slightly too small blue blazer all charming and Wes Anderson-y rather than "badly fit". Plus it's a nice template to throw on odd details and little flourishes.

However there is a nasty undercurrent to some of the "trad"/"Prep" style blogs - coming at it from this gross racist/elitist path cause you are dealing with , both historically and right now, the defacto uniforms of the American ruling class* Which is why I like to follow POC Prep style blogs when I do, since they tend to be coming at it from an outsider view, even when they're attending said prep schools.

I'd like to take the time to establish my Prep Fashion Bona Fides in both Town And Country.

*This undercurrent always makes me think of the exchange in The Good Shepard, it's the 50s and some guy is talking to Matt Damon's super WASP character about the then proto-CIA "The Negros have their music, the Jews have their tradition, The Italians have family, what do you people have?" "The United States Of America. You people just live here."
posted by The Whelk at 4:40 PM on July 5 [11 favorites]


Which is why I like to follow POC Prep style blogs when I do,

Hit me
posted by bq at 5:19 PM on July 5 [1 favorite]


Seconded. Please.
posted by dame at 5:21 PM on July 5 [1 favorite]






I love that that blog is reclaiming "bougie" The Whelk. Shall wonders never cease?
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:11 PM on July 5


I absolutely can't stand the preppy fashion style personally, but that NY Times article made me like them. They're smart business people, having a good time while making money, without doing anything evil (as far as I can tell). I don't really see that using social media for marketing is much different than using any traditional media for marketing. Its all marketing, its all a fiction, they're just using instagram instead of a magazine. Good luck to them. Honestly I kind of like the idea that they're a group of friends posing together instead of some random models who don't know each other. I don't think it makes any difference to the end result, but sure, why not have fun with your friends while you work.

Also the forlorn-sounding Ross dude in Texas should just do the exact same thing with the western/cowboy boots aesthetic, I'm sure there's a market for that too. Lots of young republicans would probably love to look like a Bush family member. They could pose cutting brush, riding horses, and he could sell leather belts or something.
posted by Joh at 7:27 PM on July 5 [1 favorite]


And Western Style is Totally A Thing - even the really high end version of it ( I USE ANTLERS IN ALLL OF MY DEEEECORATING) is pretty cross-cultural-hip right now
posted by The Whelk at 8:25 PM on July 5 [2 favorites]


I hope this where I can finally ask that question that's been bugging me for a while: Whenever I hear or read a thing about preppy New Englanders, there's invariably a point at which someone says, "Oh, we're very down-to-earth. We wear LL Bean."

The thing is, this is the only context I ever hear anyone namecheck LL Bean for (I'm from out west, we are not familiar with it) and consequently I've always assumed it's an upscale NE brand. So is it actually more broadly midmarket in practice or is this just another "moneyed WASPs are just like us!" delusion?
posted by psoas at 8:48 PM on July 5


As The Whelk notes, at the vintage shop where I work we sell Western shirts and square dance dresses as fast as we can find them. We also can't keep up with the demand for bow ties that actually tie.
posted by nonasuch at 8:52 PM on July 5


Well it's not Old Navy Cheap, but it is durable and tends to be very plain or in traditional patterns, not showy, very outdoorsy, so you can find it in thrift stores and Goodwills and it'll still hold up and be roughly in fashion. For the area/class it's like wearing background camouflage.

What you do is make a pilgrimage to the L.L Bean factory store in Freeport and LOAD UP on discounted items once a year until you don't have to come back. Like all of my white t-shirts and black undershirts and tan chinos are stuff are from there.
posted by The Whelk at 8:54 PM on July 5 [2 favorites]


( the next step up is like ..Orvis, which is sliiiightly higher quality? Nicer buttons, heavier fabric, still made in the US I think? Same basic styles but a fine grain up. I think cause Orvis has a reputation for watches and is still better known as a fishing outfitter than a clothing company)
posted by The Whelk at 8:58 PM on July 5


That being said I've always been suspicious of the "Oh we're very down to earth we wear L. L bean" thing cause compared to the price of clothing in an average mall or big box store it really is expensive ( My Mom certainly considered it expensive.) and it's kind of a false Modesty going on in saying your everyday clothing is somehow ...earthier cause it's slightly more durable and less fashion-foward.
posted by The Whelk at 9:04 PM on July 5


Lots of young republicans would probably love to look like a Bush family member.


Which is super funny when you remember the Bushes are pure blue blood New England WASPs from day one, Coastal Maine house, Yale, CIA service, prep schools the whole bit. Just that one of them wanted to play cowboy.
posted by The Whelk at 9:09 PM on July 5


the price of clothing in an average mall or big box store it really is expensive

I've noticed I have to pay a premium for clothing that isn't overly branded. It's really hard to find clothes, t-shirts particularly, without a huge logo on them.
posted by elwoodwiles at 11:41 PM on July 5


Prep style cracks me up. I'm not sure what I thought it was before I actually saw any of it, but when I did, oh, how I laughed. It's like boat goth! The same way goth kids stick skulls on everything, and like black and purple, and velvet and leather, those preppy folks do with anchors and ducks, hot pink and emerald green, and cotton knits and rope. Hilarious.
posted by thylacinthine at 3:19 AM on July 6 [12 favorites]


The thing about L.L. Bean is that it's more pricy than some options, but it really lasts forever and ever. (Sam Vines theory of boots, basically.) We used to do the 'go up to Freeport once a year for school shopping' thing too, and it was easy - the colours all basically work together, once you find stuff that fits you, it won't change drastically next season. And it will reliably look appropriate together, and fit for most things other than structured business wear or very formal situations.

I am actually a legit preppy (having a diploma from one of the classic boarding schools for that kind of thing), and one of the things that's always fascinated me is how some of the old-prep thing is very practical (solid stuff that will last for years and be practical for outdoor pursuits) and how some of it is this totally different world of doing it for fashion and style and 'this is a social statement' reasons even if it's not actually practical for your life.

I understand the former and am baffled by the latter. (And these days, having a body type that is many curves, I shop at Land's End, which has a better plus size selection and the same kind of things that practical-New-England-me likes, but is not quite so ardently preppy in presentation. Despite Freeport currently being an hour's drive from me.)
posted by modernhypatia at 5:37 AM on July 6 [2 favorites]


I live in a south coastal town in MA, probably near the epicenter of the lifestyle being portrayed here--midway between the Vineyard and Newport. And I have family members who take this preppy lifestyle very seriously. Now, these relatives are not WASPs. They are 100% Italian or Irish immigrant stock who grew up very very poor. The older ones came of age during the post-war boom and used the GI bill to get some college. And none of their kids (baby boomers) went to prep schools and they all attended very middling colleges. But they made some money and then went all in on the prep scene, including the large house on the water in a very sailing-oriented preppy town, boats, white pearls, red pants with navy blue blazers, or red skirts, ties or belts with whale motifs, and if not whales, then golf, bow-ties, the whole shtick. And it is always weird being around them on holidays and family gatherings because I can't take it seriously, because I know who you are and where you come from. But that bumps up against their desire to be taken very seriously and be envied. And I know they want to be accepted by the real WASPs but I have no idea if that really happens. And the new generation (the children of my cousins) have the most over the top WASP names--you would be shocked--I was shocked! So I believe they deliberately went about scrubbing the immigrant out of themselves whereas the rest of my family--all successful in a myriad of ways--don't take themselves so seriously and are more frank about our backgrounds. And to this day I am not exactly sure what I think about that. So I guess I am wondering no matter how much you look or play the part, can you ever really be "one of them"?
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 7:07 AM on July 6 [1 favorite]


There was a young man from Pawtucket,
Who boiled up some ropes in a bucket,
He added on anchors,
Then sold them to wankers
And when they complained, he said 'Suck it'
posted by PeterMcDermott at 7:16 AM on July 6 [23 favorites]


I feel like the "prep" shown in those Tumblrs is far removed from the "prep" seen in, say, the Daily Prep or in LL Bean catalogues, which have a more androgynous take on clothes. Is the first "Ivy" while the second is "preppy"? Is it age? Race? Fashion vs practicality?
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:47 AM on July 6


> Lots of young republicans would probably love to look like a Bush family member.

They'll have to be young enough not to be aware of LBJ's alligator President of the United States cowboy boots. (LBJ wasn't imitating anybody, he was just an alligator President of the United States cowboy boots kinda guy.)


> one of the things that's always fascinated me is how some of the old-prep thing is very practical (solid stuff that
> will last for years and be practical for outdoor pursuits) and how some of it is this totally different world of doing
> it for fashion and style and 'this is a social statement' reasons even if it's not actually practical for your life.

Preppy is to prep as truthy is to truth.
posted by jfuller at 7:56 AM on July 6


My wife spent formative years being a nanny in Greenwich and Chappaqua. I'm easily molded in terms of fashion so once she took control of my wardrobe it was all polo shirts, button downs, khaki pants. I developed a love for Sperry Topsiders that has not abated. I've owned exactly three pairs over thirty years and actually the newest pair was bought last year. Damn things are indestructible. As is, as noted above, anything purchased from LL Bean and we have a damn lot of LL Bean.

Our casual wear has become more nerdish. Right now I'm wearing a baggy LL bean shorts and t-shirt that says, "If Baggins loses, we eats it whole."
posted by Ber at 12:05 PM on July 6


> Damn things are indestructible.

They tell me weejuns are now being made in outsourcistan and the quality has gone somewhat south. (The exact quote was "You can smell the cheapness online.") My newest pair, dating from before outsourcistan was a thing, are on their sixth pair of soles and heels and the uppers are just getting that lived-in feeling.
posted by jfuller at 12:34 PM on July 6 [1 favorite]


This is hypnotic. I'm Australian and so have no particular personal affinity with this whole aesthetic, but I can't stop scrolling through their sites and marvelling.

It's all just so calculated. Which isn't a criticism, at all. The whole thing is just so finely tuned that i'd expect there to be a large corporation's marketing department behind it.

I did cackle a little when I first clicked over and realised that not even a few months ago, i'd helped a friend (also Australian) choose between two of their bracelets. Their reach grows..!
posted by pseudonymph at 7:58 PM on July 6


So I guess I am wondering no matter how much you look or play the part, can you ever really be "one of them"?

When you successfully convince someone you went to school with them despite the fact that You dropped out of another school they never heard of 600 miles away.

The Virginia/Carolianian types always take it much more serious, no? Like there's the schools that still teach Latin and the dress codes are stricter? Always my impression.
posted by The Whelk at 8:17 PM on July 6


Also, Prep + Goth
posted by The Whelk at 8:29 PM on July 6


Ctrl-F "Gatsby." Nothing? Really?
posted by yoink at 12:20 PM on July 7


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