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Interview: Bert Pulitzer

February 16, 2011

Bert Pulitzer can be described as a pioneer who redefined the Ivy League Style. You might recall the iconic Canadian Goose emblem of many of his previous designed items, especially his ties; just take a look at your fathers or grandfather’s closet. Once considered solely a gay style, Pulitzer’s contribution has sculptured preppy fashion into a lifestyle brand where men are more perceptive about their attire and character. A current designer and partner at XMI, Pulitzer shares the company’s vision of embracing evolution in a changing market and shares the influence by NASA for their “Signature” piece in their collection.

How important is Ivy League Style to America, and, how influential have you’ve been in evolving its’ style?

Preppy is part of the American culture. The prep look is very natural, no pretense, classic, functional and real colors. Ralph Ostrove, Cliff Grodd, and I of Paul Stuart (deceased) are the three who defined it. In 1952 Ralph Ostrove founded Paul Stuart. He paved the way for how I went on to redefine the staid Brooks Brothers “Ivy League” style.

Designing to me is to spend time and to observe and to think thru what it is that is missing. My entire career has been to create what became many “classics” in our industry. When I came up with the Pinpoint Oxford I was told,  “…No one will ever pay $25 for an Oxford shirt!” When I redefined work shirts into a casual dress shirt, my hope was that on Fridays in Chicago to see men wear a blazer with Khakis and a blazer rather than five days of wearing suits. Again I was told, “…That would never happen!” When I studied sailing jackets that were in Army and Navy stores for $4.50, and at the original Abercrombie and Fitch selling for $6.50. I designed the Survivalon sailing jacket, and again, told “…No one will ever pay $150 for a sailing jacket”!

What changes have you’ve seen in Men’s fashion in the past twenty years, especially when it pertains to the Ivy League Style?

The 1950′s were when prep started and it was known as a “gay” look. The past twenty years have been a constant evolution towards lifestyle dressing. In the past men dressed like other men and wanted to fit in. Today men enjoy wearing clothes and are reaching out to new ways of wearing clothes. Today scarves are worn as a casual form of ties and are interchangeable at work and worn as an accessory item at his leisure as well. Scarves are a small item, and a big change.

Is there any difference between fashion and style?

Absolutely! Every man has a style. Fashion is a changing thing and most men had never gotten it anyway. There is hope for the new generations as they enjoy and appreciate dressing well.

What is your personal style, that is, when you wake up in the morning, how do you choose what you want to wear?

My Personal Style I mix patterns and textures with color. My dress is multi layering, for example combining sweaters with vests and sometimes with jackets. These combinations are worn with woven dress or sport shirts with or without a necktie and or a scarf.

What is your “go to” item, your most prized piece, that you could wear everyday?

My most prized piece is a green, suede vest designed by Mundl and made in Germany. I like to wear it with a XMI Signature back shirt. These shirts fit like no other. (Pulitzer was wearing both during the interview)

What are the five essential pieces every young man under the age of 25 needs to have in his wardrobe?

At 25 I would assume that he has a job, where he works and what he does is the key. For one in a financial career, forget business casual unless he is content to work in the back room as an accountant. His goals are to fit in, so always grey pinstripe suits dark to light. Dark is stronger. To become a partner wear Charcoal and or navy pinstripe suits, Navy and black solids are okay as well. Deep subtle glen plaid suits are recommended strongly if moving up is important.

General business attire would be according to industry and location. Downtown is naturally dressier than business park environments. In either location a shirt with a tie needs a vest or sweater, without the third piece he looks like a copy room boy. If casual is the norm, then still an open shirt needs a tee underneath and or a sweater or vest. Open shirts plain, he fits in and will always need “a job.”

They say clothes make the man, but what other characteristics are essential for being a gentleman?

Integrity and self-confidence, he needs no other attributes.

Integrity: Is necessary for real success.

Self-confidence: Comes with maturity and if one is lucky, a good mentor or mentors. Mentoring was originally a true form of older men and senior young men who learned how to dress and passed it on, usually in the form of roasting the novice.

What other factors play a role in your designs?

Everything I do is part of design. I enjoy participating in tennis, golf, boating, hunting, fly-fishing, running, (Pulitzer ran his first marathon at age 65), gardening, and painting. I admire both Calder and Picasso as they were doing their best work as they aged. Wherever I am, whatever I see, I constantly look for things that ought to be done better. Kind of like the Count on Sesame Street, always counting.

What exciting news can you share with me about XMI?

XMI has several very strong items in each of its product ranges. The number one is a shirt that I designed while at NASA when the astronauts were having their flight suits designed and fitted. I was intrigued at how they did not know what they would be doing in outer space and the suits were designed for total free movement. The XMI Signature back is sculpted around the major muscles of the back. It is a three-piece shirt and differs from the body cover model of past shirt construction. The Back is a registered trademark of XMI.

Our Platinum neckwear is hand made in Wisconsin “MADE IN THE USA” unusual for very high quality garments. XMI Platinum neckwear is known for it’s updated modern classic design and highly colorful. We make our own original designs and colorings.

The XMI 405 Oxford is our best selling dress shirt and has become a standard in our Specialty store accounts nationwide. The 405 is a beefy elegant oxford that just keeps on going.

405 shirts with ties


J. P. Lee

9 Comments leave one →
  1. February 17, 2011 9:30 am

    Great interview :) really informative. I’m definitely sharing those five essential pieces every man under 25 needs to have :)

  2. Dave Kell permalink
    February 17, 2011 11:30 am

    Great stuff here. Thanks for you time Mr. Pulitzer. I like how you pointed out the historical connection between preppy dress and looking ‘gay’…for a while now, whenever someone tells me my attire makes me look ‘gay’ I take it as a compliment knowing that it means I am well dressed.

  3. Scott permalink
    February 18, 2011 8:09 am

    Great interview Joe!
    U Scott

  4. carmen permalink
    February 18, 2011 9:04 am

    Very informative and well put together.

  5. Barry Litwin permalink
    February 19, 2011 1:05 am

    No one has done more for the confidence of bankers like me than Bert Pulitzer. When I go to work- either to a meeting outside my office or just in the office, and I wear a Bert Pulitzer now XMI shirt or tie, I always feel I am looking my best and I am dressed to win.

  6. Russell Street permalink
    February 21, 2011 9:29 pm

    I wish I were an American. As an English boy I just never seem to get it right. I try really hard to figure out the “secret handshake”. I practice being “nonchalant” in front of the mirror all the time.

    But I think I’ll always just be way too uptight and afraid of being exposed as a pretender.

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