While familiarity may breed contempt, exclusivity can engender affinity, curiosity even. To whit, where Ralph Lauren may suffer the slings and arrows of ubiquity and accusations of wanabe-classism, clothing brands known to only a few often retain genuine affection and social pull.
Such is the case with American clothing label, Boast.
First, a botany lesson; it’s a Japanese Maple leaf. Really. Second, a little history. To anyone who grew up around a country club in the 1970s and ’80s, Boast was that brand. Playing tennis on the dusty clay courts, all the cool guys wore Boast polo shirt or shorts. Racquetball (perhaps the WASPiest of all sports)? A Boast headband or socks. That leaf logo was, in an exclusive sort of way, ever present, which makes it that much more interesting.
So many brands like to try and build a preppy/vintage/heritage culture off a near-nugget of truth. Others create from whole cloth a background that somehow grounds them in Americana or Ivy League culture. Boast doesn’t need to; it’s the real deal.
Created in 1973 by Bill St. John, the tennis pro at Greenwich, Connecticut’s Field Club, Boast was an American answer to fancy European sportswear that was at the time dominating the pro shop market. Selling from the back of his station wagon, St. John and his partners – all former Columbia University classmates – grew the brand into a staple of leading country clubs. If you played squash or tennis, you knew Boast.
From there, the brand grew and was adopted by a certain strata of society and the sports world. Throughout the ’70s and ’80s, iconoclasts everywhere were wearing Boast, from John McEnroe on the court to Greg Norman on the links to George W. Bush stumping for his dad. Boast, in no small part due to people misconstruing the leaf logo, was seen a badge of individualism and irreverence- yet almost always within the context of the upper crust.
That, of course, was the hook that kept the brand within a circle of a certain culture. You only really knew about Boast if you ran in the country club crowd at some level. And sporting Boast displayed your edgy independence to a familial menage that would metaphorically nod its head and, with a little wink, grab another G&T or Bloody Mary and mosey on over to the 19th Hole.
Boast never really went away, but it never really grew beyond what it was. And that’s OK. Boast was always about culture and people more than commercialization. Then, with some new owners at the helm determined to preserve all that makes it unique, Boast was re-born in 2012. It was, and still is, a brand for folks who appreciate grabbing a beer or two after a match, not a sustainably-sourced-gluten-free-vegan-detoxyfying-power-smoothie.
These new owners cherish the brand’s history and the philosophy behind what makes it such a special slice of American sportswear.
We tested out a few Boast items over the past couple of weeks and are more than happy to say that Boast is still very much a classic, country club inspired brand that is meant to be worn every day.The classic Boast polo shirt is a blast from the past – 1985 (or thereabouts) to be specific. Thick cotton with some real texture, just like they used to be. Want enzyme washed and broken in? Not here. You’ll have wear this shirt to break in, thank you very much. And we like that, because it’s a polo that you are going to wear for years to come and cherish the work it took to build some personal character. It’s made to last and if that means you don’t need to buy another for some time, they’re cool with that. It even has an old-school drop tail hem; love it.
We also have the navy Pique Sport Coat. It’s like wearing a blue blazer made from your polo shirt. How preppy is that?
This version was inspired by a jacket Boast made as a one-off for designer Andy Spade. His was constructed from a heavy navy canvas with red elbow patches. It took a while to break in and literally creased when he bent his arms, but everyone loved it and asked for it. After a little tinkering, this easier to wear version emerged. Patch pockets and unlined with baby blue taped seams. Like if a blazer and a cardigan had a child; informally dressy. If Mory’s still had a jacket rule, this would be what you wore to brunch after a morning workout at Payne Whitney.
Boast is a slice of real American Ivy League, preppy, East Coast, country club life you can wear. That leaf may be mistaken for a lot things, but not for being a poser. Grab a cocktail, grab a seat, and hang out for a little while.