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Everything You Wanted to Know About Monogramming
by Glenn O’Brien
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WITH MORE THAN SEVEN BILLION PEOPLE on the planet, you have to
make an effort to be somebody or else you’ll fail on Facebook, get dropped on
Twitter. Your name may be forgotten, your number lost. The solution to identity
in an age of teeming masses is setting yourself apart stylistically.

Consider the venerable monogram—it’s a traditional nicety that has long been a
mark of personal style. Today’s monogram consists of three letters: the initials of
your first, middle and last names. I did the math and thought that there were more
than 2.5 trillion possible permutations of three letters in our 26-letter alphabet,
meaning that it’s about as unique as your DNA. Then the math guy said it’s only
17,576. That’s still pretty exclusive.

We live in a landscape that is covered with corporate logos. If individuals are
going to compete today, we need logos too. The monogram is an elegant way to
make your mark. It’s your name boiled down to the essence, executed with graphic
artistry. It’s as old as the coat of arms and it was used as a hallmark in metalwork,
ceramics and graphics, marking the genuine article.

The wealthy took to monogramming in the 19th century, marking books, cigarette
cases, lighters, the silver, the towels in the bath, the bottles in a cellar and the shirts
in the closet—things small enough to steal—but eventually the monogram became
a matter of pride.
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Famous men are known by their monogram. The typesetter’s friend, it enhanced
the celebrity of well-initialed persons. TSE: T.S. Eliot. RLS: Robert Louis
Stevenson. FDR: Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The Kennedy brothers: JFK, RFK,
EMK. And the two LBJs: Lyndon Baines Johnson and LeBron James.

The shirt monogram began in grand households or colleges where many shirts
were laundered together—the elegant ancestor of today’s laundry mark. Now the
monogram isn’t there for the laundry, but for the ego. It used to be said that the
proper place for the monogram is over the heart. Flashier dressers have long
favored the shirt cuff, as it will be noted in a handshake, at the card table, lighting
a lady’s cigar. “Trad” guys may wince, but it’s your damn shirt!

When it comes to kids, you can’t start too soon. Monograms are nicer than
taped-in names. If anyone is more likely to lose his shirt than a poker player, it is a
sixth grader. My luggage is monogrammed and it’s one more “Hello!” to keep me
from making a mistake at the luggage carousel after a long and disorienting flight.

Why limit monograms to your initials? My friend Andy Spade wears shirts
monogrammed EDW. He bought them in a thrift shop and liked the randomness.
And think of Elvis Presley, who had TCB (“Taking Care of Business”)
monogrammed on everything. Three letters can spell out your interests and
attitudes: FYI, TKO, BYO, ETC, IPO?

Why is your monogram TBD? My motto is “To Be Determined.” CWB? I won
this shirt from Charles Barkley in a card game. LXI? I have a hundred white shirts
and this is number 61. If someone asks you about your monogram, tell them you’re
thinking of getting a tattoo but you’re just trying it out first. Tell them the X stands
for the unknown. Express yourself. Put it in writing.

For more ideas on how to make it your own, click here.
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Notes
  1. victoriatan reblogged this from jcrew and added:
    this gives me an idea on how to personalize the ‘celine’ bag my mum accidentally bought in china… it’s not fashion...
  2. marleylilly reblogged this from jcrew
  3. inkfishandthyme reblogged this from jcrew
  4. eunice-bee reblogged this from jcrew
  5. veronicasepe reblogged this from jcrew and added:
    A lovely ode to the fanciest of name tags.
  6. fashionsmashion reblogged this from jcrew
  7. gardensandyou reblogged this from snowandgunpowder
  8. emlizabeth reblogged this from jcrew
  9. randomphotosofinspiration reblogged this from jcrew
  10. varsityproject reblogged this from jcrew
  11. thelyonesstyled reblogged this from jcrew
  12. more-or-leslie reblogged this from jcrew and added:
    (Mmm, monograms. Chic, personalized,...my favorite ways
  13. snowandgunpowder reblogged this from jcrew
  14. legentilhommeavocat reblogged this from jcrew
  15. charlesemerson reblogged this from jcrew
  16. brosbeforeshows reblogged this from jcrew
  17. thepreppyfashionista reblogged this from jcrew and added:
    Great article about monogramming.
  18. bobbygrossman reblogged this from jcrew
  19. gavinpierremedford reblogged this from jcrew
  20. markettome reblogged this from brownflipflops and added:
    Nice example of branded content.
  21. brownflipflops reblogged this from jcrew
  22. ksjmccafferty reblogged this from jcrew
  23. personalizedfrommetoyou reblogged this from jcrew and added:
    Monogram Everything

© 2014 by J.Crew. All Images and materials are copyrighted by J.Crew unless otherwise noted.

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