Besmirching the Escutcheon

The other day (well, that’s a lie right there; it was in 2005 when I wrote this), I walked out of the East Court in the New York Racquet Club and took a seat in the anteroom to recover. I don’t know whether I had won or lost but, given the venue and the quality of play there, the odds favor the latter. It does not really matter.

Likely, the first conversation would have encompassed the skill of my opponent, the quality of the marking and appropriate observations that befit the sporting nature of the endeavor. These thoughts do not bear repeating as everyone knows them well.

But those ended in due time and my thoughts wandered to the pictures on the walls and the contrasts between the heroes there depicted and the mortals whose living selves populated the space around me. (It was a tournament so there was quite a crowd of mortals to observe.) How did these groups differ?

Well, first the heroes were more heroic. There is no surprise there as who in his right mind would go out of his way to frame and hang pictures of mere mortals when there is limited wall space?

The room on the other hand probably included some future heroes but also a far greater number or mere mortals because that is the logical ratio of the great to the average. But again, it does not really matter.

As the adrenalin waned and the inevitable stiffness set in, I noticed something. Virtually none of the heroes in the pictures had anything embroidered on his clothing while virtually all of the mortals around me were festooned with insignia of all variety. Why was this?

Do heroes not favor insignia? Not very likely because some of the superb living players had crests on shirts, shorts and racquets. This careful research led me to the conclusion that skill level had nothing to do with the wearing of logos.

In short order I came to the conclusion that the heroes of the past did not have logos on their clothing because the technology to make that possible did not exist at the time they were becoming and being heroes.

As new heroes are created there will surely be logos, crests and other escutcheons on their clothing and thus in their pictures. This assumes of course that new rooms are created to provide the wall space for pictures these new heroes.

Extrapolation off current trends often turns prognosticators into fools, but such analysis could lead to the idea that court tennis is well on its way to becoming NASCAR. Will the all-white tradition of our game be overcome by clothing resembling the bug splats on southern windshields?

One of the nice elements of court tennis is, if in doubt as to what to do, you can simply emulate the behavior of the past. This is one of the splendid things about a game of tradition.

But we are in uncharted territory here.  There is no tradition to guide our behavior as to the wearing of logos.

This is so daunting that we don’t even know what to call them. Are the crossed racquets of New York a mere logo or do they ascend to the level of being a “crest”? Are the rose and crown of Hampton Court a mere crest or do they rise to the heraldic significance of an “escutcheon”? Our problem has no name.

How is a gentleman to think about these matters if he can’t even name them? Okay, we’ll put one thing to rest: “gentleman” has nothing to do with genders and everything to do with how one behaves. No article on court tennis could possibly use the word “gentleperson” because that just wouldn’t do but the questions apply equally to both genders.

What logo might a gentleman wear? Is it limited to a club of which the wearer is a member? Is it limited to a club at which he has played? Is it okay to order them off the internet and wear them willy nilly?

Clearly, anyone can wear the crest of his own club(s). Few could argue with this. Some, including writers with sufficient free time to worry about such things, take the view that a shirt with the insignia of a club at which you have played is fair game. The self same writer is wont to observe, however, that my “sometimes-opinionated” father might not fully agree with this notion. The writer defends it however on the theory that a shirt purchased at a far away court is a way of supporting the professional who made the visit possible in the first place.

How many crests are appropriate? May shirt, shorts and sweaters depict the emblems of different clubs? If so, is color coordination appropriate? The greens and yellows of Tuxedo, Aiken and Greentree might look snappier if worn together than with a random red and blue of New York thrown in. Somehow, three seems excessive and the same crest on two items of clothing – particularly shirt and shorts — seems a bit over the top. Much pondering needed here.

What about items of clothing? Do they differ? The “sometimes-opinionated” father would clearly raise an eyebrow at a person wearing the tie of a club of which he was not a member. Indeed, that individual is known to have done so, much to the detriment of the unwitting offender. But what about tee shirts? Are they like ties?

The endless gradations of blazer patches, cricket sweaters, baseball caps, racquets, shorts, sweatshirts, vests, racquet bags cause much anxiety to the player concerned about being “on form.”

Some items are clear. The Jester is only worn by Jesters because it is an honor and not a collectible. Word is though that gentle reminders have been whispered on this subject in times past. But much of the rest is up for grabs.

Finally, where are crests and logos to be worn? This is not an idle question. When ladies first began playing, our professionals were unaware of the very existence of skirts or, more subtly, of the differing cuts of shirt that might be suitable. Embarrassing misplacement of crests and logos resulted

And a new phenomenon could soon be upon us. Much effort is being made to encourage juniors, so clothing must now be ordered for this demographic. Parents of teenagers – particularly girls – will have seen shorts with school names inscribed on the derriere! Might we soon be seeing the Newport Eagle similarly placed?

Perhaps these thoughts will result in outraged letters to the editor or even the establishment of committees of the game’s governing bodies. Meanwhile, the anxieties about

decorum deter the mere mortals from keeping their railroads tight to the wall and leaving the ball that will not win the chase.



26 Responses to “Besmirching the Escutcheon”

James Walton, March 31, 2020 at 6:40 am said:

One thing is certain, there will have to be more sub-committees to address this problem!


Haven Pell, March 31, 2020 at 9:20 am said:

A gentleman is not in need of rules. He knows them. And determines much about others by whether or not they do too.


James Walton, March 31, 2020 at 10:31 am said:

You are straying into dangerous ground there, Mr Pell….especially in the sport of tennis……


Haven Pell, March 31, 2020 at 11:39 am said:

the real sport is the committee bickering and the game itself just provides something to fight about.

Reply, March 31, 2020 at 6:50 am said:

At Leamington we recently hosted a group of fine Australian gentlemen. A parting gift was a bow tie from their Australian club. I am not a member of that club….but can I now wear the article?
I can answer my own question: Sadly the bow tie is already tied. I cannot wear such an item without incurring the wrath of many an “ opinionated father”. Of which I am one.
Cheers Haven.


Haven Pell, March 31, 2020 at 9:18 am said:

Richard, Indeed you answer your own question. The pre-tied bow is far too easy. Expulsion from a club — the equivalent of being drummed out of the regiment — was once signified by snipping off the offender’s tie. This process is far more difficult with a pre-tied bow. A proper scissoring is also impeded by the paraphernalia embedded in the silk. Snipping the offending tie of a non-member is another act of public shaming. We are clearly headed toward deep philosophical discourse on the subtleties of the silk-cotton rule.


Richard Meyer, March 31, 2020 at 6:54 am said:

I believe that the first generally recognized public logo was the Rene’ Lacoste crocodile ( not alligator!)
This is to distinguish it from private club insignia.
The greatest overuse of logos seems to be by Ralph Lauren.


Haven Pell, March 31, 2020 at 9:23 am said:

Mercifully, we need not trouble ourselves with such like. They populate the Facebook “Preppy Handbook” group, asking such questions as, “is my hand sanitizer preppy?”


Temple Grassi, March 31, 2020 at 7:06 am said:

To wit
15 years ( or so) ago, I was on The Board of a club ‘far away’ and we celebrated the 100th Anniversary. One of the things we did was to provide white polo shirts with a large logo of the club over the heart. They sold like ‘hot cakes’ and we were very pleased with ourselves! Well, at a cocktail party a week or so later, this lady comes up to me and says, ‘you guys ( no women on the board back then- now it’s half’n half!) are prejudiced against women!
‘What , I replied ,’we love women-I have a wife and 3 daughters-couldn’t be happier and prouder!’
She came right back at me -‘That’s not what I mean-those polo shirts – there were no ladies’ cuts!’
I had had some ‘Dutch Courage’ in me so I said to her-‘Ladies’s cut?- does that mean the shirt needs to be larger in the front!’
She said that I was rude, turned on her heel, and walked away!


Haven Pell, March 31, 2020 at 9:25 am said:

The Ambassador can not possibly be rude. There are laws of physics covering such things. The lady owes you a hand written note on heavy vellum.


Peter W Bragdon, March 31, 2020 at 7:39 am said:

Insignia should be limited to the crest of the club — period — nothing beyond that. The restraint of the Brahmans should be the general practice.
That sure is a predictable answer from an 84-year-old New England WASP, but I believe in such self-discipline.
Back in the mid-70’s when my prep school hockey team clinched the League Title on the rink of our traditional rival in the closing seconds of the game I asked a pretty much all-Senior team to avoid any pig pile or any show of joy on the ice — they pulled it off, went through the line shaking hands as if it had been just another game. It was great! Of course, our visiting locker room became bedlam once we had closed the door!


Haven Pell, March 31, 2020 at 9:29 am said:

Well done. Definite show of class. A brother-in-law of my acquaintance plays golf but not nearly as well as his wife. Nonetheless he had a birdie one day and was excessively celebratory. The caddie was heard to say, “act like ya been there, Doc.”


Garrard Glenn, March 31, 2020 at 9:13 am said:

This gives me an idea. I will shortly bring to market a new line of clothing, including tee shirts, oxford shirts, khakis, bathing trunks, etc. Each item will sport the very same logo. Indeed, the logo will be comprised of four letters, and nothing more: Logo. Each letter will be of a different primary color. Talk about hot cakes. This stuff will literally fly off the shelves, and from within Amazon distribution centers. In keeping with our current tradition of Income Inequality, I plan to retain 99% of the exponential profits for myself, and award Haven 1%, though legally I am in no way required to do so. Just a fond tip of the hat ( a logoized fedora) to my estimable classmate.


Haven Pell, March 31, 2020 at 9:38 am said:

You could operate that business from home in these troubled times. The 1% would likely cover all of the expenses of the Pundificator.


Chip Oat, March 31, 2020 at 9:27 am said:

In 1972, I was in London for the first time as manager of my college squash team. I was quite taken by the regimental stripe neckties in a shop on the Burlington Arcade that were even more impressive than what either Brooks Brothers and/or J. Press offered. However, as I clearly hadn’t served in any British regiment, the very English staff refused to sell me even one despite my promise that I would only wear it in the colonies where nobody would know of my faux pas.

This must have been a lesson I took to heart. As an adult, I have been privileged to be a guest at many of the finest golf clubs in this country and in the U.K. Interestingly, virtually all of them were, and still are, happy to sell a tie with the club logo to anyone who wished to purchase same as a souvenir which, presumably, they intended to wear. Only a precious few on this side of the pond had a “members only” cravat that even the most distinguished guests (I was not included in that group) were not able to purchase although I came to see that as SOP in England and Scotland.

Influenced, no doubt, by the very traditional Englishman from the Burlington Arcade, I have never worn a club tie unless I was, in fact, a member. Court tennis being what golf used to be regarding tradition, I can see how my (antediluvian?) necktie values could extend to shirts and sweaters in the mind of older members of the R&T, Tuxedo, Greentree, et al.


Haven Pell, March 31, 2020 at 9:34 am said:

Another foray into the delicacies of the silk-cotton rule. Ties and shirts seem different somehow but teasing out those differences takes years of thought. There is also the polyester rule. If the club tie is polyester rather than silk, it is not worth bragging about having been to that club at all let alone pretending to be a member.


Mac Norton, April 02, 2020 at 1:08 pm said:

My wife just asked me for some old shirts that she can make face masks out of. When I gave her some cotton ones, she said that a cotton/polyester blend is considered more effective. I told her she is out of luck, and thought that surely she knows me better than that. With respect to logos — I’ve never been drawn to logos and have always appreciated polo shirts from J Crew because of their lack of any device (and they’re inexpensive!). I have a few shirts with club logos, gifts I have received, which I wear only at the club, and perhaps might wear at another club. Outside of that population, who needs to know? Ties, at least striped club ties, offer a little more opportunity for use, as they are less likely to be recognized by the general public. I’m more open to school logos, at least for those younger than I am. Finally, I would note that the Pundificator is clarifying and maintaining standards, as always.


Haven Pell, April 02, 2020 at 2:13 pm said:

Thank you Mac. Maybe we need to think about the collections of mismatched hockey jerseys, pants and socks that so many of us have accumulated over decades.


Charles Johnstone, March 31, 2020 at 10:15 am said:

Put me in the traditional school but is there a better logo in the game than the simple discreet Greentree worn by the members of Greentree . It harkens back to the simplicity of the iconic Lacoste and Perry logos. I honestly have a hard time distinguishing over 90% of the club logos in our game. Enjoyable article Haven, hope you are well.


Haven Pell, March 31, 2020 at 11:47 am said:

Thanks Charlie, hope you are finding photography opportunities during the lockdown. Perhaps you could do an “étude des écussons” for the next Art Basel.


Marc Lewinstein, March 31, 2020 at 10:40 am said:

I was once with a relative of yours when we noticed an exact copy of the R&T logo tie at the Woodbury Commons Ralph Lauren. To paraphrase Bo Diddley, “Near Tuxedo Park, it’s worth ten bucks.”


Haven Pell, March 31, 2020 at 11:41 am said:

There was a company called G. S. Harvale that made those ties. Not the striped ones, the ones with the logos. It is possible some were made available beyond the intended audiences.


Temple Grassi, March 31, 2020 at 12:01 pm said:

When I was 15 years old, I tried to walk out of the house with my Dad’s SPS sweater on!
‘hold it, son! You can’t wear that, you don’t go to that school!’
These are words that have stuck with me ‘lo these many years


Haven Pell, March 31, 2020 at 12:05 pm said:

His admonition helped to make you into the gentleman that you are.


Ken Jacobs, March 31, 2020 at 10:39 pm said:

Hypothetically Nike or Adidas (maybe Google or Oracle the company is open to fortune) opened a Real Tennis club, what then?


Haven Pell, April 01, 2020 at 8:48 am said:

I suppose these would be essentially public “pay-to-play” facilities so there would be no cachet to “joining” one. “Joining” would likely require nothing more than a swipe of the credit card. Hence nobody would care about the logo and the sale of branded gear would prevail.


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