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It’s a common sight on M Street in the summer: couples strolling around clad in Madras plaid and polos with popped collars, shod in espadrilles and Topsiders. Few neighborhoods in any American city embody Official Preppy Handbook style quite like Georgetown. It’s a fitting location, then, for the headquarters of the necktie company making the official ties of the equally preppy Kentucky Derby. In a licensing agreement with Churchill Downs Inc., which owns the Derby and its sister race, the Kentucky Oaks, the District’s own Charles and Patrick has produced two ties, which come in four colors each, that retail for $93.50.
Brent Patrick Keuch, creative director for Charles and Patrick, previously worked for Lilly Pulitzer, whose bright-patterned dresses are staples in the closets of preppy woman everywhere. During this time he gained plenty of experience working with prints, which prepared him well for designing Derby ties. He actually designed 250 prints for the Derby, both conservative and “Lilly Pulitzer-esque prints with lots of colors,” he said. “They ended up choosing two of the more conservative prints.”
The licensing agreement between Churchill Downs and Charles and Patrick is the first in the history of the 136-year-old race. “We wanted to test the waters with ties,” said Casey Cook, vice president of brand development and licensing. “When on thinks of the Derby, one thinks of a very classy, Southern genteel charm. Charles and Patrick really captured that essence.”
A native of Alexandria, Keuch attributes his appreciation for this aesthetic to his days as a boarder at the Christchurch School, about 75 miles east of Richmond on the Chesapeake Bay. “I had friends from places like Alabama and Georgia,” he said. “I became accustomed to the classic ways that older Southern men used to dress.”
Keuch considers D.C. an inherently stylish locale: “With history comes style and fashion and class.” He is critical, however, of the more relaxed dress standards in present-day workplaces. “I see guys walking around in Georgetown after work, and they’re wearing slacks and a button-down,” he said. “They’re not even wearing a jacket. Men used to wear a three piece suit everyday, even if they didn’t have a job.”
Patrick and Charles ties are available on the Kentucky Derby website. Though the ties are not yet available for retail elsewhere, the company also makes custom-designed ties for boarding schools, social clubs, and yacht clubs.