Why J. Crew? A Brief History of the Walking Stick.

Posted on April 15, 2014

I hope you will take a moment to sign the #YesJCrewCane petition before or after reading this letter.

Dear J. Crew,

Meet Pierre Vigny.

Pierre Vigny La Canne
Vigny was a French master-at-arms who specialized in la canne. La canne is also known as the art of stick fighting.

Vigny’s walking stick was a powerful tool meant for self defense. Historically though, walking sticks didn’t wield power. They represented it.

On his death bed in 1790, Benjamin Franklin bequeathed his walking stick to George Washington stating “If it were a sceptre, he has merited it and would become it”. A scepter is an ornamental staff held symbolically by a ruling monarch. Franklin’s walking stick clearly symbolized the power and influence he knew Washington held as the first president of the good ol’ USofA.

A hundred years ago, the walking stick was a symbol of wealth and power. Canes were sold in shops like London’s famous Smith and Sons shop. These stores were beautiful to walk into, the wooden cases artfully displayed an array of beautifully crafted merchandise.

Smith and Sons Cane Shop … much like your average J. Crew mens shop.

J. Crew Mens Shop Is it me or do those two stores look and feel similar?

J. Crew Mens Shop Apotheke And while I know that the shop above is an old liquor store, I can’t help but notice the apotheke influence.


So I’m wondering if you would consider influencing a culture that seems to be influencing your stores? Because whether you like it or not, disability is a culture. It has trends. It’s a reachable market. It even has beauty and success.

Jenna Lyons Glasses

So why J. Crew? It’s simple. Because it’s always been you. You just don’t know it yet.

Before I wrap this up for the week, I thought you might find something interesting. You know, given your affinity for baseball products and all.

J. Crew Ebbets Field Baseball Hat

Baseball mitts used to be seen as a sign of weakness, worn shamefully by injured players. Once players embraced the use of these padded mitts, they completely changed the way the game was played, becoming as integral to the sport as the ball and bat.

It’s interesting to consider that the beautiful tone of those tanned mitts may not exist today had it not been for the shame of the first player to be caught wearing one. Charles Waitt chose a flesh colored glove hoping nobody would notice the device on his hand. He didn’t want anyone to think he was soft.

J. Crew Greatest Catch of All Time

And I don’t know about you, but it seems to me that the greatest catch of all time was anything but soft.

And Spalding, the first company to sell baseball gloves, continues to be a dominant force in the market today.

Thanks and Best,


P.S. I hope you will take a moment to read some of the messages others have left on the #YesJCrewCane petition. Also, feel free to sign it if you haven’t already!

P.P.S. Here’s last week’s letter

What Others Are Saying

  1. Dan Sibbernsen April 16, 2014 at 1:14 am

    This is a well written article, and it would be great if canes came back into fashion! Though I only use a cane sparingly due to an old foot injury, I generally get strange looks. Canes make for pretty awesome dance props, though I haven’t used one in quite a while 🙂

    I look forward to reading your future posts!

    • The Girl with the Purple Cane April 16, 2014 at 1:23 am

      Hi Dan. Your comment made me smile – I absolutely agree… though I think my cane has better moves than I do.

  2. Rob Noble April 18, 2014 at 2:33 pm

    It’s actually pretty interesting in how technology is changing our behavior in shopping. I’ve seen far too many mom and pop stores close down as larger retailers and big brands online consume the consumer.

    In regards to Dan, there is a site that has brought canes back into fashion. It may depends regionally in one may call an outfit accessory fashionable.

    Try visiting Fashionable Canes to get an idea in how many unique styles actually exist.

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