From Collared To Casual: UNC Fashion History Exhibit


Long time readers of our comment section have in all likelihood noticed these two themes: that the Southern interpretation of the Ivy League Look is underappreciated, and that college students dress poorly.

Recent news out of Chapel Hill will have the first group cheering and provide further consternation to the latter. The Wilson Library at UNC is holding an exhibit entitled “From Frock Coats to Flip-Flops: 100 Years of Fashion at Carolina.” The exhibit opened February 25th and will run through the 5th of June.

The announcement states, “This exhibitions explores the stylistics shifts that took us from collared to casual, and what these changes — big and small, gradual and sudden — reveal about 20th-century student life at Carolina.”

The friends of the library newsletter that the exhibit announcement appears in shows some heyday images and is promoting a talk by designer Alexander Julian later in the spring. Julian’s father and uncle were instrumental in introducing UNC to Ivy style. — CHRISTOPHER SHARP

21 Comments on "From Collared To Casual: UNC Fashion History Exhibit"

  1. A visiting professor from Hawaii who came to our university in the East to give a lecture wearing flip-flops–having noticed that all the male professors were wearing ties and jackets– began his talk by saying “I’m wearing fip-flops because this is a formal occasion. If I were in Hawaii, I would have come barefoot”.
    I don’t think he was jesting.

  2. @JoshHF19

    What killed Ivy?

    Agent Orange, as much as anything else, and I’m not jesting.

    Your question should be the topic o a post unto itself.

  3. Pendern

    If you mean by Agent Orange the Vietnam War, okay. Add to that R&B, RocknRoll, the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Santana, the wide availability of cannabis, and the assasinations of JFK, Martin Luther King, Jr., and RFK. It’s generally accepted that by 1968, the younger generation was in revolt from the Establishment, which meant wearing Ivy was square. This didn’t stop many from later becoming stock brokers.

  4. Those who have read “Rebel Without A Suit” by Richard Press (and if you haven’t read it, get a copy and read it) know who killed Ivy. Ivy was killed by the people who ate Captain Cook.

  5. The Loafer Lawyer | March 22, 2016 at 11:38 am |

    Add another influence in the death of Ivy – the democratization of higher education. Although somewhat overstated, there is no question that the ranks of those admitted were expanded to include a greater variety of socio-economic standings, particularly starting with the baby boom generation. If you never (or nearly never) wore a blazer and tie before, or the cost of the same exceeded your means, you were unlikely to see trad wear as a necessary “uniform”.

  6. “I always wonder. What killed Ivy?

    “If you mean by Agent Orange the Vietnam War, okay. Add to that R&B, RocknRoll, the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Santana, the wide availability of cannabis, and the assasinations of JFK, Martin Luther King, Jr., and RFK. It’s generally accepted that by 1968, the younger generation was in revolt from the Establishment, which meant wearing Ivy was square. This didn’t stop many from later becoming stock brokers”.

    In one of the infinite parallel universes exists a earth in which a young Ho Chi Min was hit to death by a taxi in Paris,Giap was shot by Japs in WW-II. In 1953 the brothers Castro were killed in the Moncada barracks attack. Latin music and jazz-samba are the soundtrack of 50s (Elvis Presley was a actor in B western movies and television series),Vietnam was united under a pro-American government in 1954.
    JFK spent all 1960 in hospital,Richard Nixon became President of United States in november 60,National service was abolish in UK only in 1966,so Lennon,Mc Cartney,Mick Jagger and many others were drafted in early 60s and never became pop stars (the King of British Billboard in UK in 1965 was Matt Monro).
    Richard Nixon is reelected in 1964,and finally in 1968 democrats back to the White House.
    Cabot Lodge,the Nixon’s VP lost with the moderate democrat George Smathers (Robert Kennedy is his VP).
    Jimmy Hendrix in 1969 is a Sergeant in US Army in Berlin,Janis Joplin a unknown beatnik in San Francisco,Robert Goulet and Andy Williams are in the top ten of US billboard,when in July 1969 Astronauts Armstrong,Basset and Kerwin arrive to “Columbia” the first orbital space station of the history.
    70s is a rather prosperous decade,and…ah,in 2016 college boys across USA still wear sacks and ties.

  7. I vote Carmelo for best comment of the year (so far).

  8. Carmelo’s having a Philip K. Dick moment there it seems. He leaves off the corner of his alternate universe where an Italian scholar of fashion sits dreaming of love beads and flared trousers.

  9. Carmelo,

    Imagining an alternate universe in which “Robert Goulet and Andy Williams are in the top ten of the US billboard” in 1969 is nothing less than genius!

  10. Fred Johnson | March 22, 2016 at 9:33 pm |

    I remember when we used to button the top 2 buttons of our 3 button sack jackets. When did the top button become “non-functional?

  11. Why blame all those rock icons, Janis was the only one to perform Harvard. Got great reviews from the Crimson.

  12. I was at Carolina when “The Great Change” occurred. Started in the Fall of 1968, and every single frat boy wore khakis; returned Fall 1969 and 98% of frat boys were in bell bottom denims, like most of the rest of campus. Shirts went from polos and OCBDs to you-name-it, footwear mainly boots of some sort, with sandals edging Weejuns.

  13. Lots of top/third jacket buttons buttoned. Interesting. And awkward looking.

  14. I was waiting for Carmelos’ response and it didn’t disappoint. I’m really surprised there hasn’t been the usual hand wringing ” yeah, when women were second class citizens, and blacks and gays and wah, wah , wah (In Carmelos parallel universe I’d bet Brussels is a peaceful European city today)

  15. Absolutlely!
    In that universe,without Vietnam and Watergate US prestige and strenght were unchanged in 70s,and economy was in excellent condition without the huge expense of Vietnam war and great society.
    A potential opposer of Shah of Iran,Ruhollah Khomeyni,was discreetly liquidate in Paris by CIA agents (according to the secret program “cleaning the yard” issued by Robert Kennedy administration).
    Furthermore USSR not invaded Afghanistan in 1979.
    A civil right act was signed by Richard Nixon in early 1968.
    The other great heritage of Nixon were the national social insurance for senior citzen aged 65 and more older,the “Healthcare,know as “Nixoncare”,and the threat of non nuclear proliferation with USSR.
    (according to some, this did lost the Presidential election to Cabot Lodge in november aganist the Smathers/Kennedy ticket).
    About cultural-academic world,maybe another difference with our universe is that Professor Herbert Marcuse died in WW-I,Professor Adorno was killed by nazi in 30s,and Mr Jack Kerouac committed suicide in 1943,when was to the naval training station a Newport,Rhode island.
    A sad fate,shared almost two decade after with a young nutty,a certain Jim Morrison,that kill himself in summer 1961.
    Many famous peoples of our earth had a different fate in this parallel universe; take for exemple Professor Timothy Leary..a bad story that.
    Was killed in 1960 by a robber during a trip to Mexico,while ask for some “hallucinogens mushrooms.
    What big loss for the humanity!

  16. CC’s magnum opus (the rise and fall article) begins with (or eases steadily into?) what remains a vexing question. Okay, an interesting question. Charlie Davidson thought it was interesting, right? How much of what we call “Ivy style” is rooted in the tastes and inclinations of the Brooks Brothers buyers (tastemakers, really) back in the early part of the 20th century, and, as a sort of counterpoint, how much is rooted in the ever-evolving and necessarily casual (it’s a school campus, after all) tastes of of students with enough $ to buy more than just the basics?

    We know button-downed oxford cloth shirts, sack suits (woolens and worsteds) and jackets (tweeds, blazers) were being worn before Rosenberg, Jacobi Press, the Gant brothers, and other New Haven neighbors decided to spread the soft shouldered gospel. Brooks. Wasn’t it always Brooks? For the undergrads at Yale, Harvard, and Princeton, and almost certainly for members of the New York Yacht Club and the board of the Wall Street Journal. Brooks introduced the polo shirt (button down) in 1896, and, if their timeline is right, they placed Harris Tweed (not Shetland) jackets on the hangers in 1900. Brooks, Brooks. Brooks. The famous (or infamous?) sack suit debuts in 1900, followed by madras and repp ties a couple of years later. By 1904, shetland crewnecks litter the Brethren’s landscape. The polo coat, Alden loafers, and surcingle belts appear a few years later. Brooks. .

    The New Haven merchants came…and went. The wind blows where it will. With Southwick and Garland, they can and do make the kit they’ve always made. And now–(hold back the chuckles)–they make it for J. Press.


    What killed the Heyday incarnation of Ivy? Well, gosh–wasn’t it an unstable, confused species to begin with?–vulnerable, as anything that’s going to be decided by college students will be, to vicissitudes of all types and kinds. College kids, no matter what their pedigree or preferences, cannot be trusted to maintain or preserve much of anything that merits preservation. They’re a fickle and profligate lot, overall, aren’t they? Maybe just maybe one working theory vis a vis the death of Ivy surely involves the ambush of Nantucket and horse country wannabe’s. Nothing prompts the gag reflex like a Vineyard Vines wearing sophomore hopping out of his shiny new Range Rover. Preppies mated with Yuppies and gave birth the flip-flop wearing, whale-embroidered polo shirt wearing jackass. And, oh yes–he favors spread collars.

    The years pass–

    When I reach for my tweed jacket, shetland crewneck, and polo coat, I don’t think to myself, “I’m wearing Ivy.” “Ivy” is a ridiculous phrase. Great for marketing. Better, even, than “preppy.” If I bother to reflect at all, there’s this: “I’m wearing Brooks. Old Brooks. Classic Brooks.” They imported, innovated, and marketed.

    Long after Onward has given up on J. Press (whenever that happens) and every men’s store in the country has surrendered to upper middle tastes that can’t be predicted, some–a few–will still be wearing old Brooks. Nostalgia is powerful a force as any. Maybe more so than other contenders, like irony.

    It was never mostly about the campus, was it? I mean, not really.

  17. Charlottesville | March 23, 2016 at 12:44 pm |

    I add my belated praise for Carmelo and his delightful alternative history. At home tonight, I’ll put on some Matt Munro, make a couple of martini’s and dream. Fortunately, I’m already dressed for Carmelo’s reimagined present day. My wife won’t even notice anything different, unless I slip up and ask whether the President’s annual meeting with the Shah, the PM of Israel and the Arab League in Jerusalem went as amicably as usual.

  18. Ron Aldridge | March 23, 2016 at 3:24 pm |

    NCJack! I was there at the same time! Also lived the quick change from khakis to bellbottoms. We got caught up in the revolution. I have a transitional iconic moment in that shift…for those few who remember the movie “Three in the Attic” it was filmed in Chapel Hill circa 67-early 68. While we were still in khakis and Weejuns, the purported college students in the movie wore jeans and Wallabees. That seemed so odd…until 18 months later we wore them, too. My 2nd iconic moment involves Alexander Julian. He and I were in the same class and got to know each other at least passingly. I’ll never forget meeting Alex coming across the main quad one especially hot, humid July (summer school) afternoon. He was wearing a bright orange alpaca sweater. Only Alex would wear a sweater in 95 deg heat. He looked cool. Later I worked at Nowell’s clothing store in the new University Mall. It was just after he moved to New York and he came down to preview with us his first-ever line. The one piece I remember was a pair of olive green cargo pants with zip off legs. Best feature…they were lined with red cashmere. Only Alex. He got us back on track after the hip-hugging bellbottom /NikNik days!

  19. “Three In The Attic” – interesting. So the location scouts had picked Chapel Hill, but the costume designers had the cast dressed like students from California (which was about 18 months ahead of the curve relative to Chapel Hill at the time). That’s a very clear memory of the changes in the air at the time.

    For those who were in that area at the time. Do you think UNC students were slower to switch to the jeans and sneakers costume than students from nearby Duke? Or were the Duke students slower to make the transition?

  20. Ron Aldridge
    Bert Pulitzer was also famous for his “convertible” poplin pants and survival jacket here in the midwest.

  21. Henry Contestwinner | March 27, 2016 at 12:38 am |

    I love Carmelo’s alternative universe in which the Cultural Revolution never happened. I wish we lived in it!

    Keep up the good work, Carmelo! You’re an asset to this site.

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