17-Year-Old: The Mix Of Jazz, Movies And Old-School Cool Make Ivy Irresistable

record player

I’m seventeen and attend a prep school in Louisville, Kentucky. I have a fondness for classic clothing, but it’s definitely not inherited. I’m middle class and my dad’s taste in clothing is as bland as white bread. Instead I came to appreciate classic clothes through my love of film, especially old Alfred Hitchcock movies like “North by Northwest,” “Vertigo,” “Strangers on a Train,” and “To Catch a Thief.” I’d feast my eyes on them when they’d show at the Palace Theater, an elegant Spanish Baroque theater with turrets, balconies, arcades that opened in 1928. It smells of ancient velvet dust and — so I like to imagine —Humphrey Bogart’s cigarettes.

One of my favorite style moments in old movies occurs in “Strangers on a Train.” Farley Granger’s character wins his tennis match, throws on a crested 3 button blazer over his white polo, ditches the fed who’s tailing him, slips on a pair of grey flannels, and rushes to confront Robert Walker’s maniacal villain. The formal and athletic in perfect harmony.

I’d like to think I was born with a sensitivity “regarding love and art,” as Christian recently mentioned in a quote from another classic film, “The Wizard of Oz.” I read a lot and have followed this website, along with several others, for about a year. I just got my hands on a copy of Boyer’s “True Style” and read it front to back in two afternoons. The mix of jazz, classic movies, and old-school cool make Ivy damn near irresistible to me.

Dress shirts and ties are required at my school. So is a clean shave; in fact there’s a sink with a razor in the office for especially stubbly students. Special occasions call for a navy blazer. As you might imagine, ponies and whales flood the halls, and Wallabees, desert boots, and boat shoes weather the stone floors. A friend and I want to sport penny loafers, since being seniors we can take risks, and see if anyone takes inspiration from us. Many wear crewneck sweaters and corduroy pants when the temperatures start to drop. Patagonia jackets are common. In the warm months, short-sleeved shirts in madras or seersucker are practically uniform. I don’t see Brooks Brothers worn very frequently, and unfortunately much of what I do see are non-iron shirts. Without a doubt I’m the only student who owns anything from J. Press — or has even heard of it. At parties, the garb is the same, but sans tie. Harris Tweed and grey flannel trousers for a teenager these days is a bit much to expect, but on the whole I’d say most are ahead of the pack.

Lacking money, I have to be clever when acquiring clothes. Gold can be struck at thrift and consignment stores. I’ve found $3 Lacoste polos, $12 bit loafers (not Gucci, but made in Italy), and flawless ancient madder ties. eBay’s strength is its size. There’s a lot of stuff, and much of it cheap: Shetland crewnecks, Gant popovers, vintage Brooks rep ties, Ralph Lauren madras shirts (with flap pocket, locker loop, and rear collar button). I love white Tretorn nylites. Their sporty silhouette provides a nice juxtaposition with clothes of navy, olive and charcoal. Mine were 20 dollars new on eBay. I beat the hell out of them and they look great.

Kentucky is an odd state, not quite Midwest and not quite South. We really do get asked if we own shoes. On that note, down in the least educated area of backwater Louisville, there is a store named Rodes founed in 1914 that stocks Alden. They also have Oxxford suits, which can be added to the lengthy list of things I can’t afford. Anyway, the one weekend the South does lay claim to us is in May, and that’s Kentucky Derby Weekend. Private jets soar into town from all over the world. In fact, there is a small airport near my house that for 363 days is desolate, but on Derby and Oaks is bursting with multimillion-dollar flying palaces.

The Derby, as I’m sure you’re aware, is as much a fashion show as it is a horse race. Pastel-clad youth show up in force, many in various states of intoxication, some puffing on cigars. You’ll see patch madras, seersucker, white linen, and oxford cloth in every shade imaginable. This year I wore a blue seersucker jacket, white OCBD, madras bow tie, navy chinos, and filthy white bucks. One of my friends wore his Brooks navy blazer with patch pockets, hook vent, white OCBD, bright motif bow tie, stone chinos, and a pair of Alden for Brooks cordovan tassel loafers gifted from his grandfather. (I’m not jealous in the least about that sort of inheritance…) It’s a weekend to dress crazily, drink a few too many mint juleps, and bet the mortgage on a longshot.

Louisville is a beautiful city. As a soldier, F. Scott Fitzgerald was stationed at Camp Taylor but made frequent visits downtown to the Seelbach Hotel. In arguably his most famous work, “The Great Gatsby,” Louisville is the place where young Daisy Faye and Jay Gatsby fall into a deep love which Gatsby would never recover. The most beautiful park is Cherokee, designed by Frederick Law Olmstead. Forested hills, gorgeous vistas, and a gentle blue creek runs through it. There are also quaint stone and brick houses with thick green foliage growing wildly up to the sky.

I’ll buy one someday if I can hold onto a couple bucks. — PH

30 Comments on "17-Year-Old: The Mix Of Jazz, Movies And Old-School Cool Make Ivy Irresistable"

  1. Impressive writing and advanced taste, young man. I think you’ll go far in this world. Thanks for allowing Ivy Style to run this and giving us all hope for the future!

  2. Congratulations – you sound like a young gentleman and give me hope for the youth of America!!! I wish the enrollment at your school was around 5 million!

    I visit Kentucky every couple of years, as I have a brother there. I was recently visiting in April and my niece informed me Vineyard Vines was all the rage. I saw whale decals on many cars driven by young people.

    I hope you continue to relish the past as I feel many elements have been lost, which is sad. I hope our society eventually reverts and they become a larger part of our fabric once again.

  3. Charlottesville | August 22, 2016 at 11:35 am |

    PH – Very enjoyable and well written post. It is encouraging to us older guys to hear from young men who are carrying on the tradition. I know that you will, and should, put your own mark on the style, but with the foundational items you mention (white bucks, madras bow ties, OCBDs, cordovans, etc., etc.) I know that the Ivy look is in good hands. Very best wishes.

  4. If only I had such luck of cheap thrift stores that stock Ivy in SE Asia…

  5. Bravo! Keep moving the ball downfield.

  6. G. Bruce Boyer | August 22, 2016 at 12:49 pm |

    Dear P.H., First, many thanks for taking the time to read “True Style” — whether you bought it or borrowed it — and second, congrats on a fine article. Best of luck to you.

  7. The Loafer Lawyer | August 22, 2016 at 1:19 pm |

    A well employed classical education, much like a well worn classic blazer, makes others take note. Well written, PH.

  8. Well done PH. You sound like a sharp kid.


  9. I am trying to guess the school, St.X or Trinity, or is it it KCD? My boy goes to Manual MST and if his style of dress ever degrades to the point of offending my tender sensibilities the way his lack of taste in music does, I would like to have this as a reprogramming resource. Nice post, PH.

  10. Job well done. What universities are you considering?

  11. PH, as a Kentuckian please tell you have (or will) read some Wendell Berry? From the impression I get from your writing you have wonderful sense of place and local loyalties, I’m sure you’d love his essays or fiction.

  12. Excellent article. Keep on doing what you’re doing.

  13. NaturalShoulder | August 22, 2016 at 6:39 pm |

    PH – very well written piece and I am glad to hear of at least once young person interested in the style. I am losing hope my almost 13 year old son will follow in my sartorial footsteps. His mother just purchased him a pair of what I thought were khaki pants but turned out to be a modified form of athletic wear similar to the RL ad CC posted on Facebook. Best of luck to you your senior year.

  14. Steedappeal | August 22, 2016 at 7:05 pm |

    Well done! Is there any traditional clothier in the Seelbach?

  15. This article gives me such hope for my generation. I am 18 and I am yet to find someone else who appreciates such clothing and style. In my last year of prep school, I wore my dad’s old Weejuns while everyone else wore wallabees and boat shoes. People used to make fun of how the leather soles made a clacking sound as I walked but that didn’t stop me. The greatest pleasure came when an elderly teacher saw me one day and told me that when he was my age he used to stick dimes, instead of pennies, in the slips of his Weejuns. Knowing that I had this elderly man’s style approval made my day.

  16. Thank you for the wonderfully written article, and best of luck with your education! Wish to visit your Hometown someday!

  17. My mother’s side is from Louisville. You certainly covered a lot of ground in this one. If you do start a penny loafer (without the beef roll) craze on campus I will buy you a pair of Alden’s.

  18. @John Bracken for the sake of Ivy Style, I hope that there’s more than two like minded individuals such as the author and myself.

  19. Young man, may the world throw its doors open to you to pursue whatever goals and passions you make for yourself! By golly, this is great to see/hear, that gents like you are coming up in the world. Made my day, you did.

  20. This is the most refreshing piece of writing I have read in ages because it comes from someone who is seventeen. It makes my day a little brighter with a touch of hope for the future.

  21. @GS One of my roommates from my Freshman year of college used to wear dimes in his penny loafers. He thought that was the cleverest thing, but I don’t think anyone else agreed with him on that score.

    The practical trick was to put subway tokens in your loafers: emergency get-home fare for city kids. If you can find some vintage New York City subway tokens, they’d be a pretty nifty retro look for your shoes.

  22. Vern Trotter | August 23, 2016 at 6:19 pm |

    I was first in Louisville in1955 to see exhibition tennis matches. A friend and I drove down from Southern Illinois and slept in the car in a park, I think it was Cherokee. It was my first time seeing Jim Crow at work and I will never forget it. The city was beautiful and the tennis matches were packed with Ivy style dressers, both male and female, beautiful people I remember. Hard to believe it is not still the same. In my memory it is one of the best dressed crowds I have ever seen.

    The tennis players were amateur and stayed in people’s houses. Among the players were Davis Cup Australians Ken Rosewall and Lew Hoad, two of the greatest players of all time. Americans were Vic Seixas, Tony Trabert and Ham Richardson, also great names in tennis history. I was a part time sports writer for my hometown paper and we were given comp tickets for all the matches. We were treated like royalty by the people of Louisville! Vic Seixas was on the cover of the second issue of Sports Illustrated in 1954 wearing a J Press sport coat. I believe it’s (the cover)still framed and hanging on the wall in their Cambridge store.

    Golden days!

  23. @cameron I do have some, my mom saved a few. But I don’t like the look of a coin in my Weejuns’ slip. Interesting advice however.

  24. Great article young man.

    Just curious, who in the Wizard of Oz mentions “love and art?”

  25. The Tin Man, when singing “If I Only Had A Heart.”

  26. Well-written, sir.

    As a second generation working-class graduate of Central Catholic High School in Pittsburgh, I feel for the shizoid nature of being an Ivy acolyte amidst a culture that does not value white bucks.

    Your prose is wonderful, and I urge you to take pen to paper frequently and fervently. The university that you choose will be proud to call you an alum.

  27. Wm. Alexander | September 10, 2016 at 4:01 pm |

    As coincidence has it, I opened on this article and flipped; I too am from Louisville (educated at Collegiate and Trinity) and now attend UK. Let’s get together!

    Wm. Alexander

  28. Nice post. If your friend at the Derby wore a blazer with a hook vent it was J.Press not Brooks.

  29. elder prep | March 19, 2019 at 8:25 am |

    I’m envious of PH. I wish I could write like that when I was 17. I was in Louisville last month at the Kentucky Exposition Center for a militaria show. I was a bald head Private at Fort Knox back in ’68 at the Army’s tank school. All fond memories.

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