Editor’s Note: What is that disclaimer about the thoughts of the author (“Berkeley Breathes” – Jonathan Wertheim) of the article do not represent… well, some of them do. The tradition of Ivy is its DNA, but the ongoing discussion is how to introduce a new audience. – JB
For a while, the motto of this site was about “preserving tradition.” It was a circle-the-wagons mentality, one that saw itself as a culture under attack by the philistine forces of the outside world, where values such as chivalry and masculinity were constantly being eroded by wokeness, or something. The ultimate effect of this attitude was to create an Ivy style preserved in amber, or more probably formaldehyde, resistant not only to contemporary changes in Ivy style and culture but also to a fuller understanding of Ivy’s past.
One of the hallmarks of this attitude, in my opinion, was the completely arbitrary selection of 1967 as the “fall of Ivy style.” It was a frustrating choice for two reasons: first, it sidestepped the enormous cultural changes that swept the Ivy League itself, as well as the world of privileged youth, from 1968 onwards, when those who had been responsible for Ivy style in the first place started questioning the traditional values (like racism and sexism) that perpetuated America’s power structures; and second, it created a false dichotomy of buttoned-up, squeaky clean Ivy pre-1967, and bell bottoms and wide lapels post-1967 (until the safely white and privileged preppies took over in the ‘80s, of course).
We’ll leave the ideological issues of the first point aside, and focus on how the second skips my favorite era of Ivy — the fantastic morphing of Ivy style into a new, unique hybrid look full of fun and creativity in the late 1960s into the 1970s. In the year or so that I’ve been running my Berkeley Breathes Instagram account, I’ve tried to highlight lots of underrepresented facets of these clothes, from Black and Asian Ivy, to women’s style, to discussions of the toxic politics that pervades much of Ivy’s history, and I’ve found that this era is often the best intersection of so many of these topics — in real ways, not just the Martin Luther King buying a tie from J. Press/Japan in the ‘60s/pretty girls in movies/all hail William F. Buckley Jr. ways that this site has so courageously championed for years. My screenshots are pulled almost solely from prep school and college yearbooks, and so they create an ever-growing document not of how Ivy was marketed, or how we look back on it with nostalgia, but of how it was truly worn by those who lived in it every day. I return to these kinds of images again and again in exploring my love for these clothes and connecting with those who have either worn them for decades or are discovering them for the first time, and so it’s my pleasure to share some of them here on Ivy Style, a site no longer simply devoted to preserving tradition, but hopefully to understanding and expanding it as well.
— Jonathan Wertheim