A Lovely Endorsement.

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

45 Comments on "A Lovely Endorsement."

  1. I am sure that class and gender are useful insightful ways of looking at Ivy Style. The way I look at it, and the reason I am interested in it, is as a modernist project. This means a project attempting to improve the world, open to ideas, and willing to consider the plight of others. How else can to explain a tent large enough to hold Robert S. McNamara and Miles Davis? If I’m right, Ivy Style represents a uniform that says I will meet you in dialog. The cresting wave of this may have been Allen Ginsberg singing to William F. Buckley Jr. on Firing Line. I think Ivy says — lets all try to get along.

    Damn. Well said. That is pretty much it exactly. – JB (I had to take out your link, can you please add target blank to it so it opens in another window? I have advertisers over here 🙂 )

  2. Berkeley Breathes | September 10, 2021 at 9:59 am |

    @ Grant — I think your description is an excellent way to think about Ivy. While I personally try to draw some lines — there are people I wish were less emphasized in remembering the great Ivy dressers, and people I wish were more so — I also very much agree that the “heyday” (hate that word) of Ivy was one where the clothes represented much more than a narrow worldview or a partisan attitude, and I think returning Ivy to that more inclusive place is a worthy goal for any of us!

  3. @Grant, maybe the best comment on I-S, ever. Save for AEV/ VEA, of course.

    Ivy was a big tent, and seemed over the past few years to be increasingly narrowed.

    Agreed. It appears we have accord. – JB

  4. @Grant, completely agree, particularly about the dialogue aspect. This is not to say that people can’t have meaningful dialogue and social/civic engagement outside of an Ivy paradigm, but I’ve found that it becomes easier to make veiled ad hominem arguments based on outward appearance of dress/gender/race/class/socioeconomics/etc., which I see distressingly too often among many younger people (and I was born in the late 1980s). On the contrary, as has been raised recently, particularly by JB, when Ivy opens its tent and thinks more holistically, as it did to an extent in the 1950s, it’s not only refreshing for the style but also for the community and the push for dialogue, not attack.

  5. I don’t know, it’s like arguing the superiority of Octopussy to Doctor No.

    Will

  6. Gotta say, I am really enjoying the fresh breathe of air here. Many interesting new dimensions of/to the ivy discussion have opened up. Looking at these photos, it strikes me that the first couple of seasons of (don’t laugh) ABC’s The Brady Bunch (8pm on Friday evenings) exhibited this transition when the family or kids would dress for special occasions. I’ve never realized that before now. Probably also true for a number of prime time TV shows at the tail end of the 60s and into the very early 1970s. Ok, I’ll retreat to my bunker now because surely sticks and stones will start to fly.

    Best Regards,

    Heinz-Ulrich

  7. I can be ruthless with criticism and analysis, but I trust it can also be claimed that I am bountiful and lavish with praise when something (an observation, an insight) as profoundly true. With that,

    This is one of the better Ivy Style posts. Ever.

    Succinct, clear, and straight to the point. And the points are well made–with written words and black-and-white pictures.

    I’ve argued against ’67 as the year of Ivy’s demise, and believe, along with others, that, if the future has a look, it will thrive not necessarily among super wealthy and their Vineyard Vines, Southern Proper, Brooks Brothers wearing (boring) offspring, but among, for lack of a better term, the cool crowd.

    Ivy is now the minority report (sartorially speaking) that appeals to eccentric fogeys (probably with a bohemian bent), it will appeal to the the quirky, the peculiar, and the offbeat. Which may mean we’ll find more J. Press-favoring undergrads at Bard, St. John’s (Annapolis), Smith, and Oberlin than Ole Miss, UVA, Furman, and Vanderbilt.

    In a world where most middle-class people have surrendered to athleisure, sweatshirts, jeans, and running shoes, the tweedy-and-flanneled must seem like oddballs.
    *Cue the Wes Anderson movie soundtracks.

  8. Speaking of UVA, I visited recently. I defer to C-Ville, but oh how things have changed. Athleisure has invaded Albemarle County — and claimed victory.

  9. Marius Bråthen | September 10, 2021 at 3:07 pm |

    Yes, yes, yes! This is the direction I want to see ivy-style move towards. The preservative ideals of the page has made it quite uninteresting for a lot of us I think. I’ll certainly be visiting more often!
    MB
    Oslo, Norway

  10. The Earl of Iredell | September 10, 2021 at 4:48 pm |

    I just edited my bookmarks to remove your blog. May it rest in peace.

    The Earl of Iredell

    Bye Earl. Sorry to see you go on the one hand. On the other, I have always thought it was a hug-me-look-at-me moment when someone announced they are leaving, rather than just go. – JB

  11. A friend of mine refers to the ’70s as “The Decade That Taste Forgot.” That said, it certainly had its moments. This is a terrific post. Give ivy style a little breathing room and it will naturally evolve and thrive. Throw open the doors and air out that stuffy club. In fact, disband the club. After all, the Classics are for everyone.
    …Evidently this is too much to handle for at least one self-described member of the aristocracy in the room.

  12. It’s been also interesting to see that some of the most dedicated ivy purists (and ‘67ers, so to speak) come from well outside the ivy/ prep background. Not surprising, but interesting.

  13. Nice to have some fellow travelers around.

  14. “[Ivy] will appeal to the the quirky, the peculiar, and the offbeat.” -S.E.
    Brilliant. And spot on.

  15. 1967 isn’t arbitrary; it’s referring to a passage in Geoffrey Wolff’s “The Final Club”, which has been reviewed on this site before. The editor should know this

    http://www.ivy-style.com/club-dues-geoffrey-wolffs-the-final-club.html

  16. I continue to agree with what is said overall in this “new” version of the blog, but find the way it is being said as off putting, offensive and obnoxious. It not only dismisses those who don’t agree with the new direction, but it implies they pine for the racism and sexism of the Ivy era.

    I’m a fellow traveler with the idea of letting Ivy evolve and thrive in this and future generations (loved what Polo’s Rugby line did in that vein years ago), but please step off the woke soap box and acknowledge that everyone (I’d bet the large majority) from the past or who lauds the Ivy era isn’t for the “isms” that, sadly, were part of that era’s wider-than-Ivy culture.

    I love much about the Ivy era, but have no interest in returning to that world if it includes going back to those “isms” or ubiquitous smoking, but Ivy is no more evil because it was part of the norms of its day, than we will be evil fifty and hundred years from now when some of the things we support are looked back on with disdain.

    Let’s go forward, as you say, and embrace an evolving Ivy and let’s look at the history of Ivy with clear eyes and full hearts, but please turn down the volume on the condescension.

  17. When I attended a major West Coast university in the early ’60s, the style that we referred to as “Ivy League” was the chosen style of Birchers (members of the John Birch Society for the kids among us) and socialist college profs (many of them graduates of what was then called CCNY). The former group were mostly WASPS, while a signifant part of the latter were Jewish. The latter group referred to the former as “fascists”, while the former called the latter “Commies”. They both wore tweed jackets, chinos, and loved this country. I too believe that the Ivy/Trad tent/umbrella is still big enough for a far greater number of people than some might imagine.

  18. I dress ivy traditional because I like how I look when I dress ivy traditional. I was raised by a NYC born and raised UVA graduate and a Florida Southern Belle. My siblings don’t dress in a professional manner for work, they also don’t dress ivy traditional. We were raised by the same people, in the same house, we all attended college, played sports, went to prom, and married the wrong girl at least once.

    Style is not a club for me to belong to, it is individual expression and preference. What I wear, unless it’s written words of hate printed on T-shirt (costumes of hate not included as they stand in their own category) … anyway, what I wear is my expression of my sartorial preference, not a social commentary. You cannot determine my position on vaccination, leaving Afghanistan, going to China for the Olympics next year, or the use of VAR in the World Cup from how I dress. If you attempt to, the act tells the world more about you, than it does about me.

    The stereotype word war this country is entrenched in is folly to the 90+% of the country who wish our elected would remember who they actually represent, which is the entirety of the voting base that could have voted in that politicians race. Trying to decide whether Ivy is dead, dying, thriving, gaining steam, dependent on BB or Mercer or LE to make the perfect perfect OCBD, or the origins of the ‘67 retreat to me is the same word war, and is akin to arguing what came first, God or Number Theory? As Joey would say, “It’s a moo point”.

    Those who dress ivy-trad primary do so because it’s a style they prefer. It’s NOT and never has been a social commentary, costumes are social commentary…trad ivy is comfortable, reliable, and professional, all labels to which I’m comfortable being tagged.

  19. Berkeley Breathes | September 11, 2021 at 1:20 pm |

    Thanks all for your kind words! It really is nice to finally appear on Ivy Style and see so many people who think this way about the clothes we love.

    @ Chris — I agree with your comment. I’m not sure if you’re disagreeing with my post or not here, but I think we’re actually talking about the same thing using different words. That said, I think words *are* important, when they are attached to meaningful lived experience. I agree with you that when they aren’t, it’s just empty posturing. But when they are, maybe they can be part of changing the status quo for the better in a way that will represent what real people think and feel…

  20. I was agreeing with you

  21. And then there’s the whole vintage Americana thing. A younger guy in my neighborhood is into vintage Ivy– he’s found a lot of great stuff on eBay. For him the look, rustic and muted and tweedy, has a quintessentially rustic American vibe. This version of the look definitely serves a counterpoint to the prevailing fashions– athleisure, bland middle class, nouveau riche jackass (Brioni, spread collared shirts, bit loafers, etc), and, horribile dictu, the dreaded yacht/country club preppy.

  22. The yacht/country club preppy look will die soon. The Gen Z’s and Gen Y’s will see to its demise. Golf has been dying for two decades (plenty of data on this), as has sailing (about 1 % of all registered boats are wind-powered). Tennis is in a state of decline too. Meanwhile hiking, canoeing, kayaking, and fishing are on the rise.

  23. S.E., regarding tennis in a state of decline – data/ sources, please? What I see day in/ day out as a former hs/ college and current competitive player provides a significantly different perspective.

    Same is true re: sailing, but then again I spend my summers in Acadia.

  24. I didn’t realize that racism and sexism are values. Who is this writer?

  25. Berkeley Breathes | September 11, 2021 at 8:41 pm |

    @ TB — it was a lightly sarcastic aside

  26. I’ve been following this blog for years and never got that sense that anyone here was “circling the wagons” against attacks by “the philistine forces of the outside world.” Were you being “lightly sarcastic” or just ridiculous? Maybe your entire piece is lightly sarcastic and I just don’t get the nuances, or something.

  27. I cannot say (type) loudly enough: HALLELUJAH and Amen! As a university history professor and an Ivy League graduate (guess which school, ha ha!) I have for so long been frustrated at the dishonest history this site has promoted, and its ugly cultural politics. Racial reconciliation, for instance, has seemed to require nothing more complex than saying one likes jazz. So this sort of well-written, honest reckoning and *invitation* is exactly what I’ve long been hoping for. Thank you so much! I’m excited that this sort of writing and insight is now welcome on this site. Great work.

    LOVE IT – JB

  28. TB, this site has long had, in my view, a decidedly Buckley-ish “standing athwart history, yelling Stop” vibe. Describing it as wagon-circling might be over-the-top, but I believe that’s what the author is meaning to get across.

  29. Modernist project, fellow travelers, racial reconciliation. Taking ourselves a bit seriously aren’t we, comrades?

    Incidentally, the black kid in the first picture looks great. The white kid looks like a damn fool as do the the group in the last picture. Just saying.

    Will

  30. Eh, I don’t know – there used to be someone who was dead serious about spinning being 50 and renting (!?!) the same apartment across two decades as some kind of personal growth saga…maybe smuggle a few fellow travelers (or fellows) in that duffel coat and head over to the new site – there’s plenty of room. On the site and under the coat.

    Yep. – JB

  31. @ Sacksuit

    Humans have a problem that comes down to…why can’t everyone be just like me? It leads to trolling, wars, bar fights, atrocities, and so on. The content is different, but the mechanism is the same. At it’s best, the sack suit you identify with says we have differences, but we can talk.

    The software tool I am using says this is written at a fourth grade level. I hope it’s not too difficult for you.

  32. It’s far too easy to get under your collective skin. Bless your hearts.

    Cook out in 30.

    Will

  33. @Rake

    I’ll gather sources. One especially well written sporting news article sheds some helpful light on the subject. It’s worth noting that the decline of golf (and sailing) has been far more rapid. Especially golf.

    Equestrianism and soccer (https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.nytimes.com/2018/07/14/sports/world-cup/soccer-youth-decline.amp.html) have been declining in popularity, as have baseball and especially football:

    https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.forbes.com/sites/rogerpielke/2020/01/28/the-decline-of-football-is-real-and-its-accelerating/amp/

    Meanwhile hiking, mountain biking, kayaking, canoeing and freshwater fishing seem to be thriving.
    And, of course, running and yoga.

  34. There was an “all change is bad” and “everything was better way back when” attitude around here that generated a negative and sometimes defensive feeling. We’ve got enough negativity in the world, so I welcome the change. The road ahead is not in the rearview mirror.

    The road ahead is not in the rearview mirror” = my mantra today. THANKS. – JB

  35. * apropos the observations about decline in popularity (thus, from a market perspective, demise) — this, for me at least, is not pejorative. A ‘decline in market share’ is certainly a negative for investors whose priority is the bottom line (profit), but for self-proclaimed curators of high quality stuff that’s antique, archaic, and unfashionable (like, well, classic Ivy), it’s the conservation-and-stewardship of a particular look (or vibe) that’s worthy of maintenance in the purest possible form. There’s nothing inherently wrong with either, but definitely an occasion for a butting of heads.

    Thus the abiding predicament: there will always be conflict between people who, in the interest of increasing customer base and thus profit, want to make something (a clothing style, for instance) more popular…and those who judge any/all efforts at popularizing as a diluting/besmirching. What’s being interpreted by some as a reactionary “Standing athwart history yelling ‘Stop'” approach is, upon a closer look, not so ominous. It’s a call for the preservation of quality.

  36. full disclosure: Not only do I have zero interest, most especially financial, in the new owner/editor’s priority of evangelizing this look so it increases in popularity, I would prefer that it drift further (slowly-but-steadily) into something resembling charming obscurity. Like the wearing of pearls, pickleball, and backgammon.

    It’s a reasonable question: why should I care if this look doesn’t enjoy a revival among the masses? Indeed, I’m all the more unique if it does not.

    Hi. ??? It is an interesting trait, the idea of hoping no one else catches on to something so that it makes me special. – JB

  37. S.E., I am all for the preservation of quality, just not exclusivity. I think that there’s a little more harmony in this cacophonous world when more people dress themselves with care. I also believe that when dressing with care is equated to elitist snobbery, it does nobody any good. But there’s plenty of room for agreement on the appreciation of quality. This post and many of the comments would suggest that a lot of readers have perceived a reactionary streak in this site for a while and are glad to see a newly formalized position of welcoming openness.

    Agree with all of the above. – JB

  38. Some of these comments are weird.

    I think that setting agreed upon dates for the Ivy heyday is a useful convention for discussing a certain historical way of dressing. It becomes absurd and unhelpful when someone uses that date as a cut off point for their style, refusing to dress in anything that wouldn’t have appeared in the Yale yearbook during some arbitrary period.

    I really like many of the heyday hallmarks but I also like, and am flattered by, some tailoring that is decidedly not “period appropriate.” The blogs on this site have never been about enforcing an ivy orthodoxy. Christian had a lot of non Ivy tastes, which is good and healthy.

    Ivy is a great base on which to build an elegant wardrobe, no one should get stuck wearing a costume!

  39. concede ’21 marked a comeback for tennis, which was hitherto waning, no?

    pickleball: before you posted, a friend sent an article that reveals that pickleball and other outdoor court games benefited greatly from the pandemic year– socially distanced, inexpensive. Guess that was predictable.
    So, replace pickleball with something else that’s dying out. Hmm…how about squash?

    unrelated aside: I think I could on board with the recent “boating” (motor) revival.

  40. @Nevada

    Yes, agree. It’s possible to honor the (best of the) past and look forward — simultaneously.

  41. So much hilarity. @sacksuit, your comments merit no more of a glance than the fellow with a sign outside of Home Depot. Be better, as Milania says.

    @se – no. Tennis has been in the midst of a long resurgence, culminating in two teenagers playing for the women’s is open championship. With respect to soccer, etc – think you’ll find that per capita statistics tell a different story nationwide.

    My daughter is an equestrian – I am not surprised to see declining participation, though obviously participants are limited either partially or wholly by geography.

  42. NaturalShoulder | September 12, 2021 at 9:40 pm |

    I enjoyed the post and hope BB will contribute more to the site and share some of his images. I am happy if more people are drawn dressing in the Ivy style or at least take aspects which work for them. I never understood the obsession with class or political philosophy being attached to the style. Plenty of examples across the political spectrum wearing the style. I wear the style because I think it looks good. The adage of Ivy being more casual when dressed up and more dressed up when casual works well in today’s more increasing informal environment, No need to bemoan the decline of Brooks, plenty of great options available.

  43. Well, then, insofar as we can root for a sport, let’s all get behind tennis. I still use my Prince Woodie three times a week at local (clay court) club, so …hooray.

    @ JB:
    the idea of keeping something unique and special, in spite of any/all efforts to appeal to as many people as possible (“the masses”), isn’t as rare as you might think. The fear of reducing something to the lowest common denominator (so as) to attract as much interest as possible isn’t misguided.

  44. Henry Contestwinner | September 18, 2021 at 5:17 pm |

    “the traditional values (like racism and sexism) that perpetuated America’s power structures”

    All societies in all times and places have suffered from racism and sexism. To call them “traditional values,” as though we are the magical enlightened generation that has finally freed itself from these views, is to libel our forebears.

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