1954

Lately we’ve been talking about the year 1954 as an arbitrary starting point for the Ivy heyday. Both LIFE Magazine and Playboy ran big stories on the look that year, and Miles Davis is believed to have first donned Ivy duds about that time, serving as an example of the many guys who would become hip to the look as a smart and modern way of dressing.

Something else happened in 1954: the Newport Jazz Festival was founded. And in 2013, I went for the first time. It was at the invitation of a gracious “old” friend. In fact, he’s so well seasoned, he’s been going to the festival ever since it was founded.

My all-to-brief Newport getaway began with a scenic (for me, at least) drive by car. I pulled over for a pit stop in the Connecticut town of Mystic, the setting for the movie “Mystic Pizza,” which we’ve featured on the site before. You should be getting a Muffy Aldrich vibe right about now:

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With the sprawling bridge and boat-filled harbor, Newport makes a spectacular impression upon arrival. (It was certainly more pleasant than the arrival into New York City on the return trip). I spent the afternoon exploring the town, which is clogged with tourists and rich in history.

I visited The Breakers, summer home of the Vanderbilt clan. If this were my back yard, I’d turn it into a pitch and putt:

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The Vanderbilts were very close with Paul Helleu, my favorite artist. He did drypoints of multiple family members, and they later commissioned him to create the constellation design on the ceiling of Grand Central Terminal. This portrait hung in one of the girls’ bedrooms:

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The International Tennis Hall Of Fame is located in Newport and had me itching to play on grass:

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On the way back from the National Museum of American Illustration (whose founders were featured in my JC Leyendecker story for Ralph Lauren Magazine), I made a wrong turn (which happened pretty much every other turn) and looked up to find a beach. I’d associated Newport with sailboats and old mansions, and had only brought my trunks on the offchance my hosts had a pool. It hadn’t occurred to me to go swimming in the ocean. Then I caught sight of some surfers, and felt the kind of excitement a kid feels at his first sight of Disneyland.

So the next morning I went about making my own contribution to this summer’s surf-Ivy microtrend. I hadn’t been in the ocean for over five years, and I can’t understate the feeling of rejuvination it gave me. I always knew I loved the ocean (being in it, that is, not on it), and now I realize I’m going to have to start planning my life around regular plunges.

I got a rental surfboard that was big and slow but I caught the first wave I went for, proving that skills may get rusty, but once you’ve acquired them you’ve got them for life. I had one exhilerating ride where I was really locked in the curl. The wave was about two feet tall, of course, but it gave me a ten-foot stoke.

Regular readers will by now have noticed that I can safely lay claim to being the most unphotogenic style writer in the history of style writing — perhaps even in the history of photography. This one’s pretty epic, not to mention terrifying: I had no idea my hair was so thin.

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When the rest of me was as pink as my face, I headed back to shower and change.

Without a doubt, the highlight of the Newport Jazz Festival for me was Roy Haynes. Not only did he play classic bop (the avant-garde stuff, as expected, could get a little noisy), but it was great to see the man I was lucky to have interviewed for the Ivy League Jazz story that gave birth to this website. Haynes, a drummer, is an unbelievable 88 years old! He certainly didn’t miss a beat (though his solo had patches that came across as senile incoherence), and the young musicians he surrounded himself with in his “Fountain Of Youth” band were just razor-sharp.

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My gracious host dug it too:

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There wasn’t much in the way of style on display. Many of the musicians were dressed as come-as-you-are as the audience. That certainly wasn’t the case in 1958 with Anita O’Day, a closeup of whose hat provided the clue in the previous post. Here she is from the Newport Jazz Festival documentary “Jazz On A Summer’s Day:”

 Now I know some of you don’t dig jazz. But really, why not consider expanding your horizons? — CHRISTIAN CHENSVOLD

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