A Very Special Man

It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that most people’s gut reaction to hearing the phrases “Mr. Rogers” and “style” in the same sentence would be hearty laughter. After all, even within our fringe community of Ivy enthusiasts, tee-totaling children’s show hosts who wear Keds typically don’t hold a lot of credibility. But Fred Rogers is different. Not only did he affect the Ivy Look according to many of the textbook precepts, but he managed to do it with an approachable, home-grown flair that was all his own.

Fred’s story starts with legitimate Ivy school chops: from ’46-’48 he attended Dartmouth before moving on to Rollins, where he received his bachelors in Music in ’51, and finally to the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, where he received a Doctor of Divinity in ’63. It was in Pittsburgh (not far from his birthplace of Latrobe, PA), that Rogers finally settled with his family and continued to refine his style.

For a man with an easy, gentle demeanor, Fred’s take on the Ivy Look for his TV show “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood” was perhaps all too appropriate. For a man who famously replaced the customary desk in his office with a sofa because it was “too much of a barrier,” the deshabille tendencies of the Ivy Look simply made sense. Perhaps Rogers’ cozy full-zip cardigans (knitted by his mother) were his stylistic signature, but more standard Ivy hallmarks were also on regular display, including club and plaid ties as well as collar pins. In one of a few pictures that I could find of Fred wearing a sportcoat, it wasn’t surprising to see that it was a sack with patch-and-flap pockets. And those sneakers for which Rogers was so famous? They were a nod to practicality that he adopted during his early years on TV sets because they were quieter than hard-soled alternatives.

In fact, just about the only images floating about of Rogers in something as formal as a suit are those from his 2002 Presidential Medal of Freedom acceptance ceremony at the White House. For that event, he also wore a club tie adorned with trolley cars, an allusion to the Neighborhood of Make-Believe.

Run a Google image search and you’ll quickly note that in his later years Rogers favored P3-style eyeglasses and the occasional bow tie, both styles that might be described as charming Ivy peculiarities. I guess that charming peculiarities are really what Mr. Rogers’ take on Ivy style was all about. Perhaps they’re really the only fitting choice for a man who made millions of children love him for his lack of barriers. — ANDY OWEN

25 Comments on "A Very Special Man"

  1. James Hinsch | May 3, 2017 at 2:54 pm |

    What a lovely tribute to a lovely man.

  2. Next time you guys want to have a death-match argument in the comments section, please revisit this post.

  3. Your post on Fred Rogers just strengthens my belief that Ivy Style represents all that is right and good in the world.

  4. James Bandy | May 3, 2017 at 4:29 pm |

    Mr. Rogers is the personification of a civilized human being. Wish the world had more people like him.

  5. Great article about a great man. Mr. Roger’s style seems to be traditional American, very wholesome. I doubt he gave his clothes much thought and simply wore the same garments all his life.

  6. John Schulian | May 3, 2017 at 4:47 pm |

    A tribute as fine as this deserves musical accompaniment. Go to YouTube and listen to Loudon Wainwright III singing “Hank and Fred.” It’s about his trip to visit Hank Williams’ grave on the day Mr. Rogers died, and it will touch your heart.

  7. Mitchell S. | May 3, 2017 at 5:11 pm |

    Even though I grew up in Boston, I developed a Pennsylvania accent because of watching Mr. Rogers’ TV show as a kid in the early 70s. My younger brother copied my accent and married a woman from Pennsylvania. Mr. Rogers changed my life!

  8. There must be something in the water of Latrobe. It was also the home of Arnold Palmer, another thoroughly decent man.

  9. Vern Trotter | May 3, 2017 at 6:38 pm |

    I actually have known a couple of Presbyterian ministers in my life and Fred reminds me of them.

  10. If it wasn’t the water in Latrobe, it might well have been the Rolling Rock beer from the city’s Latrobe Brewing Company.

  11. Andy Owen | May 3, 2017 at 9:50 pm |

    Thanks all for the compliments. I wanted badly to work Rolling Rock into the piece, but as you may know, old Fred tee-totaled just a bit.

  12. .weston.pecos. | May 4, 2017 at 12:41 am |

    Bet you never saw Fred wearing patch Madras pants. You know why? Fred had style.

  13. Mac McConnell | May 4, 2017 at 7:32 am |

    One man’s patch madras pant is another man’s collar pin with button down.

  14. I remember him as only wearing regular button cardigan sweaters. But I really like the zip ups sported here. His mom had style, too!

  15. Thanks for the reminder of what a decent human being Mr. Rogers was.

  16. Fred Rodgers is a Pittsburgh staple. I’m a native of the city, and his presence is still felt in many places around town. In addition to his excellent kids show and his sense of style, he was also one of the leading advocates for public television. The first community sponsored public television station – WQED Pittsburgh – was launched in 1954, in part because of Fred Rodgers’ advocacy. That station later produced his now well-known shown.

  17. Glad to see you pen a piece on him; been waiting awhile. There’s a great YouTube video of him asking the gov for funding (not my favorite topic).

  18. Samuel Clark | May 4, 2017 at 2:05 pm |

    Regardless, he’s no Tucker Carlson

  19. I will say, I would have preferred he wear button up cardigans. Also, I checked the Smithsonsian’s online archives and his iconic red sweater was made of 100% virgin acrylic.

  20. Mac McConnell | May 4, 2017 at 3:09 pm |

    Public television is a terrible return on investment.

  21. It may be because the weather is rather humid today and heat tends to make me a little emotional, but this piece and the video of him singing actually brought tears to my eyes. Mr. Rogers is the kind of person, regardless of clothing, that we should all aspire to be. There are not enough Mr. Rogers in the world anymore.

    And for I am pretty sure that my obsession with (as I call them) Peepaw sweaters began with him.

  22. sacksuit | May 4, 2017 at 9:26 pm |

    I was called Mr. Rogers more often than I can remember because of my penchant for cardigans and Sperry canvas blue boat shoes. My favorite part of the show was Johnny Costa cutting loose during the end credits.

    Will

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