Lately there has been a number of posts in Tradsville, as well as on the outskirts, that you may have missed, so allow us to catch you up.
First off is an interview with J. Press from “Billax,” elder statesman of Ivy at the blog Wearing The Ivy League Look Since 1958. J. Press vice president Jim Fitzgerald offers this:
J.Press has to get back to its roots, and I think we know that. There is a large group of people still looking for our J. Press style. We, I think, have realized that we have to do what we know best and what the business was built on. We cannot be something for everyone out there, nor should we try to be. We have a loyal customer base of businessmen, doctors, lawyers, politicians, etc. People who know high-quality clothing that does not bow to the trends and will always be in style. Men who enjoy the shopping experience of a smaller shop where they are more catered to by someone who knows them and their tastes. Grandfathers, fathers, sons all passing this down through family generations.
Next up are two posts from up Canada way. Pedro Mendes, founder of The Hogtown Rake, recently wrote a piece called “Finding My Inner Prep” which includes the following:
As practical as the look was, even at the time there was an aspirational aspect to Ivy League. These upper/middle-class Americans were trying to look like rich British lords or sportsmen. And there developed this idea that clothes that were more relaxed, even a bit schleppy, suggested a nonchalance that spoke of money, especially old money. After all, it was a thoroughly middle-class obsession to be concerned with new clothes in perfect condition. If your shirt collar started to fray, or your jacket elbows needed patching, that proved that you had been dressing like this for years. In fact, when the Ivy look started to become a national trend in the ’60s, some students even used sandpaper to fray the collars of their oxford-cloth buttondowns to give them that worn-in, causal air.
Shortly after Mendes wrote of his conversion to the prep style that had revulsed him in the ’80s, he came up against the fact that Brooks Brothers is not the same company it was in the ’80s. In a follow-up piece called “My Love-Hate Relationship With Brooks Brothers,” he writes:
Entering the menswear department of the massive Brooks Brothers at 110 Bloor Street West means having to go through the main-floor woman’s department. As you move down the escalators to the basement, you are surrounded by photos and advertisements hearkening back to Brooks Brothers’ long and storied history. Sadly, however, these seem more like old-timey decorations in a themed suburban pub than a true honouring of the past. This is not the past, as clearly stated in the store layout: Brooks Brothers used to be purely a men’s store, now the men’s clothing is relegated to the basement, like a discount section.
Moving along, we next reach a large story by Gentleman’s Gazette called “Ivy Style Primer.” Just as the Jim Fitzgerald interview features the acronym TNSIL as if it’s, you know, an actually thing, GG’s story takes on that old chestnut of the differences between Ivy, preppy and “trad.” Things get jumbled pretty quickly:
While the preppy style has been around since the early 1900s, first making an appearance around 1910, the Ivy style really began to flourish in the early to mid 1950s on the grounds of the top universities and colleges in America.
But if talk of TNSIL and trad sounds like digital-age Internet-speak, there’s a comment on the story that brings us back down to earth — and back in the past:
Terribly sorry, but Ivy is a brand upon the soul, not a style. You can’t achieve it by any form of dress. You have to earn a degree from one of the eight Ivies. It’s easy to tell real alumni from impostors in costume; two or three well-known questions will do it, as only real Ivy Leaguers will know the correct answers. And despite Lisa Birnbaum’s entertaining Preppy Handbook, you can’t become preppy by dress, car, or any other external accessories. You have to be born preppy, and by the way, it’s limited to WASPs. Finally, the preferred chinos among the Ivy do not come from Brooks Brothers, which is now just another chain retailer like Jos. A. Bank or Men’s Wearhouse; they come from L.L. Bean, outfitter to the authentic Ivy and the preppy for almost a century. I know whereof I speak: Episcopal Academy, 1952; B.A., B.Arch., University of Pennsylvania, 1956; M.A. Harvard, 1957; and D.Litt., D.Mus. Paris, 1960 (well, you can’t get everything you want at the Ivies).
Lastly we have a piece that ran over a year ago, but which somehow made it past the radar of everyone here. “State Of The Union: Ivy League Style” ran on Four Pins. Written by Emily Lever, it goes:
The irony is that many of my classmates wearing their Take Ivy throwbacks would never have been featured in the original. They’re Asian, or Jewish, or gay, or didn’t go to prep school, or, you know, they’re female. Frankly, they would have been marginalized in 1966 Princeton assuming they had even gotten in.
And that’s what makes this kind of nostalgia so toxic. Perpetuating the preppy aesthetic also perpetuates the ideology of the all-male, conservative, WASP college culture who embraced that aesthetic to begin with. The reason T. Hayashida and company developed such massive style crushes on Ivy League bros in the first place was what they perceived as the subversiveness of rich people wearing beautiful, expensive clothes sloppily and without caring about them. To outsiders coming straight from the poverty of postwar Japan, it read as pretty damn groundbreaking. But no matter how carelessly Bobby Rockefeller, Princeton class of 2017, throws on his Brooks Brothers shirt, he can afford to be subversive because he’ll still end up running the country. As for the rest of us, if we dress like him the joke is on us. We are wearing the uniform of a club of which we will never be members.
And that’s your news for today. Carry on. — CC