Barbarian at the Gate

Ivy-Style recently got an interesting write-up from Ivygate.com. Despite the undergrad writer’s first-class education, he seems to have had trouble understanding this website — not to mention writing parody. We spent THREE days debating whether IvyGate’s post was worth responding to, when our fully legit, street-credited Ivy League contributor Taliesin finally lowered himself to the task:

One of the ironic facts about the Ivy look — and I write this as a graduate of Cornell and Harvard — is that many current Ivy League students know next to nothing about it. While Ivy staples like natural shoulder suits and flat-front trousers have spread into the sartorial lexicons of numerous subgroups, from American jazz musicians to working-class London mods, these items are mostly absent from the wardrobes of students at the schools for which the look was named.

This partly explains the confusion at IvyGate, a blog devoted to “news, gossip, sex, sports and more at Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Penn, Princeton and Yale.” More befuddled by tweed than the most befuddled tweedy professor, IvyGate sees traditional clothing as the province of “men with walkers,” who are likely “concealing a colostomy bag.”

But behind these unfortunate characterizations lies a real phenomenon: The core items of Ivy style — blazers, leather shoes, wool trousers — are clothing for grown men, whether 18 or 80.

In general, most Ivy League students are sartorially indistinguishable from students at less prestigious schools. All wear washable cotton t-shirts, pants and shorts, athletic shoes, and fleece jackets — clothing items frequently purchased by parents for their toddlers. While stalwart clothiers like the Andover Shop in Cambridge and J. Press in New Haven continue to carry on the Ivy style tradition in its birthplace, Urban Outfitters gets more student traffic.

Nonetheless, one must expect that most contemporary Ivy Leaguers will eventually outgrow their superhero underwear phase and realize that ruling the world demands less snobbism and more panache. — TALIESIN

17 Comments on "Barbarian at the Gate"

  1. ugh, why provide this clown with traffic. from the start the main graphic of his blog is miserable. it’s actually laughable, this guy really doesn’t get it. he reminds me of the protoypical shitty freshmen year room mate (at least mine). when his i-tunes isn’t shuffling between “live”, “nickleback”, and “creed” it is throwing in random segments of a “dane cook” audio cd. you can’t wait to move on from the high school you worked so hard to get out of, and awaiting you at what you expected to be the ivory tower is the biggest bro of a room mate ever. might as well of just moved in with the camo-cargo shorts guy on the football team you shared a locker next to for four years in high school. the guy who wore camo-cargo shorts in the winter (in new england), and said “nice pants” with and ugly grin and pizza/skoal breath when you walked into school wearing courds in the winter (in new england).

  2. foolio_iglesias | March 22, 2009 at 7:23 pm |

    “”All wear washable cotton t-shirts, pants and shorts, athletic shoes, and fleece jackets — clothing items frequently purchased by parents for their toddlers”,zing!
    As that international man of mystery once said,”Ouch ,baby,very ouch…”

  3. Though keep in mind that the population of your average Ivy-League school is a lot more middle-class than it used to be. It’s not like the majority of students are really underprivileged (though some are), but there are certainly fewer kids who can afford the Ivy League look now.

  4. First off, no one is suggesting that kids start suddenly dressing like students from 50 years ago. All one could reasonably suggest would be that students at all colleges not opt for the lowest common denominator in their appearance, and that Ivy League students in particular used to set the style, not follow it.

    Also, I don’t buy the cost issue at all: As the Boyer and Pollock interviews have shown, the look during the heyday was always quite affordable by the standards of its time. Today traditionally styled clothes can be found at Sears, Target and Old Navy, and basic neatness is free.

    It has nothing to do with money and everything to do with values.

  5. Values? I dunno. A little effort? You bet.

    I’m amazed when friends come to me for help. Usually for a wedding or job interview – – They’re clueless. Of course, I’m clueless when it comes to plastic mold injection, running a major league baseball team or bone fishing in Key West. I’m also clueless when it comes to fashion. Wouldn’t know where to begin.

    So college students look like shlubs at the ivy league of today. So what. Maybe some slouch will cure cancer. I’d rather have that than compete against him at a J Press sale.

  6. I’m not sure the point you’re making, Tintin. I don’t think Taliesin is arguing for dress reform. I think he’s suggesting it, along with the general ignorance on Ivy campuses of the look they gave birth to years ago.

    As for values, I don’t mean moral ones (while one could make the connection, it would be a long and tedious argument). I mean that kids today don’t value looking neat, sharp, smart or dressy as they did in previous eras, when everyone held those values. One need only look at the dress in any airport today and compare it with an airport 50 years ago.

    The Victorians wore their heavy woolens even in the netherworlds of the British Empire, because such propriety was a value. Students today, in general, see any attempt to dress by conventional standards of decency to be suspect, and so all look the same in their dishevelment.

  7. I see Russell Street has gone and done his usual thing in the IvyGate comments section.

    He grows more pathetic each day.

  8. Just want to point out that Urban Outfitters is about as “ivy” as dress can get. Founded right on Penn’s campus, Urban Outfitters packages and sells counter-culturalism to the counter-culturalists. The current CEO, a Lehigh grad (whom I think has an MBA from Wharton, although I might be wrong there) is a prominent Republican, giving generously to the campaigns of folks like Rick Santorum. If taking money from the anti-establishment great unwashed to fuel extremely conservative political campaigns isn’t “ivy”, well, I just don’t know what is anymore.

  9. Old School | March 23, 2009 at 9:46 pm |

    Of course it has nothing to do with money: One could have only two blue OCBD shirts washed and ironed alternately (actually one could even manage with one, wahsed an ironed every day), one pair of grey flannel trousers, one navy blazer and one tweed jacket (just one of them, if penniless), and a couple of neckties and look 100% better than 99.9% of todays college students, people at airports, or mall shoppers.

  10. Hey guys- I’m a regular IvyGate reader and followed the linked story to your blog. I think Estes took a low blow there, and your site is awesome. I still shop at JPress when possible, and this…

    “In general, most Ivy League students are sartorially indistinguishable from students at less prestigious schools. All wear washable cotton t-shirts, pants and shorts, athletic shoes, and fleece jackets — clothing items frequently purchased by parents for their toddlers. While stalwart clothiers like the Andover Shop in Cambridge and J. Press in New Haven continue to carry on the Ivy style tradition in its birthplace, Urban Outfitters gets more student traffic.”

    …is spot on. And a pity. There’s definitely a point to be had about the current socioeconomic parity between Ivy League students and those at state schools, but it’s ridiculous anyone should mock the tastes of better days (especially IvyGate). I’m looking forward to reading your blog more often… and perhaps IvyGate less so.

  11. Dandy in Texas | March 25, 2009 at 2:24 am |

    Dressing like a gentleman does not equate to having a gigantic bank account. Boneheads at my school, and apparently at Harvard alike, drop tons of cash for each new style of the minute, prescribed en masse, at places from Urban Outfitters to Hollister.

    And, please, get over yourself Mr. IvyGate– the alumni from the University of Texas, granted there are more of them, nonetheless are far more wealthy and connected than the alumni from any individual school in the Ivy League. You can have your presidents now and then, your Supreme Court Justices here and there…UT (and all the other lowly ‘state schools’) will keep the money, you blind and arrogant womp.

  12. Why did you need to add “you blind and arrogant womp” to make your point?

  13. Russell Street is pure comedy at this point. I think that guy is missing a chromosome.

  14. I think that “Taliesin” is probably too quick to dismiss what Ivygate has to say: certainly accusing the author of misunderstanding parody is more than a bit disingenuous. Moreover, I think that Ivygate brings up an interesting social fact when it points out the provenances of your writers. From what I’ve seen, the “Ivy look” is pretty much a product of outsiders looking. The upper and lower classes tend to dress with an analogous sloppiness – it’s only the pretentious middle that tries to dress itself up.

    On another vein, the “Dandy in Texas” might note that the Ivy League has a combined enrollment less than one third of the UT system, but more than six times the endowment.

  15. Quote: From what I’ve seen, the “Ivy look” is pretty much a product of outsiders looking.

    Historically, I think it has been called the Ivy League Look for a reason. Today, quite possibly this is indeed the case about preppy clothing in general. Though certainly in conjunction with “outsiders looking in” is that, at least according to Taliesin, Ivy/preppy/trad dress has been largely jettisoned by Ivy students.

    There could be a curious role reversal here. If the middle-class has largely adopted the preppy look that was once the provence of the upper-middle WASP establishment, then the current best and brightest at elite colleges are certainly taking their fashion cues from below. Such is the inevitable result of open admissions.

  16. Dandy in Texas | March 26, 2009 at 4:39 pm |

    To underscore his blindness and arrogance of course.

  17. Clearly, “IVYGATE” is interested in different things. First, Ivy Style refers to a certain look that anyone can adopt, whether at a large Midwestern university (2 of which are my alma maters), a small liberal arts college in Iowa or, yes, even an Ivy League institution. Therefore, even though it only focuses on style, it has a much broader range than a site that focuses on a few schools, some of which provide good educations.

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