Batik On Campus


Was batik really worn by college men, or was it a marketing ploy by clothiers, as one reader recently suggested?

Evidence courtesy of Lehigh University yearbooks from 1961-65. — CC & CS






11 Comments on "Batik On Campus"

  1. The third picture down looked like the nook I used to sit at in the basement of the college library. I’m sure the peeling lead paint, unguarded radiator, single pane windows, etc. would have the building condemned today.

    It was perfect for reading (I don’t recall the name of the magazine) Photo Something. The main part of the magazine was articles about photography, but the back was chock full of ads, and BW photos of statuesque naked ladies. I clandestinely looked at the naughty ladies, while watching for the librarian or someone else of authority, so I wouldn’t be caught. (I went to a Bible College, seems hard to believe no one censored that stuff.)

    College students today, with all the Internet stuff available, have no idea how exciting that early stuff was.


  2. Christian | July 30, 2014 at 5:50 pm |

    Bruce Boyer tells me this:

    “I was at Lehigh in the mid-60s, and remember seeing a few students wearing batik shirts, but not sports jackets or trousers. Lehigh was a particularly conservative school, known for its engineering program, started to funnel engineer’s into the Bethlehem Steel Corporation. My assumption was always that, because its liberal arts school was small, dress was not considered a necessary social tool. Ivy style clothes certainly — there was an excellent Ivy shop, Tom Bass, in town, but it sold few batik garments to Lehigh students. I remember buying only one batik shirt there, an intricate tropical pattern in emerald green, navy, and sky blue. Most students continued to prefer madras in sporty cottons.

    My feeling is that batik was more of a fashion promotion than anything, with more of a Palm Beach thing about it, than a campus aura.”

  3. For those who don’t recognize it:

    The student in the third photograph from the top is holding a slide rule, a hi-tech device that antedated the electronic calculator:

    By the way, have rolled-up short sleeves ever been “ivy”?
    Not in my book.

  4. @ Athlone

    Good eye, I missed the slide rule. When I was in high school, slide rules were still big. My parents considered slide rules literally cheating. I went through HS doing all the algebra, geometry, etc. by paper and pencil. I was drafted into the US Army in 1971, by the time I attended college later, LED calculators (size of transistor radios) became affordable. I recall buying my first, for $16.

    I bought a really nice metal professional slide rule, leather case, and manual for $5, in the 1980’s. I recall bringing it to the office, just for the heck of it. The manager asked me where the h___ did I get that.

    I still have the slide rule.

  5. @ Athlone

    Thanks for posting the website. I won’t give my slide rule to Goodwill anytime soon. Also, I see drawing sets, and scales on the site. I have my grandfather’s drawing set, and several different scales and triangular rulers.

    Never knew this “junk” is desirable.

  6. An older relative who graduated from Yale in ’70 remembers nothing resembling ‘batik’ on campus. Yes, I know it was offered by J. Press and maybe a few other campus shops for a while, but clearly it came and went and thus may be correctly deemed a passing fad. Resort wear. A “Palm Beach thing.”

    This brings to mind a stubbornly persistent subject. What did a majority of Ivy-leaning lads actually own and wear? Honesty demands the admission that a lot of what modern day “trads” embrace was nowhere to be seen on at Williams, UVA, Amherst, and Princeton in the mid 60s. Barbour jackets and embroidered pants come to mind. And isn’t it likely that a lot of the madras in those days featured darker, faded hues of navy, green, yellow, ecru, and red? (as opposed to bright pink and lime green)

  7. I can’t speak to what everyone was wearing, he’s right there was clearly a range of things going on, but S.E.’s question reminded me of a photo of Bill Bradley at Princeton in the mid-60s (in John McPhee’s *A Sense of Where You Are*).

    He’s wearing khakis, oxford shirt with shetland sweater, an unbuttoned stone-colored cotton balmacaan, and construction boots (they look like Red Wings: tan, moccasin construction, white neoprene sole).

  8. And a plaid wool scarf.

  9. @ S.E.
    Your relative remembers correctly.
    I graduated from Penn in 1965.
    Madras shirts were certainly in darker hues.
    There were no Barbour jackets or embroidered pants to be seen. Certainly no GTH red trousers.
    We wore our OCBD shirts in blue or white.
    Batik would have generated remarks about Hawaii.
    Many of us still dress the same way, with the exception that we no longer wear white socks with our khakis or bermuda shorts.

  10. “Many of us still dress the same way.”


Leave a Reply