Battle Of The Wits Contest: What Does The Ivy League Smell Like?


Recently I was investigating manly candles (mandles?) because that’s the sort of important thing you do when you start working the home accessories beat.

I discovered an apparently now-discontinued line of scented candles that were sold at Neiman Marcus. Although the brand had the silly name of Many Indulgence, the different scents had fun names like Bachelor Pad, Humidor, Black Tuxedo, Suit & Tie, and White Collar.

There’s also one called Ivy League, which cracked me up. I ordered two from eBay — one for myself and one for the Ivy Style reader who can come up with the most incisive quip to the following question:

What does the Ivy League smell like?

Sharpen your wit and use the leave-comment feature to enter the contest. One entry per person (you’re on the honor system). The staff will sift through the entries and select the most zinging zinger.

A couple suggestions. You could go heyday or contemporary in your wisecrack, though I think that for a heyday-focused one to sparkle it would need to be from a present point of view, as in:

It smells like the ashes of tweed and the gentleman’s C.

A straight-up contemporary bon mot might be something along the lines of:

It smells like overachievers in hooded sweatshirts.

No need to have a sartorial reference, though, as the possibilities are almost endless. We’ll keep the contest burning until midnight Eastern time on Monday.

Oh, and one more thing. Just so you know, the prize is kind of a dud. The candle doesn’t fill the room with any fragrance at all, certainly nothing manly or indulgent. So this contest is more for bragging rights. I’d suggest using the candle for:

1) A trophy on your mantle for having outwitted all the other readers of

2) A source of illumination in the event of a power outage


86 Comments on "Battle Of The Wits Contest: What Does The Ivy League Smell Like?"

  1. I recall from the previous contests that no one wants to go first.

  2. Ivy League smells like going to the campus library and opening the same book your father did when he went here, as your son will when he attends.


    Ivy League smells like leather and tradition.

  3. There, Christian. Not only did I go first, it’s my first time posting.

  4. It smells like sea drenched sperries, starched shirts and smoky tweeds; enhanced by strong scent of carefully curated rumpled imperfection.

  5. Smells like….Old Money….

  6. The United States

  7. Stale, stickey beer at 2:37 in the morning in the taproom of your eating club, mixed with a whiff of anxiety that she has left with your roommate.

  8. Like clubman talc and gin

  9. Currently, it smells like Curry, Ginger, Soy Sauce, and a dash of mothballs (WASPs).

  10. P. T. Larousse | February 5, 2015 at 11:43 pm | Reply

    It smells like embalming fluid.

  11. Thirty-five years ago Berkeley smelled like marijuana, piss and garbage.

    Yes, I know it’s not Ivy League.

  12. @Maunalani
    Berkeley smelled that way 50 years ago, too.
    Philly only smelled like piss and garbage.

  13. My son graduated from Harvard Law School in 2014. I’m guessing that it smells of pizza, take out Chinese food, and anxiety attendant to law school exams.

  14. “It smells the same as it did 50 years ago, and the same as it will 50 years from now.”

    I swear it’s original despite the piss and garbage comment that was left right above mine, which I only noticed as I was typing here…

  15. T.T. Paternost | February 6, 2015 at 12:56 am | Reply

    Ivy League dorms in the 1960s smelled of Brylcreem, Dial Soap, Old Spice after shave, and Right Guard spray.

    Now, they smell of Ramen.

  16. Privilege, though the smeller will deny it

  17. It smells like a terminally ill patient

  18. Philippe Rochat | February 6, 2015 at 2:58 am | Reply

    Ivy league smells like old leather, Clan pipe tobacco and tweed jacket (the one witch was to your grand-father).

  19. @Philippe Rochat
    C’était comme ça dans le passé.

  20. natural fibers, autumn leaves, gingerbread, and Merlot

  21. It smells like: an alarming and dangerous lack of self awareness.

  22. It doesn’t smell; that would be trying too hard

  23. The smell is dry, metallic, a cold air with hints of dead leaves, always reminding you that spring may be around the corner, but you can still see your breath.

  24. Socks and sperrys, American Eagle boxers, cargo shorts, and lanyards.

  25. Smells like the men’s room at Mory’s.

  26. It smells like sweat from sex and sport.

  27. Damp tweed, cedar, old brass, dusty leather trunk smell, gin, amber, and library books

  28. Ivy League smells like:

    Leather club chairs and tweed with a hint of second-hand scotch in the dean’s office on a Monday morning when you’re faced with potential rustication resulting from heinous deeds conducted at a nearby girls school.

  29. My Dad’s boss used to say my Dad’s aftershave made him smell like an old woman. (Some Lavender stuff from Rexall)

    I’ll go with “Old Woman”

  30. James Redhouse | February 6, 2015 at 12:19 pm | Reply

    I last bought a bottle Rexall’s Lavender After-shave in 1964.
    5 ounces for 69 cents.
    Great stuff, that, as was authentic Ivy League style.

  31. Far above Cayuga’s waters / There’s a funny smell / Some say it’s Cayuga’s waters / Some say it’s Cornell.

    Rotting timbers / Mouldy limestone / Muddy, rain-soaked hell,

    Choke you on the fragrant odor / Here it is: Cornell.

  32. @Riggles & Redhouse

    My dad, Yale class of 1932, wore the just-right scant dash of that potion til the day he died, it’s called Ed. [Edouard] Pinaud Lilac Vegetal, available still today at Walgreens.

  33. Quiet Desperation.

  34. Old leather chair
    Damp springer past her prime
    Cedar on a familiar Shetland
    lingering tobacco and oak embers
    A decent sour mash
    Faint jasmine from last night’s date

  35. Awful lot of nostalgic idealization here…

  36. *sticky

    I was a-typin’ on my iWidget, sorry.

    I always liked Groom&Clean better than Brylcreem.

  37. Smells like the inside of my 300D after an upstate camping trip

  38. The Ivy League doesn’t smell. You smell. It stinks.

  39. It has the fragrant aroma of pipe tobacco, bay rum and the salty air of a shore house

  40. It smells like it should.

  41. …hit submit too soon. As I was saying…

    Old…Weejuns, smelly athletic wear, spilled bourbon, stale beer, dusty library books, musty tweed, and whatever the house parent’s cooking.

  42. “Awful lot of nostalgic idealization here…”

    You tease, that’s it exactly: The Smell of The Ivy League is [nothing but] Nostalgic Idealization.

  43. James Redhouse | February 7, 2015 at 12:00 am | Reply

    Lilac Vegetal is a completely different fragrance from Rexall Lavender.
    I switched to Lilac Vegetal in 1965 and still use it.
    I don’t know about its being the smell of the Ivy League, but it was certainly the standard smell of barbershops from coast-to-coast

  44. It smells of smugness, all 3 definitions:

    1) trimness or smartness in dress
    2) scrupulously neat, clean, or correct
    3) highly self-satisfied

  45. French-press coffee, croissants, and a freshly-ironed shirt

  46. Sorry about my second entry.
    Please let “smugness” stand.

  47. Good genes
    Good upbringing
    Good taste

  48. I don’t know what the Ivy League smells like, but I do know that smells like a breath of fresh air in a putrefying world.

  49. Dartmouth College smelled alternatively of crisp mountain air, autumn leaves, and hardwood soaked in stale beer for decades.

  50. If you want to know how it once smelled, go to Charleston, SC.

  51. Multiculturalism and Political Correctness

  52. Christian
    At my age nostalgia is about all I got left. 😉

  53. I’d say the older one gets the more a sense of humor is required!

  54. 4711, fresh linen, and good gin.

  55. What DCG Said. I’ll be more specific.

    Kappa Alpha house. Sewanee. I’ll go with 1966.

  56. Look, who cares if one went to Cambridge?

  57. Smells like cronyism.

  58. @Redhouse; thank you. @S.E.; Sewanee 1966, the Phis

    IOW: Ivy League Smells like Legacy.

  59. The interior of a 1966 Land Rover with a splash of Miller High Life

  60. British influence, both archictecturally and sartorially

  61. fond memories

  62. American-style Aristocracy

  63. Gin and faded glory, but mostly gin.

  64. Harkness Tower | February 8, 2015 at 11:24 am | Reply

    Past, present, and future, I hope

  65. Muffy-bashing

  66. The best time we ever had.

  67. @Flo, that Pinaud’s Lilac Vegetal stuff is truly vile. Mind you, the Pinaud’s Clubman is one of the best bargains available in men’s scents, but the Lilac Vegetal smells like one of those little cakes they place in urinals, after a few days of heavy use in a busy barroom toilet.

  68. Daddy’s Money

  69. Brooks Brothers and regret……

  70. It smells like the morning after regret of butt-chugging Heineken while rushing SAE.

  71. it smells unabashedly preppy

  72. Old Spice and cigarettes? 🙂

  73. The textbook answer: Eau Sauvage

  74. ” We’ll keep the contest burning until midnight Eastern time on Monday.”

    And the winner is…?

  75. Sorry, busy. Working on it today.

  76. tweed and privilege. and a smidge of casual cocaine addiction

  77. Ivy League candle scent – a small batch distillation of wasp venom, with notes of scotch and a lavender finish.

  78. Entries are being judged now by the humorless jury. Again sorry for the delay.

  79. The jury has finished deliberating and the winner is:

    Comment by Austin — February 5, 2015 @ 9:26 pm
    Stale, stickey beer at 2:37 in the morning in the taproom of your eating club, mixed with a whiff of anxiety that she has left with your roommate.

  80. I guess my allusion to the, probably apocryphal, anecdote about Samuel Johnson was too obscure . . .

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