Black History Month 2016


After more than seven years — and far removed from the peak-Ivy Trendwatch days of the “Take Ivy” book release and the MFIT exhibit — achieved record traffic numbers for the month of January. What caused it? The four consecutive posts within 36 hours about the new/old Brooks Brothers oxford, authored by myself, Bruce Boyer and Dan Greenwood. The stories got shared around the web, and new readers have continued to return after the initial spike.

So for those of you who are newbies to Tradsville, this website was born from a summer 2008 story I did for Ralph Lauren Magazine about when Miles Davis went to The Andover Shop to get outfitted by Charlie Davidson (who’s still there, by the way). I was so fascinated by the social and sartorial stories behind the Ivy League Look that I decided to launch a new web project about it. The site became a hit, and here we are over 1,200 posts later.

As a result of that first story about Miles Davis and the other jazz cats who got hip to Ivy during the heyday (including Roy Haynes, whom I got to interview, and later watched perform at the Newport Jazz Festival with none other than Charlie), it’s always been important to me to include African Americans who have appreciated this quintessential WASPy (really, American) approach to dressing. This year, thanks to our website redesign that makes it easy to browse content from our home page, it’s the perfect time to revisit posts from previous years in addition to sharing new material. Like the photo of Miles pictured above, wearing what has become my favorite jacket pattern. It’s a photo I saw for the first time just recently.

Members of our Facebook group noted today that the group image now depicts African American college students during the Ivy heyday, because certainly more than just musicians embraced buttondowns, loafers, and natural-shouldered jackets. I’ll be updating the group image periodically throughout the month in order to share a variety of images.

This blog post was created with jazz music playing the background, including tunes by Art Pepper and Arthur Blythe. One’s black and the other’s white. If you don’t know which is which, head over to YouTube or Spotify and commence your journey into jazz, America’s truly original art form, brought to us by those who’d been brought here against their will. — CHRISTIAN CHENSVOLD

19 Comments on "Black History Month 2016"

  1. Ward Wickers | February 1, 2016 at 8:13 pm |

    Congrats on the record web traffic.

    I especially like the notion of recasting trad/Ivy as a quintessentially American approach to dress (rather than WASPy), which it really is.

  2. Here here, and quintessentially American non est All-American, just as Neapolitan tailoring, while quintessentially Italian, doesn’t mean all-Italian style (especially in Milan).

  3. Marc Chevalier | February 1, 2016 at 10:34 pm |

    Well said, you three.

  4. DCG, Me thinks you might have intended “Hear, hear!”

  5. Autocorrect will be the deaf of me…

  6. Ward Wickers | February 2, 2016 at 12:56 am |

    I thought you meant it was happening here, here.

  7. Bags' Groove | February 2, 2016 at 3:40 am |

    The thought occurred that Miles’s Charlie Davidson-dressed days would have coincided with the period when many of his adoring fans would have come under the category of…..beatniks! And when was the last time you read that word on these pages, or any other pages, come to that?
    And congrats, CC. Well earned, man. If you began wearing a beret and shades with that beard, a beatnik revival would surely follow.

  8. This was actually quite a little poignant post (especially the end) for the start of Black History Month. I’ve always wondered whether many of the site’s readers/posters are black. I’d be curious to hear if black readers have a a different perspective on prep v. trad; southern v. northern traditions; WASP v. Baptist/AME; etc.

  9. Miles Ahead by Miles Davis and Gil Evans is playing while I’m reading this.

  10. To all new readers – stick with this site. It’s intelligent and thought provoking, and while I often disagree with many of the viewpoints shared here, particularly in the comments, it is consistently a forum of (mostly) well thought out arguments made by knowledgeable people.

  11. @ERK

    We trads are a color blind group. Are we not?

    And yet, we are such snappy dressers.


  12. I love that large Glen/PoW check jacket, but I can’t get my head around what trousers I’d wear with it. Your standard grey flannels or worsteds would be insipid I’d think, with too much blend and too little contrast. Navy would clash with all the black, and so would brown. That leaves khaki, perhaps? What would you do, Christian?

  13. I’ve been talking a lot to DCG about my final submission to Brummellian principles. For me, simple bold and slightly monochrome is the best way to dress. I have two jackets with that pattern and have no problem pairing them with trousers in shades of mid gray and charcoal.

    Perhaps to wear that pattern in a jacket you need to think a little more Polo RL and Fred Astaire and get out of navy or khaki mode.

    I’ll get around to writing a theory-driven sartorial essay soon once I get past some other deadlines.

  14. Señor Yuca | February 2, 2016 at 5:43 pm |

    ‘As a result of that first story about Miles Davis and the other jazz cats who got hip to Ivy during the heyday (including Roy Haynes, whom I got to interview, and later watched perform at the Newport Jazz Festival with none other than Charlie),’

    I think I know what you mean.

  15. That’s how I feel when Ornette plays.

  16. Your comment about getting out of the navy/khaki headspace make sense, but I doubt I’ll be able to heed the advice, what with being an Annapolitan and all. The Polo allusion is interesting, too, although I see the described look as much more Purple Label than the trad default Blue. I suppose that like anything, the devil is in the details; in this case that would be pattern scale and shade(s).

  17. Annapolis you say? Then have I got a look for you:

    RL shows variations on this all the time. PoW jacket, trousers in charcoal, white shirt, maybe striped, maybe contrast collar, rep or crest tie, white linen square. I have a hard time imagining you won’t look dapper in a jacket like that with charcoal trousers.

  18. Great stuff. I especially enjoy the last words if the post. Well said.

  19. Bags' Groove | February 3, 2016 at 4:56 am |

    In 1967 this lad got few opportunities to see American jazz legends. Impecuniousness had me picking ’em very judiciously. Yet at the Hammersmith Odeon in London I saw and heard – boy did I hear – the greatest jazz group on the planet. And who were this fabled group? Well Miles Davis, Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter and Tony Williams, of course, all playing at the height of their powers at that time. At the first note of Miles’s trumpet I understood what the word spellbinding meant.
    As for what they wore, dark suits, I vaguely remember. I was far too distracted by the incredible music they were producing to pay much attention.

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