Blistering Combination


Our last post ended with a shot of Norman Mailer arm-wrestling Muhammad Ali, or at least pretending to.

So in light of that, and because coincidentally I got back into training yesterday, here’s a fresh look at the man born Cassius Clay, who is pictured in the blistering combination of checked jacket and white buttondown. The combo of him with Sam Cooke is pretty powerful, too.

And below that, the other kind of blistering combination that was Ali’s specialty. — CC


31 Comments on "Blistering Combination"

  1. G. Bruce Boyer | May 3, 2015 at 10:43 am |

    I think Mr. Fox is perfectly correct: Ivy in the 50s did extend its influence on fashion as a whole, whether the wearer was aware of it or not. A great photo by the way, of two giants.

  2. Mr. Cooke doesn’t look so bad either.

  3. Christian | May 3, 2015 at 11:16 am |

    Sociology and clothes never cease to fascinate. Here’s Ali in a buttondown worn at the time when they were considered smart, current and respectable precisely at the time when JFK, the first president in the age of television, declined to wear them because they were “too Ivy League.”

  4. Love it! And what a shame most athletes and singers don’t look anywhere near this good in 2015.

    Best Regards,

    Heinz-Ulrich von B.

  5. No love for Sam Cooke?

  6. Notice how the skinny ties do not need skinny collars? Just matching lapels for the tie width.

  7. Thanks Bob. Exactly my thought. What a voice. And not nearly as well-remembered as he should be.

  8. Any thoughts on what is going on with Ali’s tie above the tie bar about 2-3 inches and on the left side (from Ali’s perspective) of the tie – is that a pattern on the tie / some type of pin / monograming maybe?

  9. Bags' Groove | May 4, 2015 at 8:51 am |

    I’d quite forgotten just what a good-looking guy Sam Cooke was…as well as having a great voice.

  10. Hey Bags Groove
    Sam Cooke was THE greatest soul singer and one of the greatest singers off all time, IMO. There are pictures of him wearing a cardigan sweater and white oxford button-down throughout the internet.

  11. “You got your hands in my back pockets,
    And Sam Cooke’s singing on the radio.”

    Perhaps the best descripion ever of what it’s like to be 19. (The entire song, of course, not just that bit.)

  12. Christian | May 4, 2015 at 11:08 am |

    You know, I thought that other guy looked familiar. When I first started buying old records from classic vocalists (big band era through ’50s/’60s), Cooke was one of the first from his hits that played on the AM oldies station. Had a unique way of bending notes.

  13. When I read the title, I assumed it was about Ali standing next to Sam Cooke, not Muhammad’s jacket, shirt & tie combo. That said, I wholeheartedly agree with Dave’s sentiment about a skinny tie not needing an anorexic collar to accompany it. A fuller collar and a slimmer tie speaks nonchalance to me, whereas the small collar, skinny tie look says “I’m wearing non-dress shirts to dress shirt functions”.

  14. Don’t forget Sam Cooke’s “A Change is Gonna Come.” Very moving. Spike Lee used it in the background as Malcolm X (Denzel Washington) was walking to the Audubon Ballroom where he would assassinated.

  15. True Story: The former owner of Leibowitz Menswear in St. Joseph, MO told me about a time when a young Cassius Clay came into his store (likely in town for a fight) and was trying on a variety of items. The owner, Marshall (who was probably just a salesman at the time), recommended that he try one of the buttondowns in stock and was promptly told “Colored boys don’t wear buttondowns” by Clay. He said he never forgot that piece of advice, though Ali doesn’t seem to be following it here.

  16. R. Llanwyll | June 4, 2016 at 1:28 am |

    Next, should we expect an essay on how boxing and soul were part of the Ivy ethos?

  17. Joseph Murray | June 4, 2016 at 9:44 am |


    I’m afraid that in the heyday, it was far more common for the speaker of that line to be a White salesman to a potential Black customer.

  18. My personal opinions concerning Ali’s antics and views on life aside, it seems the influence of Ivy found its way into the wardrobes of all men, no matter the color or creed, and for this we love it.

  19. Wm. Alexander | June 4, 2016 at 2:40 pm |

    Being from Louisville, I don’t know if I ever truly realized how revered Ali was until now.

    When the news of his passing hit town, the entirety of Louisville just….stopped. Music at bars was muted (I was at 21C last night when we heard) and everyone was quiet. Still today, the streets are far emptier than normal. Everyone either has a story about Ali. Many people knew him well.

    Three minutes after the news of his death was made public, my small group wandered over to the Muhammad Ali Center, two blocks away. It was truly eerie- the news crews had yet to arrive, and it was entirely deserted, save for my small group of four people, and two others who arrived shortly after we. The older man of the two who arrived after us was Ali’s cousin, and he brought his son, who had made his way over to the small amphitheatre, and began chanting a beautiful Islamic prayer.
    It was a moment that I will never forget.
    The night that The Greatest died.

  20. A Bridge Too Far | June 5, 2016 at 8:06 am |

    “Ali’s actions changed my standard of what constituted an athlete’s greatness. Possessing a killer jump shot or the ability to stop on a dime was no longer enough. What were you doing for the liberation of your people? What were you doing to help your country live up to the covenant of its founding principles?” William Rhoden, NY Times.

    He changed the ethos.

  21. GG Fascot | June 5, 2016 at 1:57 pm |

    Sorry Christian, but there’s an Ivy ethos that is neither White, Anglo-Saxon, nor Protestant. That’s why the style (and this blog) survive.

  22. Lohen Green | June 6, 2016 at 1:58 am |

    There’s an Ivy style that is beyond WASP tastes and values.

  23. Old School Tie | November 18, 2020 at 11:05 am |

    Who are the equivalents of those two today….and how are they dressed?

  24. I sure do miss Ali with his unique flair, style, and way with words. Professional sport is a completely different beast today.

    Best Regards,


  25. Charlottesville | November 18, 2020 at 1:02 pm |

    Old School Tie – I know of no contemporary equivalents, but if one could find them, I imagine they would be dressed pretty badly. Are there any successful young men in professional sports or popular music who dress well? Tiger Woods, arguably no longer young, always looks good, but I usually see him only in golf togs, and the suit he wore to the White House was fine, but nothing special to my eyes; at least he wore a tie. I can’t think of an example in contemporary pop music, but frankly that is not something I follow. Most look dreadful to my eyes, even without the neck tats.

    Heinz-Ulrich – It is indeed. Golf, tennis and even baseball used to boast some natty dressers, but most pros, especially in MLB it seems, are a scruffy lot these days. I am sure I am missing some, but can’t readily come up with an image. Same with most young actors, unless dressed for a part.

    Maybe someone else can offer examples. I would love to know.

  26. Am I to assume Cassius’ shirt in the top photo is a BB shirt? It appears to fit him comfortably, and he was no runt. Same with the checked jacket. I’m noticing the shoulders and upper sleeves.

  27. You have to blow it up to notice, but looking closely at the checks right near the inside edge of the pocket flap, it appears this jacket is darted. Just so unnecessary. Really nice shoulders.

  28. Just a quick look at Las Vegas headliners, their publicity photos, Wayne Newton does his act in black tie, Jerry Seinfeld coat and tie, and Tom Jones, sometimes wears a tie. Are there “young men in professional sports or popular music who dress well”? No. Drew Carey does quite well.

  29. Beverly Carlton | November 18, 2020 at 6:24 pm |

    I met Ali in a Manhattan hotel lobby in the early 80s, when I was just old enough to realize what a giant he was. I am at a loss to find the right adjective to describe his bearing; “majestic” is the best I can do.
    I had grown up around celebrities because of my dad’s work in television, and had been well trained to play it cool and not put folks on the spot. Having said that, I couldn’t help myself and asked the great man for an autograph. On hotel stationery, he informed me “Someday we will fight. So get in shape! The Champ.”

  30. Great story, Beverly.

  31. During the 70s and 80s I lived in the Hyde park neighborhood in Chicago.
    It is the site of the U of Chicago, where I went to graduate school, and
    the headquarters of the Nation of Islam. Occasionally, I would see Ali
    on the street . He’s was invariably impeccable in a dark three piece suit,
    black shoes, etc. Yes. “Majestic” is about right. To that I would add “elegant”

Comments are closed.