Caledonophilia: A Tribute To Scotland’s Contributions To The Ivy League Look

While the English are often praised for laying the vestiary groundwork forthe Ivy Leauge Look, it is my biased opinion that the Scots are worthy of praise for their numerous contributions to the genre as well.

I am biased because my Scottish grandmother made sure that I am not only proud of my Scottish heritage, but that I am also well versed on her people’s achievements. While the English formed the basis for this style, the Scots truly mastered the accessories, and may even have contributed more to the genre overall. Then again, that’s just the opinion of this quarter-Scottish trad dresser.


This pattern, which has been featured on men’s hosiery since the 1600’s, hails from the country of Argyll and was first worn by members of Clan Campbell. In the 1920s, argyle socks were made popular by the Duke of Windsor, who famously wore them as part of his golf attire along with plus fours and Fair Isle sweaters. Soon after, Brooks Brothers began carrying the socks, which had become popular with the golf set. From Brooks, the socks traveled to the feet of Ivy Leaguers, who began wearing them with Bass Weejuns in the late 1930s.


A print that originated in Persia, made famous by the weavers of the Scottish town of Paisley. With this print being popularized in Britain, it soon traveled to America in the form of ancient madder ties and silk scarves. This design has also been used by Chipp for its famous bold jacket linings.

The Balmacaan Coat

A raincoat with raglan sleeves made of either heavy tweed or gabardine that comes from the Balmacaan Estate in Inverness, which just happens to be my grandmother’s birthplace. This traditional style of raincoat has been made by both Brooks Brothers and Ralph Lauren. Worn at outdoor events by trads for years, but often referred to simply as a raincoat.


Quite possibly the greatest sartorial contribution by the Scots to the world. Ubiquitous in Ivy wear from jacket linings to ties, pants, sport coats, boxers, blankets and robes. Stresses the point of the Scot’s contributing the accessories of the style. Originated in Ancient Scotland, each clan has their own distinguishing tartan. Favored by the English, starting with King George IV, and later crossed the pond bundled with other British style elements.


Founded by a Scot named John Barbour in England, for some reason. Though he did not invent oilcloth (it is in fact an early Scottish mariner’s invention), Barbour created a now iconic brand that has found its way into the hearts of trads. With the jacket’s classic, sporty style and enduring quality, it came as no surprise that Barbour was added to the trad canon.

Fair isle

As the name suggests, this sweater pattern was first produced in Fair Isle, a small island that is part of the Shetland Islands. Another style made famous by the stylish Duke of Windsor who popularized them in the 1920s. Later adopted into British country wear, and finally made the trip to America as part of classic golf attire. Fair Isle pattern sweaters occasionally reproduced by Polo, Brooks and J. Crew.

Shetland Sweaters

A classic crewneck sweater, first knit by weavers in the Shetland Islands. In Scotland, it is a simple sweater that most people wore whereas in America it became an Ivy staple. Made of thick, Shetland wool that comes from the Shetland breed of sheep, this sweater was brought to America by Brooks Brothers at the turn of the century.


Also part of British country clothing as well as Ivy, tweed is a woolen cloth whose name is derived from the Gaelic word “tweel” with means “twill.” Popularized by Edwardian elites who wore coats made of the fabric while hunting. Known for its durability, tweed was exported to America where it kept its form as a country-wear jacket. Favored by Ivy league students as well as their professors.


This style of shoe was invented in Scotland as the now decorative perforations once served a purpose: draining excess bog water. From the scots Gaelic word “bròg,” which means shoe, this style of shoe was worn in the country as it was practical. Later became popular in America as a casual shoe that also fit the British country wear bill. Beloved by Ivy students for their British ties and for being well paired with tweed.

Oxford Cloth

This one came as a surprise to both my grandmother and I, but apparently the fabric was originally produced by Scottish mills, and was one of four university-named fabrics, along with Harvard, Yale and Cambridge. While the other three were lost to history, oxford cloth has become all but synonymous with Ivy style. The cloth was used to make the original polo shirt, which was brought to America by Brooks Brothers in 1896. — GERLANDO SCIASCIA

18 Comments on "Caledonophilia: A Tribute To Scotland’s Contributions To The Ivy League Look"

  1. very interesting. You should do a follow up article on what became of Harvard, Yale, and Cambridge cloth. Can one still purchase shirts like this?

  2. Bermuda, I wish I knew more about those fabrics, what they were like and what happened to them. I tried to do a bit more research on the topic but nothing turned up.

  3. TheeDandyWarthog | March 5, 2017 at 8:14 pm |

    Very nice article! Being of Scottish heritage, I thought the only thing the scots contributed was alcoholism and penny pinching.

  4. That’s funny and true. I think the Scot’s thriftiness is part of an overall British frugality which became Yankee Frugality here in America. A very WASPy, inherently American quality because it’s British. At least, it was once a prominent American quality but it’s seeing a decline as of late.

  5. I would like to look as cool as the fellow modeling the tartan coat when I get older. I admired his style in the RL images in the late 80’s and 90’s. Wasn’t/isn’t he an architect and just a part-time model?


  6. I’ve always wondered if certain color combinations on the argyle pattern of socks have traditionally corresponded to specific clans. Most Scottish full dress kilts that I have seen have been worn with solid color hosiery–with flashes, of course.

  7. Seems right and necessary that we should listen to this:

  8. Sacksuit, correct he wasn’t a model like most of the “models” Ralph used in his famous 80’s ads. That’s what made them great, he used real people to model his clothes.

  9. Victoria S | March 6, 2017 at 8:11 pm |

    Sweeet!! Article is totally dope and the well written! Learned so much! Will spread the word! GO SCOTLAND

  10. Very interesting and informative article! Never thought about the history of Ivy style but it’s classic and here to stay! Way to go!

  11. Malvernlink | March 7, 2017 at 2:51 pm |


    I suggest you read ” How The Scots Invented The Modern World ” by American historian Arthur Herman.

  12. Malvernlink | March 7, 2017 at 4:06 pm |

    @ Josh

    Josh, I’m not sure what you mean by ” full dress kilts “. Solid color kilt hose ( or solid color with some sort of design like checkerboard on the top part of the hose that folds over) are worn with day wear and informal evening wear, in other words anything but black tie. Formal ( black or white tie ) evening wear is worn with diced or Argyll pattern kilt hose with the colors matching the kilts tartan. For the most part both the diced and Argyll kilt hose have to be custom made to match your clan’s tartan. Black and red and red and white diced hose are readily available and so is Royal Stewart and Hunting Stewart in Argyll hose, but that’s about it. That’s why the Kilt wedding outfit for hire shops provide white kilt hose for formal evening wear. It’s the style equivalent of wearing black socks with sandals and shorts. It’s funny, I see men at a formal affair who have spent at least a couple of thousand dollars on their formal Highland dress outfit but are wearing white hose because they are too cheap to buy diced or Argyll hose.

  13. Although it is clearly associated with Scotland,Tartan was first seen far to the East of Scotland and can’t be considered to be Scottish in origin. The “modern day”kilt was invented by an English Quaker and I was under the assumption that Brogues were Irish in origin. I’m sure they’ll be many amongst the Scots hoardes at Twickenham on Saturday that will disagree with me !

  14. Jon, brogues were also found in Ireland but are a Scottish invention. Rawlinson’s modification had been seen before in Scotland and he merely popularized the kilt with the English, he invented nothing original. As for Tartan, it is not only associated with Scots today it has been for hundreds of years as they invented it. The name suggests that the cloth used came from the Far East but not that they were making plaids there. The patterns of tartan are Scottish in origin.

  15. Just seeing this article. Well done!

    I’d be willing to bet that the photo of the mannequin wearing, among other things a fair isle sweater, was taken at MS McClellan and Company in Knoxville.

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