Cast Your Vote: Is Trad Politically Incorrect?


According to the season opener of “South Park,” which aired last month, political correctness is back with a vengeance. Its shelf life in the ’90s was about six years, says a character in the show, adding that we’ve got 5.9 more years to go before people start to chill out.

In the meantime, you can expect a boatload of harping on many of the things we celebrate here: such as wearing Top-Siders and Nantucket Reds while sailing the sea. Yesterday I tried explaining the Pitzer College yacht club story to a Japanese friend, and how the student government had deemed the word “yacht” offensive. “Huh?” she said. “Boat is boat.” Ah, if only it were that simple.

In an age of micoaggressions, triggering, and white privilege, when everything is being re-evaluated to see whether it’s up to current standards of sensitivity, I find myself pondering a very simple question: is trad clothing, as the kids on campus say these days, problematic?

On the one hand, Bernie Sanders wears blue buttondowns, and so does Rand Paul. Trad clothing is politically neutral, isn’t it?


Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., speaks during an event at the University of Chicago's Ida Noyes Hall in Chicago on Tuesday, April 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Andrew A. Nelles) ORG XMIT: ILAN114

Perhaps, but it’s not simply a matter of left and right anymore, is it? Political correctness is concerned with much more than mere politics of the red state/blue state variety. Trad clothing is loaded with all sorts of connotations about class and other messy stuff that fills the editorial pages and fuels campus protests. Ivy may be neither inherently liberal or conservative, but it still developed largely via the tastes and values of well-off white Protestant guys and those who hung out with them. In wearing it, you’re basically saying you’re cool with that, and is it still OK to be cool with that?

You get to cast your big vote next November. In the meantime, please mark your choice in this little poll:

[poll id=”2″]

In closing, I’d like to point out that in Ivy Style’s lifetime we’ve given equal attention to JFK, a Democrat, and George HW Bush, a Republican. We’ve also featured Hugh Hefner and William F. Buckley, Jr. We’ve regularly honored Black History Month, helped bring awareness to the contributions Jewish clothiers made in helping codify WASP taste, and showcased Japanese takes on Ivy and trad. We’ve even been so broad-minded as to include English working-class expressions of the Ivy League Look.

Columbus Day and the upcoming weekend’s Head Of The Charles form the perfect bracket for a PC Week. If you have something to get off your chest, you may query the editor.

Stay tuned, mind your manners, check your privilege, and shine your shoes. — CHRISTIAN CHENSVOLD

24 Comments on "Cast Your Vote: Is Trad Politically Incorrect?"

  1. Some nice collar roll on Sen. Sanders, albeit paired with very square shoulders.

    Sen. Paul has better shoulders, and a repp tie.

  2. Where’s the “F#@K NO!” option? All the Special Snowflakes who think otherwise are probably the same ones who take and see offense at seemingly everything around them.

    Ironically, that worldview is a prime example of the “privilege” these types usually rail against; having the luxury of being affected by the “microaggression” of someone’s pants color or the term “melting pot” is indeed the type of first-world problem much of the world WISHES it had.

  3. Cast Your Vote: Is “Politically correct”(invented by the worst generation of XX century) a type of fundamentalism and one of the reasons of decadence of Occidental civilization?


  4. I suspect that Sanders and Paul think very little about clothing styles and opt for what they find serviceable and easy. For those of us who think about our clothing and how it fits within a genre, there is a legitimate question about the degree to which we may be expressing nostalgia and longing for the times and places when blue-blooded white men with a certain set of manners and traditions essentially ran the world, almost always at the exclusion of women and non-whites. The idea that followers of trad or ivy style find psychological comfort in donning costumes paying homage to the old elites does seem particularly compelling in light of the fact that a great many such followers would probably never have been permitted entry into that elite when it was in its heyday: The style becomes an effort at fulfilling a fantasy of membership in an idealized version of an American ruling class. This theory seems more plausible when you live down the street from Yale (as I do) and plainly see that the Ivy Style is nearly as alien to the current student body as cowboy outfits would be.

  5. Roy R. Platt | October 13, 2015 at 12:57 pm |

    All this “PC” foolishness has reached a (low) point where you might get a comment from someone who is loyal to King Charles I and who still uses the pre 1859 “Book Of Common Prayer” and who finds the reference to the “Head Of The Charles” to be offensive.

    I still use all the good old pre PC words and the only thing that I find offensive are all the pro PC loons running around loose as a result of most of the looney bins being closed because the various states have decided to throw away the money that was formerly wisely invested keeping the loons locked up in looney bins on welfare payments to people who already look like they’ve had too much to eat and who therefore can’t propel their ponderous bulks out into the world to look for work.

  6. Careful about casting out things as not PC lest we very soon are left with nothing but exceptionality-centric options: Black-this, Hispanic-that, gay-this, Indigenous-that, LBGTVLEHSNG-everthing, blah, blah. I think there’s room in this tent for everyone. Just keep your jungle music in your corner, and I’ll keep my loafers in mine, mmm-k?

  7. “Stay tuned, mind your manners, check your privilege, and shine your shoes.”

    I was with you all the way to “checking” my “privilege.” My only responses violate your request immediately prior to mind my manners, so I’ll just leave. Check my privilege, indeed! Go pound sand on that one, C.

  8. Ah, the jungle music scene from “School Ties”!

  9. William Richardson | October 13, 2015 at 4:34 pm |

    Where my WASPs at?

  10. If Trad is wrong then I don’t want to be right.

  11. How about, “If trad is wrong then I don’t want to be left”?

  12. If wearing Ivy or Trad or whatever clothes didn’t have sociopolitical implications, Miles Davis at Freeport in Seersucker and Sidney Poitier in sack suits and foulard neckties in Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner and To Sir with Love wouldn’t have been nearly as big of deals as they were at the time. They heyday is the heyday, but there are nonetheless very charged connotations to a style of dress, though I wouldn’t say it has anything to do with a set of politics.

    The term that gets thrown around most derisively in fashionista circles is “aspirational.” It implies that the brand wants to be a great house but in reality is a poor man’s option. However, when I bought my first button-down from Brooks, I was also being aspirational, though in a more Trad(itional) sense. I got the feeling that I if I was wearing the right tie, or well-shined shoes, or with the perfect crease in my trousers, I would be freed from certain stigmas that, while indeed superficial, were apparent, and simply allowed to be my best self. Perphaps some readers of this blog have had similar feelings.

    I don’t like fashion, but I do like clothes; and, as a result I buy comfortable, versatile clothes that can be dressed up and down with equal amounts of ease. Call it “priveledged” if you want (I am probabaly on the lower rung economically compared to many readers of Ivy Style), but I’d personally settle on “practical” or “well-reasoned.”

  13. If trad is politically incorrect I guess that;s why I have not changed my style since my parents dressed me in Brooks Brothers when I was little. This generation is filled with incompetent victim complex losers who will be eaten a live in the real world, especially the global economy. When the new kids come into interview, we know ask questions to make sure it isn’t a social justice warrior who will come back and sue the firm for not over representing minorities and under representing whites.

  14. Is there any chance Japan bears a closer resemblance (culturally) to heyday America than modern America?

  15. In San Francisco I see guys leaving my building for work in the morning wearing flip-flops. (I’m pretty sure they’re not lifeguards.) I see women wearing yoga wear. I’m baffled. It matters less to me what style someone chooses than that they are appropriately attired for the occasion. There’s a lot of leeway. Trad, though uncommon around here, is one of many available and acceptable options. Frankly, anyone who appears to have made an effort gets thumbs up from me.

  16. Whenever I get told to “Check my privilege” I just tell them it’s silently looming above and behind me right where I left it…

  17. @Steve

    Both my parents were born in San Francisco, I was raised an hour north, and eventually lived and worked in the city. It’s been an extremely liberal town since the late ’60s — might that account for trad being “uncommon around here”?

    Well, that and a heavy dose of West Coast Casual.

    Once again speculating as to whether there’s a correlation between conservatism in dress and conservatism in politics, let’s change cities and look at New York. Another liberal town, escept for one neighborhood with a high concentration of Republicans, coincidentally the part of town most associated with the history of preppy and the Ivy League Look.

  18. “West Coast Casual” is certainly a polite way of putting it (I’ve been guilty of it, too) but bear in mind that the city has kept Cable Car Clothiers going for decades, and a very traditional Brooks Brothers presence flourished for the same amount of time. (There’s a stand-alone Alden shop as well.) Personally, I haven’t noticed much correlation between political leanings and mode of dress around here. There are times when I’ve fallen into such a pre-judgment trap and been confounded. As a native San Franciscan the “Eastern establishment” connections to trad clothing styles were unknown to me the first time I wandered into Brooks Brothers. Quality, value, and lack of trendiness were the draws.

  19. Am I mistaken, or has “West Coast Casual” spread like the plague and infected the whole country?

  20. West Coast Casual has infected the world. I was really hopeful that the economic crash would straighten things out, but nope. T-shirt-wearing billionaire adolescents have become the role model.

    I live in SF. I look like I should be selling institutional insurance or brokering commercial real estate. But my circles are in technology. It’s too bad to stick out like a sore thumb, but I Yam What I Yam.

    Regarding non-PC fashion: I regularly get sneers. The kids asking for Planned Parenthood or Greenpeace signatures in front of my building feel an extra need to address me tauntingly. It’s disappointing how so many who supposedly value diversity pre-judge and hate a book just by looking at its cover.

  21. A privileged life (pun intended to all the S. Salk fans out there) is a politically incorrect life. A traditional life is a politically incorrect life. A prepossessing life is a politically incorrect life. These intransigent bulwarks we hold dear will always be attacked by the progressive belligerents who’ve beset us on all sides. Anything that resembles the progeny of yesteryear’s establishment will be seen as “incorrect” politically or otherwise. This site and others have done a swell job at keeping the doors to our halcyon past open to all, regardless of color or creed. Something Baltzell warned us against was building the walls too high and digging motes too deep, thus not allowing others in.

  22. It depends on who’s wearing it, doesn’t it? Barry Goldwater and Malcolm X didn’t dress all that differently.

    P.S.: re. “digging motes too deep”: indeed, but considerest the beam…

  23. I’m certainly glad I don’t live in heyday America. It’s hard enough without the “complexion for the connection” to get a decent position, even with an Ivy League degree. I would have been an over educated bus driver back then.

  24. Encore: the phrase “PC” is now not PC.

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