The 1930s was the time of the Great Depression, yet simultaneously it was also the golden age of Hollywood glamor and of masculine elegance. It was also the time when the Ivy League Look flourished, though within closed corridors, the aristocratic golden age versus the postwar, democratic silver age.
This article from the Yale Alumni Magazine details what life was like for New Haven students while others were fleeing the Dust Bowl. There was homework, but there was also football games, junior proms, and shopping for white bucks, as shown in the photo above.
Here’s an excerpt:
Life at Yale for wealthy undergraduates resembled escapist movies about the rich and carefree. They enjoyed their automobiles, weekends in New York, country club summers, sailing on Martha’s Vineyard, and trips to Europe. Spectator yachts lined the Thames when Yale rowed against Harvard at New London in June.
When the residential colleges opened in September 1933, undergraduates selected by the college masters (there was not room for all) lived in luxurious suites, ordered meals from printed menus and were served by uniformed waitresses, and after eating perhaps repaired to the squash courts for exercise fitting their station in life. Faculty fellows of the colleges delighted in weekly dinners followed by port, conversation, and sometimes bridge or poker. The residential faculty fellows (bachelors only) had large apartments. The masters lived with their families in mansions worthy of bank presidents before the fall.
Varsity football prospered. Games filled the Yale Bowl with cheering students and alumni. Gate receipts held up so well during the Depression that in 1931, the chair of President Herbert Hoover’s committee for unemployment relief asked Yale to hold a postseason benefit game with other elite schools. In 1937, Yale raised the salary of one part-time assistant football coach, law student Gerald R. Ford ’41LLB, from $3,000 to $3,500, more than that of an entering junior faculty instructor with a PhD.
Some alumni recalled afterwards that they were oblivious to conditions outside of Yale. Hear Senator William Proxmire ’38: “We lived in a kind of disembodied cocoon, a deliberate isolation from what we could see and smell and hear when we left the New Haven Campus. . . . Most of my classmates were wholly preoccupied with sports and girls and grades, and bull sessions about sports and girls and grades—in that order. If you wanted to be happy, it was a great time to be a Yalie. If you wanted to be serious—you had to wait.”
Surely this was the real heyday? — CC & CS
Elegance Week and Halloween collide in this last-minute costume idea courtesy of this ad from a 1936 edition of The Daily Princetonian.
Just dust off your old tux, head off to that Halloween party, and say you’re dressed as an elite college kid from the thirties. Since no student dresses this way today, it qualifies as costume.
Don’t fall asleep without brushing your sugar-soaked teeth tonight. We’ll conclude our series on elegance tomorrow with a little show and tell from me. — CHRISTIAN CHENSVOLD
Following the mention of Paul Fussell’s pinpoint-accurate and hilarious book “Class” in our last post, faithful reader “Old School” sent us a reminder about another entertaining class theorist, Russell Lynes. The above chart comes from Lynes’ 1949 book “The Tastemakers.” His 1953 Esquire article on the shoe hierarchy at Yale, which we presented several years ago, is a must-read.
We also featured him back when we were a wee little site of six months old. — CC
From The Daily Princetonian, 1949.
If you were off on Spring Break or spending the winter in Palm Beach, Princeton’s clothiers of the 1940s had just the clothes you needed, including plenty of seersucker. While not graphically interesting, these ads include interesting copy revealing what was popular with students at the time. — CS & CC (Continue)
One summer day in 1946, Joseph Haspel, Sr. walked neck deep into the Atlantic Ocean wearing one of his family’s seersucker suits. He emerged from the ocean a part of clothing lore.
Haspel was attending a convention in Boca Raton, Florida, when he took his now famous dip into the sea. Afterwards he hung his suit over his hotel room tub to drip dry. Later that evening, those who had seen him in his unrthodox bathing attire were equally surprised to see him wearing the same suit, and his act was the hit of the Middle South Utilities Inc. banquet.
The seaside plunge, alas, was no personal idiosyncrasy. There was a practical reason for it, namely to demonstrate Haspel’s new easy-care cotton and Orlon suit.
Many readers have likely heard some version of this twice-told tale. We contacted Haspel to ask if it were true, and they were happy to provide this photo documentation. — CHRISTOPHER SHARP (Continue)
Next Wednesday marks the return of National Seersucker Day, when the US Congress temporarily resembles a gathering of Kentucky Derby spectators. In celebration, Ivy Style will present a truly epic presentation of seersucker coverage — all spearheaded by associate editor Christopher Sharp — including multiple galleries depicting campus advertising through the decades.
By the time it’s finally over, you’ll be calling the fabric “seersicker.”
We start off with this 1942 cartoon from the Yale Daily News. — CC