In celebration of Spring Break, I wrote a shortie on the origins of the Great Escape for the blog at Ralph Lauren’s Rugby.com.
Seems the tradition of students going somewhere tropical over Easter began in 1935 when The Bermuda Athletic Association invited some Ivy League rugby teams down for a friendly tournament. By the ’50s Rugby Week became known as College Week, and then Spring Break.
Life Magazine chronicled the hijinx for a 1948 cover story; the photos are included in the post. There’s a great shot of a Yalie in white bucks and rep tie. That he’s hanging upside-down from a tree is almost as amusing as my being referred to as “the preppiest guy in town.”
While researching, I found this summary of the fall of Bermuda’s College Week scene at the hands of impertinent interlopers. The following is an excerpt from “The Right People: A Portrait of the American Social Establishment,” a 1958 book by Stephen Birmingham. — CC
Another social sport that, like crew, has suffered recently from overcrowding is Rugby. For a number of years, Rugby failed to get an official athletic department recognition at major colleges, which gave its partisans — like the select few who make up college polo teams — the pleasant feeling of being insiders by virtue of being outsiders.
Also, on most campuses, Rugby players were not really required to know how to play Rugby; the major talent for Rugby was the ability to muster round-trip plane fare to Bermuda for Rugby Week, the sport’s annual rite of spring. Rugby Week or College Week was once cozy and gay and giggly and distinctly upper class, and mothers had no qualms about allowing their daughters to go, in groups, to attend the event. But slowly, the tiny Atlantic archipelago began noticing annual increases in the numbers of Rugby and non-Rugby playing guests at Easter time.
Soon College Week was more crowded than the Yale Harvard Regatta, more wild-eyed than Derby Day, Yale’s famous (and now defunct) romp. College Week sat in the middle of Bermuda’s sunny season like a drunk at a tea party.
“I’ve gone to my last College Week,” said a Princeton sophomore a few years ago. “You can’t believe what it’s like. The hotels are all filled, so guys sleep under rocks on the beach. If you’re lucky enough to have a room, you’re expected to share it with twenty other guys. The bar at the Elbow-Beach Club is packed three people deep and filled with armed Security Guards trying to keep order. And the girls! My blind date one night was a CPA from Chicago. For my money, the whole Rugby thing has gone way, way down.”
It was to go even further. Bermuda, displeased with the behavior of its visitors, made them increasingly unwelcome, and soon the young, and the ensuing disturbances, turned to the beaches of Florida, to Fort Lauderdale and then, a ‘ few years later, to Daytona Beach. All pretense at any connection with the sport of Rugby was abandoned, and College Week no longer has any Society overtones at all. Today, the holidaying college crowd tends to favor Puerto Rico and upperclass mothers keep their daughters home — remembering, though, when it was all sweet innocence in Bermuda, with all those nice young Rugby players from the Ivy League. And where are the nice young men today if they are not playing Rugby? On the nearest ski slopes they can find.
Our last two posts revolved around Princeton and the Roaring Twenties. Now we combine the two with images from a Charleston-themed party held at Princeton in 1949.
Arriving fashionably late in dad’s coonskin coat:
Note: This post includes audio files that are not set to play automatically. If they do, and you don’t want them to, please adjust your browser preferences.
Reading the lyrics to “The Ivy League Look” in our last post reminded me of the words to another college tune from a generation earlier: Harry Reser‘s “He Ain’t Never Been in College”: (Continue)
It’s long been said that Yankee frugality dictates that men hang on to their clothes, repair them as necessary, and pass them on to their progeny.
Somehow, I got hold of one when the owner wasn’t looking. It bears witness to the values of Ivy style: quality, smartness, practicality, longevity, thrift, stability. Custom made in the ‘40s by Langrock, then New Haven’s finest Ivy haberdasher (though more closely associated with Princeton, Langrock was originally founded in New Haven), the jacket’s superbly tailored tweed is hardy enough to deflect cannonballs.
Chamois suede piping, a rustic nod to military dress, adorns the collar, pockets and sleeve cuffs. The effect is striking yet within bounds. Frayed buttonholes, suede edges and linings have all been carefully resewn, patched up and replaced. Decades later the jacket’s original owner passed it on to his son, as evidenced by both men’s names on separate cloth labels.
Outmoded? On the contrary: still in the race. Patched up? Better to say, well cared for. Hand-me-down? Yes, but in the best sense: bequeathed in love and inherited in gratitude. Most recently, by me. — MARC CHEVALIER
Marc Chevalier (Harvard School, ’85) prepped in Los Angeles and lived to tell about it. His tastes range from sturdy chinos and colonial brick to ’30s double-breasteds and Deco skyscrapers. This is his first piece for Ivy-Style.
College fraternities of the past offered male bonding in a stylish setting. The photo above, plus the two below, are from Northwestern University in Evanston, IL, 1949. Click images to go to the hi-res version. (Continue)
Though he never graduated, F. Scott Fitzgerald attended Princeton and remained ever loyal to his alma mater. So loyal that while most of his characters attend an Ivy League college, Fitzgerald specifically sent his most autobiographical protagonist to Princeton.
In the wake of the new film “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” which is based on a 1921 short story by Fitzgerald, Slate has posted an article analyzing Fitzgerald’s heroes and whether they went to Harvard, Yale or Princeton.
Fitzgerald has Amory Blaine, hero of “This Side of Paradise,” his first novel, offer the following assessment of the three schools:
I want to go to Princeton. I don’t know why, but I think of all Harvard men as sissies, like I used to be, and all Yale men as wearing big blue sweaters and smoking pipes. … I think of Princeton as being lazy and good-looking and aristocratic—you know, like a spring day.
The Slate article concludes:
Amory’s choice of Princeton makes perfect sense—and not just because he’s charming and rather idle. For This Side of Paradise, Fitzgerald borrowed heavily from his own life. Both Amory and Fitzgerald are from the Midwest, go to boarding school on the East Coast, and have failed romances with debutantes. Fitzgerald went to Princeton—he called it “the pleasantest country club in America”—so naturally he sent Amory there, too.
A selection of the reviews for “Benjamin Button” can be found here at RottenTomatoes.com. — CC