In my junior year of college my dorm room was decorated in a retro manner. One day a salesman hocking fake Polo and other fragrances popped his head through my open doorway. He took a look at two pictures on the wall and said, trying to break the ice, “Are those your folks?”
Slightly annoyed by the intrusion, I glanced over to see that the salesman was referring to a pair of Chesterfield cigarette ads depicting Perry Como and Joe Stafford.
Thirty-five years before I even set foot on campus, brands such as Chesterfield, Lucky Strike, Philip Morris and Camel were already locked in struggle to win the hearts, minds and lung tissue of the college crowd. Recent discussion of smoking on the site got me looking at the advertising directed at the college and university students. Most of the images presented here are from 1950-54. They break down into celebrity endorsements, with college and university class affiliation noted, student taste-test endorsements, popularity via sales volume at the co-op or college tobacconist, and student survey and humor.
The Lucky Strike jingle-writing contest ran during this period also. College students got to be junior “Mad Men” with a $25 prize for winners. Princeton winner Richard Boeth, class of 1954, when asked by the Daily Princtonian how he planned to spend his prize money, said, “I’ve drunk it up already,” indicating cigarettes weren’t his only vice. The ads became a combination of cornball jingles and exploitive sweater girl drawings, which is probably why I like them.
Every time we visit this theme we get our fair share of abuse. Seems there is little empathy anymore for what fashion writer Paul Keers called “a generation who believed that a drink before and a cigarette afterwards, were the three best things in life.” — CHRISTOPHER SHARP
At a party you never want to be the first to arrive nor the last to leave, though someone inevitably must be. Dorm life (which is kind of like an endless party) is no different. This young chap is either an eager beaver at the start of the year, or a sentimental sap waxing contemplative after everyone else is long gone. From the Brown Alumni Magazine, 1953.
Chris Sharp found the photo. Maybe next he’ll find the guy and ask him whether he was coming or going. — CC
This ad from a 1959 issue of Sports Illustrated is interesting for a number of reasons. Most obvious is the ad’s premise of dressing young. From our perspective 55 years later, the men in the ad could hardly look more mature. Yet such were the small distinctions of suit-wearing at the time.
Then, in the box on the right, is the apparent trademarking of this “authentic IVY LEAGUE Model.”
And finally there’s the italicized line in the lower left about being “sanitized linings for hygieneic freshness,” with exclamation point.
I recall Paul Fussell’s having a fitting remark about champagne in his book “Class” (DCG, please return my copy.) Something about how the middle class always saves the unused portion by putting aluminum foil over the top, thereby satisfying its dual yet competing desires for luxury (pronounced “lugzhury”) and thrift.
Or, in this case, an authentically prestigious Ivy League model priced “regardless of budget” and sanitized for freshness. — CHRISTIAN CHENSVOLD
Tomorrow is the first day of summer, which means today is the last day of spring. Wish we could say you can scoop up these spring items at 1950 prices, but hey, at least there are sales going on right now at Brooks and Press. — CC
A couple days ago I participated in a little forum banter, pointing out that in my opinion the ubiquity of the Ivy League Look during the heyday can sometimes be overstated. What’s more, once certain items became so mainstream they certainly ceased to have any direct connection to the campus and Eastern Establishment, even if therein lay their origins. Case in point, picture John Travolta as a juvenile delinquent in “Grease.” Sure he wears penny loafers to the big dance, but they’re black. And he has grease in his hair.
Kind of like the guy above.
By chance last night I was browsing the streaming Netflix titles and ended up watching “Inventing The Abbotts.” Filmed in 1997 and starring Joaquin Phoenix and Billy Crudup, the movie is set in a small Illinois suburb and contrasts two middle-class boys brothers with three sisters from a rich family.
In the scene depicted above, Phoenix’s character shows up to a big lawn party, complete with orchestra, dolled up in his best. The costume designer has him in a white buttondown with nice collar roll, but look at the rest of his outfit: atomic-flecked ’50s sportcoat, equally radioactive Main Street necktie, and penciled-on sideburns in homage to Elvis.
Is he dressed Ivy simply because it’s 1957 and he’s wearing a buttondown, or is it more accurate to simply say he’s dressed like a suburban ’50s teenager?
Oddly enough, both Phoenix’s character and his brother end up attending the University of Pennsylvania, where their deceased father had gone. But in post-enrollment scenes the boys show virtually no sartorial development, still clad in the same pointy-collared, double-flap-pocket sport shirts and gabardine casual jackets. Was this oversight on the part of the costumer, or a deliberate decision to show that they were still small-town guys?
As a final note, I was starting to doze off when I looked up and could swear my high school was right there on the screen in high definition. I leapt to the computer to check, and sure enough “Inventing The Abbotts” was filmed at Santa Rosa High School. I was even in town at the time and don’t recall any local hoopla, which I do when it comes to “Peggy Sue Got Married” with Nicolas Cage and Kathleen Turner, which had filmed on campus the summer before I started.
Other scenes in “Inventing The Abbotts” were filmed in Petaluma, about 15 miles farther south toward San Francisco. That’s where George Lucas shot “American Graffitti,” another movie whose setting is contemporary to the Ivy heyday and shows buttons on collars, trim haircuts and penny loafers.
In other words, basic early ’60s Americana. — CC
I got taken for an employee at Brooks the other day. Hasn’t happened in a while. — CC
English lass Rebecca C. Tuite reached out to us several years ago, introducing herself as a sorority girl simpatico with our little sartorial fraternity here. She was researching the corollary of the Ivy League Look, namely the style that WASPy women wore at elite eastern colleges at the same time young men were setting styles on college campuses.
She wrote several pieces for us that combined sartorial observations with the social context of boy-girl interactions during the heyday, including “Vasser Versus Ivies Touch Football,” “Double Date,” “The Yale-Vassar Bike Race,” plus posts on “The Man In The Brooks Brothers Shirt” and a piece on Richard Frede’s collegiate novel, “Entry E.”
The fruits of her research have blossomed and ripened in the form of her recently released book, “Seven Sisters Style,” which is getting plenty of publicity. Congrats to Rebecca, and here are some images from the book that show the girls fraternizing with the fellas. — CC (Continue)