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)
In case you hadn’t heard, tomorrow is Tartan Day. To celebrate, we’re sharing a LIFE Magazine article from 1950 (scroll down to page 123) that showcased Yale students in plaid vests and Andover preps in plaid caps.
The article opens with this:
When the British caught wind of the fact that American men were developing a fancy for bright tartan dinner jackets, they were unhappy. In London, tailor and Cutter, the haberdasher’s bible called them “deplorable,” then was forced to backtrack when King George ordered a couple himself.
In this passage, Chipp (whose team is pictured above) and its role in pushing the whole concept of go-to-hell is further cemented:
Tartans have been worn for some time by a few individualists, mainly in the east and mainly customers of a New York tailor called Chipp.
Main Street, or at least urban department stores, soon took notice:
This winter the Florida resort season established them as a real fashion. Now the big department stores are about to break out with plaid dinner jackets for what is expected to be a wide market.
Below are some outtakes from the photo shoot from the LIFE archives. Have a great Tartan Day. I’ll be celebrating with Blackwatch boxers. — CC (Continue)
In the reliably lively commentary on the last post, commenter “Oxford Cloth Button Down” called attention to a couple of four-button jackets in the latest York Street collection. As divisive as York Street is, the jackets will no doubt fan the flames of distaste.
But what appears as another case of youth-market flippancy actually has its roots in the J. Press archives. When I first saw the York Street jackets, I was reminded of a post I wrote back in 2009 about a 4/3 roll jacket from J. Press featured in a 1952 issue of Gentry:
The Gentry article calls the 4/3 a reference to the 1920s, and I think there is a specter of ’20s influence at work in the York Street jacket. With its half belt, flapped breast pocket, and military-style pointed pocket flaps, it looks like a cropped, nipped version of a half-Norfolk shooting coat.
All this thinking of 4/3 jackets has me wondering how a traditional four-button coat would be received today if it was re-released by J.Press, unaldulterated, as it was in 1952. Is it an obscure classic that deserves a comeback, or an abomination that needs to stay dead? Cast your vote. — ZACHARY DELUCA
Zachary DeLuca is a freelance writer who also operates Newton Street Vintage. He was recently appointed Ivy Style’s assistant editor.
Commenting on our article “Is Ivy Cool?” reader “Camford” asked, “Are cigarettes and jazz cool?” I cannot say whether they are cool. Well, I could, but I won’t, as my physician, insurance agent and childhood music teacher might be reading this article. But I believe they are both addictive and potentially lethal.
When I was young and impressionable, I saw a jazz documentary on my local PBS station and have never been the same since. Years later I learned it was Bert Stern’s smoked-infused 1958 bacchanalia “Jazz On A Summer’s Day.” It should have come with a warning label. To this day I struggle with the compulsion to drink Rheingold beer and dance on rooftops, an endeavor I know is as foolhardy as a Lucky Strike habit.