In our last post we mentioned a 1954 LIFE Magazine article entitled “The Ivy Look Heads Across US.” It’s been referenced several times here, including in a few of Richard Press’ columns, as J. Press was largely featured in the article.
But we’ve never actually presented it here and new readers may not be familiar with it. We’ll follow up the presentation of it below with Richard’s next column, in which he’ll recount his 15 minutes of fame when the LIFE issue came out and he was a wee lad in prep school. Trust me, it’s one of his most amusing columns to date.
Following that, Rebecca Tuite will examine “Boola Boola,” the 1958 book about life at Yale by Julien Dedman, author of the Playboy article on Brooks Brothers featured in our last post.
I can think of a couple of other things that would be apropros to this series as well, so stay tuned for a nice run of interelated historical posts.
Now back to LIFE. The story ran in the November 22 edition of the weekly magazine, the entire contents of which are viewable here via Google Books.
Here are highlights from the text:
The “Ivy League look” identified with determinedly inconspicuous New England males for over 50 years and with Madison Avenue advertising men for the past 10, has now got out of eastern hands and is making its way across the country.
It has also got away from upper-bracket tailors and into the hands of cut-rate clothiers like S. Klein, whose advertisement gives as complete and compact a definition of the look as has ever been written. The popularity of the natural-looking suit has widened quickly in the last two years as men became dissatisfied with pale bulky suits and flashy ties left over from their postwar splurge.
Although the authentic Madison Avenue uniform perpetuated by Brooks Brothers and campus-originated shops like J. Press has nonexistent shoulders and fits so snugly that it looks a size too small, facsimiles from volume clothing manufacturers and tailors are less severe in cut. To reaffirm their individualism beleaguered Ivy Leaguers are considering adding a fourth button to their jackets or resorting to a radical new silhouette.
And on the second page:
A New Haven institution which rivals Yale in some well-tailored hearts is J. Press, established in 1902 and now carried on by the founder’s two sons. Its slope-shouldered product, which the Press boys consider the only acceptable dress for a normal Yale man, has scarcely changed over the years.
Press has branch stores in New York and in Cambridge and maintains traveling representatives to replenish the wardrobes of scattered alumni customers. Sometimes regarded as more of a club than a clothes shop, J. Press is delighted rather than dismayed that its look is now capturing the country.
In closing, the other day another reference to 1954 came to me: That’s the year that Charlie Davidson recalls dressing Miles Davis, which he told me in the “Ivy League Jazz” story for Ralph Lauren that inspired me to create this site. It’s an anecdotal reference, to be sure, but I think we have a solid case for the bookends of the Ivy League Look’s broad popularity: 1954-1967.
Up next, Richard Press. — CHRISTIAN CHENSVOLD
Recently on Ivy Style’s Facebook page a reader posted an article by Julien Dedman entitled “That Brooks Brothers Look.” A quick investigation revealed that the article comes from the February, 1954 issue of Playboy, and that Dedman had graduated from Yale in 1948.
I’ve argued several times for the year 1967 as an end of the heyday, and I think we may now have a strong candidate for the beginning. Nineteen-fifty-four is the same year LIFE Magazine published its “Ivy Look Heads Across US” story. The Ivy League Look must have been new enough to warrant these mass media stories, but not popular enough to feel like old news.
The article includes the above illustration from Shepherd Mead’s book “How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying,” which Playboy had modified to show that all the items should be sourced at Brooks Brothers. Scans of the full article, which is a bit difficult to read, can be seen on our Facebook page (scroll down to the entry from July 13). (Continue)
Our recent post on striped sportcoats included a vintage ad by Clipper Craft Clothes, and so we thought it worth following up with a gallery devoted to the brand. During the heyday of the Ivy League Look, Clipper Craft was a brand that explicitly touted its Ivy authenticity in advertorials placed in mainstream magazines.
In 2009 a short thread was started at the Ask Andy Trad Forum in which a member dug up some info on the origins of the brand, which was founded in Boston. By the heyday, the brand was championing its “New England tailoring” along with its affordable prices. It also created a campaign with tiger heads grafted onto its suits, from back when “tiger” was common slang for a ladies’ man: (Continue)
One of the pleasures of spending time among archival material is the chance discovery. We recently came across an Izod Lacoste advertisement that was used in 1958 and 1959, placed by The Andover Shop.
On the surface it does not appear different from other Izod-Lacoste advertising material from the period. It carries the sobriety one might expect from the faux Anglo-Franco alliance. While the French side was real — Lacoste was founded by the tennis champ Rene Lacoste, nicknamed “Le Crocodile” — the other pard is English in name only. Izod was a London tailor, but an American bought the rights to use his name to play up the English pedigree.
The ad’s illustrated model is a mature golfer, his trousers pleated and his shirt buttons all buttoned up — quite incorrectly, as The Andover Shop’s Charlie Davidson says this was never done. It is likely a stock image.
The curious part is where the advertisement was placed, who placed it, and the Ivy-relevant copywriting that is going to invite a comparison to our previous piece on the difference — or not — between Ivy and preppy.
The ad appeared in the Phillipian, the student newspaper of Phillips Academy (long known as a feeder school to Yale) and the advertiser is none other than The Andover Shop. The ad copy certainly isn’t stock and is a veritable ode to Ivy:
Through the hallowed halls of learning
And the fields of sport and play
Strides the modern Ivy League man
In the costume of the day.
In his clothing there’s distinction
And he knows the signs of style
On his slacks a silver buckle
On his shirt a crocodile.
For the croc’s a sign of quality
Of shoulders never sagging
Of collars that will always fit
And garments never bagging
Its built a reputation
Its fame just grows and grows
Chemise Lacoste is worn by
Every Ivy man who knows.
Yet further evidence, we think, that the preppy style that flourished in the ’70s had the bulk of its origins in the Ivy League Look of a generation before.
We called Charlie Davidson and asked if he had any recollection of the ad, but he did not. By that time he was running just the Cambridge store, with family members running the branch in Andover.
He did recall that Lacoste shirts from that period were of exceptional quality, and that while he never liked to stock name brands, Lacoste sold better than any brand he’s ever carried.
Charlie also recalled how the shirts were worn with the collar popped, and how “guys in Southampton would wear two at a time,” but he couldn’t tell us precisely what decade these trends first emerged. — CHRISTOPHER SHARP & CHRISTIAN CHENSVOLD
This month marks the 60th anniversary of Gucci’s famous horsebit loafer, which solidified itself in the preppy wardrobe sometime in the 1970s, where it remains to this day. Even a shoemaker as conservative as Alden sees fit to offer a version. (Continue)
In our recent rise and fall essay, you may have noticed that one of the differences between Ivy’s prewar golden age and postwar silver age is that hats used to be worn on campus. But in 1965, after President Kennedy supposedly dealt the hat the coup de grace, the only hats you see in “Take Ivy” are on the working stiffs of Madison Avenue.
You probably didn’t notice, however, that Tuesday was National Hat Day. I only know because the Headwear Association sent me a press release. (Continue)
Once the Ivy League Look gained popularity during the silver age of the ’50s, Main Street clothiers used the term as an advertising buzzword. Needless to say, Brooks Brothers and J. Press never had to resort to the term, and in fact dismissed the term “Ivy League” with mild scorn, as they’ve always done with every popular term applied to their clothing.
This Taylor-Made shoe ad lays it on pretty thick. As if the term “Ivy League” didn’t carry enough weight, the copywriter further drives the point home with “aristocracy” and “patrician.”
The ad dates from 1955, well before the world was turned upside-down in the late ’60s, when it became cooler to identify with the peasantry than the aristocracy.
But Taylor-Made knew how to play to both sides. This 1953 ad shows it could appeal to radicals in penny loafers. Vive la revolution. — CHRISTIAN CHENSVOLD