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Secret Society: NSA Recruiting Ads At Brown, 1968

Thu 24 Apr 2014 - Filed under: 1960s,Historic Texts — Zachary DeLuca
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Associate editor Christopher Sharp follows up on our last post, a slideshow on the Brown engineering department, with these late ’60s recruitment ads from Brown’s college newspaper.

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While perusing the archives of a Brown University student newspaper, I found myself venturing where most traditionalists dare not tread: the late ’60s.

My intent was to investigate how the former captains of cool, the campus haberdashers, navigated the choppy waters of the counter culture. Before long, however, I was distracted by advertisements for Tiny Tim albums and lost myself in pondering how great it would have been to have attended the Cream concert the paper was promoting. Although I never got back on track, I discovered some advertisements that speak not only to their time, but also to ours.

The first advertisement I encountered was for Gant shirts. Rendered in an illustration style associated with the ’60s, the figure is serene in his button shirt as he lights his briar pipe:

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With this image fresh in my mind, a few pages later I was struck by another ad featuring a young man smoking a pipe. Still modern in style, the image of a second smoker also conveys a sense of ease. His pipe, buttondown and rep tie, however, are juxtaposed with state of the art computer equipment. Guess the advertiser. IBM? Rockwell Aerospace? Bell Labs? Nope, the National Security Agency (see top illustration).

The connection between the Ivy League and the CIA is well documented. Apparently, the NSA also found the Ivy League fertile ground for recruitment, and, during a time of growing public distrust in government and increased unrest on campuses nationwide, sought their ideal candidate at Brown University.

Historically, the NSA has been one of the most secretive government agencies. By 1968 the FBI and CIA were firmly ensconced in myth, mystery, and the stuff of spy fiction, while the technological warriors at the NSA flew below the public radar.

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If this hyper-secrecy protected it from preying eyes, it also left no room for anyone to appreciate its history. One of the first documents I found was a redacted early history of the organization, written circa 1973. It became available only as recently as 2007, through a Freedom of Information request.

In 2012 the NSA celebrated its 60th anniversary. To mark the occasion, the agency released a cache of documents, including an historical flip book, an interactive timeline and a recruiting manual from 1960 which states, “An intensive college recruitment program is conducted annually and is the primary source for this agency’s new professional employees.” Liberal Arts students were welcome if they could pass the aptitude test and were selected for “highly specialized work.” An Ivy League recruit would find at the NSA a culture of suits, smoking and silent service.  After all, NSA stood for “No Such Agency.”

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Despite its draconian secrecy, or perhaps, because of it, the agency did seem to have a lighter side. There was the Miss NSA Pageant and the three day Fall Festival. All of it internally documented the NSA Newsletter.

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These photos and newsletters remind us that spies are people, too. Which brings us to the present. We are again at point in the nation’s history were Americans are growing distrustful of their government. The NSA is in the headlines once more. Take a look at the advertisements from 1968 and consider if the agency, and the public perception of it, have changed. — CHRISTOPHER SHARP

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Brown University Engineering Students, Circa Early ’60s

Tue 22 Apr 2014 - Filed under: 1960s,Film — Christian
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I believe it was Derek at Die Workwear! who stumbled upon this, or stumbled upon another stumbler. Either way, it’s a great chronicle of student dress during the Ivy heyday, including plenty of white socks, shorts hems, and penny loafers. — CC

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Haircuts: Ivy League Versus Beatles

Sat 12 Apr 2014 - Filed under: 1960s,Historic Images — Christian
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Last night the CBS evening news did a story on Joe Brown of Pensacola, FL, who is still a hardworking barber at the age of 98. Patrons were asked, as they should have been, whether they feel safe in the hands of a nearly century-old tonsorian, especially when he breaks out the straight razor. But apparently his skills are still sharp and he gives a good cut.

Mr. Brown said that the low point in his very long career was when the Beatles became the rage and hair styles — along with pretty much everything else — began to change.

And so we present the above photo, alerted to us by ever-faithful reader “OldSchool,” as an illustration of the battle between Ivy and Beatles haircuts. I wonder which side won? — CC

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Cornell’s Trad Shop: A Surprising Discovery Of Historical Precedent

Tue 4 Feb 2014 - Filed under: 1960s,Clothes,Historic Images — Christian
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I could hardly believe it, but there it was right in front of me: a grainy newspaper photo of a group of happy haberdashers under a sign in Old English script that read “The Trad Shop.”

How could this be? The general consensus in the natural-shoulder enthusiast community is that the word “trad” refers roughly to the Ivy League Look in Japan, and that it was never used in the US to refer to the natural-shoulder genre. To believe otherwise is to embrace an artificial construct of the Internet age.

But the question now is what to do when you find the exception to the rule. I believe that a dispassionate examination of the evidence will show that this anomaly adds to the richness of the Ivy story for those who love both clothes and the business acumen that brought them to the public. So let’s delve in and meet Stuart Lewis and The Trad Shop, which served the Cornell campus during the Ivy heyday. (Continue)

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Stanley Blacker, Mr. Sport Coats

Mon 18 Nov 2013 - Filed under: 1960s,Clothes — Christian
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As our exploration of “cool Ivy” continues, assistant editor Chris Sharp examines this Stanley Blacker advertisement, which is held in special reverence in the jazzier corners of Tradsville.

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This Stanley Blacker advertisement is from 1965 and features an American blazer being offered at a British store. When it appeared on the Film Noir Buff Talk Ivy forum in July of 2009, it created quite a stir.

One of the most passionate defenses of the look presented was from “Gibson Gardens” (believed to be the online handle for John Gall, co-author of “The Ivy Look”), who wrote the following:

If you think that Stanley Blacker jacket is all wrong and is badly cut then you are on the wrong website…. The jacket featured in that ad is just about as definitively Ivy League as you can get. It’s what the whole look is about, the spine of an aesthetic… Dismissing that Stanley Blacker jacket on this forum is akin to a Christian who rejects the Bible. Here we are presented with that weirdly straight almost asexual Ivy style in its absolute most perfect expression at the height of the original Golden Age of Ivy. This is a sacred text upon which we are gazing and I react with Al-Qaeda-like fury and intolerance when the very roots of the look are so nonchalantly dismissed with a few ignorant pokes at a keyboard.

So who is this Stanley Blacker who offered a blazer that has risen to such iconic status across the pond and prompted such a vigorous defense? (Continue)

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JFK On PBS

Mon 11 Nov 2013 - Filed under: 1960s,Personae — Christian
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 Tonight at 9 PM is the premiere of a new JFK documentary on PBS. Here’s the description:

Forever enshrined in myth by an assassin’s bullet, Kennedy’s presidency long defied objective appraisal. Recent assessments have revealed an administration long on promise and vigor, and somewhat lacking in tangible accomplishment. His proposals for a tax cut and civil rights legislation, however, promised significant gains in the months before his assassination. While maturation, as evidenced in the handling of the Cuban missile crisis, was apparent, the potential legacy of the New Frontier will forever be left to speculation.

We encourage you to watch and discuss here.

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