As we reach the heart of summer, I sense a deprivation. It goes virtually unnoticed, and yet it is there for any Ivy enthusiast to investigate. The stores are full of the requisite madras and seersucker, but little else. Compared to the Ivy boom years, or even the golden age of the 1930s, it appears as if part of the color palette is missing, pattern is virtually nonexistent, and ethnically diverse fabrics are nowhere to be found. Some will contend that this is natural selection, that madras and seersucker won fair and square. Others will point out that in a shrinking market, you offer what sells and no longer take risks. A third faction will wish we not peruse the subject at all. But we are going there.
Before the full ascent of the counter culture, back in the days of in loco parentis, there was a burst of sartorial hedonism on campus that students took to with Tahitian abandon. This was expressed in an appreciation for native fabrics. The first fabric family are those that use a dye-resistant technique. This style of cloth dates back at least 1,500 years, and is found in Africa, the Middle East, India and China. For many enthusiasts, the pinnacle of this style is represented in the batiks of Java and the East Indies. Batik takes it entomological roots from the word “ambatik,” which means “to write with little dots.” The word harkens back to the Dutch colonial period, when various forms of the word like mbatek, batik, batek and battik were used. Dutch records from the 17th century report “highly decorated fabrics,” but it wasn’t until the importation of fine quality cloth in the 19th century that allowed the elaborate style to flourish. (Continue)
This ad from mass-market clothier Galey & Lord dates from 1965. But apparently that’s no random model who sat for the portrait. According to textilehistory.org:
In the mid-1960s, six prominent socialites had their portraits painted by Henry Koehler. The garments were crafted using G&L fabrics. Ads appeared in the New York Times Feb 2, 1965.
If that’s your father, leave a comment and let us know.
(Postscript: Galey & Lord ad from six years later, after the fall.) — CC
The era of men wearing proper hats has certainly gone the way of the dodo. Blame it on JFK. Still, there are older men and younger dandies who are somehow keeping the hat business afloat. For them, May 15th is a special day, as it’s the traditional date of putting away your wool hats and bringing out your straw hats, marking the sartorial turn from the cold winter to the warm summer.
Vintage photos reveal that this tradition was present during the Ivy heyday. Young men are out in lighter fabrics, donning their straw hats, and generally looking pleased to be out of the harsh Eastern winter.
“Hat bands were made of a variety of different fabrics with bright, summery colorways,” recalls Richard Press, former president of J. Press. “Madras, batik and rep bands were common and were a part of the Ivy summertime uniform.”
The boater hat in particular made its way into the wardrobes of various Ivy men. It has always been the oddball piece of headwear. It was a specialty hat, often worn by members of the cheerleading squads and university bands. “Boaters were also worn specifically for sporting events, such as the Kentucky Derby,” says Press, “and rowing events on the Charles and Schuylkill rivers.”
While it’s appearance is quirky, it’s association with sports and school pride made it suitable at such events for the students. The first three photos are from the 1953 Skimmer Day at Penn, while the botoom photo is of the Princeton band in 1961. — MATTHEW KARL GALE (Continue)
On Friday the Metro-North line, which runs from Grand Central Station up through Connecticut, served its last alcoholic beverage. Perfect excuse to revisit this LIFE Magazine photo gallery from Ivy Style’s first year. — CC
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 buttondown shirt as he lights his briar pipe:
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).
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
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