Ivy Style continues its tribute to Squaresville Appreciation Month with a tribute to hipster Lenny Bruce’s nemesis, Bob Newhart, who, despite having a button-down mind, wore mostly tab-collared shirts.
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Sometime in the early ’80s I was visiting my great grandfather’s third wife, who was living in the Dell Webb retirement golf community of Sun City, Arizona. When my father announced we were going to see Bob Newhart, I did not give it much thought, since he was a regular guest in our home Saturday nights via his sitcom “The Bob Newhart Show.”
Newhart was on a standup tour. “The Bob Newhart Show” had concluded in 1978 and he had not yet pick up “Newhart,” which debuted in 1982. We went to the theatre on the appointed day. I looked at the crowd of sportswear-clad seniors, their skin the color and texture of vintage saddle bags, their ages ranging from Jurassic to the living dead, and realized I was the youngest person in the audience by decades.
Newhart went through his personal canon with acts like the “Driving Instructor” and “Introducing Tobacco to Civilization.” It can safely be said the material was new to me and yet I had the awareness that the audience knew the material by heart. There were elements of the act that were 20 years old, longer then my life time and yet merely yesterday to the nostalgia-hungry audience.
I couldn’t fathom at the time how large Bob Newhart figured in the popular culture of the early 1960s. Newhart’s first album, “The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart,” was recorded at the Tidelands Club in Houston, Texas and released in 1960. The album climbed to number one on the Billboard chart, beating out Elvis. The album would hold number one with its follow-up, “The Button -Down Mind Strikes Back!” anchoring the number two position. They would then switch positions, with both Newhart albums holding the top two slots for 35 weeks, a feat not replicated again for 30 years, while “The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart” remains the to- selling comedy album of the 20th century. (Continue)
W. David Marx, who recently gave us his interview with “Take Ivy” author Toshiyuki Kuroso, today shared on Ivy Style’s Facebook page his Pinterest devoted to Japanese Ivy books he’s discovered. It’s another fascinating glimpse into Japan’s longstanding reverence for American natural-shouldered clothing. (Continue)
Earlier this month the Dallas Morning News did a style tribute to JFK. There’s plenty to nitpick in the story, including the awkwardly oxymoronic line that Kennedy’s style influence is “arguably eternal,” but there were a few parts I thought interesting.
First off is this 1958 quote referring to “Brooks Brothers couture”:
“This night, Jack Kennedy — the young Eastern millionaire with the Harvard accent, the Brooks Brothers couture and the egghead ideas — had them standing on their chairs, whistling and shouting.” — Cabell Phillips, The New York Times, July 13, 1958
Later, the author paints this terse picture of Kennedy’s off-duty style:
Off-duty, Kennedy’s style was as refreshing. His upper-class, Ivy League life before Washington meant growing up wearing that echelon’s staples: tweed sports coats, Shetland wool crew neck sweaters, brightly colored polo shirts, khakis and loafers.
Then we get this quote:
“He never looked shabby. It was his culture to dress better than he had to.”
But the next part is most interesting as it reflects Main Street clothiers’ appropriating of the Ivy League Look during the heyday:
Said Derrill Osborn, the former vice president of men’s tailored clothing for Neiman Marcus: “Being a student of the Ivy League period, which took hold during John Kennedy’s three years as president, I can attest [it] was a great moment in clothes.”
“We copied him,” said Osborn, then a menswear buyer in New York for Saks Fifth Avenue stores. “I sold Ivy League by the carloads. It was really about the adoration the youth had with Kennedy and the Beatles. It was the early ’60s.”
Saks had long catered to the student population in college towns, but surely never sold Ivy by the carloads except during the heyday, which, like JFK’s Camelot, was fleeting. — CC
As a follow-up to our interview with “Take Ivy” author Toshiyuki Kurosu, here’s a post we discovered recently on a blog called Wax Wane. It features some photos we hadn’t seen before of Japanese Ivy enthusiasts in the ’60s, as well as some magazine covers such as the one above, and some of those cute little Japanese cartoon characters. (Continue)
I am currently working on a book about the importation of Ivy League fashion into Japan in the 1960s, and as part of the research I sat down with Toshiyuki Kurosu (pictured above second from left) in February at the Kamakura Shirts office in Tokyo.
Kurosu is legendary in Japan as one of the very first people to ever discover and wear Ivy League clothing. After joining brand VAN in 1961 at age 24, he convinced his boss Ishizu Kensuke to re-focus the whole company on Ivy style, a risky move that eventually brought the company incredible success, fame, and fortune. And as both a VAN employee and a writer for Men’s Club, Kurosu later became part of the team who created the legendary photo book “Take Ivy.” — W. DAVID MARX
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IS: How did you discover Ivy League style in Japan?
TK: The first time I saw the word “Ivy” was Spring 1954 in the very first issue of magazine Otoko no Fukushoku (later renamed Men’s Club). In the issue, there was a glossary of menswear terms, organized by A-to-Z, and there was an entry for “Ivy League style” that read “In America, Ivy is very popular among college students.” That’s all that was written, but I was intrigued. I thought, that’s probably something I would like.
I then realized that I had seen African-American soldiers wearing clothes like that out at the Tachikawa Airfield where I would play in jazz bands. These guys were incredibly stylish. This was the middle of the Korean War, so there were a lot of aircraft coming in and out of Tachikawa. Everyone had money, and there were a lot of suit tailors, shirt-makers, and shoe places located near the camp. My friends and I all loved America, so we’d go out to the clothing stores near the camp, and say, make us what those guys are wearing.
At the time Japanese tailors didn’t know anything about Ivy style. They couldn’t do a “natural shoulder,” so you’d end up with these huge pads. When I made my first Ivy suit at a normal tailor, they just put a third button on top of the normal two-buttons. The silhouette wasn’t Ivy or anything — it was just weird. But I of course wore it thinking it was great.
IS: What was so appealing about Ivy style to you?
TK: It was just the total opposite of Japanese fashion at the time. All the hip musicians wore one-button suit jackets with huge shoulders. I couldn’t even understand the Ivy look as fashion — it was too different. When I started wearing Ivy clothing, people would say, you look like a mayor of a small town in the countryside. That was the image. But that’s what made it fun. I didn’t like it because it was new, but because it was strange. The other people to get into Ivy early in Japan were mostly art school students. (Continue)