To those who complain that slim-fit shirts are evidence of Brooks Brothers having lost its way, the brethren have offered them for at least 25 years, as this late ’80s catalog shows.
In general, WASPy preppy types have preferred a generous cut to their clothing, and the sack suit got its name for a reason. But “Take Ivy” shows that the Ivy League Look had plenty of streamlined cuts in keeping with the general fashion of the early ’60s.
So shirts that actually fit — especially slender guys — may be a tad less tradly but certainly aren’t heresy. — CC
Note: This post was composed by a slender guy with a diplomatic temperament wearing a full-cut oxford under a fitted pink sweater.
As the editor of Tradsville’s news gazette for the past three years, I’ve been obliged to work my beat with at least some attempt at assiduity. That includes keeping an unjaundiced eye on the discourse at Talk Ivy, a discussion forum hosted at filmnoirbuff.com whose members are mostly from the UK and Continental Europe.
From their discourse I’ve received the general impression that English Ivy fans are a kind of retro style-tribe subculture with a fanaticism for the music and clothing from 1955-1965. This fuels them with a tireless drive to dig up forgotten historical documents such as photos, films, record albums and advertisements. When it comes to putting these things into historical and social context, however, the English are severely hampered by two things: the need to see history in a way that fits their subculture’s sensibility, and the fact that they don’t live in America.
Their “talk,” then, is primarily fandom threads about favorite clothing items, records and movies, while their analysis of the Ivy heyday is speculative and interpreted rather than fact-based and reported.
I’ve previously written about the English following the publication of “The Ivy Look” by Graham Marsh and JP Gaul, a book almost baffling in its inability to articulate — a couple of sentences would have sufficed — where the Ivy League Look comes from, how it got its name, and other such basic information in what was intended as an introductory guide. And yet it’s not hard to see why this is squeamish territory: for London style-tribe scenesters, nothing could be more unhip than the thought of dressing in the clothing style whose original arbiters were the East Coast establishment.
Combined with an avoidance of the origins of the Ivy League Look and its chief merchants (who, outside of New York, were nearly all located in the communities serving Yale, Harvard and Princeton), was the curious inclusion of all sorts of randomalia, such as Zippo lighters, Porsche speedsters and French New Wave cinema, which may share the historical timeline as the Ivy League Look’s heyday but bear no direct relation except in the imagination of tribal members.
Perhaps opting to play it safe this time, the authors’ new follow-up tome, “Hollywood And The Ivy Look,” has minimal text. And in Marsh’s one-page introduction, England’s resident Ivy expert now sounds so confused he’s resorted to a wishy-washy cop-out when it comes to addressing his readers with the topic at hand:
There is a strong case to be made that the “Ivy League Look” was, in essence, pure Brooks Brothers and did not emanate from the eight East Coast universities. The jury is out as to the final decision and probably always will be. But now, back to Hollywood and the Ivy Look…
As Marsh returns to his comfort zone with an ellipsis, the book’s real content — rare photos — are fantastic and gathering them is something to be lauded. Though the second half, as in “The Ivy Look,” falls into the same trap of including many photos, films and TV shows that feel merely contemporary to the years 1955-1965 rather than expressions of the Ivy League Look, the book is a tremendous photographic documentation of the brief time when Ivy was popular and entertainers dressed with restrained good taste.
The text’s peccadilloes are largely confined to instances of scenester-geek chumminess (“kings of the buttondown,” “our man Perkins”) and calls to style-icon mimicry and tribal initiation (“wear this outfit and you’re guaranteed a passport to the Ivy Look”). There’s also a reference to Ivy as an “aesthetic,” but perhaps I’m the only one who finds that word pompous.
But as a counter to the many fusty dullards who have kept Ivy clothiers in business over the decades, the English provide a useful reminder that American natural-shouldered clothing can, in additional to being traditional and correct, also be cool. — CHRISTIAN CHENSVOLD
Ivy Style contributor and Newton Street Vintage proprietor Zachary DeLuca returns after a long absence with this dissection of two vintage Brooks Brothers suits. For additional photos, visit his tumblr The Suit Room.
One of the best things about my job is that every so often I come across a piece so good that I have to take a moment to admire the finer points of hand-tailoring that went into it. In this instance, I found not one but two such pieces, both from Brooks Brothers, both with the black label coveted by Brooks collectors.
The first is a strange bird considering Brooks’ die-hard affiliation with the three-button sack suit: A two-button darted jacket, with an ultra-soft shoulder.
Allan Stewart Koningsberg was born in Brooklyn today in 1935. In the early part of his career, he sported the requisite garb of a New York intellectual: buttondown collars, knit ties and natural-shouldered jackets. He’s pictured above in a 1966 Smirnoff ad in white buttondown, navy and red rep tie and navy jacket — practically the same outfit worn by handsome leading man George Peppard in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” (Continue)
“Vassar College’s touch football team today issued a challenge to the Kennedy family in Washington: play us,” announced The Poughkeepsie Journal in November 1962.
The reason for such sporting confidence? In the fall of that year, Vassar students had formed the first all-female college touch football teams. With names like the Joss Jocks, Noyes Nymphs and the Senile Seniors, the good-natured teams started out by playing against each other for fun. However, in typical trailblazing Vassar fashion, football quickly became much more than a casual campus pastime. With no other female college teams to play against, they extended invitations to teams from neighbouring men’s schools, including Yale, Princeton and Siena, which led to some high-octane excitement, as students fought it out to be victors in the Vassar “Wash Bowl.”
The national press reveled in the prospect of Vassar women making a foray into the heart of typically masculine college sports. Although Vassar students were no strangers to press scrutiny, newspapers became especially enthralled by this latest sporting development, and their coverage ranged from the amused — with The New York Times observing that “Some of the dramatic highlights included huddles that resembled kaffeeklatsches” — to the mildly impressed, as The Philadelphia News reported: “Outstanding for the girls from Poughkeepsie was the speedy Dee Shell, who was a veritable reindeer in the flanker position.”
Perhaps inevitably, much of the press preferred to simply report sexist commentary and offensive jokes, with headlines like, “Hold That Line! Hold That Well-Built Line!” Articles were also quick to point out that the games were far from dangerous, as the girls could not actually be tackled, rather, they tucked a sock into the back pocket of their blue jeans and if the opponent retrieved the sock, they were tackled. Vassar players quickly realized however, that they had a much greater chance of winning if they tucked the socks deeper and deeper into their pockets, or swapped the sock to different sides constantly throughout the game, leaving their Yale or Princeton opponents in despair.
The rules may have been adapted to give the Vassar students an advantage, including being allowed more players and getting more points for touchdowns, but there was one aspect of the game that was firmly on a level playing field: the styles being worn. Photographs of Vassar students dressed in dirty denim cut-offs, Bermuda shorts, Capri pants, VC sweatshirts, crew neck sweaters and sneakers, being chased by men in equally casual garb, found their way into newspapers across the country.
The Kennedys may have become synonymous with idyllic touch football games on their estate at Cape Cod, all pastel polo shirts and perfectly rolled chinos, but Vassar girls and their opponents cultivated their own mode of football fashion that was equally appealing. The school spirit sweaters, comfy chinos and well worn denim all play an important part in that effortless, classic Ivy League and Seven Sisters uniform of the early 1960s. Perhaps the best accessory for this casual style was a rousing rendition of the chant penned by the New York Times in commemoration of Vassar’s touch football prowess: “Watch the Runner, Watch the Passer, Let’s Go Team, Let’s Go Vassar.” — REBECCA C. TUITE
Rebecca C. Tuite is a writer and fashion historian based in London currently pursuing graduate studies at University of the Arts. Her research is focused on collegiate American fashion, including the construction of the Vassar Girl style as a key archetype of American fashion and womanhood in 1950s American media. She completed her undergraduate studies at the University of Exeter and Vassar College.