Oh What a Knight: Hardwick Ads Of The ’60s

Thu 9 Aug 2012 - Filed under: 1960s,Historic Images — Christian
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“Oh what a night,” goes the Four Seasons tune, “late December back in ’63….”

Well about that same time Tennessee-based Hardwick was selling its natural-shouldered clothing to the masses in a series of chivalrous print ads.

Still extant, Hardwick was recently revealed as the manufacturer of the new Crittenden Ivy-styled sportcoats, so we thought we’d take a look at some of the company’s advertising imagery from the Ivy heyday. (Continue)

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Preppies Vs. Hippies: The Ivy League Guidebook, 1969

Wed 18 Jul 2012 - Filed under: 1960s,Historic Images,Historic Texts — Christian
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In 1969, when the Ivy League was shedding Weejuns and growing sideburns at an alarming rate, three students — Andrew Tobias, Arnold Bortz and Caspar Weinberg — published “The Ivy League Guidebook.” Exactly as its title would suggest, the book is aimed at incoming freshman and devotes a chapter to each school, plus general sections on campus life.

Although things were rapidly changing, the clichéd image of the Ivy League student was still germane enough to gently mock in the book’s opening pages:

Few labels in Ameirca today conjure up as strong an image of sophistication and success as that of “Ivy Leaguer.” Stereotypically attired in three-piece English tweed suit and stoking his pipe, the well-bred, well-read, well-heeled Ivy Leaguer stands confidently atop the American totem pole.

Well, there’s certainly no arguing with the totem pole part.

Not suprising, Princeton gets the tiger’s share of credit for male vanity. Here the book quotes a Smith College newspaper columnist:

Princeton is the only place in the world where when a boy and his date walk past a mirror, it’s the boy who stops to comb his hair. Your Princeton date will spend the whole weekend worrying whether you might possibly look better than he does.

In the Yale chapter, Press gets a mention:

… new admissions policies placing more emphasis on abilities than bloodlines (over 60 percent of the Class of ’71 attended public schools). The New Yalie is less likely to be a product of Choate, debutante parties, and J. Press Clothiers…

The following passages on preppies is one of the most interesting one on prepdom I’ve come across since starting this site. It uses that much-maligned term to characterize the twilight of the old values (not to mention legacy students) in the wake of open admissions and the Age of Aquarius. Check out this useage, from 1969 no less, in which “preppie” is essentially used to characterize a kind of reactionary ethos:

While the eight Ivy League schools may still be the bastion of preppiedom, and while in the popular mind the tweed-suited, Bourbon-sipping Groton man may still be the Ivy League archetype, preppies themselves know that even at Princeton they are a steadily decreasing minority. For the preppie is not defined by having attended private school, but by having the moderate, sometimes conservative behavior, the cliquishness, sometimes snobbery, and the traditional good taste, sometimes stuffiness, that are now being swept from the college scene by the frenetic sensuality of the plastic hippie. Preppie clubs and fraternities are being infiltrated increasingly by intellectuals, activists and artists…

On the plus side, however, the sentence concludes:

… anti-Semitism and racial discrimination are dwindling.

Certainly a good thing. But the very next paragraph whisks us back to prepdom:

Nonetheless, it seems that as long as there are football games there will be preppies. Any fall Saturday the stadiums are full of neatly shod and coifed girls from Wellesley and Mt. Holyoke, draping their braceleted arms over boys with flasks and Brooks Brothers scarves. After the game there are cocktails and dinner at the club and a party at the friends of friends.

The book’s final chapter is entitled “Student Activism: The Ivy Left,” and there’s also extended discussion about marijuana and LSD, none of which is worth quoting here. But make no mistake: The hippies won. — CC

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Madras Season: Dexys Midnight Runners

Wed 4 Jul 2012 - Filed under: 1960s,1970s,1980s,Clothes — Christian
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When madras season officially opened on Memorial Day, we ran a post showing George HW Bush clad in a madras sportcoat in company that wasn’t exactly wearing the same (can you imagine Obama or Romney doing that in 2012?) Now that July 4th marks our deeper descent into madras, this time we show the fabric in an equally unexpected context: on the backs of British pop stars. (Continue)

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Jazz, Surfing And Poetry On A Summer’s Day

Wed 20 Jun 2012 - Filed under: 1960s,Film,Historic Images,Jazz — Christian
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Today is the first day of summer. You probably don’t need a calendar to tell you that, as the entire United States is getting scorched with its first nationwide heat wave.

But summer’s aren’t endless, so make hay — or whatever else you like to do from June to August — while the sun shines.

For about five years while living in Los Angeles, my favorite summer activity was surfing. Swimming in a natural body of water — ocean, lake, river — is one of life’s great simple pleasures. Likewise, sitting on a longboard near Santa Monica pier, with the ferris wheel in the background and dolphins zipping by while you wait for the next set to come in, was one of Southern California’s great pleasures. For six weeks of the year I could get by without any wet suit (some wear them year-round), and the alternating feeling on your torso of the sun beating down and the bracing salt water upped the experience tenfold.

Released in 1966, “Endless Summer” is still considered the greatest surf film ever made. It’s a documentary that never fails to inspire a zest for life, no matter how landlocked or water-phobic you are. Check it out if you haven’t.

Though hardly Ivy League, the film does have some cool patches of midcentury style, with suntans and Wayfarers and relaxed sportswear. You’ll see surfer Mike Hynson in penny loafers and white socks and Robert August in a salmon-colored short sleeve buttondown with third button.

But even more radical than the changes that have come to surfing since 1966, with the graceful, harmonious riding of the waves on longboards replaced by the frantic slashing against the ocean that is shortboarding, is what the young Californians behind “Endless Summer” wore on their trip around the world: suits and ties. Below are August and Hynson — who appear at several points in the film in their navy and charcoal suits — and filmmaker Bruce Brown, with sneakers and cigarette: (Continue)

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Mitt Romney: A Preppy, Ivy Kinda Guy

Thu 14 Jun 2012 - Filed under: 1960s,1970s,Historic Images,Personae — Christian
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Yesterday a link to a slideshow of the young Mitt Romney somehow made its way into my inbox. I took a look and wasn’t surprised to learn that the son of Michigan’s governor and former prep school student was raised on natural shoulders, oxford buttondowns and rep ties.

At least while it was current and fashionable.

In the ’70s he went hairy like most everybody else, and today the Harvard alum looks just like any other politician: sanitized for television and downplaying his elite background with populist pablum. (Continue)

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Bay Rum, The Scent Of Madison Avenue

Thu 3 May 2012 - Filed under: 1950s,1960s — Christian
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Nearly three years ago I wrote a story for The Rake on bay rum — they’ve been sitting on it ever since.

I was reminded of it this week when Valet posted a piece on the classic fragrance, and got the mag’s permission to post the text here. Enjoy. — CC

• • •

Between 1957 and 1963, fueled by growing sales, St. John’s Bay Rum was a regular advertiser in the pages of The New Yorker. Concurrently, in 1960 Brooks Brothers began carrying a line of fragrances — including bay rum — made by Royall Lyme Bermuda Limited.

If the Atomic Age Madison Avenue man had a scent — that is, besides the smoke of Lucky Strikes embedded in his grey-flannel suit and the three-martini lunch on his breath — bay rum was probably it. Of the countless concoctions man has created to mask his natural odor — from citrus to musk, lavender to leather — one in particular has thrived for 175 years. Bay rum, a combination of bay leaves, spices and caribbean rum, might just be what civilized man was destined to smell like. And the fact that it was invented by island natives is an irony almost as piquant as bay rum’s unmistakable scent.

Perhaps it’s the word rum (sometimes spelled “rhum”) in the name, with its connotations of maritime adventure, that accounts for bay rum’s longstanding popularity. Or perhaps women adore it. They must, or else bay rum would have been selected for extinction long ago. But compared to the luxury brands whose scents fill the pages of glossy magazines, bay rum seems made for the man who frankly doesn’t give a damn. He wears it because he knows he owes good hygiene both to his fellow man and himself, not for a direct payoff in the mating game. Bay rum is what men think a man should smell like. It’s not for the man who orders a bottled pheromone, discretely billed, that’s guaranteed to aid seduction.

The origins of bay rum begin in 1838, when Danish chemist Albert Heinrich Riise arrived on St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands. He found that natives  mixed rum with the leaves of the bay tree to create an emollient used to treat sunburn, sore muscles and joints, fever and headache. Riise began experimenting with distillation processes, eventually perfecting the technique, and sold his bay rum under the name A.H. Riise Apothecary.

The fragrance flourished throughout the 19th century. Later, during Prohibition, imports of bay rum were outlawed as Americans desperate for a drink took to imbibing the cologne. World War II brought a further blow to the various manufacturers as cargo space on ships was reserved for war efforts.

In 1946, American John Webb settled on St Thomas and saw the opportunity to reintroduce the fragrance. Webb founded The West Indies Bay Company and began producing St Johns Bay Rum, which he distinctively packaged in bottles hand-wrapped by natives with tyre palm fronds. Fueled by the postwar fascination with island exotica (Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “South Pacific” hit Broadway in 1949, Hollywood in 1958), St. John’s Bay Rum was soon distributed to every major US city and most college towns.

While St. John’s and Royall Lyme Limited (which, nearly 50 years later, is still sold at Brooks Brothers) have storied connections to midcentury America, the English fragrance houses Taylor of Old Bond Street and Geo. F. Trumper have both offered bay rum for over a hundred years. Yet the most intriguing maker of bay rum today is Bonny Doon Farm, a small California upstart in Santa Cruz, 75 miles south of San Francisco, that makes, according to owner G. Edward Meehan, “the gold standard of the bay rum cologne world.”

Ingredients, Meehan says, are key. Bonny Doon Farm starts with pure, costly Virgin Islands Bay Oil directly from the source, adding fine aromatic cane spirits and Bulgarian Rose Water, “a major part of the compound dictated by the original Danish formula two centuries ago and exclusive to us,” says Meehan. The formula is then blended in small batches and cellar stored. No artificial colors are added, giving Bonny Doon’s bay rum a golden as opposed to amber hue.

Bay rums come in varying degrees of sweetness and potency. Most are considered after-shave grade and can quickly fade (Ogallala offers a “special reserve double strength” to help stay rummy all day). Experiment until you find the right rum suited to your taste, by which we mean your nose, not your palate. — CHRISTIAN CHENSVOLD

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