The 1930s was the time of the Great Depression, yet simultaneously it was also the golden age of Hollywood glamor and of masculine elegance. It was also the time when the Ivy League Look flourished, though within closed corridors, the aristocratic golden age versus the postwar, democratic silver age.
This article from the Yale Alumni Magazine details what life was like for New Haven students while others were fleeing the Dust Bowl. There was homework, but there was also football games, junior proms, and shopping for white bucks, as shown in the photo above.
Here’s an excerpt:
Life at Yale for wealthy undergraduates resembled escapist movies about the rich and carefree. They enjoyed their automobiles, weekends in New York, country club summers, sailing on Martha’s Vineyard, and trips to Europe. Spectator yachts lined the Thames when Yale rowed against Harvard at New London in June.
When the residential colleges opened in September 1933, undergraduates selected by the college masters (there was not room for all) lived in luxurious suites, ordered meals from printed menus and were served by uniformed waitresses, and after eating perhaps repaired to the squash courts for exercise fitting their station in life. Faculty fellows of the colleges delighted in weekly dinners followed by port, conversation, and sometimes bridge or poker. The residential faculty fellows (bachelors only) had large apartments. The masters lived with their families in mansions worthy of bank presidents before the fall.
Varsity football prospered. Games filled the Yale Bowl with cheering students and alumni. Gate receipts held up so well during the Depression that in 1931, the chair of President Herbert Hoover’s committee for unemployment relief asked Yale to hold a postseason benefit game with other elite schools. In 1937, Yale raised the salary of one part-time assistant football coach, law student Gerald R. Ford ’41LLB, from $3,000 to $3,500, more than that of an entering junior faculty instructor with a PhD.
Some alumni recalled afterwards that they were oblivious to conditions outside of Yale. Hear Senator William Proxmire ’38: “We lived in a kind of disembodied cocoon, a deliberate isolation from what we could see and smell and hear when we left the New Haven Campus. . . . Most of my classmates were wholly preoccupied with sports and girls and grades, and bull sessions about sports and girls and grades—in that order. If you wanted to be happy, it was a great time to be a Yalie. If you wanted to be serious—you had to wait.”
Surely this was the real heyday? — CC & CS
In my junior year of college my dorm room was decorated in a retro manner. One day a salesman hocking fake Polo and other fragrances popped his head through my open doorway. He took a look at two pictures on the wall and said, trying to break the ice, “Are those your folks?”
Slightly annoyed by the intrusion, I glanced over to see that the salesman was referring to a pair of Chesterfield cigarette ads depicting Perry Como and Joe Stafford.
Thirty-five years before I even set foot on campus, brands such as Chesterfield, Lucky Strike, Philip Morris and Camel were already locked in struggle to win the hearts, minds and lung tissue of the college crowd. Recent discussion of smoking on the site got me looking at the advertising directed at the college and university students. Most of the images presented here are from 1950-54. They break down into celebrity endorsements, with college and university class affiliation noted, student taste-test endorsements, popularity via sales volume at the co-op or college tobacconist, and student survey and humor.
The Lucky Strike jingle-writing contest ran during this period also. College students got to be junior “Mad Men” with a $25 prize for winners. Princeton winner Richard Boeth, class of 1954, when asked by the Daily Princtonian how he planned to spend his prize money, said, “I’ve drunk it up already,” indicating cigarettes weren’t his only vice. The ads became a combination of cornball jingles and exploitive sweater girl drawings, which is probably why I like them.
Every time we visit this theme we get our fair share of abuse. Seems there is little empathy anymore for what fashion writer Paul Keers called “a generation who believed that a drink before and a cigarette afterwards, were the three best things in life.” — CHRISTOPHER SHARP
Elegance Week and Halloween collide in this last-minute costume idea courtesy of this ad from a 1936 edition of The Daily Princetonian.
Just dust off your old tux, head off to that Halloween party, and say you’re dressed as an elite college kid from the thirties. Since no student dresses this way today, it qualifies as costume.
Don’t fall asleep without brushing your sugar-soaked teeth tonight. We’ll conclude our series on elegance tomorrow with a little show and tell from me. — CHRISTIAN CHENSVOLD
On Tuesday The Chicago Tribune ran a feature on Brooks Brothers and its historic archive based in Chantilly, VA. Entitled “The Hidden Story Of Brooks Brothers,” you can check it out here. — CC
Last Friday I had the pleasure of sitting next to man-of-the-moment Jack Carlson (author of “Rowing Blazers” and fresh off his packed party at Polo) at the National Arts Club. We were watching slideshow presentations on preppy and Seven Sisters style from Jeffrey Banks and Rebecca Tuite.
Meanwhile, unassuming in a corner of the hall, was a display of collegiate memorabilia from Enrique Crame III of Fine & Dandy Shop. I took a few quick shots, then stopped by the shop over the weekend for a few more. Enrique’s been collecting for a long time and the shop boasts only a fraction of what he has, so expect to see more in subsequent posts.
Stop by the store if you’re in New York, or shop online if you’re not. They’ve got a great assortment of accessories, and, after all, the devil (who’s a dandy) is in the details. — CC (Continue)
At a party you never want to be the first to arrive nor the last to leave, though someone inevitably must be. Dorm life (which is kind of like an endless party) is no different. This young chap is either an eager beaver at the start of the year, or a sentimental sap waxing contemplative after everyone else is long gone. From the Brown Alumni Magazine, 1953.
Chris Sharp found the photo. Maybe next he’ll find the guy and ask him whether he was coming or going. — CC