Dateline 1929: Princeton Invents Brown Tweed & Grey Flannel Combo?

Wed 6 Feb 2013 - Filed under: 1920s-'40s,Clothes,Historic Texts — Christian
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Ivy Style recently received a dispatch from scholar Deirdre Clemente, who is busy doing groundbreaking research on the history of college students as consumers. In fact, she said her career might be made if she can get a paper into a certain scholarly journal. When they say academia is publish or perish, they’re not kidding.

Clemente presented at the MFIT’s “Ivy Style” symposium, and did a piece for us years ago on Princeton, which is one of her specialties.

Now she sends the excerpt below, which has us wondering if Princeton guys essentially wrote the rulebook for dressing Ivy. Here they are credited with popularizing the wearing of brown odd jackets with grey flannel trousers in 1929. It’s from an April, 1935 passage in a publication called the Fashion Group Bulletin. According to Clemente, “You rarely get an exact date for a trend like this.” (Continue)

Brooks Clothes & White Shoes: Harvard Blues, 1941

Mon 17 Dec 2012 - Filed under: 1920s-'40s,Historic Texts,Jazz — Christian
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On our recent white bucks and grey flannels post, Bruce Boyer left a comment mentioning the song “Harvard Blues.” Considering it’s been on our editorial calendar for about four years, I’d say it’s high time we do a post on it.

The song, recorded in 1941 by Count Basie, opens with these immortal lines:

I wear Brooks clothes and white shoes all the time

I wear Brooks clothes and white shoes all the time

Get three “Cs,” a “D” and think checks from home sublime

The lyrics were written by George Frazier, best pal of The Andover Shop’s Charlie Davidson. Odd then that when they played the duende game, they always placed Basie second fiddle to Ellington.

I’ll leave you with one more quote on white bucks and flannels, this time from Elizabeth Hawes’ 1939 book “Men Can Take It.” — CC

At Harvard they have something called “white-shoe boys.” I gather it is okay to be one if you feel that way. It appears to be the Harvard idea carried to its furthest extreme. These are the sloppiest and worst-dressed of all the Harvard men, I was told. They wear dirty black and white shoes which turn up at the toes, black or white socks and gray flannels, very unpressed, tweed coats — and collars and ties, of course… The thing that distinguishes a “white-shoe boy” is his shoes — and the fact he has the guts to wear them ansd still feel okay socially.

 

Bits At Burdine’s: The Squire Shop, 1968

Wed 12 Dec 2012 - Filed under: Clothes,Historic Texts,Ivy Trendwatch,Lit — Christian
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A couple of weeks ago we posted a collection of vintage Dexter advertisements, and here’s an interesting follow up. In 1968, as the Ivy League Look was plummeting in popularity, the shoe that would cement itself as a preppy staple in the 1970s was gradually garnering greater attention.

The above ad is from The Palm Beach Post and plugs the Squire Shop, the in-store campus shop of Florida department store chain Burdine’s. Here Dexter bit loafers are paired with Gant buttondowns and a Hunter Haig three-piece sack suit in the ’60s Ivy palette of gray and olive.

Bit loafers may be a common sight today in Palm Beach; three-piece sack suits not so much. — CC

 

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

 

The Ivy League Look In Australia In The ’50s

Wed 4 Apr 2012 - Filed under: 1950s,Historic Images,Historic Texts — Christian
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During the heyday of the Ivy League Look, the natural-shoulder diaspora spread not only from the Ancient Eight to campuses across America, it also spread to far corners of the globe.

In March of 1957, The Sydney Morning Herald reported on the growing trend for American Ivy League clothes. Farmer’s is a department store that sponsored an Esquire column in the paper, where the style was reported. (Continue)

 
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