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
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
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)
We’ve previously featured pop tunes from the Ivy heyday (and from the good old days when guys would sing about their clothes), and here’s another one: Ronnie Haig & Jerry Siefert singing the praises of dirty white bucks and “an Ivy League coat to burn out your eye.”
“Entry E” is something of a pulp novel, telling a tale of Ivy League life in America that was considered startling on its release in 1958. But for all the adolescent angst and raucous action in this story, there is plenty of mid-century Ivy League style and quiet consideration of the “Ivy Man,” described in knowledgeable detail by the book’s author, Richard Frede, a Yale graduate.
Set in the residence hall Entry E at the fictitious Hayden University (an unconvincing alias for the real Entry E in Timothy Dwight College at Yale, where Frede resided during his time in New Haven), the novel follows Ed Bogard, an average student who becomes aware of an unsavory plan: A group of men in his entry are preparing to drug a visiting college girl over the weekend with grain alcohol and Benzedrine, rendering her defenceless to their advances. Will Bogard speak out, or will he be another example of America’s “silent generation”?
As Bogard wrestles with the typical challenge of discovering himself at college and finding his voice to speak out, there is the introduction of the “Slide Rule” and “Third Person,” imaginary entities that appear at times when Bogard feels most challenged, depressed or conflicted. But it is telling that the most interesting manifestation of his conscience, the Third Person, is a perfectly turned-out handsome man whom Bogard sees for the first time at a country club dance while at prep school:
In his mind Bogard stared at a handsome, patently omniscient paragon of a man; a man who had just stepped out of some mists Bogard had never before noticed in his mind a man dressed in a white dinner jacket and Bermuda shorts and a bow tie of the same brilliant yellow, orange, and red plaid; a man who grinned omnisciently back at Bogard and said, “The plaid of my ancestors, a warm and noble group, both emotional and adventurous, a trait which, I am afraid, you and your friends do not understand.” A man with a horrendously straight and cynical grin; a man who grinned omnisciently back at Bogard and patiently said once again, “Why don’t you go over and ask her for a date.”
Bogard doesn’t get the girl, and this love/hate relationship with the Third Person reaches its fever pitch upon enrolment at college, not least because this was Bogard’s chance to become just as well attired as his imaginary nemesis. (Continue)
Despite the fact that you’re supposed to be learning to think for yourself, college has always been a conformist environment. Those with an excess of individuality may be respected, but are rarely popular.
And even during the heyday of the Ivy League Look, not every student was a perfect example of the style. What became codified and remembered as the look was what the top echelon wore, the nonchalant moneyed types.
In short, the guys who were “shoe.”
What follows is an article entitled “How Shoe Can You Get?” by Russell Lynes, kindly provided by Esquire fashion director Nick Sullivan. In it, Lynes writes:
White Shoe applies primarily to the socially ambitious and the socially smug types who affect a good deal of worldly sophistication, run, ride and drink in rather small cliques, and look in on the second halves of football games when the weather is good. They try so hard not to be collegiate in the rah-rah (or, as they would say, “Midwestern”) sense of the term that they are probably the most “collegiate” types now in college.
Lynes wrote the book “The Tastemakers,” which I highly recommend to those interested in the sociology of taste. Ivy Style wrote about him here. — CC
* * *
How Shoe Can You Get?
By Russell Lynes
Esquire, September 1953
At Yale there is a system for pigeonholing the members of the college community which is based on the word “shoe.” Shoe bears some relation to the word chic, and when you say that a fellow is “terribly shoe” you mean that he is a crumb in the upper social crust of the college, though a more kindly metaphor might occur to you. You talk of a “shoe” fraternity or a “shoe” crowd, for example, but you can also describe a man’s manner of dress as “shoe.” The term derives, as you probably know, from the dirty white bucks which are the standard collegiate footwear (you can buy new ones already dirty in downtown New York to save you the embarrassment of looking as though you hadn’t had them all your life), but the system of pigeonholing by footwear does not stop there. It encompasses the entire community under the terms White Shoe, Brown Shoe, and Black Shoe.
White Shoe applies primarily to the socially ambitious and the socially smug types who affect a good deal of worldly sophistication, run, ride and drink in rather small cliques, and look in on the second halves of football games when the weather is good. They try so hard not to be collegiate in the rah-rah (or, as they would say, “Midwestern”) sense of the term that they are probably the most “collegiate” types now in college. Brown Shoe applies to the general run of those who are socially acceptable but above thinking that it really makes any difference. They constitute the general middle class of the college that overlaps somewhat into both White and Black; their ambition is to be the average citizen raised to the highest power compatible with being a cultured and relaxed gentleman. Black Shoe implies some of the attributes of the “grind” and is applied to those who participate a little too eagerly in seminars, literary teas, and discussions of life, literature, and the pursuit of philosophy. They are in college because they consider it primarily an educational and not a social institution; they mind their own business rather intensely, are probably in love with the girls they will eventually marry, and in many respects appear a good deal more sophisticated and grown up than the White Shoe crowd.
The shoe categories obviously allow for a great deal more precise definition than this, as I have no doubt the first Yale man you meet will tell you. But pleasant as it is under the elms of New Haven, let us move into other groves of academe. We will have to take our “shoes” with us, however; the terminology may not be the same in all the colleges, but we will keep finding men whom the shoes will fit. (Continue)