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
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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)
In his previous columns, Richard Press has shared his memories of the Ivy heyday and his decades at J. Press. This time he shares something he wrote in 1955 while a freshman at Dartmouth. It has the triple importance of being authored at an Ivy League college by a family member of one of the preeminent Ivy clothiers and written at the dawn of the heyday.
Entitled “The Ivy Look,” the article appeared in DART, the school’s humor magazine, and was co-authored with Art Zich, who later became a foreign correspondent for Time-Life and associate editor of Newsweek.
Pictured above is the original artwork that accompanied the story.
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“Who is that fellow in the Ivy League suit?” It’s being whispered on campuses everywhere and not without reason. With the resurgence to conservative dress, people are finding it difficult to tell one friend from another. What’s more, it’s getting so that people can’t even tell themselves from each other. The social implications of this situation are obvious when one considers brushing your teeth, or borrowing a necktie from someone, who, when you return it, turns out to be yourself.
The problem is not a new one, however, as members of the turn-of-century classes will admit once they have admitted they are members of the turn-of-the-century classes. The well-known “Ivy Look” had its beginnings at New Haven in the days when McKinley was president, starting the day McKinley was shot. Students usually purchased their clothing from small, modest shops, and for this reason “Ivy Look” tailors made little or nothing. Gradually, however, there emerged the distinctive, sophisticated attire of the Ivy Leaguer (in many ways similar to the Texas Leaguer, the Bush Leaguer, and the Real Eager but much more distinctive, of course).
The most popular outfit in those days was the custom-tailored suit, so-called because it was the custom to tailor the suit so you couldn’t afford it. The custom-tailored-suit gave way to the ready-made-suit, which in turn gave way, but could be held together with safety-pins. Other popular “Ivy League” numbers are the Summer (summer expensive and summer cheap), the Gasuit (to be worn by people with head colds), and the bridal suite (ten dollars night and breakfast in bed with coffee and rolls).
The first important change in the manner of “Ivy Look” dress after 1900 was the arrival of the “odd jacket” or sports coat, worn with “slacks” so called because of the condition of your wallet after purchasing. The “sport coat” is named after the good sports who were the first to wear it; they were later stoned to death. Today it is not uncommon to see Madison Avenue executives in the same campus tweeds that were popular during their own college days.
There are arguments concerning just what constitutes the “Ivy Look.” The originators are specific. Conversely, the specifiers are original. Carefully nurtured peak is the rule. The coat of the true gentleman must consist of unpadded shoulders, padded wallet, three button notch high lapels, and deep hooks and vents to let in hot and cold air. The back-strap on the trouser back is preferred being superior to the back-strap on the trouser front. The belt should be worn as high as possible, leaving none of the trouser visible above the belt line, let alone the person inside of them. Sox should be supported by garters, while garters should be supported by muscular calves. If muscular calves are not available any form of livestock will do just as well. Shoes should be of sturdy English cut, heavy enough to keep feet out of elements and fast enough to keep the wearer out of reach of the creditors.
Only a few varieties of shirts are permissible, and naturally, those with sleeves are preferred. The rule for college-correctness dictates button-down, round, or English tab. When confronted with the tab, it is always smarter to allow the other fellow to pick it up. The button-down demands a button on the back and pleated backs are mandatory. The wearer who has a pleated back to begin with is thus ahead of the game. The prescribed daytime shirt color is blue on Oxford, bowling on the Green, and drinks on the house. White is proper for evening wear, unless you are spending the evening in the tub.
There is a wide choice in the selection of ties. Although some Ivy Leaguers look down on on challis, a good many challis look down on Ivy Leaguers also. The exquisite foulard is always permissible, coming as it does from the French word which means “artistic fool.” It goes without saying that the hard and fast rule of the Ivy Leaguer is his insistence on the four-in-hand knot. A Windsor knot, according to our sources, is strictly gauche, and should only be worn by gauchos.
Dark colored suits are the usual rule, but a clever blend of light and dark coupled with the right tie and a sheepish grin can often lend the needed sophistication, creating the illusion of correctness. When one feels he is correct enough, he may hand himself in to be marked. Brown is still the most stable color in sport coats, and also in stables.
The cloth put into the finest of the Ivy League suits is invariably imported from the British Isles. Recently the trend has been toward the importing of the British Isles. The cloth is usually produced on the antique spinning wheel of a Scotsman whose ancestors have been weaving for generations as a result of producing antique Scotch.
The “Ivy Look” will be seen throughout the East this fall. The question remains: “Who is the man in the Ivy League suit?” It’s his roommate from Exeter. — RICHARD PRESS & ART ZICH