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.
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)