Today Assouline sent out an email announcing the publication of “The Ivy League” by Daniel Cappello, my colleague at Quest magazine.
The book starts by examining the history of the Ancient Eight and its place in American (and increasingly, global), culture, and goes on to devote a chapter to each school and what makes it different from the rest.
Though primarily about the schools themselves, there are some great vintage photos and some passages about the style of American dress that takes its name from the Ivy League.
Below are some sample shots from the book (the final one, from freshman orientation at Harvard, is a spectacular shot of a sea of madras sportcoats), as well as Harvard alum Cappello’s first interview as he goes into promotion mode. — CC
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IS: How did the idea or the inspiration for the book come about?
DC: I had been consulting with Assouline on several editorial projects over the years, and one day I got a phone call from Martine and Prosper Assouline asking me if I could come in to talk with them about the Ivy League. Their son was applying to college at the time, and they couldn’t find any one book that brought all of the Ivy League schools together at once, to really give a flavor for what each one was about. They knew I had gone to Harvard and spent a lot of my undergraduate days visiting friends at Brown, Yale, Columbia, and Princeton. They were full of questions about what made Harvard different from Yale, or Cornell different from Dartmouth, and so forth.
By the end of our conversation, we had an idea for a book of our own. In a way, they asked me if I was willing to go back to school with them—or, maybe better put, to go through the process of applying to college all over again.
Mark your calendars, guys: You have a four-month window to visit New York and see the Ivy League Look exhibit at the Museum of the Fashion Institute of Technology. The exhibit will run from September 14 to January 5.
Though I met with the organizers again a couple of weeks ago, I didn’t know they’d settled on the title “Ivy Style” for the exhibit. Cool.
I’ll be playing a role in all this (in addition to the exhibit there will be a book and a symposium in November), as will Richard Press, G. Bruce Boyer and many others, including Muffy Aldrich, who recently gave a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the exhibit in development.
I’m sure there will be some sort of opening night reception, and if it’s not open to the public then I’ll arrange our own little Ivy-Style.com rendez-vous, so readers can meet and stroll through the exhibit together. Sounds fun, non?
Start planning what to wear now: This will be the world’s biggest Ivy convention. — CHRISTIAN CHENSVOLD
Update: The MFIT has shared the following description of the exhibit:
Many of the most enduring sartorial images of the twentieth century can be traced to the prestigious college campuses of America. However, what is known today as the “Ivy League look”—or “Ivy Style”—has spread, decades after its creation, far beyond the academic confines of top echelon schools such as Harvard, Yale, and Princeton. Ivy style has become so popular, in fact, that countless contemporary fashion companies have been built upon this look, and many of today’s leading fashion designers pepper their runway collections with current interpretations of it. One of the most compelling aspects of the Ivy look is that it has endured for so long. A relatively small array of classic items—from tweed jackets, polo coats, and seersucker suits to madras shorts, “Weejun” loafers, and khaki trousers—attests to Ivy’s longevity. This exhibition will examine the genesis of Ivy style in the early years of the twentieth century, as well as its subsequent codification and global influence over the past one hundred years. The exhibition will also investigate what has made and what continues to make Ivy style relevant, and it will also dispel a key misconception: that it has always been a classic and static way of dressing. In fact, at its height in the mid-twentieth century, Ivy style was a cutting-edge look, and it went on to inform the evolution of menswear for decades.
Ivy Style will focus almost exclusively on menswear dating from the early twentieth century to the current day. Since English menswear provided Ivy style with its initial vocabulary, British clothes dating as far back as the 19th century will be included. On view will be authentic clothes dating from the 1920s to the 1960s, worn by young men who attended Ivy League and preparatory schools (where “preppie” style, Ivy’s junior offshoot, began). These objects will include daywear, formal wear, and even sports clothes. The exhibition will also include material from firms such as Brooks Brother, J. Press, and designers such as Ralph Lauren who led the resurgence of the Ivy look prior to the 1980s, Tommy Hilfiger, J. McLaughlin, as well as examples of its contemporary re-contextualization by Thom Browne. Some women’s clothing, if appropriate, will be on view to illustrate the influence of this male style on women’s wear.
Here’s what the layout will look like:
The introductory gallery of Ivy Style will display a small selection of historical and current menswear that illustrates Ivy’s trajectory from its beginnings in the immediate post-World War I era, to the height of its popularity in mid-century, its fall in the late 1960s and its resurgence in the 1980s, to the current interpretations by designers who have collectively redefined it. Also on view will be a group of photographs that further illustrates the scope of Ivy style.
The main part of the exhibition will be arranged thematically in an environment that evokes an Ivy League university campus.
The central part of the gallery space will be designed to look like a grass-covered quad, or quadrangle, with a printed backdrop of a Gothic-style building façade covered with ivy vines. Archetypal garments both old and new, such as tweed jackets, khaki trousers, and madras shorts, will dominate this space.
Opposite the quad will be a platform devoted to sport. This area will resemble period athletic clubs and will feature both active wear and spectator clothes.
Surrounding the quad and the sports platform on two sides will be typical university environments, such as classrooms, dormitories and fraternity rooms. Each of these “rooms” will present material appropriate to the environment and range from casual to formal.
Installations that pay homage to the purveyors of Ivy style menswear shops that for decades have been seen in cities such as Cambridge, Princeton, and New Haven, as well as New York City and Washington D.C., will also be on view.
And finally the book:
A more in-depth study of Ivy style will be articulated in the accompanying publication (by Yale University Press). Also entitled Ivy Style, content will include essays by Patricia Mears, Dr. Peter McNeil, Dr. Christopher Breward, and Dr. Masafumi Monden.
Dr. McNeil will analyze the style of the Duke of Windsor, arguably the most stylish man of the twentieth century, and the great impact his look had on Americans, especially when he was a young man in the 1920s. Dr. Breward will present a cross-cultural look at Ivy style as worn in the prestigious English universities of Oxford and Cambridge; he will also show how the look these young men cultivated would eventually be absorbed and re-interpreted in Hollywood films, primarily of the 1950s. Mr. Monden will write about the Ivy style craze that took hold in Japan from the mid-century to the present and its manifestation over the decades.
Also included will be short excerpts by G. Bruce Boyer, a leading menswear writer and historian, and an interview with Richard Press by Christian Chensvold, founder of the Ivy Style blog. Mr. Boyer’s 1985 publication, Elegance, contained a number of chapters on madras, Harris Tweed, the camel hair polo coat, and other elements of Ivy style. The importance of this period publication is that it not only documents these fabrics and clothing items, but also captures the atmosphere of a time when Ivy style experienced a great resurgence in popularity. Mr. Boyer will also contribute a short essay on the influence of Ivy style on leading jazz musicians of the mid-century such as Miles Davis and Charlie Parker.
Mr. Chensvold is the founder and main contributor to the leading blog documenting menswear, appropriately entitled Ivy style. His in-depth interview with Richard Press, grandson of J. Press, will be included.
The main essay of the publication (by Patricia Mears) will present a general historical overview of the Ivy look in the twentieth century. Not only will the issues of the style’s enduring popularity and its role as a cutting edge influence be discussed, so too will the cultural and aspirational aspects of its creation and allure.
The March issue of French magazine Monsieur has a cover story on Pi (Preppyivy), tracing its origins back to the days of Fitzgerald and “This Side of Paradise” and opening with a Tommy Hilfiger advertising image.
If you don’t have an international newsstand near you, point your browser in this direction.
Below are some more visuals from the story.
To think I spent one semester doing a master’s in French literature before dropping out to become an editorial assistant at $7 per hour. Nothing like stumbling through French conjugations to make you feel 20 years younger. — CC (Continue)
This is Ivy Style’s 1,000th post x .50. In honor of the occasion, I bribed longtime friend and colleague Michael Mattis, who’s been at my side since I first started blogging on style in 2004, to write some moderately kind words. This was the best he could do. — CC
I must confess I have never been much of Ivy trend watcher. But since Christian Chensvold started Ivy-Style.com some 500 posts ago I have become a dedicated follower of Ivy fashion.
In fact, I’m still unsure precisely how the arithmetic is calculated among Ivy, Preppy and Trad. I take it that a Preppy probably pops his polo collar, while an Ivy stylist is less inclined to. Meanwhile, the Trad wears the classic American “sack suit,” whatever that is. Or something like that, anyway.
You can chalk up my general ignorance — and sometimes jaundiced lack of interest — to the irascible bores who dominate certain men’s style fora here on these Interwebs. My aim has always been to look good, and I don’t really care if coteries of small-minded bomb-throwers think what I’m wearing isn’t “pure” enough to meet their niggling standards.
That’s one reason why Ivy-Style.com has become one of my sartorial, sociological and philosophical lodestars since Chensvold launched it on October 1, 2008. It informs, but it doesn’t bother to niggle. I’ve learned so much from my daily dose of Ivy that it’s hard to know where to begin.
As the Managing Editor of Dandyism.net, a website Chensvold started back in 2004 (and recently ceded to your correspondent) devoted to the backstory of masculine elegance from Beau Brummell to the present, I’ve always maintained that at the heart of modern men’s style lies in simplicity, defenestrated of the effeminate gewgaws of the Ancien Régime.
And no contemporary — and uniquely American — style is more defenestrated of same than Ivy Style as it is expressed in these pages. What’s unique about Ivy-Style.com is that, unlike other style websites and fora, it does not provide either a set prescription for what to wear or proscriptions against what not to.
A flap in comments section of the recent post, “Slim Fit Shirts Ain’t Trad?” provides an illustration. One purist threatened to cancel his Ivy-Style.com “subscription,” saying, “I really don’t want to read a blog read by people who think that slim-cut shirts anything is Ivy, Trad, whatever. Gentlemen wear full-cut shirts, jackets, etc…”
Really? If the measure of a gentleman rests in the cut of his jacket rather than the cut of his jib, then the complainer above hasn’t taken much from the pages of Ivy-Style.com. That’s too bad. But maybe he wasn’t paying enough attention.
Rather, Ivy-Style.com provides assiduously researched historical context and, moreover, inspiration (rather than advice) on how we, its gentle readers, can carefully work classic, nuanced Ivy looks into your daily wear in this modern world of ours, in order to look sharp for all occasions.
Along the way I’ve been introduced to a remarkable cast of characters, people who helped make the Ivy style, well, into a timeless style. People like Richard Press, whose well-written columns provide a personal backdrop for the classically tailored stage on which he has lived. Then there’s G. Bruce Boyer, a crossover hit in both Tradsville and Dandyland, who imbues the site with a kind of sartorial gravitas.
Meanwhile, frequent contributor Matthew Benz gave me a thorough understanding of why that little green crocodile is so important, as well as the backstory behind the rugby shirt (one of my casual faves). And so many more.
With such a carefully curated slate of content combined with these and other fascinating personalities, it’s no wonder that Ivy-Style.com has become such a success for its followers — and anathema to its few detractors. It is a never-ending source of amazement to me just how easy Chensvold has made this complex thing look.
Well done, sir. We will see you again at posts 1,000, 5,000 and 10,000. — MICHAEL MATTIS
This edition of Ivy Trendwatch is focused on the United Kingdom, where there are several news items worth mentioning.
First off is the February issue of Esquire UK, which carries this article on “Hollywood and the Ivy Look” (the article evidently has an accompanying fashion shoot; if someone can scan and send to us it would be greatly appreciated).
Here are a couple of passages from the article to stimulate your critical faculty:
It is the style that will not die. The Ivy Look – a hybrid of donnish, tweedy English tailoring; the sharp, slim-fit, post-war Italian silhouette and soft, casual American proto-sportswear…
What is the Ivy Look? It’s corduroy, khakis and tennis shoes. It’s tweed, tartan and cordovan loafers. It’s jazz cigarettes, button-down collars, desert boots. It’s duffel coats, polo shirts, Madras shorts. It’s JFK, tortoiseshell and the Nouvelle Vague. It’s white socks, fishing rods, polo necks. It’s Studebakers, Sperry Top-Siders and Steve McQueen – forever the epitome of mid-20th century American style; effortlessly laid-back but unerringly precise.
Next up is the recent founding of a new UK-based Facebook group called The Roll Call, which is dedicated to vintage Ivy style.
And pictured above is a new collection of jewelry called Ivy Noir (one of the more contrived trend tie-ins we’ve heard in a while) by London-based jewelers Smith/Grey. The collection consists of collar stays (an odd choice, given that the default Ivy shirt is a buttondown), and the smelting-accident ring pictured above.
Here’s the collection in the company’s own words:
The Ivy Noir collection is a dark interpretation of traditional Ivy League elements. Created under the slogan ‘Socii Extra Muros’, Ivy Noir pays homage to an imaginary ‘Off-Campus League’ – the ones who challenge the purist facets of the classic Ivy League style.
Manifested in three unique hand-crafted designs this collection gives any occasion a well-deserved edge.
Because you shouldn’t always dress exactly by the book.
And here’s a description of the ring’s design motif:
“I” for Ivy
“N” for Noir
“IX” for 9th letter in alphabet = “I” stands for Indomitus (means the wild, the untamed)
“XVI” for 16th letter in the alphabet = “P” stands for Principatus (means to rule)
London-based retail shop-cum-shrine John Simons has released this handsome new olive raincoat in collaboration with Grenfell: (Continue)
The Ivy Trendwatch and prep-for-the-masses have been hit with a massive setback as JC Penney has finally pulled the plug on its disastrous budget-prep collection American Living, created in partnership with Ralph Lauren.
When the collection launched in 2008, I was living in Los Angeles and went to the department store to have a look. I think the typical customer demographic for Penney’s was bewildered by pastel sportswear emblazoned with anchors, patch-madras shorts, and pink oxfords. Let’s face it, preppy clothing, no matter how watered-down, will always have class connotations.
Meanwhile, parsimonious trads embraced the marked-down prices but found the bulbous logos obnoxious.
The collection could have found a following among poor college students looking for preppy basics on the cheap, but again the overly-logoed merchandise prevented that. What kid wants to sport the logo of a downmarket brand? Consumers love cheap (H&M, Uniqlo, Zara) but not cheap logos (Old Navy being the rare exception, perhaps because the words “old” and “navy” convey an illusion of distinction).
I’ll admit to owning a pair or two of American Living shorts to wear on the tennis court, but can’t seem to find them in my closet. I must have purged them when I got down to fighting weight.
Either that or they fell apart. — CHRISTIAN CHENSVOLD