E-commerce site Mr. Porter has unveiled a new collection by Paul Smith in which the British designer draws inspiration from “Take Ivy.”
According to the website’s announcement,
Sir Paul, who has been at the forefront of British fashion for five decades, is well placed to explain how Ivy style first came to the UK from the US. “In London the Ivy look was brought in by a lot of the GIs who were stationed out in places such as Cambridgeshire. They came into London at the weekends and went to clubs such as The Scene, in Soho. There was quite an interest in the way these guys dressed, because they looked so cool and slick.” In Sir Paul’s opinion, “The clothes are quite timeless, and there’s always been a hard core of fans.” That classic appeal brings a practical advantage: “It’s a look you can easily wear with your existing wardrobe,” he says.
And as those who’ve followed this website know, Ivy in the UK is associated not with the WASP establishment (save for popular icons such as the Kennedys), but with the world of jazz:
For the designer, the Kennedy clan – “all of them” – are the icons of the Ivy look. “There are lovely pictures of Jack wearing Converse All-Stars, regular trousers and a pale-coloured sweater with patch elbows. It’s the whole Hamptons look.” However, Sir Paul’s other source of Ivy inspiration comes from the music scene. “For me it was very much about the jazz era; Blue Note [a US jazz label] album covers always had these very cool-looking guys, with a very sharp look,” he remembers. “Herbie Hancock and John Coltrane were the guys who stood out as being very well dressed.”
As for the clothes, when the best item in your collection is a gray sweatshirt, perhaps you need to be more inspired.
And in other quasi-Ivy UK news….
The battle for young fashion preps is heating up. Rugby staked its claim several years ago, and Brooks Brothers has been amping up its youthful sportswear and opened its Flatiron store this past year complete with video games.
The latest entry, at least according to the May issue of GQ, is Jack Wills, a UK-based company that combines “British boarding school and American frat house” looks and operates 11 stores strategically located near college campuses. — CC
Perhaps because he’s a football player, Dink Stover has been at Yale for a hundred years. Hey, the real world is coarse and common, would you want to leave?
One hundred years ago this month Owen Johnson published his college novel “Stover At Yale,” which is long on novel but short on college. I attempted to read this some 15 years ago and didn’t get very far. No surprise I can’t find it in my bookcase.
Alexander Nazaryan of The New York Daily News did a fine write-up yesterday about the book’s anniversary, as well as its shortcomings (Yale and academic life figure little in the novel, the protagonist being interested solely in football and social advancement). The article also acknowledges the current phenomenon we refer to as Ivy Trendwatch. — CC
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
• • •
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