Last week I Jeffrey Banks and Doria de La Chapelle presented me with a copy of their new book, “Preppy: Cultivating Ivy Style.” It was a great honor as a couple of my Q&As for Ivy Style are cited in the credits, as is W. David Marx’s article on the Miyuki-zoku, plus work from early Ivy Style contributor Deirdre Clemente.
While “Preppy: Cultivating Ivy Style” doesn’t boast groundbreaking research, it’s a solid overview well timed for a new trend and new generation. Perhaps a quarter to a third of the book may seem extraneous (fashion writers, like literary scholars, feel they must cite sources they feel are related but which often feel tangential). However the bulk of it is devoted to precisely the origins of this style — prep and college students in the Northeast and the WASP establishment — while still taking an inclusive approach apropos for 2011.
Here the authors offer a terse summary of the style:
Preppy has always been acknowledged as an inherently American phenomenon, a fashion — or anti-fashion as some have called it — whose imagery perpetually connects us to idyllic college days, sport, and the spirit and vitality of youth. Preppy’s origins are rooted in the grounds of the elite Ivy League universities of the 1920s, where young, WASPy and wealthy gentlemen invented a relaxed new way for collegians to dress by co-opting athletic clothes form the playing fields, mixing them with genteel classics, and decking themselves out with caps, ties, pins and other regalia to signify membership in a prestigious club or sport. They then embellished the look with the best possible accessory: an air of complete and utter nonchalance.
But you can’t feign nonchalance until you nail the details:
In the elite, insular and often snobbish collegiate world, one’s identity was in the details: what a man wore, how his tie was tied, where his hair was parted and what club he joined were of paramount importance. Among the reasons behind Ivy League style’s resounding popularity with college students was the immense peer pressure to conform and its close relative, the deep need to belong.
And speaking of conformity, here’s Banks and de La Chappelle the Ivy heyday:
It didn’t take [postwar, college-educated men] long to learn that “working in corporate America demanded a knowledge of certain codes, many of which were embedded in the corporate uniform.” America had become more and more politically conservative, and Ivy League clothes — with their inherently understated quality and ability to blend in — were the perfect expression of the new “buttoned-down” philosophy. Ivy college graduates, well schooled in conformity, went to work uncomplainingly in their narrow-lapeled sack suits with skinny ties, while older alums, inspired by the slimmer, more youthful-seeming style, also joined the growing band of sack-suited men.
Some of the photos will be familiar, while others are fresh. Here is a handful of images I liked, which Rizzoli was kind enough to provide. Above is a scene from the film adaptation of Philip Roth’s “Goodbye, Columbus.” Below, Groton students, from the graduating class of ’67, in madras jackets: (Continue)
Last night Jeffrey Banks (pictured above) and Doria de La Chapelle signed copies of their new book “Preppy: Cultivating Ivy Style” at Saks Fifth Avenue. It was a full house, though hardly a Prep-a-Palooza. Besides your humble blogger in rep tie and pinned club, there was just KJP and sweetheart: (Continue)
Later this year Reel Art Press will release a lavish photographic coffee-table book full of rare images of Hollywood icons wearing Ivy garb. It will surely be a delight to behold. Reading it, however, may be another story.
One should never judge a book by its cover, but we’ve had an Ivy book by this author before, and it missed the mark by a mile. London-based Graham Marsh is also one of the co-authors of “The Ivy Look,” our review of which holds the record for most comments on a post not involving free sweaters.
In addition to the daffy notion that Porsches, midcentury furniture, French actor Jean-Paul Belmondo and Zippo lighters belong to a style genre called “Ivy,” and are therefore intimately related to Bass Weejuns and oxford-cloth buttondowns, the book’s inexplicable error in judgment was its inability to articulate the origins of the Ivy League Look, as if the style suddenly appeared on album covers, movie posters and cigarette ads out of nowhere.
Geographically and temporally removed from the epicenter of the Ivy League Look during the heyday (New Haven, according to our own Richard Press), and given the bohemian sensibilities of UK Ivy fans, it’s no wonder the authors were reluctant to credit the style to privileged students at elite universities.
With this new book, Marsh evidently turns his attention once again not to the source but the simulacrum, finding his Ivy mecca not in suburban Connecticut, but the film studios of Hollywood. — CHRISTIAN CHENSVOLD
In “This Side of Paradise,” F. Scott Fitzgerald called Princeton “lazy and aristocratic.” How times have changed.
In the age of meritocracy, sloth is hardly a helpful quality in gaining admission to the elite university. And anything “aristocratic” would have to be an individual eccentricity as the school is seeking to discourage “exclusivity” by banning freshmen from joining fraternities and sororities.
The announcement made national news.
“We have found that [fraternities and sororities] can contribute to a sense of social exclusivity and privilege and socioeconomic stratification among students,” said Vice President for Campus Life Cynthia Cherrey and Dean of Undergraduate Students Kathleen Deignan in a statement posted on the school’s website.
“A major concern is that they select their members early in freshman year,” they continued, “when students are most vulnerable to pressures from peers to drink, and before they have had a full opportunity to explore a variety of interests and develop a diverse set of friendships. We hope students coming to Princeton will want to expand their circle of acquaintances and experiences, not prematurely narrow them.”
Citing drinking and targeting freshman sounds like a ploy for a bigger agenda of social engineering. Attempting to legislate students’ social lives in the interest of eliminating “exclusivity” and promoting “diversity” is political correctness run amok, and I say this as a guy who was never in a fraternity or any other college organization (or college, for that matter) that could be considered exclusive, and whose friends are as diverse as they come. But this levelling effect in the interest of equality is obscene. — CC
Last week Women’s Wear Daily ran a feature on the upcoming book “Preppy: Cultivating Ivy Style,” by Jeffrey Banks and Doria de La Chapelle.
Among other things, the story includes the great photo above of Deerfield Academy’s class of 1961. The story’s author, David Lipke, goes on to note preppy style’s relative imperviousness to change in the 50 years since the photo was taken.
Princeton gets mentioned as the leading artiber of the Ivy League Look in the following passage:
The book traces the origins of the style to the Ivy League universities of the East Coast, where, following World War I, a privileged set of young men developed a new style centered on a greater amount of leisure time and athletic influences. Princeton, in particular, was fertile ground for the cohesive new look, as it was among the more homogenous and isolated of the Eastern schools, with a student body largely compiled from just a handful of preparatory schools.
“Preppy: Cultivating Ivy Style” is due out October 4. — CC
The Ivy trend has officially reached the cash-grab phase: Abercrombie & Fitch — which once sold tweed sportcoats and other authentic Ivy-style items — has released a new collection for teenyboppers entitled “Elements of Ivy.”
The web copy reads: “Distinguished from the rest and exceptional by every standard, Elements of Ivy is a collection of collegiate classics.”
“Distinguished from the rest?” Certainly not from the rest of the brand’s clothing. — CC