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
The global Ivy Trendwatch continues as a Japanese publisher has re-released “Take 8 Ivy,” photographer Teruyoshi Hayashida’s follow-up to his 1965 tome “Take Ivy.”
Sequels are rarely as good as first offerings, and while “Take Ivy” captured the last rays of twilight of the heyday of the Ivy League Look, “Take 8 Ivy” is devoted to a 20-year span, most of it the 1970s. Needless to say, things had changed significantly. (Continue)
Last weekend I met up with Ivy Style contributors Zachary DeLuca and Jason Marshall for two of the smaller menswear trade shows. The highlight was a long session with Crittenden Rawlings, a longtime business associate of my girlfriend’s.
“Critt,” as he’s known by friends and colleagues, is a menswear industry veteran who came out of retirement a few years ago and manufactures clothing for a number of specialty stores. Currently based in Kentucky, Critt previously worked for Norman Hilton (who he said had “the best taste in the history of American menswear”) and Ralph Lauren.
Last season I had a look at a prototype sportcoat based on a classic Ivy pattern, and was happy to learn that the project is steaming along. While we were there, two members from J. Press (the US general manager and a designer from Press’ Japan division) were meeting with Critt, so you may see his jackets in J. Press stores this fall. (Continue)