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John Updike, Style Icon

Fri 1 Jun 2012 - Filed under: Lit — Christian
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Recently GQ said John Updike was in as a style icon while Jack Kerouac was all washed up and played out. And last week the magazine’s web site put up a slideshow. No new images for you guys perhaps, but maybe for the younger and/or less literate out there.

Remains to be seen if fashion followers take up his rumpled literary look, of course.

The image above, by the way, is from 1988. — CC

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100 Years Of Stover At Yale

Fri 20 Apr 2012 - Filed under: Ivy Trendwatch,Lit — Christian
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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

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Hit The Road: Kerouac Out, Updike In

Fri 30 Mar 2012 - Filed under: Lit — Christian
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A sign of civilization in an age where the edgy, extreme and downright trashy are lauded daily, the April issue of GQ encourages readers to “kill their style icons,” and suggests trading Jack Kerouac for John Updike.

Kerouac went to Columbia, but was too bohemian to dress Ivy League. Updike, on the other hand, went to Harvard and it shows.

Here’s Ivy Style’s tribute post following the author’s death in 2009. — CC

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Voice In The Dark: Richard Frede’s Entry E, 1958

Thu 22 Sep 2011 - Filed under: 1950s,Historic Texts,Lit — Christian
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“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)

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The Man in the Brooks Brothers Shirt

Tue 25 Jan 2011 - Filed under: 1920s-'40s,Film,Historic Texts,Lit — Christian
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For Ivy Style’s 300th post, London-based contributor Rebecca C. Tuite examines the most important piece of literature about The Ivy League Look’s most important brand.

There is little doubt that Mary Mccarthy’s short story “The Man in the Brooks Brothers Shirt” is now probably more famous for its punchy title — a dream for the Brooks Brother’s marketing team —  than it is for the actual story. But it remains a classic part of the mystique of the Brooks Brothers Look, and indeed, the Brooks Brothers Man.

Taken from Mary McCarthy’s 1942 novel “The Company She Keeps,” which is less a straight narrative and more a collection of six short stories, “The Man in the Brooks Brothers Shirt,” forms the third chapter in the story of Margaret Sargent, a young woman trying to redefine her life following a Reno divorce. “Floundering in a world of casual affairs and squalid intimacies,” Sargent is self-destructive, reinventing herself as a bohemian and rebelling against society, all of which finds a perfect counterpoint in Mr. Breen: a Cleveland-based executive at a steel company and the “hearty stranger in the green shirt” she meets on a Pullman car heading west to Sacramento.

The story opens with the first description of the man, who at this point remains nameless:

The new man who came into the club car was coatless. He was dressed in grey trousers and a green shirt of expensive material that had what seemed to be the figure “2″ embroidered in darker green on the sleeve. His tie matched the green of the monogram, and his face, which emerged rather sharply from this tasteful symphony in cool colours, was bluish pink.

Less than impressed, Sargent sees him “like something in a seed catalogue,” and although feeling “full of contempt for the man, for his coatlessness, for his colour scheme, for his susceptibility, for his presumption,” she still allows herself, firstly, to enter into conversation with him, and secondly, to spend the night with him (subsequently enduring the following morning). All of this is peppered with Sargent’s own disgust for the promiscuity her aunt has always warned her about — “I don’t know why you make yourself so cheap,” and “It doesn’t pay to let men think you’re easy.” (Continue)

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Buttoned-Down Beatnik: Ginsberg Biopic “Howl” Gets Sept. Release

Tue 25 May 2010 - Filed under: Film,Lit — Christian
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A few months ago I heard about the Allen Ginsberg biopic “Howl,” and asked the production company if there were any upcoming screenings. There weren’t, as the film had yet to find a distributor.

It’s got one now, and is scheduled for release on September 24. The film focuses on the poet’s 1957 obscenity trial and stars James Franco as Ginsberg.

In addition to smoky coffeehouse scenes, “Howl” will also include various courtroom scenes with dueling ’50s lawyers. One of them, Ginsburg’s attorney, is played by Jon Hamm, aka Don Draper on “Mad Men.”

While a student at Columbia, Ginsberg met Jack Kerouac and other Beat writers. And though he later went all countercultural and hairy, he never completely abandoned a taste for the Ivy League Look. — CC

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