A few days ago we introduced you to the blog “Wearing The Ivy League Look Since 1958” and its author, “Billax.” This morning Billax left a thoughtful comment on the post, along with what sounds like a mission statement. It’s worth quoting nearly in full to stretch out what Billax calls his 15 minutes of fame, since, as he points out, there aren’t many around anymore who have a natural-shouldered view of late 20th-century America.
If you can live with irregular posts, the stories I want to tell are of the late fifties through 1964. Those years – oh, man – those years were the VERY best. Not merely for clothes, but for the expectations faculty had for their students. For the fervent belief that the faculty was preparing the 10 percent who went to college to manage the world. Such statistical certainty never turns out to be quite right, but it is often largely right. When, in late 1963 and in 1964, the world irrevocably changed for United States college students changed, apparel changed, manners changed, expectations changed, certainly and planning evanesced. For a while, planning died and all order went away. And what went away with it was manners and apparel. That story is really the tale I want to tell.
So as my visitor count does back to insignificant, I can go back to telling the significant story of what happened to all of us after President Kennedy was assassinated, Vietnam divided us, and birth control pills made us think we could be completely irresponsible.
It’s the only story I know first hand, and not too many of us are around to tell it any more.
We look forward to your posts, Billax, however irregular, though we promise not to burden you with expectations. Take it from me and take your time crafting them, if only to catch the typos and faulty math. — CC
Yesterday comment-leaver “Billax” took the time to kindly correct one of my many typos. I wish you guys did that more often.
Billax has been a regular on the blogs and forums for some time, and while many amateur blogs are dimming the lights, Billax actually recently started one up with the name Wearing The Ivy League Look Since 1958.
Whippersnappers suffering from sartorial writer’s block, who can’t get beyond the opening sentence of blue oxford and khakis, should take note of Billax’s varied and eloquent outfits.
And of course he’s a stickler for traditional details. Note the collar roll in the photo above. True there’s also neck roll, but you’ll look that way too when you’ve been wearing the look for 56 years. — CC
The Heckscher Museum Of Art on Long Island is currently running an exhibit on the brilliantly whimsical work of Richard Gachot.
Gachot attended Yale in the 1950s, and, as you can see in the video above, never lost his taste for buttondown oxfords.
With so many artists eager to desecrate icons while sporting the physicial appearance usually associated with the homeless, it’s refreshing to see the 81-year-old looking dignfied and celebrating Americana in a quirky, and not pretentiously ironic, way. — CHRISTIAN CHENSVOLD
Five years ago today, a fresh-faced young pup, I left California for New York.
Now I’m a big-time big-city bigshot with a Chipp on my natural shoulder.
It’s a smelluva town. The Bronx is up and the Battery’s down. And people in cars run you into the ground. — CC
Martin Greenfield, the Brooklyn-based tailor who has, over his long career, made clothes for Brooks Brothers and J. Press, has just released his memoirs. Entitled “Measure Of A Man: From Auschwitz Survivor To President’s Tailor,” the book is available from Amazon for $16.79.
To learn more about Greenfield, check out this great video, which is full of information not only on the man, but how your clothing is made. Also, the New York Post ran a great excerpt from the book, with a typically sensational headline “The day a Holocaust survivor got revenge on his tormentor.” And finally, Breitbart has this interview with Greenfield discussing his memoirs. — CS & CC
As Ivy Style’s Elegance Week continues, assistant editor Christopher Sharp presents this homage to the man who wrote the book on the subject.
* * *
I can still see myself sheepishly sliding a black paperback, face down, across the college bookstore counter like a schoolboy buying a nudie magazine. The book was Bruce Boyer’s “Elegance.”
I am not sure if my discomfort purchasing the book was because at that time people did not obsessively talk about clothing, or if I thought in my youthful preciousness I should have already been a grandmaster. I certainly wasn’t, but I wanted to remedy that.
I had been surreptitiously studying fashion. There were old Hollywood movies and lesser-known charming British films that that had interchangeable characters who all wore tweed and effortlessly smoked pipes. They all knew something I did not, but what? For clues I mined the New York Time fashion supplements, GQ and Esquire. I read Molloy’s “Dress for Success,” which was like an auto mechanics manual for business dress of the ’70s. I scrupulously took stock of those around me. But something was amiss: there had to be good clothes somewhere in this world, a way to recognize them and a way to wear them with aplomb.
Then came the black book. For years I would tell anyone who would listen that Boyer’s book was the key. Some have described it like having someone introduce you their tailor. In Boyer’s book I found a narrator’s voice like a great uncle, knowledgeable about all things sartorial. The essays were mini masterpieces of storytelling. It wasn’t “wear this, don’t wear that,” but “here are some staples that have stood the test of time, here is the backstory, and these are some of the establishments you can trust.”
I should add that I also have a personal fondness for Mr. Boyer, because he was very kind to me when I was starting off. In the age before the Internet, he actually answered my letters. In the time before eBay, he recommended sources and even talked me off the ledge when heavyweight Viyella disappeared from the market.
I have read “Elegance” so many times there is an indelible yellow thumb print were I have turned the pages thousands of times. Today I no longer read the book as a novice, but as a seasoned fellow traveler. The nostalgic me wishes I better knew the world he wrote about then. I would have loved to have looked at the shirting samples with Fred Calcagno, master cutter at Pec & Co., or to see the glorious tweed bolts at Langrock. But because of Boyer’s initial influence, I have been fortunate to meet Richard Press, Paul Winston and George Graham.
I think I sometimes channel Boyer when I write a piece for Ivy Style. I find myself using a word or two he would use, like “ersatz” or “deus ex machina.” But in truth, like another one of my mentors, Richard Merkin, Boyer helped me find my voice, whether it’s written on the page or expressed in something more subliminally sublime, like a perfectly chosen pocket square.
In the foreword of “Elegance,” Boyer writes, “Those whose appearances we admire wear their clothes with a certain sense of comfort and propriety of style we often call elegance.” Mr. Boyer is elegant, but am I elegant? There is the rub. My epiphany is this: elegant is a word like hero, and no man should elect himself. It is for others to bestow the honor, and those chosen must humbly accept it. Shall we say with elegance? — CHRISTOPHER SHARP
Today is the 75th birthday of Ralph Lauren, menswear’s great editor, as Bruce Boyer likes to call him. In his honor, here’s a tight little edit of some of his looks and ventures over the years. — CC (Continue)