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The Arguably Eternal Style of JFK

Thu 28 Mar 2013 - Filed under: 1960s,Personae — Christian
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Earlier this month the Dallas Morning News did a style tribute to JFK. There’s plenty to nitpick in the story, including the awkwardly oxymoronic line that Kennedy’s style influence is “arguably eternal,” but there were a few parts I thought interesting.

First off is this 1958 quote referring to “Brooks Brothers couture”:

“This night, Jack Kennedy — the young Eastern millionaire with the Harvard accent, the Brooks Brothers couture and the egghead ideas — had them standing on their chairs, whistling and shouting.” — Cabell Phillips, The New York Times, July 13, 1958

Later, the author paints this terse picture of Kennedy’s off-duty style:

 Off-duty, Kennedy’s style was as refreshing. His upper-class, Ivy League life before Washington meant growing up wearing that echelon’s staples: tweed sports coats, Shetland wool crew neck sweaters, brightly colored polo shirts, khakis and loafers.

Then we get this quote:

“He never looked shabby. It was his culture to dress better than he had to.”

 But the next part is most interesting as it reflects Main Street clothiers’ appropriating of the Ivy League Look during the heyday:

Said Derrill Osborn, the former vice president of men’s tailored clothing for Neiman Marcus: “Being a student of the Ivy League period, which took hold during John Kennedy’s three years as president, I can attest [it] was a great moment in clothes.”

“We copied him,” said Osborn, then a menswear buyer in New York for Saks Fifth Avenue stores. “I sold Ivy League by the carloads. It was really about the adoration the youth had with Kennedy and the Beatles. It was the early ’60s.”

Saks had long catered to the student population in college towns, but surely never sold Ivy by the carloads except during the heyday, which, like JFK’s Camelot, was fleeting. — CC

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Talk Ivy: An Interview With Toshiyuki Kurosu

Mon 25 Mar 2013 - Filed under: 1960s,Personae — Christian
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I am currently working on a book about the importation of Ivy League fashion into Japan in the 1960s, and as part of the research I sat down with Toshiyuki Kurosu (pictured above second from left) in February at the Kamakura Shirts office in Tokyo.

Kurosu is legendary in Japan as one of the very first people to ever discover and wear Ivy League clothing. After joining brand VAN in 1961 at age 24, he convinced his boss Ishizu Kensuke to re-focus the whole company on Ivy style, a risky move that eventually brought the company incredible success, fame, and fortune. And as both a VAN employee and a writer for Men’s Club, Kurosu later became part of the team who created the legendary photo book “Take Ivy.” — W. DAVID MARX

* * *

IS: How did you discover Ivy League style in Japan?

TK: The first time I saw the word “Ivy” was Spring 1954 in the very first issue of magazine Otoko no Fukushoku (later renamed Men’s Club). In the issue, there was a glossary of menswear terms, organized by A-to-Z, and there was an entry for “Ivy League style” that read “In America, Ivy is very popular among college students.” That’s all that was written, but I was intrigued. I thought, that’s probably something I would like.

I then realized that I had seen African-American soldiers wearing clothes like that out at the Tachikawa Airfield where I would play in jazz bands. These guys were incredibly stylish. This was the middle of the Korean War, so there were a lot of aircraft coming in and out of Tachikawa. Everyone had money, and there were a lot of suit tailors, shirt-makers, and shoe places located near the camp. My friends and I all loved America, so we’d go out to the clothing stores near the camp, and say, make us what those guys are wearing.

At the time Japanese tailors didn’t know anything about Ivy style. They couldn’t do a “natural shoulder,” so you’d end up with these huge pads. When I made my first Ivy suit at a normal tailor, they just put a third button on top of the normal two-buttons. The silhouette wasn’t Ivy or anything — it was just weird. But I of course wore it thinking it was great.

IS: What was so appealing about Ivy style to you?

TK: It was just the total opposite of Japanese fashion at the time. All the hip musicians wore one-button suit jackets with huge shoulders. I couldn’t even understand the Ivy look as fashion — it was too different. When I started wearing Ivy clothing, people would say, you look like a mayor of a small town in the countryside. That was the image. But that’s what made it fun. I didn’t like it because it was new, but because it was strange. The other people to get into Ivy early in Japan were mostly art school students. (Continue)

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Old Money and Nouveau Prep: UP x WFB

Wed 20 Feb 2013 - Filed under: Personae — Christian
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Last night I attended an event graciously hosted by Allen Edmonds, who chose the classic/funky Norwood Club to show off its latest shoes.

Fred of Unabashedly Prep and I were the last to leave, having a long catch-up on the world of style blogging and the menswear industry.

As two guys from out west who came to New York later in life, we swapped tales about the curious denizens of this strange city, so many of whom eventually become apathetic, numb to the point “where they don’t know what’s cool anymore,” said Fred, or else have their innards all torn up by frustrated ambition and obsessive competition with their peers, as I noted.

I think when you come to New York in your thirties (including the final two weeks of your thirties, as I did), you’re just excited to be here and take the adventure of life as it comes. Arriving late to the party was more the result of an inward-driven life journey, and you’re here because it’s the best place to do your thing. This as opposed to those who come directly from school to take their place in an established system of rewards and failures, relentlessly evaluating whether or not they’re making it, according to the standards of the Manhattan fishbowl.

Anyway, for a guy who lacks the common sense to keep his feet warm in winter, Fred displayed a perspicacious grasp on the workings of the fashion industry, and I suggested he might be a great fit on the business side of the industry, not just the creative.

Time will tell, but in the meantime Fred continues to pull together tightly edited blog content, and as I’d been meaning to do a pointer post to his recent William F. Buckley tribute, sharing drinks last night seems the perfect peg.

Many of the WFB images will be familiar, but nevertheless they make for a compelling collage when grouped together. Buckley is a polarizing figure (not unlike Fred himself, or me, or anyone else who has the attention of an audience), but I hope that whether you’re red or blue, right or left, you’ll find the images enjoyable.

I’ll end with a telling WFB anecdote. Buckley had an Old Money penchant for understatement and an abhorrence of ostentation. He liked number-two pencils and peanut butter. Likewise, the friend of a friend once had a glimpse inside of Buckley’s suit coat, and was suprised, or maybe not so much, to find a label marked JC Penney. — CC

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Barnaby Conrad Jr., 1923-2013

Tue 19 Feb 2013 - Filed under: Personae — Christian
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Today I chatted on the phone with my old man, who remarked just as he was about to hang up that Barnaby Conrad died last week at the age of 90.

I mention it here because while I never met the man — who is described in the San Francisco Chronicle as a bullfighter, diplomat, man about town, author, painter, owner of a North Beach night spot in one of San Francisco’s golden ages, and a patron of the arts — I had drinks with his son, Barnaby Conrad III on my last night in San Francisco before moving to New York.

Appropriately it was in North Beach, and Barnaby, who’s bi-coastal, told me he was showing his own art at his wife’s New York gallery the following week, which turned out to be my first night out on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.

Like his father, Barnaby was a man about town who didn’t settle down until well in his forties. He’s also a painter and writer, though I’m not sure whether he ever fought bulls.

The late Barnaby (pictured above sharing a drink with Tyrone Power) attended the Taft School and went on to Yale, which his son also attended. He was a J. Press customer while a student, and remained so for many years until salesman loyalty sent him to a competitor. Richard Press remembers:

Back in the ’50s the J. Press West Coast road salesman, Sam Kroop, outfitted Conrad during his road trips to San Francisco. Conrad bought from J. Press while at Taft and Yale, and when Kroop left the Clift Hotel where he showed in San Francisco, he regularly held court for his customers on the J. Press tab at Conrad’s El Matador nightclub. Kroop took our mailing list when he sneaked out with another of our employees to take over Arthur M. Rosenberg, and unfortunately took Conrad along with him.

Though bullfighting brought him renown, his Renaissance Man talents and passions kept him well occupied. His Wikipedia entry has this great anecdote:

In 1958, Conrad was gored almost fatally in a bullfight that was part of a charity event. After learning of the incident, Eva Gabor is said to have run into Noël Coward at Sardi’s in New York and asked him, “Did you hear about poor Barnaby? He was terribly gored in Spain.” Coward replied, “Oh, thank heavens. I thought you said he was bored.”

Both father and son are a great inspiration to cultivate all of one’s talents and life to the fullest. Though if you’re going to tangle with bulls, at least take it down a notch and try bullriding. — CC

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The 2012 Golden Weejun Award

Mon 31 Dec 2012 - Filed under: Personae — Christian
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On this final day of the year, Ivy-Style.com is proud to present its first-ever Golden Weejun award to Richard Press for his outstanding contributions to the Ivy League Look.

In addition to being Ivy royalty by birth, Mr. Press has a record year in his service to the clothing genre. For starters, he moved to the Upper East Side from the wilds of Connecticut to be where the action is.

And the action was largely centered around the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology. Mr. Press earned the nickname King Richard for his singular contributions to the “Ivy Style” exhibit, which included not just donating items but styling the show, giving lectures, and leading tours.

On top of that, he continued to pen his “Golden Years” column for Ivy-Style.com, work on his memoirs, and even got his picture taken by Rose Callahan.

Congratulations, Richard, and we all look forward to seeing you in your gilded penny loafers. — CHRISTIAN CHENSVOLD

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Crotchety New Englander Warren Rudman, 1930-2012

Wed 21 Nov 2012 - Filed under: Personae — Christian
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The state of New Hampshire has lost one of its most celebrated congressman, the feisty Republican Warren Rudman, often described as a crotchety New Englander, and the people of American have lost yet another exemplar of the patrician charm of a well rolled buttondown and rep tie worn slightly askew. — CC

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