Boyer on Brooks

Sat 20 Dec 2008 - Filed under: 1980s,Historic Texts,Top Drawer — Christian
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Renowned menswear writer G. Bruce Boyer has generously given Ivy Style his imprimatur to reproduce several chapters from his 1985 book “Elegance.” It will mark the first time the articles have been digitized for the Internet.

We thought of no better way to launch the series than with Boyer’s chapter on Brooks Brothers, which is based on an article he originally wrote for the May, 1981 issue of Town & Country.

Brook Brothers
By G. Bruce Boyer
From “Elegance,” WW Norton & Company, 1985

When it phased out its custom tailoring department, the story was carried on the front page of the New York Times. The Daily News Record has called it the greatest men’s store in the world. It has a history going back over a century and a half and is in fact not so much a clothing store as an institution of American life. There is really nothing to compare with Brooks Brothers.

And of course, it is not just a men’s store any longer. In fact, it was something of a sociological event when Brooks, the bastion of masculine conservatism, opened a women’s department back in 1976. Not that women and Brooks discovered each other then for the first time, you understand, since the ladies had been lurking about the store for years, making off with raincoats and Shetland sweaters, ordering Bermuda shorts and polo shirts from the boys’ department. In 1949 Vogue photographed a woman in a pink Brooks Brothers button-down shirt. The decision to start a women’s department simply reflected an awareness of the arrival of the businesswoman and Brooks Brothers’ determination to accommodate her. After all, the firm has dressed her husband since the beginning of the nineteenth century.

Long before a Mary McCarthy heroine, in her short story “The Man in the Brooks Brothers Shirt,” picked up such a gentleman on a train ride, the relaxed Establishment Brooks look had more than a whiff of the right stuff. Once suspected an old school tie stuffed in the pocket, a library crammed with well-thumbed English essayists, and possibly a full-bent briar. Nothing outré, nothing exaggerated or self-conscious. The Brooks Brothers suit seemed to peg a man somewhere between Wall Street and his country house, by way of the Ivy League. (Continue)

All That Jazz

Sat 13 Sep 2008 - Filed under: 1950s,Jazz,Top Drawer — Christian
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On assignment for the online magazine at RalphLauren.com, Ivy Style founder Christian Chensvold muses on that brief point in time when jazz musicians went for the clean-cut look, which, considering many of them were junkies, was the only clean thing about them.

Sometime around 1954, jazz great Miles Davis walked into the Andover Shop, a small haberdashery in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and single-handedly turned the world of style upside down. Just as his groundbreaking album Milestones (celebrating it’s 50th anniversary next year) changed music, that afternoon in Cambridge shifted men’s fashion.

Miles emerged from the store clad head to toe in traditional “Ivy League”–style clothing, and in so doing merged two separate worlds—those of the establishment and the black jazz artist—as if fusing two dissonant notes to create a bold new harmony. The result was a crashing chord of cool that obliterated the line between square and hip, sounding a fashion fortissimo that lasted several years before fading into the silence of pop-culture obscurity.

Miles stocked up on tweed and madras jackets with a natural shoulder and narrow lapel; chino and flannel trousers; button-down shirts; knit and regimental striped ties; and Bass Weejun penny loafers. “It was a look that redefined cool,” writes Miles biographer John Szwed, “and shook those who thought they were in the know.”

“It sounds corny now,” recalls 82-year-old Charlie Davidson, who still runs the Andover Shop, “but Miles liked the real Ivy League look, and it became the hip way of dressing.”

Get the full story here.

 
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