Clothes Mad: The English Ivy Obsession

“Sussed” is one of those British slang terms that suggests maybe we really are divided by a common language. It is often used by fans of the Ivy League Look in England — finding its cognate in the American concept of hip — and is used to describe the result of a long and earnest cultivation, the point at which one becomes recognized by one’s peers as being in-the-know.

The Ivy Look” by Graham Marsh and JP Gaul, recently released in the UK and due out November 1 in the US, is fueled by a sussed sensibility. Published by Frances Lincoln, where Gaul (pseudonym for John Gall) works as its London sales manager, “The Ivy Look” is a sparsely written homage to the obsessive cult of Ivy in the UK, which, as we’ll see, has little to do with the Ivy League Look in America.

England vs. Japan

The two countries where Ivy has the strongest following are England and Japan. Though both are separated by thousands of miles from the original source, their attitudes towards American style are a study in contrast.

In Japan, Ivy style is revered with a kind of polite affection coupled with tremendous respect for its original source: college campuses. In the recently republished “Take Ivy,” as well as countless photo shoots for magazines like Men’s Club (as documented on the blog Heavy Tweed Jacket), the authenticity-obsessed Japanese regularly dispatched writers and photographers to capture American students in their native habitat.

But the English never did this, probably because Ivy was always a kind of secret society for the sussed few, not something for the mass readership of men’s fashion magazines (which kind of makes the publication of “The Ivy Look” disingenuous: you can’t be both sussed and mass-market). English clothing shops that carried Ivy clothes were also small and independent, not retail behemoths like VAN Jacket in Japan. And while there are countless Japanese Ivy fan sites on the Web, there’s not a single English Ivy blog.

As a result of the insular clique that comprises the UK Ivy fan base, an odor of dogmatic fervor hangs over it. What’s more, on Internet message boards, Ivy in the UK often seems characterized by a love-hate relationship with America, suggesting the longstanding rivalry between England and its former colony the United States.

But the biggest difference between Japan and England when it comes to American style is that “Take Ivy” is reported from primary sources, while “The Ivy Look” is interpreted from secondary ones. As Marsh and Gaul write in their foreword:

It seems appropriate that the authors came to learn and fall under the spell of the Ivy look through exposure to three quintessential American art forms: cinema, advertising and modern jazz. It is by exploring the most stimulating and compelling examples from these elements that the backbone of the book is formed.

This narrow and subjective point of view infuses every page of “The Ivy Look.”

The cult of the penny loafer

During the years 1955-1965, the period that “The Ivy Look” is chiefly concerned with, the Ivy League Look was something that certain American men wore either because they were raised on it, or because they adopted it later in life — perhaps at college or while working in a large Eastern city — believing it to be tasteful and appropriate.

But because the Ivy League Look is not native to England, it became something young men could latch onto in order to differentiate themselves from their English peers and to be part of a small elite of those-in-the-know. As a result, Ivy acquired many of the qualities of a music-fashion youth tribe, such as Mod or punk, in which the style forms the core of the person’s identity, and all his tastes and behaviors must conform to what is considered correct by his peer group. The clothes became the vestments of a veritable religious cult, demanding “love” on behalf of the wearer and requiring a “guru” to teach you the “secret code.”

In “The Ivy Look,” Gaul writes of “the alchemy of Ivy,” calling it “a powerful cocktail.” The shoe cabinet at J. Simons, a former London retail shop and chief house of worship for UK Ivy fans, “resembled an altar.” Moreover, “the item around which everyone congregated and gazed in awe at was the legendary Bass Weejun loafer.”

Of all American clothing items, the Weejun ranks highest on the English suss-o-meter. “If you are not wearing what are considered to be acceptable shoes you will be met with frosty indifference” from the Ivy fraternity, the authors pronounce. And the most acceptable shoe in the eye of the sussed is the Weejun.

Now most Americans would probably rank penny loafers somewhere between stodgy and banal. Yet for Marsh and Gaul (age 65 and 45, respectively), they are sacred totems of cool, connecting them, in their imagination, to the world of New York jazz clubs circa 1962. “It still means a lot to me that Miles Davis wore Bass Weejuns,” writes Gaul. “I feel like I am part of that tradition. I am following in his footsteps.”

It’s a case of shoe fetishism à l’outrance in which Weejuns are akin to Dorothy’s magic slippers: Just close your eyes, click your heels, and say, “There’s no place like Greenwich Village.”

For the cult of Weejunaires, the ultimate experience is a pilgrimage to New York City, which Marsh describes as “Ivy Central, a modernist’s Mecca, home of the button-down shirt and the Bass Weejun loafer, city of the sack suit and the legendary jazz clubs.”

Recalling his first visit to Brooks Brothers’ Madison Avenue flagship, Marsh writes that the clothing was laid out on tables “to be viewed as though works of art.” The metaphoric overstatement continues with this: “Each label sewn in every garment that Brooks Brothers sold carried the words ‘Made in USA,’ as reassuring to seekers of the Ivy look as an authenticated painting signed by Picasso.” Later, across town at the Village Vanguard, jazz pianist Bill Evans is like “an album cover come to life.”

Needless to say, seeing our national style referred to with such exagerrated reverence must strike Americans as strange, quixotic, or even silly. Completely absent is the sense of fun and whimsy of the Japanese with their little Ivy cartoon characters (admittedly a different kind of silly). In the UK, Ivy and suss are serious business, and when Marsh and Gaul refer to Ivy “obsession” and “fetishism,” they’re not being censorious.

Yo, where my WASPs at?

“The Ivy Look” includes sections on London Mods, French and Italian cinema, the Miyuki-zoku Japanese youth tribe, actor Steve McQueen, foreign cars, and smoking paraphernalia. It also includes facts about the photographers and graphic designers of the many jazz album covers featured (Marsh is a graphic designer who has previously published a book on jazz album covers).

And yet bafflingly there is no discussion of the actual source of the Ivy League Look: the WASP establishment and its institutions, such as prep schools and private universities, that kept Brooks Brothers and J. Press in business throughout the 20th century. This is akin to two Americans writing a book on British rock from 1960-1970 and not including the Beatles.

Marsh and Gaul use the term WASP twice in passing, though what the acronym stands for is not given, nor is it explained who or what WASP even refers to. And while the term Ivy League appears a number of times, the authors do not explain what that means either, and the only mentions of an Ivy campus are in two photo captions of show business personalities referencing Harvard. Marsh and Gaul do not even bother to tell their novice reader why Ivy is even called Ivy — the very thing that serves as the title of the book.

The closest they get to describing the actual arbiters of the Ivy League Look is this odd and clumsy description:

The east coast of America during the 1950s and 1960s was without a doubt the spiritual home of the Ivy look. It was all about taking care of business, looking sharp within a pared-down, confident, modern America. From Barnett Newman’s minimalist field of color “zip” paintings to Frank Lloyd Wright’s beautiful Guggenheim museum and Eero Saarinen’s design for the TWA terminal at Idlewild Airport, New York, the culture like the clothes exuded modernity.

That the authors consider Modernist architecture more pertinent to the topic at hand than college campuses shows just how narrow their point of view is. They immediately put the focus back on jazz:

For non-Americans, however, these cultural influences surface most prominently in the Ivy League clothing. It wasn’t about the man in the grey flannel suit, more about those hipster saints that grace ultra cool modern jazz album covers.

What Marsh and Gaul don’t seem to understand is that jazz musicians only adopted the Ivy League Look after being exposed to it at campus concerts, as Roy Haynes has told me. In fact, since college students were a large part of the jazz audience and campus concerts were lucrative, one could argue that musicians altered their style to better reflect their audience. Moreover, Miles Davis only donned Weejuns and buttondowns after being taken to The Andover Shop, which catered to Harvard.

In the following passages, Marsh and Gaul continue stressing the association of Ivy with artists:

A pair of penny loafers quickly shook off strict WASP collegiate affiliation by being adopted by any self-respecting horn-rimmed architect or angst-ridden abstract expressionist.

Even today the donning of a pair of Weejuns and a Brooks Brothers button-down operates as a metaphor for creative intent.

But the hypothetical architect in the above passage, or Frank Stella, the Abstract Expressionist who went to Andover and Princeton, presumably picked up the taste for penny loafers and buttondowns in school. When it comes to the Ivy League Look, the starting point is the university, the very reason why the look is named for the Ivy League.

Failure to credit the WASP establishment and college campuses as the mainspring of the Ivy League Look is the cardinal sin of “The Ivy Look.” And in committing it, Marsh and Gaul make it clear — though they may not even fully realize this, as the text is ambiguous — that Ivy in the UK is entirely its own entity with no relevance to Americans. British Ivy may share some of the same sartorial building blocks and cultural reference points as the Ivy League Look, and it may have borrowed a truncated version of the name, but it is not a branch of the American Traditional tree. It is a seed blown across an ocean that sprouted a species of its own.

“The Ivy Look” and the Internet

To better understand this new species and the ethos behind it, it may be helpful to look at how English Ivy fans discuss the topic in the raw, uncensored and putatively anonymous medium of the Internet.

Talk Ivy is an Internet forum where European Ivy fans gather — often to theorize ad nauseum about the “works of art” and “soul-enriching beauty” of Ivy style. It is mentioned in “The Ivy Look,” and bills itself as the leading Ivy message board in the Western hemisphere. The forum includes two members germane to our discussion here — “Gibson Gardens” and “Toffeeman” — as both have written posts that suggest they were involved with the publication of “The Ivy Look.”

In this thread, forum member Gibson Gardens says, “I want just 20 sussed people to buy this book. Don’t give a shit if we don’t make a penny.” Here as well as here, the member called Toffeeman talks about being interviewed for this article in The Independent. And finally, the Talk Ivy forum’s moderator here says that Gibson Gardens and Toffeeman are the same person, elsewhere referring to him as “John.”

The following is a noteworthy remark from Gibson Gardens, in which, among other things, he compares his love of Ivy to an Islamic terrorist organization:

This [Stanley Blacker jacket] is a sacred text upon which we are gazing, and I react with Al-Qaeda-like fury and intolerance when the very roots of the look are so nonchalantly dismissed with a few ignorant pokes at a keyboard.

At the age of 24 I lived for the Ivy look: I ate, slept and breathed the whole thing. A friend coming back from Brooks in 1987, our first pioneer, was greeted like he’d returned from the Moon… We studied the sales receipts like they were medieval parchments.

We would visit J.Simons when it was closed in the evenings and silently stare in the windows. We were dysfunctional, intense and we didn’t get any action with the opposite sex for about 4 years.

I don’t know where it all came from, this seriousness about clothes, but it felt very important back then, a real expression of self and our collective world view. I still get that way now and again…

It wasn’t just clothes, it was all the other associated ephemera. We were learning a code.

As for the topic of America, here are some of Toffeeman’s recent comments:

Milk and cookies America? Not for me. I’m more into Miles pissing all over that stuff wearing pink seersucker at the Newport Jazz Festival while shooting up backstage.

Who made the cars and the fridges and built the detached homes for the wankers in their button-downs? The American Dream is built on bullshit.

Norman Rockwell is sweet and charming nonsense. I don’t believe in that world any more than I believe in Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy.

But most interesting are these two comments, in which rises on the horizon the distant mirage of an Ivy utopia, a Weejun-wearing, socialist-stylist paradise where the disenfranchised and sussed are one. Writes Toffeeman:

I want a messy, ugly, funky multicultural world with everyone in no socks and Weejuns grooving along to Jimmy McGriff. It’s a new hippydom based on proper shoulder line, half an inch of oxford cloth at the cuff and real selvedge 501s.

As someone keen to dignify Ivy and to reclaim it as a progressive, forward-looking “culture” embracing modern jazz, modern architecture and design and a generally heightened aesthetic sensibility, an aspect of the clothes which cheers my socially conscious soul is their obvious green [eco] credentials.

These daffy notions are what American style, removed from its native context and untethered to its original traditions, can inspire.

Constructing a context

English Ivy fans could acquire American clothes on pilgrimages to the US, by mail order, and at the English shops that carried the “clobber,” but, separated in time and place, they didn’t have the same social context in which to wear the clothes. So somewhere along the way they created an artificial and arbitrary context based on the consumption of popular media — records, movies, ads — and the Modernist ethos and aesthetic they saw embodied in this media. “Tradition,” as it relates to Ivy in the UK, is several decades of men swooning over Weejuns, collecting records, looking at old magazines, watching movies, and talking among themselves.

The “world” of Ivy, a term used on “The Ivy Look’s” dust jacket, is a random assortment of cultural items merely contemporary but seen as intimately related. The sum total of these tastes and interests — natural-shouldered jackets, Blue Note jazz albums, scooters, Levis, French New Wave films, modern architecture and Steve McQueen — is what the authors call “Ivy.” This world, of course, is no more real than Toffeeman’s imagined utopia.

Take this reverie, from the book’s car and scooter section, which almost reads like fiction:

In the early 1960s, driving down the Massachusetts Turnpike from Boston to Cape Cod in a Porsche 356 Speedster, Ivy cap firmly in place and Baracuta G9 Harrington zipped up against the wind, must have given those lucky owners a real buzz.

What Marsh and Gaul are talking about here is not anything that actually happened, but a hypothetical scenario consisting of idealized components. You can hardly blame them, or the rest of England, for approaching the topic of Ivy in this fantasy-fueled way. What working-class Londoner would want to idolize some privileged twit at Yale specializing in tax law, when he could wear a Baracuta and khakis, smoke Lucky Strikes, and imagine he’s a character in an American movie?

But to really live Ivy requires you to live in America — New York, specifically. And yet all the English have are the clothes, the simulacrum of movies and photos, and their imagination. Perhaps because the thing they love is always beyond their grasp — like a beautiful woman whose photo you can hold, but not the woman herself — accounts for the bitter zealotry the English feel for this subject.

But if “The Ivy Look” is not an accurate portrayal of the Ivy League Look in America — does it try to be? The answer is yes and no. The main problem with the book is that it floats in a gray area, attempting to chronicle American style and culture at mid-century while imprisoned in its extremely limited point of view and highly subjective interpretation.

As a result, the sections that try to explicate the Ivy League Look in its native context simply feel inaccurate, having a hipster part stand for the establishment whole. As for the passages that describe the UK Ivy fraternity, “The Ivy Look” is nothing more than the print manifestation of a collective daydream. — CHRISTIAN CHENSVOLD

All images provided by Frances Lincoln, from the book “The Ivy Look” by Graham Marsh and JP Gaul, published at £12.99. “Le Samourai” and “A Bout de Souffle” images courtesy of The Reel Poster Gallery; Converse illustration by Graham Marsh.

167 Comments on "Clothes Mad: The English Ivy Obsession"

  1. Great job Christian, You have done such a grand job of tearing this book to shreds. Hats off or should I say Weejuns off to you. A hardy thank you from those of us that are not just Preppies but WASPs as well.
    I prefer not to make New York ( City ) my home base, but when in town, I make a point to stay at 15 West 43rd St. I love to walk the neighborhood when I can. I think I am talking myself into a road trip. Anyway, Great start to this next years posts.
    Always, Bumby

  2. Why don’t you mention your personal issues with the never-mentioned-by-name “Internet forum”, of which the authors are members?

  3. Jancis Robertson | October 4, 2010 at 2:50 am |

    But they recommend your website in the back of their little book. Why are you being so beastly about them? I found it a really rather cute and delightful book full of pics of lovely men in lovely clothes. They seem to love the Ivy League style. Don’t you too? Ought there not be some fraternal warmth based on this?

  4. I am not sure the authors have set to write a definitive comprehensive review of Ivy clothes and their context. The size of the book should tell you that.

    Yes it is a UK take and some in the US may take exception to foreigners trying to write about their style. However to compare the British and Japanese and conclude that Japanese uncritically accept Ivy from source probably indicates you are unable to add to what you have gleaned from the ‘Take Ivy’ book you refer to because of language issues.

    Anyway Jancis Robinson likes the book and she knows her wines. Any recommendations for this week Jancis, a nice red maybe?

  5. Michael Mattis | October 4, 2010 at 6:33 am |

    The dead serious Ivy kids of Old Blighty might do with a lesson in whimsy, irony and good humor from The Chaps.

  6. Christian, well done.

  7. I only found this blog a few days ago and couldn’t help but comment on this entry. Popular culture will always be a bit distorted at they other end of the telescope. As someone whose idea of heaven is somewhere in New England circa 1955, the whole loafers, khakis, herringbone tweed and, lets face it, vast amounts of old money wealth is a cliche, but an attractive one. Remember our view of Ivy on this side of the pond is forged through Cary Grant, JFK at Hyannis, Ralph Lauren, Mona Lisa Smile and Dead Poets Society. I suspect it is merely a daydream but no different from the American Anglophile’s somewhat (to us) cliched obsession with Stonehenge, pea souper fogs in Old London Town and Changing the Guard at Buckingham Palace. I haven’t read the book by Marsh and Gaul yet but will do so in the knowledge that, although undoubtedly flawed when viewed from the fons et origo of Ivy Style in the USA, it is like Dick Van Dyke’s appalling Lodoner’s accent in Mary Poppins – sincerely meant. Great article – Great blog – What a swell party this is.

  8. A fascinating dissection Christian.

    While reading it I couldn’t help but think about the perception of Ralph Lauren’s clothing in the UK.

    Certainly Ralph’s lines encompass many sensibilities but at the center there is an imagined English aristocracy and, like Marsh and Gaul’s vision, it is often derived from cinematic references.

    I wonder, Does Ralph Lauren’s vision rankle the Brits in the same way that ‘The Ivy Look’ might bother hard core Ivy traditionalists ?

    I’m neither a fashion historian nor an academic and therefore the fact that the Brits have their own skewed view on things Ivy doesn’t bother me.

    I often like the way the Brits put their spin on things – Where would Rock and Roll be if Led Zeppelin or the Rolling Stones hadn’t re imagined the delta blues or the songs of African American plantation workers ?

    ‘The Ivy Look’ may not be accurate but it does seem to reveal a cooler vision of what things could have been.

  9. This will sound glib, as my post is critical, but many of the book’s images do have a cool vibe I quite enjoyed. I just found most an inaccurate representation of the Ivy League Look in America, and contend that the juvenile zealotry of the British Ivy scenesters makes it impossible for Americans to take them seriously.

    FYI: while clearing papers off my desk I found the press release for “The Ivy Look.” It, like the book itself, definitely sounds like the goal is to portray Ivy style in its original, American incarnation.

    Trivia: According to Google Analytics, England comprises about 4 percent of’s traffic.

  10. Great post, Christian.

    I think you’re pretty much dead-on about the English fantasy of America embodied in this book; I’d like to say, though, that Americans (or at least this American) are not so immune to the fantasy as you imagine.

    I’ve lived in the USA all my life, graduated from both a Little Three college and Mr. Jefferson’s University, and now am a professor in the Seersucker Zone of the southeast coast. So I’m pretty familiar with the WASP sources, university contexts, and class connotations of Ivy style (though not quite in their classic period)…and for that reason I absolutely hated these clothes until I was 35 years old. When I was growing up, I did not want to be associated with those “privileged twits” at all. Punk rock for me! But as I hit full adulthood and outgrew my subculture, I started looking for a more dignified, but still mannered look, and found that it’s now possible to wear a lot of classic American clothes just a tad ironically, as a foreigner would (though Weejuns remain off-limits to me). My chief inspirations have been the same as those the Brits have found — old movies and album covers, not the actual frat boys and golf dads who surround me here. In fact, it’s only the decline of real WASP hegemony here that makes the look attractive.

    Frankly, I agree with the Brits: as a model (role and otherwise) Jean-Paul Belmondo is a heck of a lot more attractive than G.H.W. Bush. More power to ’em, I say.

  11. P.S.: While I’m all about the spirit of the fantasy, as far as I know the Mass Pike never went from Boston to Cape Cod. Where my fact checkaz at? I suppose Chicopee or Springfield just wouldn’t be as romantic.

  12. As a long-time lurker of both the AAAC and Talk Ivy forums, I’ve witnessed the birth pangs of your blog, Christian, and also what it has developed into.

    I think it’s entirely facetious to act as though the image you are presenting of “Ivy Style” is at all less fantastical than the one presented by the authors of “The Ivy Look.” Let’s be honest. You are in your thirties, I believe, and I would make an educated guess that most of your readership are in their twenties or thirties. You’re looking at a fashion through the rose-tinted lenses of nostalgia just as much as the authors of “The Ivy Look” are.

    To criticize the authors for not giving due to the WASP establishment reeks of threatened elitism (and an elitism that I believe you have no claim to beyond being a white male.) Perhaps you’re forgetting the egalitarian roots of this style? What we consider the “boom years” of this style (1947-1965, roughly) were also the years that the economic barriers of the Ivy league schools were removed via the GI Bill, and following that by the removal of gender/race restrictions.

    What is that you value about this style? How egalitarian it was and can be, or how it allows you to pretend to be some stuffy, discontented Cheever character? Because, in all sincerity, you’re very close to becoming a character that Cheever would lampoon.

    I’d venture to say you’d be better served by starting a blog aimed towards the Anglo-influenced Ivy fashions from before WWII, because if you’re really capable of spending so many vitriolic words tearing down an (admittedly Utopian) viewpoint of the boom years of Ivy style because they forgot to reference cultural and racial elitism, you’re doing not only a disservice to your readers, but to yourself as well. Pretend away, Christian, but at the end of the day you’re still a blogger.

    @Kagi: No, Mass Pike has never connected with Cape Cod.

  13. I was just going to say that the Mass Pike doesn’t go to Cape Cod, but I was beaten to the punch.

    A lot here to digest and critique. I’ll let the members in question of the forum in question have their fantasy of modernism–which for them was nostalgic the first time around and is quixotic now–because it is hard to talk someone out of those viewpoints.

    I do, however, take issue with their assumption that modernism (in architecture in particular) has anything to do with Ivy other than the fact that modernist architects happened to wear it. Think of furniture or buildings from the era: streamlined, free of ornament, function before form. Ivy in contrast is full of things vestigial and ornamental: collars that button down, lapels with machined topstitching (so often mistakenly referred to on the interwebs as a “lapped seam”), thick cuffs on trousers, jackets with no one but two vestigial buttons. Why did Modernists architects and artists wear sack suits? I guess you would have to ask them, but I doubt that it had much to do with some grand unified theory.
    Must have been a crazy time though, the establishment and the anti-establishment looking so much alike.

  14. Christopher Tawney | October 4, 2010 at 4:10 pm |

    Good Lord! John Simons has a lot to answer for. The shoe shelf was on your right, as you went in the door – not really an altar, and I still have some wonderful Walkover dirty bucks bought from John in 1983, but ironically, thanks to Russell and Bromley, we prefer Sebago, and of course, English made loafers are better than anything you have. Your good chinos and jeans are excellent, and in almost every modern Englishman’s wardrobe, but they are not really up to our cavalry cut trousers.

  15. What @Kagi said. (More or less.)

    If you were coming at Ivy from a different subculture (Mod, for me), I think you’d probably view this book more favorably. Like @Kagi (and many others, I’m sure), I made a conscious effort to avoid anything even that might be considered “Preppy” when I was growing up. The Ivy look played a large part in the development of not just the Mod look, but of the Skinhead and Suedehead styles that emerged as Mod died out. The older I get, the more I appreciate Ivy style, even if I’m still not at all interested in what would be categorized as Prep.

    Are there some omissions and errors in The Ivy Look? Sure, but I personally find them easy enough to gloss over, given that a) I’m already familiar with the origins of the Ivy look in the U.S., and b) the unbridled enthusiasm Marsh and Gall bring to the subject. Is there a tad too much enthusiasm for the Bass Weejun? Perhaps, but they’re not talking about the current shoes, and I don’t get how you can claim the average American would find penny loafers “stodgy” or “banal,” without admitting that you could make the same statement about virtually any of the so-called Ivy essentials. “Most Americans” dress like crap and can’t be bothered to wear anything that can’t be co-ordinated with a hooded sweatshirt and an Ed Hardy t-shirt, so I find it odd that you’d invoke the general public in an effort to denigrate Marsh and Gall.

    Bottom line: I didn’t buy the book expecting anything more than an overview of the style’s building blocks amidst some great images. (Pretty much the same reason I bought Take Ivy, which I also enjoyed, but didn’t find particularly mind-blowing or life-altering.) Yes, there’s a lot of nostalgia for things that never quite were in the text, but it’s all meant in the most sincere and affectionate way possible. What’s more, it says “pocket guide” right there on the cover. To me at least, that’s always code for “something less than definitive.”

    I’ll take a dozen books like this over True Prep any day of the week.

  16. @Christopher Tawney: Marsh and Gall definitely invoke a fair amount of hyperbole when referencing J. Simons, but having visited John’s shop myself when it was still open, I can offer nothing but the fondest recollections of the shop and its proprietor. I think it’s easy to get swept up in admiration for the man. John had (and I assume, still has) a great eye, and as much as I enjoyed The Ivy Look for what it was, I wish he’d get around to writing a book on the subject himself.

  17. ScoobyDubious | October 4, 2010 at 5:22 pm |

    “Spot on” as the Brits would say.

    While the enthusiasm of the authors is contagious, and somewhat flattering as an American, their wish to coalesce disparate objects and elements of mid-century American culture into a re-imagined UK “lifestyle” (read: cult), secret society, or Ivy “theory of everything” betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of the ubiquity of the style.
    When 75% of suits sold in the US in 1958 were supposedly in the 3-button Ivy League style, it is impossible to consider the style as anything but mainstream.

    One can almost see the machinations in the authors minds as they try to create this new fantasy world indenti-kit for themselves that can incorporate all their mid-century Americana obsessions under one tidy umbrella. “Ivy”/”Modernist” must sound SO much less embarrassing as an adult than “Mod”. They can still play dress-up, and have a “secret club”, but under the guise of this new moniker.

    Perhaps is exactly because of this cross-Atlantic reinterpretation that this book is still entertaining. I can’t be the only one amused by the notion that Marlboro cigarettes have somehow become “Ivy League”.
    I wonder how many rednecks are aware of this supposed link.

  18. Sharp as a tack, Scooby, and I like your moniker. I’m partial to the sobriquet Sick O’Fantic, myself.

  19. NaturalShoulder | October 4, 2010 at 8:33 pm |

    Very well written and thorough review.

  20. “As a result, the sections that try to explicate the Ivy League Look in its native context simply feel inaccurate, having a hipster part stand for the establishment whole.”

    Really? Is English your first language?

  21. ScoobyDubious | October 4, 2010 at 9:53 pm |

    I was just thinking what a huge swath of America is unknowingly in the secret UK “Ivy Look” club. Imagine Joe Schmo wearing Levi’s and Chuck Taylors, smoking a Marlboro, Camel or Lucky, while driving his 60s Ford Mustang. Maybe he’s wearing a button-down or khakis. Maybe some jazz is on the radio.

    That’s not “Ivy League”, that’s just American.
    …and there are a shitload of people in that club.

    The UK “Ivy” fan would NEVER admit to the simple blunt obvious fact that they have an obsession with copying mainstream American culture. It’s the tired and predictable condescending smug anti-Americanism that many Brits wear like their favorite old moth-eaten overcoat. That familiar old coat that makes them feel all warm and protected. No, they have to couch their Americanophile obsessions in more vague euphemistic terms like “Ivy”, and with “trainspotter/anorak” obsessive cult terms. It’s ok to obsess about all things American if you call them “Ivy” instead, and maybe name-check Miles Davis for street cred. It’s ok to like Americans as long as they are minorities or artistic rebels.

    But to admit that you like mainstream American culture? To admit that you just want to copy an ordinary American? That won’t go down well at the pub. Better call it something else.

  22. What is it with you people? Why the omnipresent jazz obsession? Give it a rest already. Don’t you know that real WASPs did not and do not listen to jazz?

    The weird Negrophilia of the English Ivy fanatics is well worth a (pyscho-)analysis, at least.

    While I appreciate CC’s take-apart of this book, which I still think is worth a read, both sides in my opinion are still in the grip of a feverish Ivy fantasy that has scant to do with the reality then as now.

  23. I’ve spent some time over at the… forum to which you refer, and let me tell you them dudes is weirdos, the best kind of weirdos, but weirdos none the less. The English take their culture cults so seriously. I never could quite convince them how banal Ivy is in the United States, still very much the uniform of upper middle class people of a certain age and locale, not to mention the school kids that are forced to wear the oxford and khakis as a school uniform all across the nation. Much of their vibe is Italian as well, y’know, post-war, want to be Americano etc. More power too ’em, let ’em have their corners. Everyone wants to feel cool. Didn’t this all begin with American kids wanting look like old English men? Let the old English men dress like American kids. I do prefer the Japanese whimsy though.

  24. Jancis Robertson | October 5, 2010 at 3:00 am |

    Chaps – you really ought to know that in the UK there is very little anti-Americanism. Most Brits love America, they understand the culture and the mindset. Anglo-Saxon, anglo-american – there is a unity there. We Brits remember what happened 39-45, it’s part of our national narrative. No point being horrible about us, though I note that in Hollywood drama the Brit is invariably cast as the villain, which is not nice and hints at something rather dark in the American view of us. Is this what is happening here? Why be so chippy? This little book may well sell more shoes for Alden, more shirts for Mercer, more Bill’s khakis, well more of everything we all want to see prosper. At least I know I do. US plus Japan plus UK plus Italy equals one big happy Ivy family. We need a group hug.

  25. John Wilder | October 5, 2010 at 3:43 am |

    And such a long article too?

    Methinks the Lady doth protest too much…


  26. For protesting too much, I think you might want to visit the Talk Ivy forum.

    I’ve not written on this topic before, nor do I plan to do so again.

  27. Galveston Knitwear | October 5, 2010 at 5:47 am |

    That review certainly seemed to the cause of much mirth at the Talk Ivy forum, didn’t it?

    I enjoyed both the book and your review immensely.

  28. One thing crossed my mind: Is there still interest in Ivy among young men in the UK, or was its golden age from the 60s to 80s, and their ranks are no longer being replenished?

    Marsh and Gaul are 65 and 45, the Delusional Narcissist is 45, and Talk Ivy’s moderator is at the age of erectile dysfunction (and I thought the cranky English guys were just dyspeptic):

    In other words, do 24-year-olds today still have the fervor Gibson Gardens talks about?

  29. I pushed enter by accident previously – EXCELLENT REVIEW.

    All of this mod blending with Ivy style was nothing I was aware of. The Brooks stores were never modernist in style. J Press was never modern (though the new Madison Ave. branch may be).

    How popular exactly was Jazz in the Ivy heyday? I would guess that Folk music and Perry Como type music was probably much more popular than Jazz in the same era. Not critiquing Jazz’s artistic qualities, only the popularity and association with Ivy style.

  30. Jazz was very popular on college campuses in the ’50s — the white, West Coast bands especially. So popular it was parodied in 1960’s “Where the Boys Are”:

    I just love that subplot: Spring Break at Ft. Lauderdale and the music of choice is avant-garde jazz.

  31. I agree with Jancis R at 3.00am. Never underestimate how enthusiastic we are about most aspects of American culture – Movies, Jazz, literature. Ivy is another part of that, and to us often filtered through other elements such as jazz. Is Ivy still popular among young men in UK? Not sure – I’m 51 and I think that this is something for grown ups.

  32. ScoobyDubious | October 5, 2010 at 11:30 am |

    @Jancis Robertson

    “Chaps – you really ought to know that in the UK there is very little anti-Americanism.”

    Now THAT is the funniest thing I’ve read in quite a while!

  33. Vern Trotter | October 5, 2010 at 11:58 am |

    A lot of verbiage about a very simple style. Jazz was very popular on campus in the 1950’s. Levis were not and never have been. Levis should only be worn if one owns a ranch and then only in a working capacity.

    A very good review. Hard to believe any Brit I know could be Ivy; it is harder to believe any Nipponese could be. I dreamed I was on a beach somewhere and they were coming at me with horns blowing, bayonets fixed and yelling “F**k Babe Ruth” in searsucker three button suits and rep ties.

  34. “Nipponese” sounds straight from Laguna Beach Fogey’s vocabulary.

  35. Make that 3% now, buster.

  36. Christopher Tawney | October 5, 2010 at 2:34 pm |

    Ole BLT, or whatever he calls himself today – Laguna Beach thingy – is obviously not familiar with the Newport Jazz films,silly fellow; I suspect he’s youngish and ignorant, because I believe he’d enjoy the ‘sailboats’.

    P.S. We don’t hate you; we despise you.

  37. I am always suspicious of anyone who genuflects to Wright’s Guggenheim and Saarinen’s TWA terminal; one has curved walls and unlevel floors for hanging paintings and the other was too small to accommodate traffic pre-jet capacity. Unlike traditional and prep clothing neither was functional nor timeless.

  38. “The main problem with the book is that it floats in a gray area.” Shit floats too. Well done, Christian, in taking them to task. They sound a right bit of hipsters; Red hipsters too.

  39. Fatfriend/Tawney ~ The sentiment is mutual I assure you. Though I add a pinch or three of bemusement to mine. A chap can’t take you ageing Ivy hipsters and your silly obsession with ‘Cool’ too seriously now can he? Go blow on your sax old man.

  40. Here’s the track of a real live Ivy fellow I know:

    Phillips, Andover
    The Navy
    Yale Law
    New York
    Davis Polk and Wardwell
    Piping Rock
    Palm Beach
    Bath and Tennis

    If you were to believe the folks at Talk Ivy, ‘Mormon Missionaries’ , ‘the guys from Mississippi Burning’ and ‘the bow tie wearers from The Nation of Islam’ would all somehow fit on the list above

    I can’t say I follow that but the fellows they mention certainly do have a look

  41. Laguna Beach Limp, surely you were born for greater things than spewing un-American bigotry anonymously on the internet. Time for you to reevaluate. They’re mostly laughing at you.

  42. Fatfriend/Tawney ~ What accounts for your wound? What explains your inferiority complex? Middle class schoolmaster’s son? Did Dragon not deem you good enough for Eton? Did you instead go to comprehensive? Red brick? It would explain a lot.

  43. Yeah, Admiral Clod? a self-appointed spoke person for all things WASP.
    Ever heard of the roaring twenties of raccoon coats and jazz throughout
    the IVY campus? Or High Society celebration of Big Band music of
    the 30’s and 40’s? What planet are you from? ……of course.”Aging”
    he says. Just another anti authority, and anti establishment punk.
    You don’t outright LIE because -you-don’t like jazz mister. Another area
    of old fashioned traditional WASPdom you don’t fit into.Tough.
    WASP parties were nothing but jazz and classical. Cole Porter?
    Stop trying to redefine WASP to fit your particular needs. Oh, you’re the
    model and example of the modern day thirty something protestant?
    No wonder the WASP world is no longer what it once was.

  44. As far as Mr Swampland and Gall, what can one expect from the mindset
    of today’s Britons? A burglar has to be asked to leave verbally upon invading
    your home,if you dare to assume you have the right to handle the matter
    physically the British courts allow for the criminal to sue you and win as well,
    on assault charges,wouldn’t you know. Today’s England is backwards to the
    point of having become demented. On behalf of egalitarianism England must
    condemn itself as a way of life,recognize their Colonial Empire was evil,and
    how they now owe their hearts completely to internationalism, and the most
    absurd stretch of humanitarianism that the criminal is to be forgiven at all
    costs. Their entire psyche is warped. They are actually PROUD to be
    anti-national and lead the way as forerunners for an asinine one world
    order.How grand,how utterly magnificent it would be to resurrect the
    Old Colonial Armies and have them attack their own country now,
    and put England back where it belongs. Ah well.

  45. pressuredrop | October 5, 2010 at 9:24 pm |

    what with the rewiev being somewhat snide, bitter and prejudiced, some peoples racist comments are even worse. if the bitter bigotry is the ‘trad’ mindset i want to be as far away from it as possible.

    you lot can keep your WASP thing (to me it alwasy was that shite 80s hard rock band anyway) and ku klux klan country music, i’ll happily be ‘a negrophile’ with my jazz, soul, rhythm’n’blues and whatnot, and have fun with my ‘gun wielding funny nipponese’ friends, with top ivy gear on. alongside with the mighty music of blackamerica, ivy clothing wass the greatest american innovation after all.

    i’m not british, by the way.

  46. Fatfriend/Tawney ~ You foolish prick, what accounts for your wound? What explains your inferiority complex? Middle class schoolmaster’s son? Did Dragon not deem you good enough for Eton? Did you instead go to comprehensive? Red brick? It would explain a lot.

  47. Galveston Knitwear | October 6, 2010 at 3:40 am |

    I really shouldn’t have to say it, but so many here seem to be labouring under pretty hefty misconceptions.

    The ‘Ivy League’ style is not inextricably tied to the Ivy League Universities (and clearly has not been for over fifty years). You don’t hear people griping how come Volkswagen no longer makes a People’s Car capable of transporting two adults and three children at 62 mph, and that it doesn’t cost 990 Reichsmarks anymore, do you?

    Brits who appreciate and wear American clothes are no more odd than Californian MG owners, Scotch aficionados in Texas (!) or Australian fans of French cinema.

    Many, our host included, seem to envision giant ‘mods ‘n’ rockers’-like hordes of UK Ivyists in the past. This was never the case. Strictly a niche to this day. Numbered in dozens. Appreciating jazz is not a prerequisite, if my English friends are to be believed.

  48. pressuredrop | October 6, 2010 at 7:33 am |

    galveston knitwear, you’re spot on.

  49. Funny, pressuredrop’s email is

    Galveston, in the England v. Japan section, I make it pretty clear that from what I’ve gathered the British Ivy scene is quite small. I refer to it as an “insular clique” and also wrote, “Ivy was always a kind of secret society for the sussed few.”

  50. Russell_Street | October 6, 2010 at 11:30 am |

    I have folowed this with great interest.
    Best –

  51. The feud is more interesting to me than the review and reaction.

    On the one hand, some on ‘Take Ivy’ call Christian Chensvold, a Johnny-Come-Lately, a No-Mark, a plagiarist.They back this up by pointing out Christian wanted a Brit on board to get ‘Ivy Style’ up and running.

    For his part, Christian Chensvold points out the jazz diversion in the book review. He prefers a link to academia and Ask Andy-style class issues.

    Cue much piss taking on both sides

  52. I have just noticed that Jancis above is not the widely published Master of Wine.

    So don’t worry too much about recommending a good red Jancis. Though if you know of one……

  53. Christopher Tawney | October 6, 2010 at 12:27 pm |

    Galveston Knitwear is right; it really is just about nice clothes

  54. Excellent review, CC. I’m sure we’ll see more good writing like this to come.

    As is often the case, most everything that can be said, has been said in the first 50 posts (or so). It’s all downhill from here, with more moronic mudslinging being just about all that we can look forward to in the comments from here on out.

    So goes the ‘net!

  55. Yeah, I’m thinking of giving Russell Street free rein to comment all he wants on this one post.

    Of course, that means things won’t go downhill from here, they’ll go over a cliff.

  56. ScoobyDubious | October 6, 2010 at 3:30 pm |

    And yet no one is able to explain the bizarre UK Ivy correlation of Marlboro cigarettes, Eames lounge chairs, and Ford Mustangs. The only connection there is that they were all American.

    I’m not saying the people from another culture can’t appreciate chinos and weejuns (and it is absurd to say you have to live in NYC when the style was nationwide in it’s heyday) but if you’re compiling a guidebook (or handbook, or whatever they are calling it) and you’re gonna throw around the moniker of a pre-existing foreign style, it would behoove the authors to leave out their fantasy projections.

    It is fairly obvious that the authors, subconsciously or not, are attempting to construct another UK clothes/music cult – with all the fetishized objects and rules – for those who have aged past the point where that sort of thing is embarrassing.

    They have created an imaginary world based on fantasies of Steve McQueen or Miles Davis, or some pretentious bullshit “hipster saint” fantasy wherein any random artistic figure who happened to wear chinos is tied together in some mystical unspoken alliance of angel-headed hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night.

    But the mundane reality is that it might just as well have been some dorky college sophmore in Kansas, or some boring insurance salesman in Detroit, who just liked their Yuma loafers and chinos that they picked up on sale at the department store. That ain’t quite so romantic as a fantasy about a secret club of anti-establishment artistic rebels pondering French New Wave films whilst lounging in an Eames recliner and fondling their Porsche keychain.

    Not that there is anything wrong with that.

  57. Your line “subconsciously or not” is right on, I think. I wrote this line only in the final polish: “… Marsh and Gaul make it clear — though they may not even fully realize this, as the text is ambiguous — that Ivy in the UK is entirely its own entity with no relevance to Americans.”

    But as I look back over the piece, I think this is one of the two most important points. My sense is that the authors have been into this topic for so long they have a kind of myopia. They think they’re writing the history of this American style, and have been into it for so long they’re no longer even conscious of their extremely subjective point of view.

    Until recently, when the trad blogs and forums started to appear, which touch on similar themes but not from a 1962 point of view and certainly not from a bohemian artist point of view, they were not faced with much discourse on the subject of the Ivy League Look except among themselves, I suspect. I think their interpretation ossified over the past several decades to where they’ve been staring at this cherished topic of theirs for so long they can’t even see straight.

    From the press release to the dust jacket to the text inside, I believe the authors feel they were writing a history of the Ivy League Look in America (despite the “personal edit” line in the foreword). The first line on the back cover reads, “The Ivy Look is a pictorial celebration of the clothing and accessories that dominated the American male dress code from 1955 to 1965.”

    Yet the text occasionally presents a passage where the non-American point of view expressed, but then goes back into chronicling American style and culture. There seems to be an inconsistent point of view. If the book was purely about British Ivy, they would be absolved of many criticisms (they’d still be scenester zealots, but at least they couldn’t be accused of making a hipster part stand for an establishment whole in their discussion of Ivy in America).

    Besides this “gray area” of ambiguity as to exactly what the point of view is (subjective English interpretation versus factual recount of America), the other point that resonates with me the most is a disorienting feeling that the authors aren’t entirely sure who they’re writing for. That’s why I make that point that things like WASP, the Ivy League athletic conference and even the term “Ivy” aren’t explained, yet all the basics of the clothing are. In other words, they can’t say “we didn’t explain where the term Ivy comes from, or how this style came to be named for the Ivy League, because we can safely assume our reader knows those things.” If that were the case, and the reader were sussed, they wouldn’t have bothered to explain Weejuns and everything else.

    Marsh and Gaul are super advanced, and writing for novices is always tricky for someone far along (I hate doing it myself). In their minds, I think they were in sussed mode while choosing the images, but novice mode when writing the text (and this should be a novice text, as the whole point, theoretically, is to reach new people).

    But even as someone advanced myself, something felt disorienting about the text, as if it starts in the middle — starts with certain assumptions yet spends all its time explaining basic things. The first line of the foreword reads “The Ivy look seems to us as fresh, exciting and relevant as ever and our aim in this book has been to reflect the history and the glamour of the style,” while the first line of chapter one is “Ivy clothes were addictive.” Information is filled in later about when the heyday was, but no real solid grounding for the reader of where this all comes from.

  58. ” In their minds, I think they were in sussed mode while choosing the images, but novice mode when writing the text (and this should be a novice text, as the whole point, theoretically, is to reach new people).”

    See that is where I think you get it so wrong.

    One of the authors has already said he would be happy if twenty ‘sussed’ types read the book. So it is assumed most have the knowledge and background.

    You seem to see this small tome as fulfilling the same role as Andy Gilchrist’s book/CD – but in the Ivy League clothing sphere.

    Most ‘Ivy Look’ readers will not need to know the answer to the Ivy equivalent of ‘Is it OK to wear a black suit?’

  59. I think in their minds it was always for the sussed, but for the publisher to greenlight it, it had to be for novices. The text is for novices. The first line on the inside dust jacket says “you will be introduced to the Ivy look.”

    The book is for beginners. This is not a criticism. This kind of book should be for beginners.

    Also, Gibson Gardens was being disingenuous when he said he only wanted 20 sussed people to buy it. The next day he posted a list of retailers where Talk Ivy members could “browse and buy the book.”

    He later complained about the discounting by Amazon, even though he’d said he didn’t give a shit if they didn’t make a penny. He also said if it sold well they might get to do a coffee table book.

    So much for being a sussed gentleman amateur. He almost sounds like a money-grubbing professional. You know, like me.

    He also complained that Ivy-Style wasn’t giving it due press coverage:

    And Toffeeman has this marvelous quote:

    “Glad they sold 2 more copies today. Now reorder it you fuckers!”

    I’m a reporter. I do my research.

  60. Lads. At the end of the day, it’s only clothes. We don’t need to wet our panties over them – very uncool!

  61. It’s amateur’s hour again at IS.

    AR ~ You under-estimate me. I’m a natural at ‘spewing un-American bigotry,’ which is why uneducated rubes such as yourself keep responding to my remarks.

    I’m going to have to side with Christian on this one, though I’m sure he’d rather not have me on side. One thing is for sure, CC’s got these English Ivy/Jazz obsessives sussed.

  62. Russell_Street | October 6, 2010 at 9:41 pm |

    How nice it is to appear here one more without using a phony name!
    Here we have one Ivy book, now we need more. The French Ivy ‘Minet’ scene of the early 60’s in Paris continues to haunt me…
    As for Ivy in England – This is Mr Marsh & Mr Gaul’s book. A different book would have been written by (say) Nahman & Stone which would have emphasised the Gay side of all this… But the shirts worn would have stayed the same.
    Here’s to creativity!
    Best –

  63. John Wilder | October 6, 2010 at 11:48 pm |

    “I’m a reporter. I do my research.”

    Give him enough rope.

  64. For God’s sake!!
    You give someone free rein, NOT “reign”. And you probably mean money-grabbing, not “money-grubbing”. You are a reporter, you do your research?
    Well, you are also allegedly a writer. Do your fucking proofreading.

  65. ”The book is for beginners. This is not a criticism. This kind of book should be for beginners.”

    Once again, that is where you are wrong. That is perhaps the kind of book you may want.

    It is not supposed to cover everything. Readers discuss the minutiae on places like ‘Talk Ivy’. You cannot do it all in a small book. The websites are where you do that.

  66. Galveston Knitwear | October 7, 2010 at 2:22 am |

    Thanks for the heads-up Christian. I hadn’t realized this book was already being carried by the V&A museum and the Tate Gallery.

  67. “Reign” for rein was an error. Money grubbing was not.

  68. Wayne, the book is a beginner’s guide that explains what Weejuns are. The sussed already know what Weejuns are.

    And the problem is not that the book isn’t comprehensive, it’s that what it does cover it covers from a limited and subjective point of view.

  69. ”Wayne, the book is a beginner’s guide that explains what Weejuns are. The sussed already know what Weejuns are.

    And the problem is not that the book isn’t comprehensive, it’s that what it does cover it covers from a limited and subjective point of view.”

    I see where you are coming from. However, even an absolute beginner would have some idea of a few fundamentals. Otherwise, what would bring him to Ivy?

    I see the book more as a celebration of a style rather than the sort of ‘How to Dress’ guide that Americans have always been keen on. It is just a very nice book to have around. Subjective yes; but maybe a dispassionate description of a shoe, for example, would leave you wondering what all the fuss is about.

  70. Roy R. Platt | October 7, 2010 at 12:55 pm |

    Just wondering how many of the people making comments have seen a copy of “The Ivy Look”…..

  71. ScoobyDubious | October 7, 2010 at 1:20 pm |

    @Wayne Kerr (Daddy name you that?) opined:

    “I see the book more as a celebration of a style rather than the sort of ‘How to Dress’ guide that Americans have always been keen on.”

    How can it be anything BUT a ‘How To Dress’ guide (that the Brits have always been keen on) when they go into detail about cuff width down to the 1/8th of an inch, specific seams, which button to leave un-done and include a list of shops in the back telling you where to purchase clothes?

    inside front cover blurb: “Where to find the essential clothes and best websites. Crucial reference material”.

    “Crucial reference” for what? Perhaps ‘How to dress’?

    Just for the record, regardless of how i might feel about the silliness of some of the text, or how I’m baffled that certain cigarettes are considered ‘Ivy’, I did like the book. It has some very stylish and cool images that everyone here should enjoy.

    For Roy: Yes, I have a copy. Do you want a roll call?

  72. @ScoobyDubious:

    “And yet no one is able to explain the bizarre UK Ivy correlation of Marlboro cigarettes, Eames lounge chairs, and Ford Mustangs. The only connection there is that they were all American.”

    I think what’s being overlooked here is the tremendous influence our GIs had on post-WWII Britain. Our culture was exported to the UK largely by the troops stationed there and everything from soul, jazz and blues records to clothes to cigarettes to Coca Cola and chewing gum had a huge effect on the Brits back then. There was a real love affair with American culture at that time, and given the authors’ ages (especially Marsh’s), I think that’s what is being reflected here. And as someone else noted, Ivy wasn’t as widespread in the UK as it was in the US, but that’s largely because those who adopted the look combined it with other styles and it became something separate from what is popularly recognized as Ivy here. As noted earlier, the Mod look borrowed as heavily from Ivy as it did from French and Italian styles, and by many accounts the Suedehead look of the late ’60s essentially dropped the Continental influence altogether for a more full-on American look. The fascination with Marlboros and Lucky Strikes, American film stars, etc. really has more to do with that specific period when American culture was taking hold over in the UK, I just don’t think that was made implicitly clear in this book.

    “It is fairly obvious that the authors, subconsciously or not, are attempting to construct another UK clothes/music cult – with all the fetishized objects and rules – for those who have aged past the point where that sort of thing is embarrassing.”

    Just my opinion, obviously, but I think they really just want to share their enthusiasm for something they’ve been interested in a good part of their lives, and now seemed like a good time to do it. I can’t claim to know John Gall, but I did meet him last time I visited J. Simons when I was in the UK, and it was pretty clear he loved all of this stuff just as much as Simons himself does. And Gall was working at J. Simons long before Trad/Ivy blew up online. Simons has been selling Ivy since the ’60s. It’s not like these guys just glommed onto the style recently.

    What’s more, there’s nothing embarrassing about fetishizing items of clothing — why do blogs like this exist, if that’s not the case? — and what you call “rules,” I personally see as more to do with attention to detail and intent. You’re right: Some office worker in Middle America is right now wearing khakis, an OCBD and if not Bass Weejuns, then something similar without any consideration of why or how. I would imagine most of the posters here, if assembling a similar outfit, would put more thought into it and look better as a result. I would think that’s something most of us have in common, to one degree or another.

    Whatever the case, I think the book’s worth owning, even if it’s just to look at the images. It’s not perfect and definitely not the last word on the style, but I’m glad I have a copy.

  73. Thanks, e.s., for taking the time to write that comment. I think you may be the new record holder for word count.

    Continuing the debate, however:

    Quote: “I think they really just want to share their enthusiasm.”

    Over at Talk Ivy they seem willing to pardon any remark, no matter how outlandish, as long as it can be chalked up to the poster’s “passion.”

    Apparent lack of “passion” for this subject is one of the chief complaints the Talk Ivy crowd has about me, whereas I see “passion” as their main problem.

  74. ScoobyDubious | October 7, 2010 at 4:06 pm |


    “The fascination with Marlboros and Lucky Strikes, American film stars, etc. really has more to do with that specific period when American culture was taking hold over in the UK, I just don’t think that was made implicitly clear in this book.”

    Well, I guess that was my point. It was just a general fascination with American pop culture. Perhaps the book should have been called “Mid-century American Male Style & Cultural Ephemera That Were Fetishized In the UK”

    I’m aware that Marsh, and obviously Simons, have been obsessing about these styles for decades. I was referring to some of those folks quoted from “Talk Ivy”. It seems that Gaul is one of those psuedonyms on the forum. Having perused the boards over there, it has been stated numerous times how many ex-mods are there carving a new niche for themselves under this “Ivyist” tag. I’ve read lengthy “mission statements” about Ivy League style from Russell Street over on the forums as well. That connection is more than well-documented.
    I’m well familiar with that whole smug “topping up” characteristic
    of some mods. Especially the aging ex-mods. They come across like a gaggle of gossipy bitchy queens.

    But hey, nice photos in the book!

  75. @ Christian – Well, passion can definitely be expressed in an overbearing manner, especially online, which is why I tend to avoid most forums these days. That said, I can’t really comment on what’s been posted on Talk Ivy or what goes on there. My impression of this book, though, is that it’s the product of lifelong enthusiasm and was perhaps a bit hastily put together before the moment passed for the recent resurgence of interest in traditional American clothing passed. As much as I enjoy the book for what it is and would still recommend it, I definitely think it would have benefitted from a few edits and additions.

  76. ”How can it be anything BUT a ‘How To Dress’ guide (that the Brits have always been keen on) when they go into detail about cuff width down to the 1/8th of an inch, specific seams, which button to leave un-done and include a list of shops in the back telling you where to purchase clothes?”

    I am afraid you really do not have a ‘scooby’.

    Self -help books are an American phenomenon. ‘ How to win friends….’ etc. Dress books are one of the earliest manifestations of the genre. Brits who came across the idea would sit there sniggering at the idea that Americans had to be told not to wear Argyle socks to interviews for example.

    However you like the book and you like the images. That is really all there is to it. Attempts to read too much into it are blind alleys.

  77. ScoobyDubious | October 7, 2010 at 8:04 pm |


    I’m so glad you picked up the cockney dig in the moniker. Thought it might just zoom over your head.

    “Self -help books are an American phenomenon. ‘ How to win friends….’ etc. Dress books are one of the earliest manifestations of the genre. Brits who came across the idea would sit there sniggering at the idea that Americans had to be told not to wear Argyle socks to interviews for example.”

    Perhaps “self-help” books ARE an “American phenomenon”.
    but I’m not calling this a self-help book. I’m calling it a ‘How To Dress’ guide, which you claim it is NOT… but it obviously IS!

    As far as ‘How To Dress’ books being something “Americans are so keen on”, I would point you in the direction of a rather well-known (and recently reprinted) little English book from waaay back in the 60s by a certain Hardy Amies called the “ABC’s of Men’s Fashion”. I’m sure you’re keen on it.

    If THAT isn’t a UK ‘How To Dress’ guide, then nothing is. It even spells it out in alphabetical order for you!

    As far as Brits giving a “toss” about argyle socks in an interview, well that speaks more about your chosen profession, or degree of uptightness. But no doubt Brits would “sit there sniggering” regardless.
    It’s kinda what they DO.

  78. russell_street | October 7, 2010 at 10:52 pm |

    … And to repeat myself (another of my favourite tricks, but you’ll have noticed that by now) – We really do need more books on the subject… And from every POV.
    – Let there be Talk & let it be Ivy!
    Regarding ‘Passion’ I do have to admit that I’m a big fan of those who, like me, suffer from the curse of enthusiasm. THE Ivy book will never be written as the subject is just too big (IMHO), but there is no reason why six hundred and sixty six Ivy books should not be written which would all ultimately cover the subject (almost).
    What would YOUR Ivy book be (if you were to write one)?
    Personally I’d go purely for a picture book, no text, no captions, and let the ‘reader’ of the images take what they saw off into whatever direction in their heads they wanted. Thus the same picture could be ‘Mod’, ‘Trad’, ‘Ivy’, What-You-Will…
    How about yous?
    Best –

  79. Christopher Landauer | October 8, 2010 at 7:58 am |

    This is not a review, it is a personal attack! You’re attacking the authors of that book, particularly John Gall, because they represent a world that you don’t understand, a world that wouldn’t accept a phoney like you.

    The people at FNB/ Talk Ivy weren’t nice to you for a lot of obvious reasons: It’s not because you have no passion about the subject, or because you’re a Johnny-come-lately, or because they don’t like your chin, nose, eyes or haircut… It’s all about the quality of your writing… shamelessly plugging RLP products and selling this as journalism… you don’t even have a feeling for the basc aesthetics of Ivy style, promoting a tacky product such as the “Bass Dover”. Anyone who has a sense of style and beauty, and especially those devoted to the classic Weejun design (yes, the Weejunaires you talk about) couldn’t take you seriously after that… and yet, you didn’t give up…

    Now, you thought, it was time for vengeance! Your review of “The Ivy Look” was just an excuse…

    Instead of writing a review about that book you’re trying to analyse the mindset of “the British Ivy fan”. It seems that you’ve planned this for a long time.

    First of all you start with explaining the concept of “being sussed”. The “American cognate” of that word is not the concept of “cool”. If there is anything similar it must be the concept of “hip”, because “getting hip” is a process and just like “getting sussed” it is about learning/understanding/knowing something and about sharing an aesthetic sensibility. You probably knew that (after all you’ve linked to the thread), even though you don’t seem to share this sensibility… but because it wouldn’t suit your agenda you compare it to the concept of “cool”…

    You don’t even understand what the book is about, as it says on the title: The Ivy LOOK… so it’s just about the clothes!

    Everyone knows where the name of the look comes from, but you probably still don’t get what Ivy Look or Ivy Style means, even though you’re writing a blog on that subject for 2 years… (I’m thinking about your references and links to current Ivy League websites)… The authors of the other blog on the topic (The Ivy League Look) on the other hand know that… so I reapeat it for you:

    The Ivy (League) Look or Ivy (League) Style is a marketing term that was mainly used between 1953 and 1967. Of course, the name comes from the Ivy League universities, because that’s where the look became really popular for the first time in the 1930s (the campus fads for penny loafers and the button-down collar fetish), but the look itself is much older than its name. Brooks Brothers introduced the button-down shirt (Polo Shirt) at the end of the 19th century and they introduced the #1 sack suit at the beginning of the 20th century. The Boom Years of the Ivy Look were much later, though, the heyday probably from the mid fifties to the mid sixties (after the Korea War and before the “Summer of Love”)…

    During these Boom Years the Look was everywhere in the USA, and not just confined to certain universities and prep schools! The book by Graham Marsh and J.P. Gaul is about this “Ivy Look”, as the title says, it is not about the Ivy League universities. That’s why they concentrate on images from jazz, cinema and advertising, which is perfectly fine. You argue that they fail in presenting the Ivy Look because they don’t show the “real arbiters of the look”, but you can’t explain why these arbiters should be the WASPs/ students. It’s just about the clothes, and anybody can wear them and look good.

    There is already a book about the campus look, that is about what was actually worn at the Ivy League universities, and if you know about the style, you can see that some of the pictures in “Take Ivy” show some students who don’t wear “Ivy” anymore (cut-off jeans is just one example). Why should Marsh and Gaul do another “Take Ivy”?

    You criticise the fantasies of John Gall, quoting him out of context, but if you follow the link you can see that he makes it clear that it is just a fantasy and besides his fantasy is just a response to another fantasy (what he calls “milk and cookies America”).

    All these forum quotations, especially the one from that Stanley Blacker blazer thread, are completely out of context. They’ve got nothing to do with the contents of the book. These quotations only have one function and that is to mobilize hate among your readers… Your text has all the key words that a conservative or reactionary zealot is looking for (al-Quaida, socialist, drugs, ecological consciousness etc.)… That’s exactly what your average AAAT Trad wants, and at least one of your bigots already commented about the “Reds” and the “negrophiles” (sic) in Britain. You don’t even bother mentioning that there was discord on TI about these subjects (politics, drugs in general and in particular the fit of the Stanley Blacker jacket/ milk and cookies America vs. Miles at Newport).

    You should have been grateful for that book. Anyone who likes the style would have been grateful. Instead you’re showing your ugly face once again!

  80. Already changed cool to hip. I agree that’s a better comparison.

  81. Christopher Landauer | October 8, 2010 at 8:56 am |

    OK, that’s a surprise… I thought my lengthy comment would be deleted quickly…

    Nevertheless, I don’t get it… You should have enjoyed that book, if Ivy Style means anything to you… And why do you pick on John Gall? He has has nothing to do with your childish Russell Street fight!

  82. I think you mean Russell Street’s childish fight with me.

    I stand by the review. The reasoning is sound.

  83. Christopher Tawney | October 8, 2010 at 11:15 am |

    It’s definitely ‘money grubbing’, so points to you on that. Outstanding, inflammatory post; I rather enjoyed ‘The Ivy Look’, though I found all the vintage advertisements annoying.

  84. Christopher Tawney | October 8, 2010 at 11:19 am |

    P.S. If ‘Russell Street’ is really John Simons: I still feel slightly bitter about the grey and white seersucker suit, but everything else, including the J Keydge jacket, has been great. Thank you.

  85. Zachary DeLuca | October 8, 2010 at 12:32 pm |

    I may have underestimated how many people pay attention to the minutiae of what goes on on the fora.

    I don’t see what is “Ivy” about J.P. Belmondo in “A bout de souffle.” Modernist, maybe in some vague ethereal sense. Cool, certainly. But Ivy?

  86. ScoobyDubious | October 8, 2010 at 2:26 pm |

    @Christopher Landauer

    So these UK experts, these….. “authors of that book, particularly John Gall, … represent a world that you don’t understand”?

    What world would that be? The USA? Living in the USA? Attending American colleges? Wearing American clothes? Listening to American music? Well, I’m pretty sure C.C. understands all that.

    Now that it has been firmly established that the book is based on the fantasies of the authors, I guess he doesn’t understand the UK fantasy?… based on movie stars, musicians, magazine ads, and American cigarettes? Or maybe the imaginary world of online forums?

    Regardless of whatever silly feud happened in the past, the review still has sound reasoning for the most part, and pretty much just restates that the book is based on a fantasy anyway.

    BTW…regardless of how universal the style became throughout the US, “everyone” does NOT know the origins of the name “Ivy League”, particularly outside the USA – which seems to be the target market. If there is a second printing of the book, inclusion of a one small paragraph explaining that the “league” originally referred to an actual sports league of these ivy-covered schools would be advised. Oh, and maybe some actual CLOTHES on the cover would help? Just the word IVY in a large font isn’t going to peak the curiosity of the uninitiated. That may help to keep the secret club a secret, but it won’t help sales. A cursory glance and they might think it’s a gardening manual.

    @ Zachary – touché

  87. All that stuff about being an American and having so much of what they include be second nature to us means nothing to them, Scooby. You can’t reason with people who are so passionate they compare themselves to Al Qaeda without even realizing what a tasteless remark that is. You’ve either drunk the J. Simons Kool-Aid or not. You either follow the orthodoxy and are a cult member or not. Sussed, as we know, is a judgment others bestow on you. This is a music-fashion tribe, which is why they all like the same clothes and music. It’s a prerequisite to being in with the in crowd. Original and independent ideas are not encouraged.

  88. ScoobyDubious | October 8, 2010 at 3:20 pm |

    I don’t any of these people peresonally, I just find the pompous “reasoning” of some of those online “Talk Ivy” people to be very familiar. Considering that some of them are professed ex-mods, it all sounds very much like the “you can’t understand Mod if you’re an American, because it is so English” line. Then they go wear their American clothes and listen to their American R&B, soul, jazz and rock records.

    Same dudes, same bitchy condescending bullshit smug attitude. They just found a new way to attempt to age gracefully with a slightly re-branded version of their same clothes/music cult.

    A cult that focuses on American clothes, American music, and all things American. But you couldn’t possibly understand it. Only those “in the know” (ITK in their jargon) could grasp the secret subtle nuances of buying Bass weejuns from Macy’s on your lunch hour.

  89. ScoobyDubious | October 8, 2010 at 3:21 pm |

    hmm…nice typos.

  90. *AHEM* As I was saying…….Kudos to Mr Landauer, get under a liberal’s
    skin,you’ll see how EVERYTHING has to relate to the doctrine of
    equality. “It’s just about the clothes and anybody can wear them and look
    good”. Correct. However, that’s not good enough for you lefties. Any
    opportunity however subtle, to shape any and all subjects so that the
    underlying text satisfies your self righteous never ending crusade to
    have every last thing contribute to the way you want the world to be.
    “Key words that a conservative or reactionary zealot is looking for”…
    So liberalism is reality and conservatism is the reactionary philosophy.
    Nooooooo……conservatism HUMILIATES liberalism and burns you
    and your pride through and through. A philosophy that is PRO- authority,
    in favor of Inequality,the natural order of life case,you didn’t know.
    So thoroughly humiliating is life’s inequalities that lefties need to join
    together in solidarity to maintain their sanity. The natural order of life
    wipes the floor with your hopes of equality 24/7. No one has to rebut you
    really,it’s a pleasure to see your never ending protests change nothing.
    THE BOOK IS NOT THE ISSUE HERE. Mr Chensvold knows,knew
    exactly what he doing. You lefties do mankind a disservice.You are
    backwards and upside down and should be in favor of government
    issued clothing when it comes to fashion,if you don’t wish to be
    hypocritical to your core beliefs.

  91. Christopher Landauer | October 9, 2010 at 4:08 am |

    @Christian: sure, it’s been childish and sometimes vile on both sides…

    @Christopher T: No, the guy who posts as “Russell Street” is definitely not John Simons, his forum name is a tribute to the J.Simons shop though, as it was located in Russell Street, Covent Garden… He’s way younger, and his name is Jim, I think. Russell Street is a jazz fan, but doesn’t play an instrument, John Simons is a jazz musician himself…. Russell Street says he wears only Ivy, John Simons often wears British clothes, too. Russell Street is always clean shaved. JS got a beard, now. He also got a more English haircut…

    Besides “Russell Street” is just an internet pose. I think at least half of what is written in this post is not meant seriously. He’s having fun… Maybe that’s the British thing about it. This weird sense of humour.

    @Zachary: I thought that the Ivy Style team was monitoring the forae closely! That’s why I thought Christian’s comments were quite unfair. OK, he’s giving links to the thread, but he can’t expect each of his readers to follow these links! That’s why I’m pointing out that he’s quoting out of context. Especially the stuff John Gall has written about “Miles shooting up backstage at Newport”… It makes him look like a junkie, or at least like one of those people who glamorize drug abuse, but the irony is, that the opposite is true…. He used to be teetotal in his youth, maybe drinks a glass of wine every other month, now and I don’t think he ever touched illegal drugs. His post was just a pose, just a fantasy, and that’s obvious if you read that thread… It was just a radical statement as a reaction to another statement he might have over interpreted (some nostalgic vision of a nice 1950s world, what John calls “milk and cookies America”).

    My point is, though, that all of this is completely irrelevant here, as it doesn’t have anything to do with the Ivy Look book… When you’re writing a review, better stick to the text, and don’t look at some forums. And there is no such a thing as a collective “British Ivyists” mindset, or some great theory… It’s not a youth cult either (nor is it a substitute of youth cults for grown up ex-mods)… There’s a lot of different individuals who happen to share a similar taste for Ivy clothes… It’s not about London working class, either, even though, back in the 60s there used to be a strong element of guys with a working class background who were attracted to this look. If you want to say anything about “class” and Ivy in the UK, you could only say that it’s a look for those who want to move beyond the British class system (hence the aversion to all the pompous New England Old Money posing on Ask Andy about Trad)…

    and, hmm, J.P.Belmondo in A Bout De Souffle, well, you’re right… to some degree… He doesn’t wear the pure Ivy League Look, but it’s certainly American inspired… Watch that movie again! There are so many references to American cinema… and as to his look: there is an Ivy influence. Watch older French movies, and there’s a completely different look… Apropos nouvelle vague, check some pictures of Truffaut!

    It’s similar with the modern architects, and I’m not only talking about their glasses… IMO, there’s also something about IL clothes that’s similar to modernism/ minimalism… It is a pared down look, without lots of ornamentation, I think: Single Breasted (usually), the natural shoulder line with no (or minimal) padding, no darts, no pleats on the trousers, a single instead of a double vent… a long lean look, straight and columnar, very soft, unlike the stiff and stuffy, pinched in British hour glass silhouette. The details are mainly functional: the modest cuff is important for the way the trousers are hanging straight from the hips… Swelled edge, I think, is important for the wear, for the durability, for the quality of a garment, and it doesn’t matter if it is machine stitching or if it is “real lapped seams/ hand stitching” (besides, there is also hand stitching in custom made Ivy) and the buttons, of course, keep the collar in place. So there is a form follows function aspect about it…

  92. Christopher Landauer | October 9, 2010 at 5:13 am |

    @Scooby Dubious:

    “What world would that be?”

    Maybe I was a little unfair towards Christian and vague about it: I meant “the world of hip”… I wasn’t talking about something specific, such as “mod”, or the “UK Ivy scene”, I’m not part of that, just like CC isn’t… and I’m not trying to be part of that world…

    I was hinting at what JPG refers to as a “heightened aesthetic sensibility”…

    You can have that in New York, London, Rome, Paris, Tokyo… even in the provinces or in some far away “3rd world coutry”… wherever you get exposed to it…

    (BTW, JS and probably all of the British and European Ivy fans are well aware of the ubiquity of Ivy during the Boom Years, the every-man aspect… JS himself used to talk about “75% of all sold suits were in the Ivy Look”…)

    There’s a reason that the authors of TIL show the Ivy influence beyond the USA… Apart from the UK, France, Italy they might as well have mentioned a lot of other European countries…

    The “UK Ivy scene” (if there is such a thing) is full of respect for America and Americans, there is no Anti-Americanism. Another poster at TI already told JPG that his remarks on drugs were in bad taste… I don’t know about the Al-Quaida remark… John was writing that he is reacting with “Al Quaida like fury” against ignorance… He might as well have said ” I react with bible belt fundamentalism”…. you’re a bit touchy, YOU PEOPLE 😉


    No, it’s not even about mods or ex-mods and it’s definitely not a “music, fashion tribe”… There are lots of different folk, not just jazz fans… some will prefer cool jazz and blues, others Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole, some like hard bop and R&B, some like classical music, baroque or Avantgarde, others like pop or folk or Calypso, some like Soul and Reggae, others go for Punk Rock…

    It’s not just about working class guys either, you get the cabby, the executive, the trombonist and the diplomat, pop celebrities and poets, and all sorts of different people among JS customers… He didn’t open the Ivy shop for mods or jazz fans but for “young executives”…

    JS isn’t the arrogant pseudo cool hipster-bullshit “guru”, you think he is… He has a personal style, and he also has a certain “purist vision” for what he sells at his jobs… but you have to understand it, in relation to what went on in so called “Swinging London”… His “vision” is very different from the “anything goes” mentality of the mid sixties mainstream mod scene. It’s an antidote to what you might know as the Austin Powers look and the throw-away- nature of the cheap and cheerful Carnaby clothes boutiques, the dandy fashions….

    It was rather conservative!


    You can’t pidgeon hole the UK Ivy fan politically (and the internet forum crowd at TI is quite diverse, either)…

    Some are conservative, some progressive, some even reactionary, there’s left wing and right wing, moderate and radical, liberals, and bleeding heart liberals, democrats and republicans, anarchists, communists, labour and new labour, green, blue, red and black, and probably brown, too…whatever political couleur you imagine… you will find it there… you will also find the apolitcal positions and the political disappointed and indifferent… It’s not really a topic over there…

    One thing all of you and maybe most of the people over at TI should think about is one of the basics of (post) structuralist thinking (I don not want to go further into the deatails of post modernism vs modernism etc.) and it is one of the basics of semiology and modern linguistics:

    It is the “arbitrariness” of the signifiers in language. Ferdinand de Saussure inspired the “linguistic turn”, a new paradigm, that was important beyond the study of language… It’s important for all the humanities and for philosophy in general… Levi Strauss (not the Jeans manufacturer but the anthropologist), Foucauld and Derrida… all of their work is based on this, especially, semiology… You might want to read Roland Barthes on the language of clothes…

    You could also read Henry Louis Gates, Jr. regarding “signifyin” in African American culture, W.E.B. Du Bois on “double consciousness” and maybe some prose by Ralph Ellison (the Invisible man), Miles Davis biography and then you might get what I mean about the “shift of context”…

    I’m not sure if you’re getting my waffle, but I could try simple:

    It’s just clothes.

    All the meanings you attach to them are pure construction.

    It makes sense to talk about it, and you can analyse all these constructions, but it’s not what J.P Gaul and Graham Marsh wanted to do with their book… Their aim was to celebrate “The Ivy Look” with a nice little pocket guide. That’s the criterion! You can’t apply another standard… They don’t want a grand unifying theory…. a master narrative….

    BTW, I have no idea, if the authors thought about linguistics and semiology, about structuralism and African American culture… I think they stress their non-academic approach, but I’m sure they’re hip to this one idea:

    It’s just clothes….

    All the hipster fantasy is just fun!

    Take JPG talking about “the new hippydom”: I’m sure, if literally everone was in Herringbone Tweed, OCBDs, selvedge denim and sockless weejuns, he’d be the first to change his style…

  93. Christopher Landauer | October 9, 2010 at 5:19 am |

    @Jiny: RE… liberals and “you lefties”… who told you I was a leftie?


    “I contain multitudes”

    BTW, regarding Russell Street schizophrenia: I know at least 5 peple who posted under that alias, though I’m sure 95 % of his posts are by Jim… He even offered it to me and other guys at TI to use the moniker…

  94. Christopher Landauer | October 9, 2010 at 5:53 am |

    A last remark regarding “mod” and “Ivy”:

    The connection is much to complicated to explain it in detail!

    “Mod” has its roots in the London Modern Jazz scene, or precisely in the Soho Jazz scene between 1948 and 1958… during the 2nd half of that era Ivy became one of the favourite looks of Jazz musicians and fans, along with the more flamboyant “Italian Look” (bumfreezers were quite a shock in England!)…

    The “Mod scene” as a “music-fashion-tribe” or “youth subculture” developped from that Jazz scene (the trad/mod split in the Clubs) but it isn’t identical… That’s why some insist on using the full term “modernists” sometimes. Mod also means a lot of other things, it was watered down, commericialised during the sixties, so anything was sold under this label, the British pop explosion/ beat invasion, RSG on TV, and the exaggerated fashions of Carnaby Street. “Mod” includes everything from proto-skinheads to Syd Barrett’s Pink Floyd…

    While the mannerisms of the Italian Look (as sold at Cecil Gee) where much more popular and the public noticed the “Tony Boys”, the Ivy Look was more subtle… Continental fashions also changed more quickly- extreme bumfreezer jackets weren’t popular after 1962/63- and at some point the Italian look was dated just like the Edwarian fashions were passé 5 years before…. but the Ivy Look was a constant thing.

    Even if there’s only a small minority of hardcore Ivy purists, you could find elements of Ivy throughout the Mod years, and beyond…

    It’s got nothing to do with a period look either! JS was always conservative and progressive at the same time. It’s about a classic, timeless look!

    Modern Jazz goes back to the early 40s bebop world…

    JS himself traces the roots of his own style sensibility back to learning from his uncles who had an elegant “sussed” look in the 30s.

    Jazz and Blues are older than a 100 years. So is Ivy, so is Modernism. It’s still alive… (BTW, In the world of jazz BTW, the dichotomy modernist/traditional, just like post modernist/ modernist is not as easy as in say architecture…)

    Hip is as old as the human heart!

    However, getting back to the “mod” and “Ivy” relation, what’s most important, is that was never just a subculture or a youth thing: As I’ve tried to explain before, it wasn’t just worn by modernists, mods, jazz buffs, soul boys etc…

    Even if it doesn’t have the conformity/ anonymity aspect in the UK (as it is a break with a tradional British mode of dress), and even if there’s an aspect of “suss”, it’s definitely a style that theoretically everyone can wear over there, without being recognized as a member of a “subculture”, a youth tribe or some sect…

    Don’t take everything you read on the internet for face value, Christian! There’s a lot of posing etc…

    The most interesting aspect is that it is both elitist and egalitarian, all these paradoxes that will confuse a simpleton!

    I hope you’re getting hip, now!

  95. This is a good example of the endless theorizing ad nauseum that I mentioned in the piece. Because the English are removed from this, and had to create a construct, it’s all very interpretation driven. Here in the US there are simply the facts.

    And one of the facts is that these aren’t “just clothes,” the mantra of English Ivy fans because it fits their worldview. These are clothes that originally appeared at a certain place and time and were worn by a certain group of people, as an expression of their values.

    I can’t believe you thought referencing people like Barthes and Foucault would actually STRENGTHEN your argument.

    As for taking things on the Internet for face value, if I did that, I might start believing what people say about me.

  96. Any psychologists here? Mr Landauer just demonstrated a wonderful case
    of hyper-verbal, perhaps those in the field might save it for research and
    presentation. At 5:19am,”who told you I was a leftie?”……YOU did.
    Within your hyper verbal at 7:58am. You sound exactly like someone
    whose been caught red handed,whose entire confidence in how he
    needs to be perceived has been shattered,now sweating profusely,
    nervous breakdown setting in,must fire off as many alternative
    suggestions as to what he “really”means lest he come face to face
    with the fact that people can see right through him. Trying to make
    sure you head off at the pass,any “misconception” that may be
    quickly flowing through someone’s stream of consciousness reveals
    everything about you, that you think you are drawing attention away from.
    Good Show… not really.

  97. ‘As a result, the sections that try to explicate the Ivy League Look in its native context simply feel inaccurate, having a hipster part stand for the establishment whole. As for the passages that describe the UK Ivy fraternity, “The Ivy Look” is nothing more than the print manifestation of a collective daydream’

    A nice line and you are right but that doesn’t make for a bad book. It’s pretty clear both Marsh and Gall are mods of different eras. Mod as a youth cult in the UK was all about working class escapism and that comes through in the book which is clearly a subjective mod take on the Ivy style through rose tinted persol sunglasses. I doubt Marsh and Gall would disagree. Aside from all the great images and adverts, this personal take on the Ivy look is what makes for a really good book. For a well balanced historically detailed but less entertaining account you may have to look elsewhere. This though wasn’t the point of the Ivy Look.
    Sorry a well written but ultimately pretty pointless review.

  98. As stated previously, the press release, dust jacket and text inside make it clear that they are attempting to describe the Ivy League Look and the context in which it was worn.

    The shoe chapter is interesting: some Weejun history, a list of films, and an opening line about the Ivy fraternity and how they judge you by your shoes.

    But it’s not explained who this Ivy fraternity is, or even what country and decade they inhabit. And this is the first chapter of the book, after each of the introductory essays by Marsh and Gaul.

    Again, unclear and disorienting point of view, and right off the bat.

    The novice reader is explained what Weejuns are, and warned that the fraternity will greet him with “frosty indifference” if he doesn’t have correct shoes on.

    But the novice reader is not told what decade or country we’re in. Is this the way it was in America in the heyday? Because the back of the book reads “The Ivy Look is a pictorial celebration of the clothing and accessories that dominated the American male dress code from 1955 to 1965.”

    Are the authors talking about America or England? Then or now? Who is this fraternity?

  99. @Christopher Landauer | October 9, 2010 at 12:05 pm |

    Mr. Landauer: Thanks for making me laugh with your silly sense of humor. You cite Roland Barthes and then throwing out this whammy of a claim: “All the meanings you attach to [clothes] are pure construction.” As if to say that all meaning and significations are arbitrary and in the process conflating structuralism and post-structuralism.

  100. ScoobyDubious | October 9, 2010 at 2:23 pm |


    I think one thing everyone can agree on is that you are batshit crazy delusional.

    @Mark wrote:
    “It’s pretty clear both Marsh and Gall are mods of different eras. Mod as a youth cult in the UK was all about working class escapism and that comes through in the book which is clearly a subjective mod take on the Ivy style through rose tinted persol sunglasses. I doubt Marsh and Gall would disagree. Aside from all the great images and adverts, this personal take on the Ivy look is what makes for a really good book. For a well balanced historically detailed but less entertaining account you may have to look elsewhere. This though wasn’t the point of the Ivy Look.”

    I think that sums it up nicely. It’s a fun UK fantasy book full of cool images and somewhat silly pretentious prose. So look at the cool pictures and take the words with a shaker of salt.


    I disagree that they (the authors) aren’t attempting to create an adult version of the infamous UK youth cult such as ex-mods under a new moniker. Perhaps subconsciously, but it’s fairly obvious. There is a unique English trait where in order to appreciate something you have to “BE” something. Hence the UK “Ivyist” tag. You can’t BE “Ivy” (unless you’re talking in a more broad sense of attending an Ivy League school).
    The dorky college sophmore in Kansas, or Steve McQueen for that matter, wasn’t trying to “BE Ivy”. There was no “Ivyist” tag. These were just styles worn by many at the time, and no doubt discarded and seen as square by the 70s.

    This “Ivy”/”Modernist” correlation is a UK construct. Modernism has nothing to do with it. Period. The parts in the book where they try to meld these disparate mid-century elements, such as Eames furniture or Lucky Strike cigarettes, or Neutra houses, into some forced Ivy persona accessories reeks of UK youth cult nonsense. Why not include Coca-Cola or Tupperware as “Ivy” as well? Tupperware was very “modern”, sleek and streamlined, and democratic. It makes about as much sense.

    The irritating part is the retort when this is pointed out. Some condescending bullshit about lacking ““heightened aesthetic sensibility”.
    I could go on and on about how I’ve been interested in mid-century modern design, furniture, art, vehicles and “aesthetics” for decades, but that is rather pointless because it doesn’t have any correlation to an Ivy 3-button jacket or pair of loafers other than existing in the same time frame. It just stands to reason that artistic people interested in a certain era would obviously be interested in a variety of other media, objects, etc from the same era. Your shoes don’t have to have some defined overarching theory (or name) connecting them to your interest in Kenneth Noland’s colo(u)r field painting. That’s the pretentious silly “youth cult” part.

    On another note:

    Fuck those god-awful LL Bean rubber boots. Seriously. What an abomination. What an assault on style. What a visual insult to mankind in general. They must be stopped.

  101. is a Russell-free zone, but I thought this too funny not to mention.

    So some of you guys know my mother was an astrologer, and I was reading a book a few weeks ago called “The Practical Astrologer” by David Christie-Murray.

    Now according to Russell Street’s Facebook profile, he was born under the sign of Leo.

    Listen to this:

    “… an excessively negative Leonian can be one of the most unpleasant human beings imaginable, displaying extreme arrogance, autocratic pride, haughtiness and excessive hastiness of temper. If jealously suspicious of rivals, he will not hesitate to use cunning, lies and trickery to discredit them. Self-centeredness, greed for flattery, boastfulness and bombast, pomposity, snobbish superiority, and overbearing and intolerant disdain of underlings — to whom he will nevertheless delegate the carrying out of minor details in his grandiose schemes… any of these can be characteristic of him. Add to them a passion for luxury, a lust for power, unlimited sexual lust and emotional indulgence, and a character emerges that no one would want to know either in public life or in private.”

    Or even on the Internet.

  102. “Batshit crazy delusional”…….let’s go to Mark @10:54am.
    “Mod as a youth cult in the UK was all about working class escapism”
    Or more appropriately,working class hatred and envy which motivated
    escapism. No need to ignore the history and origins of a subject just
    because it insults one’s pride. Simply tell the whole story.It came from
    a structure of “elitism” within a society?…So? Of course you don’t send
    a message of you should not wear this if you don’t match the heritage
    it came from. Well, it’s just not important we just want to talk about
    the fashion in and of ITSELF, you say. It just seems a little too obvious
    the origins and history of the subject need not be addressed in the book
    because they DON’T LIKE the origins and history thereof.
    Quite clear and hardly delusional Scooby Doo. Perhaps you wish to
    investigate the mystery of your powers of deduction and conclusions.
    You’ll find they don’t exist.

  103. Andrew S. Eastman | October 9, 2010 at 6:36 pm |

    Well reviewed. If you’re going to wrap yourself in something and insist on rabid loyalty to it, you ought to at least know the history of whatever you’ve wrapped yourself in.

  104. ScoobyDubious | October 9, 2010 at 6:56 pm |


    Like I said,….batshit crazy delusional.

    “escapism” does not equal “hatred and envy”.

    noun: an inclination to retreat from unpleasant realities through diversion or fantasy

    As in, going to see movies to escape into a daydream. But you obviously have your own world of pure fantasy.

    There is famous quote attributed to various people from Mark Twain to Robert Heinlein that goes something like this…”Never try to teach a pig to sing; it wastes your time and it annoys the pig.”

    I think I’ll just stop annoying the pig.

  105. Slowly now….”to- retreat-…….from………unpleasant realities”
    And Scooby Dooby dingbat,those unpleasant realities were,
    not being a part of the upper classes whose fashions and entire
    lifestyles,yes,they were envious of, and resentful to the point of
    hate or else they then have no motivation to such a defense mechanism.
    You are an escapist yourself,so my comments insult your personal
    identity, and of course as always, pride. What I stated “insults”you
    personally,so you are NOT objective in evaluating my comments.
    Going to a movie to daydream is NORMAL. Notice how your
    pride twists what I say to fit how you want it to be viewed.
    To “escape” an unpleasant reality is because the reality
    BOTHERS YOU. It’s an absolute pleasure for me to be
    your unpleasant reality. Once again I’ve destroyed your claims.
    “Stop annoying the pig” he says……Oink! Oink! Oink!!
    Here’s mud in your eye!

  106. ”Perhaps “self-help” books ARE an “American phenomenon”.”

    [i] Now we are getting somewhere.[/i]

    ”but I’m not calling this a self-help book. I’m calling it a ‘How To Dress’ guide, which you claim it is NOT… but it obviously IS!”

    [i]I see little distinction between the two. However, on the back of the ‘Ivy Look’ book it says it is a ‘celebration’. That is the way it reads to me.[/i]

    ”As far as ‘How To Dress’ books being something “Americans are so keen on”, I would point you in the direction of a rather well-known (and recently reprinted) little English book from waaay back in the 60s by a certain Hardy Amies called the “ABC’s of Men’s Fashion”. I’m sure you’re keen on it.”’

    If THAT isn’t a UK ‘How To Dress’ guide, then nothing is. It even spells it out in alphabetical order for you!”

    [i]Never heard of it. Never read it. It is clearly not a publishing milestone.Brits generally do not buy books on dressing. Fathers, friends & tailors might give advice but it was assumed that dress was a subject that everybody would know about. America may be different. Lots of gauche but ambitious immigrants.[/i]

    ”As far as Brits giving a “toss” about argyle socks in an interview, well that speaks more about your chosen profession, or degree of uptightness. But no doubt Brits would “sit there sniggering” regardless.
    It’s kinda what they DO.

    Agreed. Brits do sit their sniggering. Taking the piss is a national past time. Americans are so earnest in comparison – which can be both laudable and laughable at the same time.

  107. ScoobyDubious | October 10, 2010 at 1:05 pm |


    Re: Hardy Amies “ABC’s of Men’s Fashion”

    Waynker opined:

    “Never heard of it. Never read it. It is clearly not a publishing milestone.Brits generally do not buy books on dressing. Fathers, friends & tailors might give advice but it was assumed that dress was a subject that everybody would know about. America may be different. Lots of gauche but ambitious immigrants.”

    Ah,…I see. here’s a quick bio of the author:

    “Sir Hardy Amies died in 2003, but his legacy and style continues under his protege Ian Garlant at Hardy Amies Plc. He opened his fashion house in 1945 and became Dressmaker by Appointment to Her Majesty The Queen. FAMOUS FOR MENSWEAR and his keen eye for classic style, Amies had a REGULAR COLUMN IN ESQUIRE magazine. ”

    So….hardly an unknown. Apparently your Queen heard of him. You remember all those Esquire photos in the “Ivy Look” right? You know…Esquire magazine in which Hardy Amies had a monthly column?

    As far as America being full of “gauche immigrants”, well you really needn’t work so hard to convince me that you’re a pompous ass. You convinced me of that some time ago.

    At least we agree on this:
    “Brits do sit their sniggering. Taking the piss is a national past time.”

    Yes, and being a pompous condescending little twat is such pleasant national pastime isn’t it?

  108. Forget about the Queen’s queen he is irelevant.

    ”As far as America being full of “gauche immigrants”, well you really needn’t work so hard to convince me that you’re a pompous ass. You convinced me of that some time ago.

    At least we agree on this:
    “Brits do sit their sniggering. Taking the piss is a national past time.”

    Yes, and being a pompous condescending little twat is such pleasant national pastime isn’t it?”

    Oh I see I have upset you. We do that without even trying. Such sensitive souls, some of you!

  109. ScoobyDubious | October 10, 2010 at 7:22 pm |


    Upset? Please. You’ve only confirmed everything I said.
    Nope. Sadly, you’re a 100% predictable pompous British prick.

    Now you go off and obsess about all those gauche American clothes.

  110. The floobian auspices of merterflurbering are certainly aghast here.
    Wompering the issues through the inversion of synoptrophy only
    further notrigate the discussion. Perhaps taking into consideration
    the non scropian ideals of the senugative and its expos satra
    that it may reveal or not reveal the actual helocution of the text
    is the solution. A Latitudinal cross examination of the boolaying
    suggests it would be the best course of action.

  111. ScoobyDubious | October 11, 2010 at 12:59 am |

    Just perused the pompous prick boards, sorry i mean “Talk Ivy”, and it seems I’ve gotten under their skin. Which means I’m right on the mark.

    Funniest thing is, they’re obsessing about it so much over there that they’ve convinced themselves that *I* am some secret alter-ego identity of Christian!


    Not true, but hilarious.

  112. ScoobyDubious | October 11, 2010 at 1:03 am |

    “‘Scooby Dubious’ is Chensvold – We’ve hacked the site again”.

    Yeah, sure ya have pal. Don’t give your dayjob as a “fluffer” to be a detective.

  113. Scooby said:

    ”Upset? Please. You’ve only confirmed everything I said.”

    I will happily leave others to be the judge of whether you are upset.

    You take the bait even when there is no bait left there. As for obsessing, you only need to look in the mirror.

    You are very chippy indeed when I inadvertently draw you out.

  114. Michael Mattis | October 11, 2010 at 8:13 am |

    I nominate Grimwald for best comment ever. I have no idea what he said, but I feel like I just read the Trad version of Lewis Carroll’s “Jabberwocky.”

  115. ScoobyDubious | October 11, 2010 at 1:40 pm |


    So this what it looks like when you’ve been defeated…

    You live in a world of pure fantasy. Your fantasies have been debunked. You’ve been made to look like the pompous ridiculous fool that you are…and then you’ve got nothing left except bizarre conspiracy theories, obsessive feuds, and just about the weakest defenses I’ve ever read.

    Go back to that circle jerk of ten bitchy queens you call “Talk Ivy”. You can post more “what are wearing” photos of yourselves, then get all hot and bothered re-selling 40 year old blazers from JC Penneys and thinking LL Bean chinos are “subversive”!

    (insert patented UK-style sniggering here).

    What a poncey little joke you are sweetie.

    Oh yeah, I forgot….I’m just annoying the pig. toodle-pip!

  116. Scooby,

    I am perfectly happy for you to dig an even bigger hole for yourself.

    I have no need to trade insults with you.

  117. ScoobyDubious | October 11, 2010 at 6:56 pm |


    correction: you have no ABILITY to trade insults with me.

    now, go back to that big “hole” from which you came.

  118. It’s getting old, fellas.

  119. Christian it is getting very old indeed.

    Interesting to see the damage some Brit or other has inflicted on Scooby though. He is positively seething with barely suppressed rage.

  120. Those who’ve been following this here and elsewhere may have noticed there’s been virtually no counter argument from the UK that their version of Ivy is a construct pieced together from cultural ephemera.

    Except for the counter argument that in the US it’s essentially the same. This must be known as the “drag you down to our level” line of reasoning:

    To quote an Englishman:

    “‘Ivy’ was a fantasy in the US to start with. It’s a marketing term only. Preppy & Trad extend this fantasy into a cartoon. Ivy in England can’t be pilloried for being a construct when it’s ALL a construct.”

    Evidently centuries combined of J. Press and Brooks Brothers history, the eight Ivy League universities and all other American colleges, and the countless men who dressed in the clothes of the Eastern Establishment from 1900-1955, at which point the style became popular among a larger portion of American men, were all mere puppets in support of this marketing construct.

    Rational men know you can’t reason with the irrational, especially Internet trolls. The only thing disturbing is that other people actually believe such nonsense.

  121. “People ask how can a Jewish kid from the Bronx do preppy clothes? Does it have to do with class and money? It has to do with dreams.”
    Ralph Lauren

  122. Roy R. Platt | October 19, 2010 at 7:44 am |

    Curious to see for myself, I ordered a copy of “The Ivy Look”. The book arrived yesterday.

    There are some reproductions of some old advertisements, so reduced in scale from the originals that they are difficult to read, although I saw several items that I purchased at Brooks Brothers at about the same time as the reproduced advertisements originally appeared and that I still wear.

    There are also some reproductions of record covers, all people that I have never heard of, but who I think might have performed for beatniks in coffee houses. There are bongo drums, an essential of the beatnik subculture, on page 118.

    I am uncertain as to what the book is about, as the type chosen is extremely small and rather difficult for anyone who was actually there in the time period that the book is focused on to read.

    I struggled through pages 102 and 104, which are about trousers, and then gave up.

    I don’t think that the authors or the publishers are going to make a great deal of money from this book.

  123. An English reader emailed me this today:

    I guess I, like most others, read your blog to share the enthusiasms of yourselves and others and to learn about a subject to which I am really a neophyte. But I’ve got to say I found the posts of several British posters in response to your review of ‘The Ivy Look’ particularly dispiriting.

    As a Brit who grew up with and flirted with the Mod scene in the 80s (though no true Mod would allow that you could ‘flirt’ with it – it permits of nothing but a total commitment and subservience to its gods) the tone of many of the British comments smacks ominously of the same old tedious Mod obsessions I grew up with. So, I fear I know where these ‘Ivy’ guys are coming from. And it’s not a particularly nice place. What I find particular dispiriting about many of the comments is a basic lack of generosity of spirit. But that is hard-wired into the DNA of Mod and also it seems based on the evidence, British ‘Ivy’.

    The roots of the problem with this crowd seems to be that Mod and I guess ‘Ivy’, is based necessarily on a spirit of exclusion, segregation and self-agrandisement – absolutely not on inclusion and enthusiasm that can be shared with others who may have a slightly different take on life. Let’s face it, you simply cannot be ‘sussed’ or an ‘ace face’ unless almost all others are not. A ‘World of the Sussed’ would mean you yourself are a ‘nobody’ – and that would be a glimpse through trembling fingers of the very inner circle of Hell for these guys. Hence the direction of so many of the British posts is not at a contribution to an enlightenment of the issue but at diminishing or demeaning any perceived ‘opposition’ posters who might threaten the hegemony of the ‘sussed’. I have no idea where personal criticisms of you should come into this debate, but then, you will understand that getting one over on a perceived authority on the subject only increases the value of their stock, at least in the eyes of themselves and a few smirking cohorts.

    It’s a strange universe of emotionally atrophied middle-aged teenagers and one that the world would probably be better off without. It’s mean in spirit and stunted in outlook. However, good for you for sticking to the values of free speech and letting the berks have their say. I’d have been sorely tempted to pull the plug on several of them.

    Keep up the good work and – though I’m sure you don’t need the reassurance – don’t let these post-adolescent narcissists get you down. They are thankfully – as they would themselves wish it – just a tiny, tiny minority.

  124. ScoobyDubious | October 26, 2010 at 4:38 pm |

    Just checking in to see if Waynker and the OCD Ivy Brits are still freaking out over this review, and found out that apparently I’ve been “seething with barely suppressed rage” all this time. Ha! Who knew?

    (sigh……shakes head)
    They truly do create their own fantasy world.

    More than a bit of projection going on with Waynker. He’s definitely “suppressing rage” about something (wink) there! But I won’t ask, if he won’t tell…

    That Brit ex-mod nails their attitude though. Pretty much confirmed exactly what I said.

  125. I am a Brit and I bought the book when it was recommended to me by Amazon when I ordered my copy of Take Ivy. I came to neither via the web ( I read about Take Ivy in the last copy of Monsieur I picked up last time I was in Paris and though that it sounded like just the book I wanted to own).

    And I have to say I thoroughly enjoy owning both books and enjoy flicking through themregularly.

    I came to Ivy via Mod as a teenager during the 80’s revival and I completely get that each side of the Atlantic sees Ivy League differently (and so it should).

    My life changed forever when I read a review of Quadrophenia in Custom Car magazine at some point in 1978 (at the tender age of 15) and I realised immediately that my time was coming after spending years listening to my parents old record collection and trying to convince everyone at school that there was more to life than Shawaddywaddy or Status Quo.

    My sartorial journey really started with The Face and Richard Barnes’ Mods! and has taken me from my fathers old suit jackets (made by Lew Rose), Mintz and Davis, the Carnaby Cavern, Kensington Market and various articles in The Face. Once the Eighties were well and truly underway, I found I had enough money for holidays abroad and I became slowly influenced by various visits to Italy and eventually by living in Barcelona in 91/92.

    I have always owned at least one pair Bass Weejuns since I bought my first pair in around 1984 after seeing someone where them in a Face photo spread (along with Chipie Jeans and a Sonetti Check 3 button jacket). I only visited J Simons shop a few times, the first time to buy Weejuns ( I get them in the US these days !!) and then to window shop.

    My jackets have not always been 3 button, my shirts not always button down and my ties not always knitted – but my wardrobe has always contained an element of this look. I was the first person all my mates knew who bought a pair of Wayfarers (again after seeing them in the Face). I bought them in D H Evans and they came with a soft brown leatherette case, much cooler than the black ribbed case that replaced it – just before everybody London went out and bought the newer bigger Wayfarers with that crap external logo !!!!

    Whilst it developed out of the Ivy Universities, and was adopted by the American mainstream.

    For Brits it came from the record covers via the docks and seaman influenced the Mod movement and this is the essence why Brits see Ivy differently than what it was intended.

    I remember the first time American businessman visited the office I worked in and they all had these fabulous white button down collar shirts that I quickly realised where from Brooks Brothers. You just didn’t get button down collars that big in the 80’s in the UK (or at least I couldn’t).

    The US look has long been ridiculed over here – just read James Bond’s views on Felix Leiter’s moccasins or Goldfinger’s Abercrombie if you need proof.

    For me the Ivy look will forever be wrapped up in old record covers and 60’s movies ( my only real source of reference prior to the web). The look is smart and cool and was largely unattainable at that time. The American businessman didn’t get my obsession with their shirts in 1986 and they don’t get it now !!! Come to think of it nor did the Skins who kicked the living day lights out of me about the same time for wearing khaki shorts with Weejuns and no socks around the same time.

    And hence we come full circle, things I wear everyday are coming back into fashion (my step daughter still refer to knitted ties as those weird ties with no point that Graham wears )., I recently had to buy a black tie for a funeral and they didn’t get why I had to go to Jermyn Street to get one, until they saw it and realised it was one of “my” ties –

    I will be influenced by both these books just as I was influenced by those American businessman they didn’t understand me then and I guess their cousins don’t understand me now.

    This is not important the difference exists for a reason and let the reason be – let’s just rejoice that we enjoy the same threads but for very different cultural reasons

    And I still regret loosing that old brown Wayfarer case.

  126. You have got the use of the word sussed totally wrong , it is used in the wrong context throughout the article , it just highlights the huge cultural differences !

  127. Why not just wear the clothes the way you like to and stop caring about what anyone else thinks about it? These discussions on the blogs start out as rather interesting but degenerate very quickly into hair-splitting peel-me-a-grape squabbling over the minutest of details.

  128. Christian | March 6, 2011 at 9:55 am |

    JG says first pair of Weejuns were “magical, mythical and life-changing.”

    These English dudes is nuts.

  129. You guys are totally missing the point! This book is from an English view point! You must remember these were pre multi media days and the UK’s reference points were Grant, Dean, McQueen, Newman etc on the silver screen and very little else! The also have to take into acount the rise of the Mod culture in the late 50’s early 60’s which was a mash up of Americano/Italian/British Gent style! I think you can get a bit anal and hung up on the authenticity of the whole Ivy look and accept the it means different things to different people (especially those that live across the pond).
    ps Great site :)

  130. Ok, a very late answer to this blog entry… So, the theory behind most of your articles (sepecially this one) is: if you aren’t an east coast WASP, you aren’t allowed to love the Ivy League Look/Style. You make it an elitist thing, if you are a WASP that attended an Ivy League College and if you have an old house in the Hamptons then you can be “Ivy”. If you are English or European/whatever, you are a nuts bloke that doesn’t understand the ultra-conservative “American” view on Ivy League. Of course. Because this isn’t understandable. The Ivy League look became simply fashionable in the early 60s in Europe, the war was behind, the youth looked at the US – the movies, the stars, their look. That’s what influenced them, in contrary to the “British Invasion” that influenced from 1964 on rock music in the US. What you say is similar to following: “You can’t make real british rock music with a Marshall amp in the US, you wouldn’t understand how the Marshall sounds unless you grew up in England…”

  131. If you think that’s my position on this style, then you need to go back and read the entire website.

  132. @Leer R.

    Most British ivy followers that I know are far more conservative than many American followers of ivy.

  133. @Leer

    You assign a fictional narrative and imaginary value structure, and then you argue against your alternate version of reality rather than the truth. I believe that’s called a “strawman”.

  134. @Daninos:

    Yes, that’s true – for sure. Something that’s to critizise – at least for me. I also think many (definitely not all of them) British Ivy followers are too dogmatic. But I sometimes get the feeling many many readers (and commenters) of “Ivy Style” are VERY dogmatic, too – at least when it comes to reclaim Ivy League style as traditional American clothing that shouldn’t be copied elsewhere. In the end it is a feeling you can get.

  135. @ Anonymus: for whom do you think I am a strawman?

  136. @ Christian:

    The more I read the website the more I get the feeling. Don’t get me wrong, I would critizise the British Ivy followers, too – they very often have the opinion that they are the “better” Ivyists – which can’t be true. But they simply have another view on it – you claim that yourself, but you call them nuts because of having that different view – they CANNOT have the same relationship to those kind of clothes as Ivy League style never grew on their campuses. But the whole thing is a never ending story of influence – the Brits influenced the Americans, then the Americans influenced the Brits, and vice versa and so on… Middle Europeans very often wouldn’t even know that the Americans began to produce Button Down shirts. They’d think it’s a Brit thing. Weejuns are called “College Slippers”, Ivy Style is “College Style” – never “Ivy League Style”. It can’t be the same, so why bother? It sometimes seems that “Talk Ivy” and “Ivy Style” are fighting against each other about the Crown of the Ivy League Style/Look Imperium… I think THIS is nuts.

  137. Leer, fair enough on these points, but they have nothing to do with your original points or why I suggested you read the entire site. Your first comment suggests that I claim one has to be to the manner born to wear this style, and I’ve never claimed anything of the kind.

  138. True. You probably never wrote this. It’s just a feeling someone could get – I admit that it has to do a lot with some of the comments you get that go into that direction… As I said. A feeling. I might be wrong, though.

  139. Nick from Rotherhithe | April 29, 2012 at 5:43 am |

    As an Englishman who has lived in NYC and elsewhere in the good old US of A, and who has worked on every one of the Ivy campuses, I think you hit the hail bang on the head with “It (Ivy) is a seed blown across an ocean that sprouted a species of its own.” But to conclude that “the bitter zealotry the English feel for this subject.” is to grant undeserved national status to the obsessions of a tiny few English clothes faddists.

    This niche version of Ivy is really about the costume of hardcore or self-proclaimed original Mod — and in a funny kind of way it is the polar opposite of the traditional origins of country-pursuits Ivy in America, as I understand it. What is interesting (to me at least) is how that original American Ivy look was heavily inspired by English traditional clothing, which was anethema to the early Mod — a contradictory criss-crossing trans-Atlantic loop of influence.

    Btw — Crikey – there are some awfully rude and unpleasant posts here, aren’t there?

  140. Nick, I’ve always felt the Mods were more influenced by continental fashion than American or English. You are correct, Ivy is just the Americanization of English traditional clothing. One more thing we can be thankful to the British for.

  141. @MAC

    “Ivy is just the Americanization of English traditional clothing”.

    True indeed, but you’ll never get the creator of this blog, or most of its followers, to admit it.

    The décor of most Ivy shops, an Americanized version of English gentlemen’s clubs–English men’s shops never looked as good as Brooks Brothers.

  142. Anglo, I think Ivy shops are more an Americanized version of a higher class Dublin Irish pub. I’ve never been in the original Brooks Brothers store, but the ones I have been in aren’t any different than old school, now defunct, great regional dept stores.

  143. Quote: ‘“Ivy is just the Americanization of English traditional clothing”. True indeed, but you’ll never get the creator of this blog, or most of its followers, to admit it.’

    Kinda like denying the language we speak is an Americanization of English speech. The Shetland Islands are near Nantucket, right?

  144. Christian, I got to say i enjoy this site. I’ve dressed Ivy since the late 50s. The look has been called Ivy League, traditional, preppy and now again Ivy. I’m glad my college age sisters taught me how to dress (that sounds sick) because about every decade my wardrobe becomes fashionable. My rule has always been find your style, because chasing fashion will bankrupt you.

  145. Christian,

    When I was growing up, educated Americans tried their best to sound like what they imagined educated Brits sounded like. For us, New England, meant just that new England. Our emotional and sartorial ties were to England, not Mexico, Africa, Puerto Rico, etc.

  146. Brooks Loyal | April 29, 2012 at 11:21 pm |

    The links between Ivy League dressing and “Mod” are only a fraction of the story of Ivy style in England. I am an Englishman who has worn the style for over 30 years and who has nothing to do with any subcultural group. Like most English Ivy wearers I wear the style because it is stylish and comfortable.

  147. Brooks, I understand Mods working their way through the continental look, to the Austin Powers Edwardian look , to something else?, to now the ivy look. It’s good that they finally have a sense of taste, but I got to ask, are they still riding around on pimped out Vespas? Are they still warring with the Ace cafe crowd? I’m just kidding you, thumbs up.

  148. Brooks Loyal | April 30, 2012 at 10:02 am |

    MAC, you are my kind of guy.
    Whatever “Mods” are currently doing will not change my taste in shirts in the least!
    Or yours I suspect.
    Good luck to them.
    If you want me I’ll be drawing my Anglo Ivy sartorial inspiration from elewhere!

  149. Brooks, I ride Brit iron, so I guess I relate more to the Ton Up or Leather Boys more than Mods.;-)

  150. And as someone else has said…while these UK Ivy fetishists bitch and whine about how the Ivy League style is so English, they still insist that all their clothes must say “Made in USA” on them in order to be authentic. And they still name their “English” style after American universities.

    Humo(u)rus eyerolling paradoxical conundrum there.

  151. Brooks Lloyal | May 1, 2012 at 1:23 am |

    Dear Anonymous,
    This surprises me very much.The roots of the Ivy style may well be in traditional English menswear, I think on that we all agree, but the point of it is that it is American and “made in the USA” certainly does matter. The Ivy League style is not “so English”, it’s so American! Speaking for myself and those I know, that is the appeal of it in dowdy traditional England!

  152. Anonymous | May 1, 2012 at 2:23 am |


    Well then, you’ve got it right.
    Other UK Ivy internuts seem to be very vocal with their differing opinions.

  153. Anglophile | May 1, 2012 at 7:16 am |


    The language we speak is called American English.

    The language they speak is called English.

  154. Christian | May 1, 2012 at 7:23 am |

    Ah yes, the old two nations divided by a common language thing.

  155. Alan Flusser’s book from the eartly 80s, Making The Man, explains the origins of a lot we consider American clothing.

  156. OCBD Purist | May 1, 2012 at 7:39 pm |

    Thank God we didn’t borrow those exaggeratedly spread collars from the Brits.

  157. I don’t know OCBD, There are a lot of questions I have about the original Brooks Bros. BD. Was it originally a spread collar? How big were the collars that they needed to be BDed, were the polo players inhaling them, were they getting in their eyes? Or is it just a neat freak thing? Just asking.;-)

  158. Funny little irony just occurred to me with regards to the Europeans interested in Ivy.

    We know from the Talk Ivy forum that the dozen or so active members there hold several things in the highest esteem:

    * The Ivy League Look blog, because it presents only period material and nothing from the world of today

    * The Newton Street Vintage Etsy shop, because it deals almost exclusively in vintage clothing

    * Old photos, advertisements and record albums lionized for their coolness, divorced from the modern world

    Coupled with this sort of purist, traditionalist or orthodox stance is a contempt for any kind of updated take on Ivy. In this sense they would seem to validate only the real deal, or “true Ivy.” Yet here’s where the irony comes in.

    Coupled with this apparent orthodox stance is their Main Street/boom years/everyman ethos, which is necessary to their point of view on Ivy to keep their conscience clean. There’s no room in their hip Ivy fantasy construct for the world of the campus or the Eastern Establishment, the true wellspring of the Ivy League Look.

    So all those midcentury knock-offs that validate their taste for Ivy are of course derivative and faux, if they were to take as hardline a stance on them as they do towards contemporary manufacturers.

    So their hardline stance really comes down simply to a point in time, midcentury, rather than a sense of genuine Ivy pedigree. As long as an item of clothing or a photo of a guy looking cool is from the ’50s or ’60s, it’s “authentic,” no matter how derivative or tangential it was at the time.

    This is why they so often confuse or at least lump together things that are merely contemporary to the heyday but which have no other relation to the Ivy League Look.

    Past = good, present = bad (unless it perfectly mimics the past).

    That’s also why they see Ivy as a narrow set of rules to follow, or a platonic ideal that one either succeeds or fails at when getting dressed. There’s little room for individual style when you’re trying to mimic a look from the past.

    Of all the Americans I’ve met and corresponded with while doing this site, not a single one of them takes this absurd style-cult approach to getting dressed. Their interest in the Ivy heyday provides inspiration and they find the cultural history interesting. I’ve never met anyone who actually seeks to dress “Ivy.”

  159. This, for me, this is why the Europeans fascinate: Their yearning for a classicism which online America cares little about because America knows it was all just fashion, forever morphing.

  160. It takes real effort to be this stupid:

    “Ivy League fashion has next to nothing to do with the east coast establishment beyond marketing.”

    “Marketing” — the magic trump card!

  161. That is intensely, willfully, maliciously stupid.

  162. There is a chicken and egg aspect to this line of thinking. Clothes were sold and clothes were bought: Which came first the customer or the product?
    That Brooks catered to the East Coast Establishment there is no doubt. They also catered to the aspirational. All elites are small by their very nature and so to create a viable business the aspirational must have been Brooks main customers who would have bought the clothes as being the clothes of the elite. It’s all very circular.
    What did the East Coast elite and the aspirational wear before Brooks? That part of this discussion alone interests me. Did Brooks (a commercial organisation) really create the WASP wardrobe as we would recognise it today? If so, then marketing cannot totally be discounted. Were the American elite ‘educated’ in how to dress like an American elite by Brooks?

  163. I’ve explored the interplay between Brooks and the broader culture in the creation of the Ivy League Look here:

  164. A very good read, Christian. Thank you.
    So Brooks originated and others sold the style to the masses, resulting in a critical mass which caused the style’s fall from widespread favor. It makes sense. The campus as the medium for this process also seems clear. I see a fascinating mix of marketing and opportunism which must have left Brooks bewildered.

  165. What an upset ! I was kind of getting into ivy clothes and style, but after reading this……naaaa.

  166. Curently it looks like Moovable Type is the preferred blogging platform outt there right now.
    (from what I’ve read) Is that what you’re using on your blog?

1 Trackbacks & Pingbacks

Leave a Reply