Fire Away: A Reader Q&A With Bruce Boyer

In February Ivy Style featured a virtual question-and-answer session with columnist Richard Press, and this time we turn the podium over to menswear author G. Bruce Boyer, contributor to the upcoming Ivy exhibit at the Museum of the Fashion Institute of Technology, and whose latest book, “Enduring Style,” features never-before-seen photos of Gary Cooper.

Today Bruce will be at his desk ready to ask your burning questions about style, college life in the early ’60s (yep, he’s that old), and anything else pertaining to dress and deportment. If you have burning questions that are actually about burning, however, such as when you urinate, please see a doctor.

To get your brain cells firing, consider revisiting Ivy Style’s Q&A with Bruce from the early days of the site.

Bruce will answer as many questions as time and energy permit.

49 Comments on "Fire Away: A Reader Q&A With Bruce Boyer"

  1. Moravian is a small school, with only a few chapters of national fraternities and sororities, yet currently 20% of the student body of Moravian is Greek. Was Mr. Boyer a member of a fraternity or similar social club? When he spoke about “the uniform” of his college days, was there anything in particular he can recall that set the Greeks apart? What does he think of the current fact that the closest thing to a vanguard of “the uniform” (and I use the term vanguard loosely) found on colleges today is the fraternity man or the sorority woman?

  2. G. Bruce Boyer | April 17, 2012 at 6:55 am |

    Dear Kionon,

    I wasn’t a member of any fraternity or other social club on campus, but those who were Greeks were more traditionally “Ivy” in their clothes than the rest of the college community who were much more diverse in their dress. At the time I attended, Moravian was still a college which served the community and many (I don’t know the exact percentages) were day students whose lives were not as completely socially linked to college life as those who lived on campus. Greeks were in the vanguard then, and it would seem this is still true, although the style is now a fashion rather than a tradition.

  3. How much clothing is too much?

  4. Where, in your esteemed opinion, is the best place for a man to have a tweed jacket made in the US? Thank you.

  5. G. Bruce Boyer | April 17, 2012 at 8:26 am |

    Dear Christian,

    I suspect you have too much clothing when you start to worry about how you’re going to pay for it.

  6. G. Bruce Boyer | April 17, 2012 at 8:32 am |

    Dear Ms. Aldrich,

    Custom tailor Leonard Logsdail (9 East 53rd St, NYC) would be my choice. He has an extensive selection of British tweed swatch books and a large clientele of sports coat enthusiasts.

  7. Thank you, Sir! Most helpful.

  8. Mr. Boyer,
    It was great meeting you at the Gary Cooper book event in NY earlier this year.
    What is the status of your Black Tie book?
    And, what are your thoughts regarding suspenders? I find myself wearing them more often, but wonder if it’s too costumey for a 30-something man to wear them.
    Thanks!

  9. Robert Rafael | April 17, 2012 at 10:15 am |

    Dear Mr. Boyer: What would be today’s equivalent to the A. Sulka of 1925-1985? Thank You.

  10. Mr. Boyer,

    Strange question, but have you ever heard of counterfeit ties? I occasionally buy Battistoni and Charvet on eBay, and they all seem to be genuine. Ever heard of fakes (I have heard of Hermes fakes, but never Battistoni/Charvet)?

  11. Chris Sharp | April 17, 2012 at 11:32 am |

    Mr. Boyer,
    I wanted to publicly thank you for the kindness you have shown me over the years.
    You might remember me as the heavy weight Viyella fan. I have always enjoyed your work, it is like having friendly uncle guiding one through uncertain sartorial
    waters.

    I offer a few questions they may be of interest.

    How has INTERNETernet changed the way classic clothes are viewed?

    Are there any Ivy Truths or Myths? What is the current crop of devotees getting right and getting wrong?

    Is there anything you would add or elaborate on if you wrote “A Curmudgeon’s Lament” today.

  12. Mr. Boyer, I’m having an argument with a friend of mine about whether or not to cuff corduroy pants (his, not mine!) What’s your opinion?

  13. G. Bruce Boyer | April 17, 2012 at 12:32 pm |

    Dear Mr. Makaga,

    My great good thanks for mentioning the Gary Cooper book which, I’m told, is virtually sold out of the first edition. The black tie book is still in manuscript form due to a contractual disagreement with the publisher.

    About suspender, many men who wear higher cut trousers continue to favor suspenders because they’re more comfortable and “sit” the trousers better. Some men collect bold colored and patterned one as something of a secret vice. I personally don’t think they’re costumey at all, and more power to you for wearing them. The trick, by the way, to wearing anything which differs from the herd is to wear it with complete confidence.

  14. G. Bruce Boyer | April 17, 2012 at 12:35 pm |

    Dear Mr. Rafael,

    If we think of Sulka as a small luxury haberdashery, then I think the only comparisons would be the several Italian shops mainly located on upper Madison Avenue in NYC. Places such as Domenico Vacca, C. Attolini, and a few others of that ilk.

  15. G. Bruce Boyer | April 17, 2012 at 12:42 pm |

    Dear Austin,

    I haven’t heard of those specific brands being counterfeited, but it certainly wouldn’t surprise me. Awhile ago a friend of mine in the retail clothing business was telling me about a group of thieves who were going around in stores cutting out the labels of luxury garments. These labels would then presumably be sewn into counterfeit garments. The only way to protect yourself would seem to be either (1) only deal with a reputable venue, or (2) gain the knowledge of how quality clothes are made. this problem seems to be getting worse, not better.

  16. G. Bruce Boyer | April 17, 2012 at 12:58 pm |

    Dear Mr. Sharp,

    Thank you so much for the kind words. I find your questions very thought-provoking and, to do them justice, would call for at least a 2,000-word article or so to answer the first two. Briefly, yes, the changes the internet has brought are enormous because information is so much easier to come by, and there are so many alternatives to traditional magazines. And of course all of this information moves around much more quickly than ever, and the niches can more easily be found by the aficionado. More men than ever know the luxe labels and the names of the great tailors, shirtmakers, etc. And more than a few understand the craftsmanship that goes into quality.

    On your second point, I love to talk about clothing myths because most thoughts and opinions about clothes are myths, particularly advice on how they should be worn. I think Christian Chensvold has mentioned several times — and I don’t want to be putting words into his mouth here — that Ivy clothes have moved from tradition to fashion, and I would agree with that. But I’m not sure I can answer your question specifically in this short space and forum.

  17. G. Bruce Boyer | April 17, 2012 at 1:02 pm |

    Dear Cara,

    The fashion at the moment is to cuff them. I guess I’d apply a simple rule here (and I’m not much for rules): if you intend to wear the trousers with a tailored jacket, cuff them. If they’re so casual that they won’t ever be worn with anything but a shirt or sweater, cuffs don’t matter.

  18. Thank you Mr. Boyer!

  19. Have the people who set and follow Ivy League style always eschewed double breasted jackets? Or is simply the case that the Ivy look flourished at a time when Americans stopped wearing DB jackets?

  20. I see you wearing Odd jackets a lot. Can you recommend a great source for great trousers to wear with odd jackets and blazers?

  21. G. Bruce Boyer | April 17, 2012 at 1:39 pm |

    Dear Mr. Day,

    Interesting question, one I used to asked myself, til finally I decided to look at some old Brooks and Press catalogs from the earlier years of the 20th Century. I found that Ivy men did indeed wear d-b jackets and suits. So I think your suggestion is right: they gave them up when others did. Historically I think this was because of the sumptuary laws imposed on clothes during WWII: no d-bs, no vests, no cuffs, etc. on men’s suits.

  22. G. Bruce Boyer | April 17, 2012 at 1:45 pm |

    Dear Mr. Benn,

    You’re right, I do wear odd jackets more than suits; I don’t seem to need suits, and much prefer a more casual approach for myself. For cold weather I just wear flannels or cavalry twills, and cotton khakis for summer. I get the flannels and twills custom made, and buy any old khakis that seem to fit. I’ve worn RL Polo, Bill’s, Ben Silver, and others.

  23. Maybe I can sneak in one last question? Thoughts on the BB Fitzgerald fit? Does it do a good job of capturing the classic Ivy Styling? I am a smaller guy, and was looking at it for a Blazer, just want it to stay timeless though.

  24. Bruce just said he’ll be around on Wednesday, too.

  25. G. Bruce Boyer | April 17, 2012 at 4:51 pm |

    Dear Mr. Benn,

    I’m going to be something of a heretic here and say that none of the Brooks models captures the classic Ivy styling, but the Fitzgerald model does a decent job of imitating it. The good thing about Brooks tailored clothes is that they stock a full selection of shorts, regulars, and longs. Many stores sadly no longer offer this option to their customers.

  26. Mr. Boyer,

    Could you please explain why you think that Brooks Brothers’ Fitzgerald cut, rather than their Madison cut, comes closer to classic İvy styling? I find that even the Madison model, which is cut fuller than the Fitzgerald model, is less full than the jackets I remember from the 1960s.

  27. To jump in, as someone who hangs out at Brooks all the time hitting golf balls, the Fitz has the narrower lapel that harkens back to the heyday, and the madison the boxier cut. I think the shoulders are comparable.

    Also, Fitz is two-button only I believe and I think Madison is three.

    Bruce is more of a bespoke guy and I’m not sure he spends much time browsing Brooks and comparing cuts.

  28. Thanks, Christian.

  29. Boston Bean | April 17, 2012 at 9:15 pm |

    I’m a bespoke guy too.
    Out of necessity.
    It’s the only way I can get an authentic boxy cut in a jacket.

  30. Why do you think Ivy/Preppy style has had such a long, continuous run in the public consciousness as a viable, more or less coherent style of dress, and do you think it will continue?

  31. G. Bruce Boyer | April 18, 2012 at 6:47 am |

    Dear Camford,

    What I was trying to say is that none of the Brooks models reflects the sack-cut coats of the past. Christian is correct: Fitzgerald has a slightly narrower lapel and Madison a slightly fuller cut. But the all-important cut of the shoulder and chest of the current Brooks models do not reflect the sack-cut coats of the past.

  32. G. Bruce Boyer | April 18, 2012 at 7:02 am |

    Dear Dopey,

    Since I prefer to make predictions about the past, let me tackle your first question. To list a few reasons: (1) Ivy clothing has always been practical and comfortable. (2) traditionally it’s the clothing of the US Establishment. (3) it was purely American at a time — after WWII — when the USA filled a world power vacuum. It seems that in the modern world clothing is primarily aspirational and closely related to power.

    On the point about the future, I guess my question would be, where will the power flow?

  33. Mr. Boyer,

    Thanks very much for doing this. I’m interesting in hearing what your opinions are on mixing elements of Ivy style with clothing from other styles. In particular, I’d love to hear your thoughts on combining a button-down collar with odd jackets (or even suits) cut along classically British lines.

    If I may sneak in a double-header, I’m also curious to know what cloths you prefer for summer odd jackets.

    Have a wonderful day.

  34. G. Bruce Boyer | April 18, 2012 at 2:09 pm |

    Dear ADW,

    I think combining elements of different genres (British, USA, Italian, etc), formal and informal, city and country are all great ways to produce individuality in dress. Fred Astaire, Cary Grant, Gary Cooper all wore button downs with British suits, even double-breasteds; so do the Italians. I’m in favor of breaking the rules. Who the hell makes the rules anyway?

    For summer it’s hard to beat pure cotton (seersucker, poplin) or linen (Irish or Italian) for odd jackets.The wrinkles are a badge of nonchalance.

  35. If you were to wear an everyday Ivy uniform (think Steve Jobs) what would it consist of, please? (Shirt, trousers, shoes, jacket, and so forth.)

    Also, would you ever wear a short sleeve button-down shirt (sans tie, of course) or strictly long sleeve in the summer?

    Thank you,sir.

  36. Dear Mr. Boyer,

    Do you believe that men can wear saddle shoes today without ridicule?

    Thank you for doing this.

  37. G. Bruce Boyer | April 18, 2012 at 3:19 pm |

    Dear Zach A.,

    I’m quite serious when I say that I feel almost anyone can wear almost anything without looking ridiculous if he thinks he can. being accepted is more a matter of attitude and confidence than anything. And while the opinion of others is always important to us, if you’re happy with yourself you tend to place less emphasis on what others think. And I tend to like individuality in dress, so I’d go with the saddle shoes if you like them.

  38. Thank you!

  39. G. Bruce Boyer | April 18, 2012 at 3:29 pm |

    Dear Thad,

    I’m not a fan of short sleeves (they don’t work with a jacket), and if I get too warm I can always roll up my long sleeves. My everyday at-home wardrobe is a blue oxford button down, khakis, and deck shoes; in winter I add a sweater. If I have to go out I can always throw on a sports jacket and tie. This is about as Trad as it gets, but I’m very conservative in my dress. My wardrobe’s easy to wear and manage, and I find it suits my lifestyle and is comfortable. Most of my clothes are rather simple but of good quality.

  40. Dickey Greenleaf | April 18, 2012 at 4:11 pm |

    How do you select your ties, and how do you select your sport coat, what’s your point spread as far as, what’s most appealing in certain color combinations, styles, variations, and concepts, from a studied platform of dress and presentation. Meaning, I consider you an expert, so, give me some insight on what to look for when I shop?

  41. G. Bruce Boyer | April 18, 2012 at 6:12 pm |

    Dear Mr. Greenleaf,

    I’m afraid I just go with my own style, which I seem to have been perfecting forever. I don’t think my way of dressing has changed much in forty years. I still wear some of my father’s ties. I buy ties anywhere, as long as they’re of a quality make and discreet. Drakes of London, for example, makes my sort of neckwear: sort of classic British the way the Italians and French think of British. I select my sports jackets by going through the swatch books with my tailor, and picking out the cloth is about the only decision I make because my styling preferences haven’t changed in more than 30 years. Most of my jackets are brown or green tweed simply because that’s what I like and I find I can wear my grey or tan trousers easily with a neutral brown jacket, although I always like to have a summer and winter weight blazer in my wardrobe as well. I prefer clothes that can be matched easily and without fuss because I hate to take the time to think about matching everything up properly. I’ve always advised men to buy the best they can afford, buy classic items, and wear them to death. Ignore Fashion as much as you can, and don’t pay much attention to all these rules people dream up, and be yourself. Rather boring, but that’s the way I look at it.

  42. Boston Bean | April 18, 2012 at 7:34 pm |

    Dear Mr. Boyer,

    Allow me to disagree.

    Your style and your advice are anything but boring.

  43. Gregory Milford | April 18, 2012 at 8:56 pm |

    Dear Mr. Boyer,

    Your comments on clothing, style, and value echo many of my views. I am about to start wearing glasses and was interested in what your wear. The P3 style is classic. What brand do you wear (if you would share that information) and are there other styles you like?

    On a very different topic, I prefer the BB version of the Alden Cordovan Loafer because it is unlined.

    Thanks for your response.

    Greg

  44. I’ve found that the traditional Ivy companies (J. Press, Brooks Brothers, O’Connell’s, etc.) make clothing with fuller cuts and generally warm, muted colors. On the other hand, newer fashion-oriented companies (Band of Outsiders, Gitman Vintage) generally make clothing with slimmer cuts and more often use cooler, saturated colors.

    I prefer the colors made available by the latter because of my skintone (I’m half-Asian), but I prefer the fuller cuts of the former. Finding Ivy clothes with both a full cut and cool, saturated colors is fairly difficult. What should I do?

  45. G. Bruce Boyer | April 19, 2012 at 3:45 am |

    Dear Mr. Milford,

    My glasses are the old Anglo-American “Liberty” frames, which I’ve worn for years now.

  46. G. Bruce Boyer | April 19, 2012 at 3:48 am |

    Dear Mr. Aizan,

    Can you afford custom-tailoring? That would be the first solution, but it is very expensive. Second I would suggest looking at some European brands (French, Italian) that seem to have a slightly more colorful approach in natural-shouldered clothing.

  47. Dear Mr. Boyer,

    Could you please elaborate on the following:

    “… the all-important cut of the shoulder and chest of the current Brooks models do not reflect the sack-cut coats of the past”.

    Thank you.

  48. Old Bostonian | April 19, 2012 at 9:12 pm |

    Re Mr.Boyer’s eyeglass frames:

    They are sold by Ben Silver as “Liberty”, but the manufacturer, Anglo-American, refers to them as their Model 406:

    http://optometristattic.com/7873_Optometrist_Attic.htm

    For far more details, see the blog known as Ivy Style:

    http://www.ivy-style.com/specs-appeal-p3-the-most-properly-preppy-eyeglasses.html

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