Dateline 1967: G. Bruce Boyer On The Great Break With The Past

Part of our yearlong series commemorating the 50th anniversary of the  year 1967, which brought an end to the heyday of the Ivy League Look.

* * *

I was still in grad school and a teaching assistant in 1967. In grad school we were reading “Beowulf” and Chaucer, Alexander Pope and John Donne. As a teaching assistant I was given the “Introduction to Literature” and “European Literature in Translation” courses to teach.

Italian “New Wave” and the British “Angry Young Men” films were no longer popular with students, and 1967 would see the last Sean Connery James Bond film, “You Only Live Twice.” As far as the Bond films were concerned, it was all downhill from there for me. The Beatles had come to the States in 1964 on a tsunami of Anglomania, which is when Rock ‘n’ Roll ended. The music would henceforth be a global enterprise.

Clothes on campus were pretty much the same as had been worn a decade earlier: khakis and duffel coats, buttondowns and Shetland sweaters. I was buying my gear at the Tom Bass Shop in Bethlehem, PA, and at Langrock in Princeton, NJ. The shops were surprisingly similar, both carried a full range of Anglo-American items, from argyle socks to seersucker suits and Harris Tweed sports jackets. The Tom Bass Shop carried the branded goods, while Langrock was all private label. But you could stroll into either store and pick up a pink oxford-cloth buttondown, wool challis tie, pair of grey flannels, tan cotton balmacaan raincoat, or saddle-shouldered Shetland crewneck easily without worrying about coming across anything polyester.

But 1967 was perhaps the high point because, just as in 1939, everything changed after that. That summer, the “Summer of Love,” 100,000 young people crowded into San Francisco to celebrate their break with the past. At the end of that summer, students went back to campus wearing tie-dyed denim. Those wearing trad Ivy gear were thought elitist, conservative, and —worst of all — unhip. By the time that the Woodstock festival rolled around, with 400,000 celebrants in the summer of 1969, Ivy Leaguers were thought reactionary.

For the next half-dozen years and more, anyone seen in a three-piece, natural-shouldered suit was thought suspicious. The music was even worse. — G. BRUCE BOYER

Mr. Boyer’s latest book is “True Style.”

Photo by Al Castiel III

48 Comments on "Dateline 1967: G. Bruce Boyer On The Great Break With The Past"

  1. As usual G. Bruce Boyer is spot on, but I think the Ivy look remained in what we call redstates today. The exceptions being places like Austin, Boulder and of course Ann Arbor and Madison.

    Interestingly, the actual difference between “brands” and “private label” is usually just the label. Did any of these men’s’ shops own factories? I remember seeing an image of a Gitman shirt factory wall with all the private labels displayed. Even today one can buy a Gitman shirt and not know it’s Gitman.

  2. Carmelo Pugliatti | February 15, 2017 at 11:34 am |

    Back in time and change all this….
    Avoid JFK election and the Vietnam war is a good start (avoid Vietnam is indispensable) ,but maybe is necessary send a cyborg terminator for “fix” some peoples in the past….Marcuse,Adorno,Tim Leary,Allen Ginsberg….and a lot of guys in the music buisness.I think that with 200 or 300 “terminated” is possible to have a different 1967,

  3. Wonderful piece though I still believe we can look back to 1964 as the turning point. I cite as authority an interview with Bobby Short and Peter Duchin in -I believe – a Bergdorf catalogue-magazine. Short said that until the Beatles in 1964 Fifth Avenue was populated by well-dressed men and women. Once the Beatles shook up the culture that changed. It may indeed have met its fruition in 1967 with the Summer of Love but the incubation began several years earlier. Recall that the Bolshevic revolution took five years to cement itself into the Soviet Union in 1922

  4. Marc Chevalier | February 15, 2017 at 11:54 am |

    In 1964, the Beatles were still wearing fairly conservative suits, dress shirts, and ties in public. Only the hair and the ankle boots were “way out there”.

  5. In line with the 1967 social transitions that are often discussed here, while the Beatles sound continuosly evolved throughout their career, many argue that the fundamental change in their work came with release of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band in June of that year. SPLHCB was arguably the first “concept album” and put a bookend to the 50 and early sixties style of rock and roll. The difference between it and all of their work that came after was night and day in comparison to what they released between ’63 and ’66.

  6. It all changed in ’67 because that’s when the first wave of Baby Boomers reached the age of majority. The Baby Boomers have been the pig moving through the python of American society ever since the end of the second World War. All the big cultural and political events since then have occurred in sync with the major transition points in the lifetime of that first huge demographic wave born in ’46-’50.

  7. I don’t want to sound pollyannaish, but rather than bemoan something that happened 50 years ago,I prefer to be thankful that apart from the wool challis ties, it seems that all of the items which Mr. Boyer bought at the Tom Bass Shop and Langrock are still readily available. I must admit that I do miss the wide variety of wool challis ties that were found at any college shop in the early to mid-60s.

  8. Chewco L.P. (N.T.) | February 15, 2017 at 12:57 pm |

    Ralph Lauren was founded in 1967. So maybe not an “end” but a “renaissance?”

  9. Chewco, that’s how I see it. Amazingly coincidental that just as the age Ivy style was drawing to a close, Ralph Lauren was just starting to bring it back in new and interesting ways.

  10. It was a renaissance in the truest form of the word: a rebirth of classic style.

  11. Shameless self-quote from my rise and fall essay:

    Other symbolically interesting things also occurred in 1967. Brooks Brothers’ president left the company after serving 21 years, all throughout the Ivy heyday, and Ralph Lauren goes into business. These two events are like two sides of the same coin. The man who helmed Brooks Brothers throughout its glorious postwar heyday retires, while Ralph Lauren launches his career. It’s an eerie foreshadowing of the role reversal that would happen over the ensuing decades, during which so much of Lauren’s merchandise would be closer in spirit, style and quality to classic Brooks Brothers than Brooks Brothers’ contemporary merchandise.

  12. Another amazing coincidence, I happen to be wearing a duffle coat, OCBD and Shetland sweater today at my college 50 years later (with cords, still too cold for khakis).

  13. That’s an execellent point, Christian. Whereas Brooks was beginning to falter in the 80’s, Polo was in its golden age.

  14. Marc,
    You are correct on the Beatles. I was not born at the time, but am fascinated by how quickly things changed. In a very short period of time, it went from suits and ties onstage to the hippie era. In fact, the sixties up until 1965 seemed more fifties than sixties. It had more in common with sock hops, that type of music, etc. Did it seem like things changed overnight or did it feel more gradual?

    From a style perspective, I love the early to mid sixties. The Bond era was getting started, there was cold war political intrigue and great movies that showcased that chic style to a tee. Check out the movie “How to Steal a Million” from 1966 for a great example.

  15. I agree wholeheartedly with the idea that the heyday ended in 1967. That said, based on geographical location and personal experience, the “end date” is not going to be exactly the same for each individual.

    As to the Beatles, one of the most amazing traits of the band is how rapidly they evolved and matured. Their Rubber Soul album of 1965 was already a world away from their early material, one of its cuts (Michelle) even covered by classic crooners Andy Williams and Matt Monro.

    As to DJP’s comment, the 1950s for the most part did segue nicely into the 1960s right near the turn of the decade (very much unlike the ‘60s-‘70s transition) in fact there is an entire book, 1959, discussing this issue. Take U.S. automobiles for example; 1959 was both “peak tailfin” and “peak two-tone” paint. In the early 1960s, the cars rapidly became slightly smaller and much more restrained and tasteful in styling. Two good examples are the 1959 vs. 1960 Ford and the 1959 vs. 1961 Lincoln Continental.

    Again, to DJP; as anyone who owns my cookbook, reads my website or visited my home (where its always 1965!) well know, I believe 1960-1967 was the peak of postwar living in many ways. If you enjoy the look of this period in film, I can suggest that you check these out:

    Bachelor in Paradise* (1961)
    Divorce American Style* (1967)
    Ocean’s Eleven (1960)
    Mannix, Season One (1967-1968) – currently on YouTube

    * Winners of the Auto Universum Étoile d’Or du Cinéma

  16. Ralph Lauren may have founded his company in 1967, but at that time he was merely selling the wide tie to Bloomingdales. It wasn’t until a few years later that he starting designing clothing that took elements of ivy and British style, and paired it with 70s tailoring. If RL were to be responsible for a renaissance of traditional ivy of sorts, then it really didn’t happen until the bell bottoms went away and he entered his own “heyday” through the 1980s.

    Today RL is experiencing a rocky-road due in part to the decline of the department store, oversaturation of their logo, and the market turn away from neo-prep. Ironically, Brooks has seemed to be on the rise, most notably since they designed all the costumes for the DiCaprio rendition of the Great Gastby, which in my view was their way of reannouncing themselves to the world; and sticking it to RL who designed Robert Redford’s clothing in the 1974 classic. At the same time, Vineyard Vines is dominating the sectors which Rugby and Polo University Club once claimed without a reliance on tight fits and short coats.

    At the end of the day, it’s never going to be 1950-1967 again. In part because even though we love jackets and ties, they are no longer enforced dress codes or part of everyday life for most people. Also, part because denim is so popular, and when done right with dark with clean pockets, they are in fact superior in fit and more flattering than ever before. And part because the shoulders and attention to detail that we trads want requires skilled tailors, not the cost saving mechanization of the developing world. As I commented on the post a few weeks ago about Esquire Magazine’s campus wardrobe for 1962, what they recommended would cost in excess of $11,000 today off brand, and over $20k at Brooks. To most millienials who aspire to be the next Zuckerberg by “finding themselves” and doing “what they love,” our style of clothing is the last thing they focus on.

    But alas, there are things we can do. We can educate the next generation on the proper fit of a jacket, even if they want to pair it with jeans. We can teach them to trade in the garish t-shirts for a beautiful OCBD, by letting them know how great it will be for them to see their girlfriends walk around the apartment wearing them the next morning. We can emphasize how attire can actually make an evening special, even if that means they have to rent a tuxedo.

    Just as Ralph Lifshitz was the stepping stone for most of us who were born after the heyday to discover this type of clothing, we can always show people how to tie a bow tie like I did with my groomsmen, or divert as many as possible from purchasing a black suit by merely pointing out the versatility of blue and gray. While it may not be our ideal, it is still helpful, and at the very least, can be our contribution to maintaining some level of elegance in our society, if any at all.

  17. Not to correct Reb Boyer, but Diamonds Are Forever in 1971 also starred Connery.

  18. Excellent replies above from one and all.
    I still dress today as I did back then and will to my last breath. However, my/our style, is so much more individualized today, than back in the heyday when everyone dressed alike. But given the choice, I’d go back to being one of the many in a heartbeat!

  19. @DCG

    I think we would all like to forget that unfortunate movie. Though not a sanctioned Bond movie, Never Say Never Again also featured Connery. All and all, not a bad movie compared to any Moore portrayed Bond. I always thought well of Lazenby’s Bond. 1969 and the ’70s was not kind to Bond or Ivy style.

  20. MacMcConnell | February 15, 2017 at 6:34 pm |

    Benjamin

    My junior year in high school groups of us would drive to Columbia Mo. to buy RL, that was 1969. You could find it at Woody’s, but not in dept. stores in KC. RL was rocking in the mid to late 1970s in Ivy men’s shops, even at Woody’s in Topeka Ks.. I don’t remember RL doing bell bottoms, I’m not counting his later western ware boot cut jeans. RL trousers did have a stove pipe drape.

    To be honest most of the men I know lost interest in RL when it did get popular and into places like Macys in the 80s. I still buy his accessories, but what I miss most are his fair isle and regimental horizontal striped sweater vest from the late 70s. Also, his shaker knit shaw collar sweaters, get this, with no sewn on crest.

    We baby boomers are a piece of work, but I blame a generation born prior to WWII and their intellectuals, it’s the crap we read. 😉

  21. I just now realized why I was unaware of the 1969 Woodstock festival until long after it occurred. I spent August 1969 (then age 20) on a four-week submarine patrol off North Korea and thus had other things on my mind.

  22. Fred Johnson | February 15, 2017 at 9:19 pm |

    1967.. I was out of high school and working as a draftsman, being still to young to be drafted. I shopped at Press, Yale Co-Op and Hunter Haig and Barrie’s for my loafers. I saw no need to change then or the next year when I entered college. The most I went off focus was later buying a ticket for Woodstock. I came to my senses in time however and sold it to a friend.

  23. @MacMcConnell

    I was under the impression that his line came out in 70-71 but really “took off” after Gatsby in ’74. I stand corrected.

    As for the 1970s styling, a post was made on this blog a month or two back showcasing some pictures of ads from a campaign in ’72. There were camel coats, but also 70s fits in a lot of the looks too. Wide lapels, bells etc.

    He still does one or two fair isle sweaters a year, vest included, but they are usually $$$ and only available at his flagship stores and Bloomingdale’s.

    You guys may have killed ivy, but at least you spoiled my generation rotted a few decades later!

  24. @Old School
    In the early to mid 60s one could go blindfolded into the local “campus clothiers”, make random choices, and come out well dressed.

  25. Mr. Castiel got the carpet wrong in the photo.
    Anyone who had the poor taste to divest himself of those trad items of clothing would have replaced that classic Turkish carpet with something like this:

    http://www.campbellsloft.com/index.php?main_page=popup_image_additional&pID=620&pic=2&products_image_large_additional=images/categories/rug_208_1_3.jpg

  26. Dutch Uncle – I see your point, but in Mr. Castiel III’s defense, a sizable fraction of flower children of the late sixties who divested their classic “square” clothing also enjoyed the aesthetics of a Turkish or Persian rug. Such floor coverings provided an ideal, authentic cultural ambiance for enjoying a sitar and/or hookah. Perhaps this was his thinking…

    The waste can is out of place however; it looks rather contemporary.

  27. Beatles and the “British Invasion” was coincidental with the “Mod” or “Carnaby Street” style, which was a kind of Edwardian-on-drugs look; not “hippie” at all, but dandified. Oscar Wilde and the Aesthetes may well have approved.

    While we can pick various years when “it all changed”, I do specifically recall that when I started at UNC-Chapel Hill in 1968, all the frat boys on the house porches were wearing khakis and OCBDs. When I returned in the fall of 1969, they were all wearing denim bellbottoms and chambray workshirts.

  28. James Kraus–To give Mr. Castiel his due, I suppose he couldn’t bring himself to put those clothing items in an authentic waste can like this:

    https://cdn-img-2.wanelo.com/p/e73/006/1e6/dff08316b7d58f97dad755f/x354-q80.jpg

  29. I have that tie — the dark-red-and-navy BB#4. Maybe not as “iconic” as the burgundy BB#1, but still pretty recognizable.

  30. Benjamin

    Those weren’t bell bottoms in those ads, they were non tapered trousers. The old RL trousers were tapered from the ass to the knee and straight from the knee to the ankle. They were full, but not bells and worn with a break by most wearers, one’s socks didn’t show till one sat down. RL didn’t create “wash” pants till the 80s to compete with Levi Dockers, they were cut the same not tapered like his “wash” pants of today.

    I never own a bell bottom pant or tie dyed shirt, I just carried on and took a lot of crap from Hippies, “I dressed like an old man”. I am guilty of large lapels and lobster bib ties, it’s what was available and I chuckle at photos of myself from those times. 😉

  31. “When I returned in the fall of 1969, they were all wearing denim bellbottoms and chambray workshirts.” and Frye harness boots. The “black pajamas” of the new proletariat. 😉

  32. @Mac McConnell
    @cc

    Speaking of tie width, has there ever been a post tackling this?

    The 60s are no doubt associated with the narrow ties worn by Jack Kennedy, but is there a standard bearer size for the trad community?

    Personally, I find narrow ties too skinny for anyone who wears a jacket over size 42. At the same time, I’ve been watching old West Wing episodes and those ties certainly fall under the lobster bib territory.

    I own a few BB reps and just ordered the Ivy Style tie, but must to admit to generally defaulting on my Hermès and Charvet ties 90% of the time. They are 3 1/4 and produce beautiful knots.

    Also, is there a preferred knot in the trad community? Four-in-hand, half-wins, Prince Albert?

  33. That oxford/blue blazer/rep tie combination in the trash is EXACTLY the same outfit I wore many times in college (mid-80s). I actually still have the blazer (Huntington of Columbus, purchased via mail order. Anyone remember them?) The tie was actually WFBuckley’s beloved Stafford line from JC Penney! I think my blue strip oxford back then was from the Lodge at Harvard Square, Princeton location.

  34. Mr. McConnell, I hope you still have some of those 70’s RL sweaters, they must be heirloom quality!

    Benjamin, according to the book “Ralph Lauren” by Ralph Lauren, he launched his first menswear collection in ’68 having only produced ties in ’67. But I agree that he really took off after ’74 as his brand was only sold in speciality shops for most of the 70’s.

  35. Dutch Uncle – Excellent research; not only is that example period-correct, it is exactly what (in dark green) I remember from school!

  36. Front Porch Life | February 16, 2017 at 1:49 pm |

    The Beatles represent a decline in morality. They said “all you need is love” and then they broke up.

  37. @GS

    I know, I just read that too, in that book, which sits on my coffee table. I did I say I stand corrected though!

    Not sure why I though the line came out in 70-71 in the first place but since we it didn’t become popular right away, I guess that was it.

  38. Charlottesville | February 17, 2017 at 11:44 am |

    Benjamin — Some of my old Brooks ties are 3″ wide, and some are even a hair narrower. The same for 80s era ties from Eljo’s of Charlottesville. I generally like 3″ to 3 1/4″ but I know others differ. The widest I am comfortable with is 3 1/2″, and I have favorites from J. Press and O’Connell’s in that width that I wear fairly regularly; in fact I am wearing a 3 1/2″ challis tie from Press today. Brooks seems to have gotten back on track lately, at least for some of their ties, but not so long ago they were cranking out mostly 3 3/4″ and even 4″ ties. The patterns and stripes were still classic, and I bought a few but could not stand to wear them. I recently had 3 old BB 4 inchers narrowed to 3″ and they look great. I note that the Ivy Style Club Tie that Christian and Matthew Gale designed is 3 1/4″ wide and I think it looks perfect.

  39. I won’t wear a tie under 3 inches,. I take my fashion cue from Oliver Hardy, big men don’t wear narrow ties.

  40. Dutch Uncle – Close enough to warrant a Robusto.

  41. Mac brings up a valid point that few people consider. A Big Man should not only steer clear of narrow ties, he should also avoid narrow lapels and narrow belts. Ideally, these should all be scaled up slightly to maintain proper proportion. A 1 1/8” belt looks fine on a 32” waist; on a 42” waist it looks more like a rubber band.

  42. On the belts; I meant to say 32″ vs. 48″

  43. James Kraus–Thank you sir! I was fearing a response of “Close, but no cigar!”

  44. MacMcConnell | February 18, 2017 at 2:44 pm |

    The Connery movie with a 3/2 roll jackets would be 1962 Marnie, bonus Tippi Hedren is in it.

  45. MacMcConnell | February 18, 2017 at 2:45 pm |

    “James Kraus–Thank you sir! I was fearing a response of “Close, but no cigar!””

    When did this turn in to a Bill Clinton tread? 😉

  46. A while back a neighbor passed along a few circa late 60s repp ties. They’re a hair over three inches at the blade. Right at 8cm. Just right for me.

    A portion of the 90s saw a return to 70s era girth, whereas 80s era preppies redeemed the three inch tie and smallish knot. Aristotle was right–there’s a golden mean. If 2″ and 4″ represent two extremes (each bordering on silly), 3″ is a sensible compromise.

    In the era of the internet, any and all traditions are up for grabs. Pick your look and your era and rest assured there are like minded souls posting on a blog or forum. Nobody’s reliant upon a particular store or designer anymore. Probably a good thing.

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