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.
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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