When it comes to classic Americana, the Japanese are meticulous in their research and sticklers for details — at least most of the time.

Nick Sullivan, Esquire‘s fashion director, recently lent me the latest addition to his style library: “The Ivy Pictorial Dictionary” by Toshiyuki Kurosu (who’s associated with the brand VAN, according to our man in Tokyo), from 1983.

The illustrated pocket tome is curious for several reasons. For starters, it’s called an “Ivy” dictionary, yet includes listings for anything classic and American, including Harley Davidson, Jack Daniels, and Union Pacific Railway.

For the letter I, the book includes the “Ivy League Model” suit, with a detailed description of what makes a suit Ivy, yet states that the three-button is the exemplary Ivy model, not the 3/2.

A friend translated the passage, coming up with this:

The kind of clothing we call “Ivy” is actually called “Ivy League Model.” Over there, if you say “Ivy,” people may think of Ivy League schools. Be careful.

The clothing has several distinctive features: natural shoulder, widely spaced three buttons (only the top two buttons are used), stitches around sleeves and the pockets, and hooked vent. Slacks are plain front, come with belt loops and back strap, and the silhouette is stove-pipe. These are the must-have characteristics.

It’s silly, but when I was young, I was so proud of myself for remembering all those details.

Evidently the Japanese can be rigid perfectionists when it comes to Ivy style, painstakingly recreating vintage styles, and then turn around and use the term “Ivy” quite loosely, as in the song “Ivy Tokyo” we linked to yesterday in the Ephemera column. You’d like to think the guy is singing about hooked vents and lapped seams, but the song is really about chasing girls.

“Men’s fashion wouldn’t exactly make a cool subject for a song,” said my friend. — CC

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