Our recent post on striped sportcoats included a vintage ad by Clipper Craft Clothes, and so we thought it worth following up with a gallery devoted to the brand. During the heyday of the Ivy League Look, Clipper Craft was a brand that explicitly touted its Ivy authenticity in advertorials placed in mainstream magazines.
In 2009 a short thread was started at the Ask Andy Trad Forum in which a member dug up some info on the origins of the brand, which was founded in Boston. By the heyday, the brand was championing its “New England tailoring” along with its affordable prices. It also created a campaign with tiger heads grafted onto its suits, from back when “tiger” was common slang for a ladies’ man:
Other Clipper Craft ads combined real guys, models, and illustrations:
But most interesting are these two advertorials, in which Clipper Craft more or less explains what Ivy is to potential consumers in the nether reaches of the nation, as well as convincing said consumers of its authenticity. That a consumer only partially aware of something should be concerned with authenticity is one of the card tricks of advertising.
This one, entitled “Clipper Craft Goes To the Roots Of Ivy,” ran in Sports Illustrated in 1958:
The ad copy reads:
Once only a ripple in the mainstream of fashion, Ivy has now become a wellspring of inspiration to the top designers in men’s clothing. Ivy’s influence has done much to make men’s clothing more interesting.
Ye, as Ivy has spread, it has been diluted. Much of the clothing being sold as Ivy is, at best, only a distant cousin. If a man wants authenticity, he has to be on guard.
True Ivy fashion, however, is not hard to come by. It’s being made today under “The Authentic Look” label by Clipper Craft, one of America’s largest manufacturers of men’s clothing.
The genuineness of “Authentic Look” clothing is beyond question. It satisfies all such criteria as natural shoulders, narrow lapels, lapped seams, stitched edges, hooked vents, pleatless trousers, tapered sleeves and trousers. But authenticity is more than the sum of these parts. It’s a matter of silhouette and hang. Clipper Craft’s “Authentic Look” clothing was examined and worn by real experts — leaders from all eight Ivy League colleges. “Authentic was the verdict, without dissent.
There’s much of interest here, for starters the suggestion that Clipper Craft can be both authentic and one of the largest clothing manufacturers, something that sounds contradictory today. Also noteworthy is the appeal to college men as the experts most in the position to determine a suit’s Ivy pedigree. But the real gem is the passage about being diluted and a distant cousin, which reads ironic today.
The following year the company ran another advertorial in Sports Illustrated:
Here the copy highlights include:
It’s true that Ivy began on the campus. But no styling so young in spirit, so trim in appearance, could long remain the exclusive property of any one group. So Ivy has branched out. Today, it’s the hallmark of good grooming for men of all ages everywhere. From college classrooms to business offices.
… the Ivy suits they wear are “The Authentic Look,” tailored by Clipper Craft, one of America’s largest manufacturers of men’s clothing. These suits feature natural shoulders, narrow lapels, lapped seams, stitched edges, hooked vents, pleatless trousers, tapered sleeves and trousers — clothing faithful in every respect to the Ivy tradition.
We asked Richard Press for his take on this, and once again he showed himself just one or two degrees of separation removed from apparently everyone who ever donned a sack suit. In the “Roots of Ivy” advertorial above is one of Richard’s classmates at Dartmouth. As for Clipper Craft:
My recollection is that it was a “low grade 2 machine make” using mass-produced domestic mill cloths. The clothing was sold in Main Street department and general stores coast to coast, often with the store label.
If “authenticity” in regards to Ivy is merely a laundry list of tailoring details, then Clipper Craft is pretty darn pure. But if clothing pedigree is what really determines authenticity — what makes something “the real deal” — then Clipper Craft was just another clothing conglomerate cashing in on a fashion trend.
There’s a third way of looking at it, and that is that the brand was a genuinely authentic product of its time. — CHRISTIAN CHENSVOLD