Gangs Of Ivy

Last night Alan Flusser gave a talk here in New York at the National Arts Club as part of its fashion lecture series. The talk was on tweed, and the event was packed.

One of the points Flusser made was that Ralph Lauren — maker of (who else?) the “Ivy gang” chinos above — essentially saved WASP style, beginning in the late ’80s when Marks & Spencer acquired Brooks Brothers, changed it drastically, and later sold it at a huge loss. In researching his upcoming biography on Lauren, Flusser said he telephoned Charlie Davidson of The Andover Shop to ask him about Lauren’s role in Ivy preservation, expecting a censorious quip. Instead, Davidson agreed that Lauren had all but single-handedly kept alive the taste for Ivy/prep style when it was in danger of going the way of raccoon coats and starched collars.

Richard Press was in attendance at the event, and if he looks more smiley than usual, it may have something to do with his new official J. Press business cards, something he hasn’t had for several decades. He was clad all in green, with a jersey turtleneck under a striped oxford, and matching verdant-hued pocket square. I was in my grape-striped club-collar oxford from Michael Spencer, black cashmere tie from RL and purple paisley pocket square. Together that made us the colors of comic-book villain The Joker.  — CC


23 Comments on "Gangs Of Ivy"

  1. Caustic Man | January 12, 2019 at 8:39 pm |

    Looking good, guys. I didn’t know there was an upcoming book about Lauren, though I should have guessed. Also, I want you jacket, Chens.

  2. Jesse Livermore | January 12, 2019 at 8:48 pm |

    Press looks like a true Dartmouth Indian.

  3. Sorry to read that Flusser and Davidson have such flawed recollections of the past.

  4. @Erik Vlasic,
    Obviously Richard Press was too much of a gentleman to have corrected Alan Flusser.
    It would be interesting to learn his opinion (and that of Bruce Boyer).

  5. Richard E. Press | January 13, 2019 at 3:12 am |

    Mr. Chensvold forgot to mention my Lovat Magee Homespun Irish Donegal J. Press Sport Coat.

  6. Richard, your sports coat looks splendid. London definitely needs a branch of J Press. It needs an authentic Ivy store with garments that are made in the US or Canada. I’m fed up with expensive stuff from PRL, BB and Gant that is made in China and South Asia. A pop-up J Press store would be a good start to test the market.

  7. As a Lion, I get a chuckle that Ithaca didn’t make it on that Ivy map!

  8. And here I thought he was smiling because his beloved Dartmouth swept the ice with Tiger blood last night at Baker Rink.

    With all the talk about Magee (appropriate), we sometimes forget mention of Breanish and Lovat ’round these parts. The latter mixes single ply that renders a 9/10 oz. Shetland, while the latter keeps at the more traditional spinning and weaving.

    Aside: a few years ago Magee wove a true Lovat (not Loden) green “Donegal Mist.” One of the highlights of the year for me. Ended up in an MTM swatch box.

    I agree with Davidson and Flusser about RL’s influence. But one could argue that “trad” as an online (read: actual) entity has taken on life of its own, resulting in a new generation of tweed, oxford, and repp devotees. Who, it might be noted, wouldn’t be caught dead wearing a shirt with a brand’s label.

  9. Trad and Ivy were part of the American clothing vernacular through the mid 80’s. The M&S purchase is a good of a demarcation line as any. I entered the business world (banking and finance) in the mid 80’s. Senior officers and Senior traders wore Trad/Ivy while most (not all) younger folks leaned more UK/Continental for their inspiration. The mid level guys- those from 10yrs to a generation older than me (IE Boomers) were just starting to rise to management and senior positions. As this group gained ascendancy we began to see the unstated dress code move to “business casual” with a corresponding decline in Trad/Ivy as default business attire for most professionals. Instead of several good suits, one could just go to the mall the buy khakis and generic button downs. In essence, hippies of the 60’s moved into the business world, but retained some of their desire to tear down the establishment, from attire to hierarchies etc. Trad/Ivy was how “the man” dressed, and was no longer a vital necessity. On the other hand there was Ralph, who commoditized trad/ivy and turned it into something for people who wanted to “look nice”. Ralph captured the era’s Yuppie mentality by convincing the masses that displaying his pony logo was a way of stating you paid a premium for your attire, and you were “aspirational”. But, in ways subtle and overt he did keep the look alive and current, ironically by making it more mainstream. He turned mufti into a choice, which in the quasi democratic terms of post 60’s hippies was another way of attacking the establishment.

  10. Old School Tie | January 13, 2019 at 10:42 am |

    Kenny, you are not limited to those brands alone, not everything on sale in the UK is made in China you know…

  11. I see, in that photo, what Fussell, dismissively calls a “prole gap” on both men.

  12. I saw prole gape, too, as I was preparing the post, and have been expecting you.

    I can assure you the jacket fits well and I must have been turtle-necking for the photo.

    Fussell would also note that purple is not a preppy color. Nor black. Nor facial hair. Nor….

  13. CC – where is the sportcoat from? RL as well?

  14. “Davidson agreed that Lauren had all but single-handedly kept alive the taste for Ivy/prep style when it was in danger of going the way of raccoon coats and starched collars.”

    This is remarkable. One of the surviving Godfathers of Ivy confirms RL’s status as savior and redeemer of the style.

    Apparently (reliable grapevine) Ralph persuaded Harris Tweed mills to spin a comparatively lighter weight yarn–still authentically Harris, but about 25% lighter than the usual stuff, thus rendering a 12/13 oz. cloth. He continued to use the heavier (“Feather” and “Medium”) weight goods. The RRL Harris Tweed checks and herringbones rival anything I’ve seen elsewhere. One in particular, a maroon/navy/forest green/cream/Old Gold “gun club” check, is an all time favorite tweed.

  15. The lighter weight Harris Tweed is called “Superfine.”

  16. @Old School Tie Why do you think that I limit myself to those brands? Nothing that I wrote suggested that I did. Over 80% of my wardrobe, including footwear, was made in the UK. Most of the other 20% was made in the EU, primarily Italy and Portugal. The prices charged by iGent brands for Italian gear (e.g. Drakes, Anglo Italian and Rubinacci) are extortionate.

    The reality, however, is that the “up market” menswear brands in London do not source their garments from British or even European factories. Add Gieves & Hawkes, Chester Barrie and Hackett to PRL, BB, Gant, Hilfiger, J Crew etc. Chinese and other foreign groups have bought the brands and moved manufacturing abroad. Yet the prices have gone up considerably and the quality has gone down. It’s cheaper to go to bespoke tailors outside London.

    Be thankful that you have J Press, Southwick, Michael Spencer, Mercer, and O’Connell’s.

  17. whiskeydent | January 13, 2019 at 5:41 pm |

    I agree that RL helped keep alive Trad/Ivy beyond it hotbeds, but he did so by breaking its “rules.” The light Harris tweed is one example. He evoked the look and perhaps even sparked some evolution. Now, do not gather from my comment that I’m a fan; I’m not. I detest the logos, fru-fru, and idolization of the insolent idle-rich. I guess I’m a striver snob.

  18. Fred Johnson | January 13, 2019 at 6:03 pm |

    Chess, I prefer RP’s lapels to yours.

  19. I don’t remember any mention of Ralph Lauren in the OG Preppy Handbook?

  20. @ Whiskeydent. It’s refreshing to find a kindred spirit on here. Beware of Harris Tweed and Abraham Moon’s tweeds. Harris Tweed is still recovering from the disastrous ownership and control of Brian Haggas. The quality is, in general, inferior to tweeds from the likes of the Lovat Mill or the Islay Mill who supply the big names on Savile Row.

  21. Charlottesville | January 14, 2019 at 11:46 am |

    Christian – You are looking elegantly Commander Whitehead-ish with the freshly trimmed hair and whiskers. Schweppes should hire you to do a new series of ads. Sounds like a great evening at the National Arts Club. I wish I were close enough to attend these events. Coincidentally, I have what I think may be the identical sport coat that Mr. Press is wearing: green Magee Donegal Mist from J. Press. Mine has a hint of blue in the vertical stripe that I don’t see in the photo above, so it may be a little different. At any rate, you both look great.

  22. elder prep | June 4, 2020 at 8:34 am |

    ijmd, your correct, the name Ralph Lauren does not appear anywhere the TOPH.

  23. The name Ralph Lauren appears twice on p. 152 of TOPH.

    I don’t like admitting I know that.

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