Golden Years: From Richard P.’s Ivy Bookshelf

“Your wedding day will be the second happiest day after you beat Yale,” Coach told the team in the locker room at Harvard Stadium before The Game.

John Phillips’ novel “The Second Happiest Day” may not be great literature, but if you want to experience the heyday of Ivy at Harvard, go find this book.

Phillips allegedly deflowered Jacqueline Bouvier in 1951 on a creaky hotel elevator in Paris before his bestseller was published. That’s when he was still known as John Phillips Marquand, Jr., not yet competing with his Pulitzer Prize father, J.P. Marquand. His dad’s book about an earlier Harvard generation, “H.M. Pulham, Esq.,” also chronicles the adjustment of a townie becoming a full-fledged Harvardian, eventually making the best clubs, receiving the ultimate organizing his class’ 25th reunion in Cambridge.

Lest we forget, Amory Blaine, Princeton hero in Fitzgerald’s “This Side of Paradise,” always claimed “Stover At Yale” was “his kind of textbook.” Nick Carraway went to Yale and so did Gatsby antagonist Tom Buchanan. Eli always got into the act.

My Princeton favorites are the work of Geoffrey Wolff, Class of 1960. “The Duke of Deception: Memories of My Father” is a knowing memoir of an errant father who got tossed out of Princeton, landed in jail, and ended his life in disrepute. “The Final Club,” is a novel with a protagonist from a public high school in Seattle with a Jewish mother and drunken father who masters bicker, Briarcliff, Lester Lanin, and crew on Lake Carnegie — a precis of the era.

The essence of Princeton nobility, Scott Fitzgerald self-destructs in a swath of booze at the 1939 Dartmouth Winter Carnival in that cruelly drawn and quartered Budd Shulberg novel “The Disenchanted.” In a different vein but with the same New Hampshire geography, Chris Miller’s “The Real Animal House” recalls Alpha Delta Phi’s dysfunction in days of yore at dear ol’ Dartmouth.

The more meaningful contribution the Ivy League provided America was a tradition of service exemplified in the nonfiction book “The Wise Men: Six Friends and the World They Made,” by Walter Isaacson and Evan Thomas.

In it the authors elevate the WASP ascendency beyond the gin-and-tonic, three-button snobbery of Old Money by describing the heroic examples of Dean Acheson, Charles E. Bohlen, W. Averell Harriman, George Kennan, Robert Lovett and John J. McCloy, who rescued the postwar world from chaos. The gift of public service these men provided the country is the real meat of Ivy. Read about them first, then go for the gravy. — RICHARD PRESS

36 Comments on "Golden Years: From Richard P.’s Ivy Bookshelf"

  1. Urban Haute Bourgeois | August 22, 2012 at 11:26 am |

    I wish to applaud the Wise Men mention. The author Evan Thomas is the only talking head/editorialist who I would ever want to have a drink with. I don’t know his background, but he seems to have a good “prep” sensibility, without hitting you over the head with it (a la Tucker Carlson and Wm. F. Buckley), which itself reveals good taste.

  2. Urban Haute Bourgeois | August 22, 2012 at 11:28 am |

    Ok. I looked up Evan Thomas’s background. Andover, UVa Law. Yep–pure UHB.

  3. John Philiips’ greatest accomplishent:
    He deflowered Jacqueline Bouvier on an elevator.

  4. What a disapointment! Jackie, a cheap slut.

  5. Yes, thanks for the mention of the Wise Men, which provides some balance to the gin-and-tonic (as you say) almost stereotype of un-seriousness that at times proliferates. I mean, let’s not forget John Rawls, McGeorge Bundy (yes, the Vietnam thing, but still), Adlai Stevenson, and on and on.

  6. Mr Press-as a counter/more full portrait of the Wise Men, I’d also read David Halberstam’s “The Best and the Brightest”-clearly the “Wise Men” and their Ivy League progeny-The Bundy Brothers a prime example-didn’t get ’em all right

  7. Louis Auchincloss’s books are a good read in that genre as well, not so much college focused and more ‘literary’

  8. Can anyone recommend any classic tennis shoes that are actually functional? (As in, you can actually play racquet sports with them)

  9. Tabor Kid,

    I only wear KSWISS Grancourts. I’m on my third pair. I should probably do what Muffy Aldrich does and buy like two or three pairs before KSWISS decides to stop making them. You can see a picture of mine here:

    And you can order them here:

    I usually buy them from Sports Authority, where I’ve found they are usually cheaper than even online.

  10. “The more meaningful contribution the Ivy League provided America was a tradition of service…”

    True indeed, but I would argue that the most meaningful contribution the Ivy League provided America was a model to be emulated by virtually all private and public institutions of higher learning, some striving to equal, others to excel.

  11. Tabor Kid
    Adidas Stan Smiths, the originals not the newer model. Great on wood, clay and composite, very comfortable and good support, look good with khakis, 501s or shorts, old school.

  12. I played a great deal of tennis in the 80’s. Still have my original Prince Pro, cost $ 110.00 in 1981. A lot of money then.

    I always wore Footjoy tennis shoes. I think they were the best. They were around $ 30.00, comfortable, and well worth it. If they’re still made, that’s what I recommend at any price.

  13. I’m looking for something that I can wear on the courts and also as an alternative to Topsiders with chinos, an OCBD, etc. To give you an idea, I really love the look of Seavees tennis shoes, but they’re not comfortable for playing.

  14. What about tretorns? I mean, that’s pretty classic.

  15. I’m not sure Tretorn makes the “old” model in leather. Tretorns are good tennis shoes for playing, but I always thought the shoe’s construction at the toe was a little feminine for khakis.

  16. They don’t seem to have any models in leather in white…

    I’m not sure I grasp what you mean by feminine, unless you mean that the Tretorn design is fairly slim and narrow, but I don’t think of that’s a problem.

  17. I may have described my neg opinion badly. I’ve never liked the seam from the lacing going down to the toe. Also, from my days working at a racquet club, they were wore mostly by women. They do fit slim feet well.

  18. If your going old school canvas, you have two choices, Converse Chuck Taylors or my favorite Converse Jack Purcells. Unfortunately, they are very old school and have similar construction, no arch support, so not great for actual play by today’s standards. I know the Taylors have been appropriated by the hipster crowd, but I refuse to let them go.

    Jack Purcells

  19. I cannot wear Chuck Taylors because of the arch support. I bought a black on black pair a few years ago, and I couldn’t stand to wear them for more than a few hours at a time. I certainly cannot imagine playing sports in them!

  20. Tretorn – one of those brands desperately trying to have another day in the sun by hopping on the neo-prep bandwagon – was the shoe worn by the girls’ tennis team when I was growing up. Few, if any, boys/men wore them….in large part because of the construction, which simply wouldn’t hold up on hard courts. They were also, briefly, associated with women’s pro tennis (a number of women pro players sported them in the ’70s)…..

    It also wasn’t really a pervasive brand – only really becoming significant for a few years….so, I’m not sure ‘classic’ is right-sized as a descriptor….no matter what Fred Egan Castleberry says.

  21. Tretorns were notoriously uncomfortable on the courts. And, yes, we too affiliated them with girls and women because–well, we just did.

    New Balance Pro Court. Add another layer of cushion (insole) if you play hard surfaces. Also, the New Balance CT470.

  22. AEV,

    Fred is not the Tretorn main champion on the ivy/trad/prep blogosphere. Can’t say I’ve ever even seen them mentioned on Unabashedly Prep or heard him speak about them. Rather, if they have a champion, such as it is, I would say that title belong to John. John runs The Wide Wale,, and I wouldn’t call him neo-prep, as his blog is largely concerned with trying to tap into memories of his own youth.

    I’m half tempted to pick up a pair because knowing my feet, if they were that comfortable for girls/women, they’ll undoubtedly be comfortable for me.

  23. @Kionon – Google “Fred Castleberry Tretorn”. I suggest ensuring your mouth is emptied of all food and drink in advance of clicking Enter.

    Let me know what you think of his purposely painted khaki pants (inspired, you know, by Warhol and Jackson Pollock) and his purposely painted Tretorn sneakers (inspired by his childhood painting white picket fences). It almost hurts to type that.

  24. Hurts? Are you in chronic pain?

  25. ha ha…..perhaps I am.

  26. But he wore his painted tretorns as a “badge of honor.” Apparently one now deserves honors for painting a picket fence.

  27. @noname – Let’s be frank, I don’t think there’s a great chance Fred grew up with a white picket fence…at least not the sort he’s hoping his readers will think of when he drops the reference….

  28. Sometimes I wonder if Castleberry purposefully leaves a button or two undone on his fly, so that we know they’re functional. Sprezzatura!

  29. The New Balance aren’t bad, they make great running shoes, but I think they take their styling ques from Adidas. I’m not wild about the big N on the side of the shoe, I didn’t go to Nebraska. 😉

  30. There are better NB’s for tennis. I mentioned those two models only because they’re a tad more, well, classic. I guess that’s the right word.

  31. New Balance makes a great shoe, don’t get me wrong.

  32. Bah, you guys are just upset because FEC is a late convert to prep, rather than someone who was baptised in it like some of us and that he’s turned it into a successful marketing and photography business. Oh, and because he deletes any and all criticism. I’ve had email conversations with Fred about why he does that, and ultimately, Unabashedly Prep should be seen as it is, a website devoted to his photography business. It’s a business website, and his tretorns were provided it to him by another business he was asked to photograph. You might as well be disdainful of the weather.

    John, on the other hand, clearly champions Tretorns without financial compensation.

  33. Kionon – the notion that anyone who criticizes Fred Castleberry is either jealous or ignorant is baseless. I criticize Fred because he dresses like a clown and presents himself as an expert on a field/style/lifestyle he has only acquainted himself with since starting his business/blog in 2009. Beyond that, he appears to lack any self awareness or the maturity to manage objective criticism – truly believing, it appears, all of the myths he’s created about himself on his blog.

  34. Well fashion photography is marketing.

  35. AEV,

    Objective criticism? Is there any objectivity to be found here? Given recent commentary here on Ivy Style, much of it insulting, some of it directed at myself, or Christian, or Fred, or you, or anyone else we might care to name who is a recognisable reglar, I don’t think so. I’ve just about had it with the exclusivist, classist (sometimes even racist) attitudes which pervade this commentary, as well as those present across the Ivy/Trad/Prep blogosphere.

    There is an aspirational nature to the style, and as I’ve written, this is good. It leads people to be better dressers, it can lead them to better themselves through culture and education, it can lead them to attend good universities, including the Ivy League. We should be applauding a dissemination of both the style and the lifestyle which it can promote.

    The flip side of this is that often the adherents born into the lifestyle believe they are entitled to criticise those who came into it later. That they are entitled to belittle those who might be born into it and choose to turn away from it (especially if they return to it later). That they are entitled to insult those families which have fallen on harder times, despite a long legacy, or the “new rich” who have not had time to adopt the style/lifestyle. This attitude is intolerable and unacceptable.

    Some of the things said about Fred were truly horrendous, which is why he started to moderate Unabashedly Prep quite heavily. I know. I read them. There was no objective criticism there. That was haters gonna hate. And while I think Fred’s style is at the far end of the spectrum, I think calling his style “dressing like a clown” is pretty unkind, not to mention untrue.

  36. I had forgotten to post this when we were discussing tennis shoes. Converse jumped the shark, WTF!

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