In “The Origins And History Of Consciousness” (which I’ve read twice over the past year and will need to read another dozen times to fully grasp), author Erich Neumann argues that each individual’s development mirrors the development of humanity itself. Likewise, I sometimes think that for a style omnivore like me, it was necessary to “experience” all the stylistic periods of the 20th century.
In college my tastes were mostly Anglo-trad (because what better defies the culture of Southern California than brown suede shoes and rep ties?), and when I graduated I was obsessed with the period of the 1890s, which dominated all the books I read, music I listened to, and movies I watched. So you could say I ventured into the cruel world starting from the year 1900. Working as a small-town reporter, I developed a Young Fogey/neo-Edwardian look of black and gray, with vests and watch chain, having bumped my inspiration up to, say, 1915. A couple of years later I fell tragicomically in love with a woman active in California’s Art Deco society, and began attending events in San Francisco, learning to waltz and foxtrot to orchestras playing ‘20s and ‘30s tunes and amassing a closet full of double-breasted suits. The curtain fell on the relationship just as it was rising on the late ‘90s swing revival, and I became hooked on the lindy hop, listening to Duke Ellington and Benny Goodman, watching all the jump and jiving jitterbug movies made between 1935-1945, and dancing and teaching six nights a week in spectator shoes.
When that period had run its course, I began exploring the 1950s, writing about the Playboy-era culture of the space-age bachelor, which had also been recently rediscovered from the dust bit of pop culture history. “The Talented Mr. Ripley” came out, and I got hip to postwar jazz, starting with Dave Brubeck’s “Time Out” album. Finally there was a brief foray into the culture of the mid ‘60s, when I rediscovered the British Invasion and folk music that were part of my parents’ record collection. Then things circled back for a while as I returned to ’30s style, launched Dandyism.net, then gravitated back to mid-century style, this time meshed with the Polo of my college days, and Ivy-Style.com was born.
This is a long and meandering lead-up to the here and now, at which I’ve inevitably arrived at 1969, the year of my birth, and what we might call hippy Ivy. I’m kidding, of course. Well, mostly.
It’s true that I’ve been doing a lot of meditation and yoga the past year, and shopping at Whole Foods. Not to mention weightlifting and boxing/martial arts. Last fall I cut out the G&Ts and Old-Fashioneds, followed by gluten and then sugar. My waist shrank to where it was when I was 18. Inevitably, when you become the strongest and healthiest you’ve ever been, you come to realize that liquor in any form isn’t doing much except interfering with your sleep and draining your wallet. So about two-and-a-half weeks ago I went on indefinite hiatus from beer and wine, and have been in a liberated daze ever since. And since what you wear determines how you feel, and vice-versa, I got a couple of paisley buttondowns, reminiscent of what Gant might have offered in the late ‘60s, to go with my new groove.
Yesterday I set up office in Central Park, and typed these words amid the birds and squirrels, ducks and dragonflies, with jazz and Chinese folk music carried on the breeze and all the panoply of activities locals do with a stretch of lawn and a sunny day. In addition to the current-season shirt by Brooks Brothers, I’m wearing tapered Levi’s 501s, vintage navy linen US-made blazer by J. Crew (size 38!), Sebago bit loafers, and engine-turned buckle and gator belt by Brooks. The book is by the Roman stoic philosopher Epictetus, recently recommended by Robert W. at J. Press. The green bottle contains aloe vera and wheatgrass juice with some maca powder mixed in.
And there’s one more hippie detail: a beaded Indian bracelet with a depiction of Ganesh, the elephant-headed god who represents new beginnings. I got it the other day at an Indian goods shop in the East Village, where I had a long chat with the hippie white woman who ran the store. I was dressed in Establishment charcoal gabardines, navy sack blazer, white buttondown and club tie. Inexplicably, the hippie lady said she liked my style. Such is the power of a buttondown collar combined with an open mind. Namaste, my friends. — CC