Is There A Debt Here Really?

You see, here in the comments and on the FB group, a lot about the debt that Ivy owes to the UK. Is that true though?

First, you have to start with what Ivy is. Ivy isn’t Trad, right? Ivy has Trad in it. Sushi has rice in it but we don’t call it rice. Ivy was a revolution that morphed into Trad to the point now where they are almost interchangeable. (I am working on that.)

But first and foremost, Ivy was Trad disrupted. Yeah, I have cordovan penny loafers. Trad. Yeah, I have shorts. Trad. Wear them together? Ivy.

Does Trad owe the UK? Only if fish owe water.

But does Ivy? Today’s Ivy incorporates the disruptive nature of the hey day with what happened when those folks got jobs. But at its roots, Ivy was a disruptor first. The nature of things is cyclical, and one could argue that, in fact I do argue that, both the UK trad and our own Trad here owe Ivy, not the other way around. At least at this point in the clover leaf.

Why? Because of the nature of things. For duration, ideas need volatility. Ivy was Trad’s volatility. And is again. In order for the market to make money, it needs volatility. In order for Trad to survive, it needs to be shaken up every once in a while. Ivy serves that purpose.

I would submit that the UK, and Trad, owe Ivy. Not the other way around.

ADDENDUM: Great notes! Let me go a little deeper. Yes of course, the UK created amazing elements of Ivy, as noted in the comments. But these are elements. Ivy is a particular way of arranging these elements. Salt is an ingredient of good tomato sauce. What is the debt of the sauce to the salt? The boat shoe is right down the Ivy fairway. What is the debt of Ivy to the sailboat? With regard to the UK owing Ivy – Ivy blew a breath of fresh air into a style that would have otherwise withered. Style is cyclical, and without a meaningful disruptor (in this case a generation that reinvigorates the style) the style withers. That’s the reason you aren’t in bloomers.

22 Comments on "Is There A Debt Here Really?"

  1. Don’t agree with this. Trad and Ivy are largely the same thing as far as I understand. There are maybe pedantic differences that people can point to, but no one can ever seem to agree on what those distinctions are or if they should be made at all. For all intents and purposes just interchangeable terms. And both or either are largely derived from styles that came out of the U.K., such as blazers, button down shirts, the notion of dressed-down formal styles for “play” etc.

    • John Burton | July 27, 2023 at 7:18 pm |

      So here’s the difference. Ivy was a 90 degree rotation in Trad. Penny loafers with shorts Trad? Nope. Ivy was, you took your parents’ clothes, went to a good school, and twisted it. That was the Hey Day. And then, these people got older and got jobs, and the ties they loosened and the loafers they wore got tightened up. That’s Trad. Then, because we only have so much RAM, they landed in the same bucket.

      • Definitely hear what you’re saying. The best distinction I can think of between the different styles is that there seems to be a continuum between Trad, Prep and Ivy. Trad is most formal of the three, Prep the least, and Ivy in the middle. You could also say that Trad is the father of Ivy and Ivy is the father of Prep. But in any event, I think most people would agree that Trad came first and that that’s where the comments about it owing it a “debt” come from.

  2. American trad is cosmopolitan, somewhat continental, most heavily influenced by the Brits, and then American-westernized due to the austerity and rugged individualism of the new world. It subsequently relaxed due industrialization, massive economic growth and prosperity. As you described your more extreme example of pairing shell cordovan loafers with shorts, Ivy is an even more relaxed, maybe somewhat rebellious, but more likely a laissez-faire casualness common to most campuses due to their locations, separation from parental oversight, absent mindedness, experimentation, and playful humor.

  3. Trad is Ivy minus pink shirts, critter trousers, football, jazz, frat-rat drunkenness, etc.

    • The first time I heard the word “trad” was in 1999 or 2000 in reference to trad-jazz, which is millennial-speak for straight-ahead.

  4. Tweedy Prof | July 27, 2023 at 11:26 pm |

    I’m at a loss for words. If it wasn’t for the British elements of Ivy: tweeds, khakis, regimentsl stripe ties, navy blazers, grey flannels, what we be left with: penny loafers and what else?

  5. In my opinion these words (Ivy, Preppy, Trad) refer to specific periods of dress. It is the context of the times that created these styles. Yes they are related, but they are not the same. As I said in a previous comment if you want to call today’s dress Ivy I contend it would be 3rd wave Ivy. Below is a rough timeline that probably needs more work.

    Ivy Style (1950-1975)

    Preppy (1975-2000)

    Trad (2000-2021)

    TBD (2021-)

  6. Alvey Singer | July 28, 2023 at 9:05 am |

    I’m confused as to why the UK owes Ivy?

    I’m English, have an American family and I’m an Ivy clothing obsessive so I have a pretty good understanding of both countries.

    The UK produces a wide range of quality clothing options, including fabrics, knitwear, hosiery, ties, outerwear and quality footwear. A lot of these businesses predate Ivy by some time. Also, whilst the US is an important market so is Japan, China and certain parts of the EU.

    British made goods still make up a proportion of the traditional males wardrobe options – but this isn’t exclusive to the States. Italians like our knitwear so much they have even been known to buy the factories.

    Historically some of the UK mills produced lighter, more luxurious fabrics exclusively for the US market but this is a reflection of both the difference in climate and the style of suits/jackets that were subsequently manufactured. Mainstream British suits in the fifties and sixties were built for longevity rather than for comfort and style.

    The UK has its own clothing institutions and rules. If I mentioned Ivy to most of my compatriots they would think I was talking about a restaurant chain. At best it’s niche. Known only to the few who care about hand loomed madras, collar rolls and cordo.

    • Evan Drake Suggs | July 29, 2023 at 12:50 pm |

      The Ivy influence on the English is less on the Saville Row set and more on the mod and rock scene. Companies like Ben Sherman took jazz ivy and made it into something else, leaving a lasting influence on punk, ska and rock culture.

  7. Preppy= high school
    Ivy= college
    Trad= law firm

  8. MacMcConnell | July 28, 2023 at 11:45 am |

    Contenintal clothing is from the mainland of Europe, mostly Italy and France. John Gotti dressed continental. The mainland gave Ivy fabrics and an occasional shoe.

    The British Isles gave us Khaki, Madras, woolens, dress shoes, the button down, surcingle belts and too many outerwears to list.

    Like an auto chopshop American Ivy steals shit, modifies it and makes it our own. You know it when you see it.

  9. James H. Grant | July 28, 2023 at 3:06 pm |

    Clothing of British Origin: Wing-tip shoes (Scotland), Oxford shoes (Britain), Cap toe Brogue shoes (Ireland & Scotland), Tennis Shoes (Designed by John Dunlap for the Liverpool Rubber Co. in the early 19th century, and later used by the Royal Navy as deck shoes), Loafers (Although the iconic Weejuns were developed by G.H. Bass circa 1936, bespoke loafers were first introduced in London by Wildsmith Shoes in the mid-19th century, Oxford-cloth buttoned-down collar (OCBD) shirts (Polo players in England), Rugby shirts (British private schools), V-neck sweaters (originated in late Victorian and Edwardian Britain where they were used for golfing, tennis, and cricket), Cardigan and Raglan-sleeve sweaters (Britain), Cuffed trousers (Edwardian England), Regimental stripe, school, and club ties (Britain), Oxford cloth (Scotland), Khaki (British military clothing from the colony of India in the 19th century), 3/2 Sack suits with no darts (Developed in France, popularized in Victorian England, and by Brooks Brothers in the 20th century), Trench coats (British Army in WWI), Balmacaan and Crombie overcoats (Britain), Camel overcoats (developed by Jaeger in London circa WWI), Glen Urquhart, gun club, estate, and herringbone Tweeds (Scotland during the Victorian era), Navy blazers (Britain), Tartan (Scotland), Harris Tweed (Isle of Harris, Scotland), Tortoise shell accessories and eyewear (Britain), Gentlemen’s black umbrellas (Britain), Waistcoats (vests) with pocket watches, chains, and fobs (Britain), Duffel coats (Produced for the Royal Navy and Field Marshal Montgomery’s Army troops from a fabric developed in Belgium), Plus Four’s & Plus Two’s (the British forerunners of American golfing breeches known as “Nickers” or Nickerbockers), and I am sure there are other examples. The Ivy League style adopted and adapted many of these original iconic designs and we owe the British a huge debt of gratitude.

  10. Either way, I’d like to see a lot more of both⚓️

  11. John Burton | July 29, 2023 at 10:32 am |

    Why would I wish that?

  12. Poison Ivy Leaguer | July 29, 2023 at 12:50 pm |

    When Brooks Brothers was still Brooks Brothers, the place was loaded with British imports.

  13. Ivy could own it’s heritage to the UK, in the same way most Anglo Saxon, Germanic, or straight out of England traditions brought to the new world have become Americanized in our zest to be our own selves.

    Being true to one’s self is very Americana. It’s why we are Americana. We take your really good ideas, strip away the BS and pompaciousness (sp) and make it our own.

    Preppy is trying to be cool and stand out. Ivy is beginning to outgrown prep, maybe it happens for you, maybe not.

    Trad is knowing instinctively what checks and patterns perfectly overlay with your new JPress coat- or is it a blazer or jacket? I always get them confused….because I don’t care what’s it’s called. I care how I feel when I look put together without trying too hard.

  14. Christopher | July 30, 2023 at 9:17 pm |

    Figuring out the difference between trad, preppy and ivy is like trying to figure out the difference between white, off-white and cream. A very small contingent will loudly berate you if you fail to notice the very obvious and unmistakeable differences but your average person will just say “white.” Probably best not to lose any sleep over this!

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