Aaron Chang is an avid and very talented illustrator of Ivy style. I can’t recall when or how I first discovered Aaron’s work, but I firmly recall two things: I’d never seen “Ivy style art” before, and I absolutely adored his illustration style. I followed his account immediately, and eagerly refreshed my feed daily to see his new work, which I almost always screenshotted and added to my outfit inspiration folder. As a non-American Ivy style fan myself, one similarity I felt with Aaron was this idea of discovering the style later in life, and as a foreign concept rather than a domestic one. I reached out to Chang and he was more than happy to oblige with an interview for Ivy-Style.com. — BRAD EWIN
Brad Ewin is an Australian-born and London-based writer who, despite his best efforts, can’t help but keep coming back to everything preppy.
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IS: To start off, why don’t you tell readers a little about yourself?
AC: I’m 34 years old and was born and raised in Korea. I’ve been a brand designer for the past 10 years, and started doing Ivy style illustrations as a hobby about 11 months ago.
IS: Where did your interest in the style come from?
AC: I’ve always liked clothes. When I was studying at university, Scott Schumann’s blog The Sartorialist was a big trend. I was also just a big fan of him generally. So back at that time there was a while where I always wore a tie and got into photography. Pitti Uomo was another reason for my interest in fashion; the street shots you see from them are fantastic. Then there were just a few personal fashion role models of mine: Nick Wooster and Takahiro Kinoshita, particularly. Their personal styles resonated with me. I wanted to be like them. But I can’t answer this question without mentioning Take Ivy. As I began to explore fashion photography and fashion history more, I came across it and just became a big fan of the Ivy League Look. I consider it the basis of menswear.
IS: Your Instagram account started as a photo showcase of your outfits. What made you want to show them off?
AC: It’s fun to dress up. I wanted to start recording the clothes I wore every day, as well be kind of a fashion influencer, so I began posting those photos on Instagram. But there’s a lot of work that goes into taking those pictures. Eventually I had to stop. Work was busy, and there were just other things in my daily life I needed to spend my time on.
IS: What made you decide to transition to posting your drawings?
AC: Like most people do when they have been working for a long time, I started thinking about what’s next for me. Asking myself questions like how long will I be able to do this work? and is this what I want to do for the rest of my career? I like to think what if I live to 100 years old? I’d have only lived one-third of my life. I don’t want to work for all of those remaining 70 years. So what do I want to do next? What do I want to be doing a few years from now? I started drawing. Being an illustrator felt like the best fit for my future lifestyle.
IS: Where do you get inspiration for your drawings?
AC: Instagram, Pinterest, and my own closet. I often draw my own outfits or the style that I like to wear.
IS: Which brands are currently producing your favorite stuff?
AC: These days I’ve been eyeing Rowing Blazers. If they were in Korea, I would have bought it all. I very much like Drake’s too, but it’s quite expensive.
IS: What about more historic brands?
AC: Brooks Brothers, J. Press, and Ralph Lauren. For individual pieces, I love Barbour’s waxed jackets, Lavenham quilted jackets, and the Baracuta G9.
IS: What are your favorite pieces in your wardrobe right now?
AC: White buttondown oxford shirts. I have about 10 and wear them almost daily. I like wearing the combination of a white shirt, navy jacket and gray pants. That’s my favorite kind of outfit at the moment.
IS: And what’s your least favorite aspect of this style?
AC: I don’t like focusing too much on a specific university: you know, the specific patterns and symbols of Harvard or Yale or something. It looks too much like a uniform. I prefer the style to be understated, relaxed, and interesting.
IS: Other than your regular posting on Instagram, what other art projects are you working on right now?
AC: There are some brands I’m collaborating with, doing some character work with logos, t-shirts, things like that. There’s a lot of work available, actually, but I’m not drawing for the money, so I don’t take every opportunity. I don’t want to be busy and rushed; I’d rather draw slowly and steadily.
Thank you, Mr. Ewin. I had not seen Aaron Chang’s work before, and like it very much. It is whimsical, but with a good eye for detail.
I was thinking earlier today how a plain white or blue shirt and simple striped repp tie can go with practically any sport coat or blazer and pants, as shown in the first illustration above. This morning I put on a blue OCBD, a burgundy and navy tie, lightweight gray wool pants and cordovan tassel loafers. While today I chose a pale tan wool sport coat, it would be just as appropriate with a navy blazer, a seersucker or tweed sport coat, a suit in practically any shade of blue, gray or tan, or even a madras jacket. Sometimes a bit of dandy-ism is okay, but simplicity is often the best choice.
Great article on a charming artistic style. What appeals to me is Chang’s simplistic and obvious drawing of his figures, they, at a glance, describe their style. They have a certain purity of color that appeals to me.
@Charlottesville – You’re most welcome! I’m glad you enjoyed. I agree with you on the whimsicality; Aaron’s work is very charming. RE the dandyism vs simplicity argument, I tend to agree with you, however I think bouncing back and forth between the two keeps things fun.
@elder prep – Thank you! I’m also glad you enjoyed it. I adore Aaron’s style myself.
Charlottesville, I still see the combo you describe. Understated. The basics of Ivy–the OCBD, khakis, loafers, repp ties, blazers, the occasional ‘odd jacket’, the worsted wool sack suit–will survive beyond this present moment. And, in some parts, thrive. I agree with Michael Barone that the post-War alignment of values and tastes (and bipartisan politics) that happened (late 40s and 50s) was Herculean in its scope and lasting effects. “That’s when America became American” and so on. Silhouettes will change a bit, but the basics of professional and formal dress are here to stay, and the totems of 20th century collegiate style, what we here refer to as “Ivy,” will remain intact. Magazines, television and movies, accompanied by plenty of advertising, certainly had something to do with the subtle but real codification of American style. One hundred years from now, Cary Grant, Fred Astaire and Ralph Lauren will (still) be the icons of good, understated taste.
*And Gary Cooper. And maybe Jimmy Stewart and Steve McQueen.
Look at all the fads that have come and gone (dissipated) since these men prescribed the basics of American style, including the OCBD and the natural shoulder jacket, with authority. It amounted to a sort of decree. Amazing, when you think about it. A fatal blow to men’s “fashion” (thank God. Nobody wants to see a return to waistcoats, breeches and tricorns).
@S.E. – I’m not American and relatively new to Ivy in the grand scheme of things, but the OCBD may literally be my favourite item of clothing of all time. It’s hard to imagine it ever falling out of my wardrobe/style.
S.E. – I tend to agree, and certainly hope you are correct in your predictions.
Brad – I agree with your comment as well, and look forward to seeing more from you on this site. A touch of the dandy cam be fun. The J. Press pale olive poplin suit I’m wearing today is coupled with a lavender OCBD from Polo, and an old black label Brooks Brothers madras tie with shades of lavender, navy and olive, along with a paisley pocket square, also with lavender and olive among its colors. The purple family is not usually part of the Ivy color wheel, but I think it works quite well as an accent as long as the rest of the ensemble is withing the bounds of good taste. A lavender seersucker sport coat might be quite nice under the right circumstances (e.g., a garden party), but unless one is a Batman villain a purple gabardine suit would go past dandy and into the land of costume and foppery. At least that is this fogey’s opinion.
Brad – thank you for your contribution and hope to read more from you in the future. I have my ties sorted in two drawers with rep and emblematics in one drawer and solids and foulards in another. I bet a good 80% of the time I reach into the drawer with a rep tie and put on one. Something very comfortable about doing so. I do think S.E.correct about the enduring appeal of the American look. I know many here bemoan the slobification of America but it seems to me that COVID has made it worse. I put on a khaki poplin suit, pink shirt, and blue and yellow bar stripe tie today with Alden tassel loafers to wage battle on behalf of the American style. I received compliments from three different women excluding my wife. Certainly better dressed than any other male I encountered but did not feel overdressed if that makes sense.
@Charlottesville – Thank you for the kind words. I’m emailing with Christian at the moment about future pieces on the site, so keep your eyes peeled! I’m also wicked envious of the outfit you describe, and I 100% support the low key use of purple. I unfortunately had to pass on a lavender university stripe OCBD recently – didn’t have my size.
@NaturalShoulder – Thank you! And as above, keep your eyes peeled for future pieces from me! I politely disagree on the “slobification” of mens dress. Although Ivy/preppy is my style area of choice, I love seeing the whole spectrum of fashion. Some of it may seem sloppy, but you have to have the lows to appreciate the highs, so to speak.
Love this. Where can I find more of it?