Is lipstick on a pig Ivy?
I refer you to some Ivy reference points. Davis. McQueen. Kennedy. Poitier. Bush. Astaire. O’Rourke. You can wear what they wear. You probably own some of what they wear (except maybe Bush’s latter day socks – which were the apex of elegance but easier to pull off once the helicopter leaves the White House front lawn and lands in Kennebunkport). But you know when you see it, on some people, something is still missing.
Ok, a word on Bush’s socks. Taken by themselves, they are… (this is such an obnoxious word) whimsical. Taken as a form of self expression earned from a lifetime of dignity and service and achievement, they are elegant. See? Ivy is inside-out.
The list of positively-oriented adjectives for a traditional lifestyle is short. There are plenty of two way streets. Staid. Conservative. Old school. Even the word traditional itself when used to describe… traditional… can go either way. For men, with regard to Ivy fashion, there are two that are surer bets on communicating what positivity.
Well-dressed (ok, two words, with a hyphen I think, see how hard this is?) and elegant. Even elegant can go in a different direction if you let it. Can one be casual and elegant? (Hells yes but there are differing schools of thought. One of those schools is wrong, but there are differing schools of thought for sure.)
Of the two though, I default to elegant more than well-dressed. Because it conveys more of the person. A tippy leaking infested shack can be well painted. I know people like that, so do you. Tippy. Leaking. Infested. But well dressed. I don’t know anyone who is a tool, who is also elegant.
Ivy is elegant by my definition. I look at elegance as a combination of aesthetics and comportment. The difference between Don Knotts (LOVE Don Knotts btw) and Fred Astaire isn’t all that much in terms of body type. But we don’t use the word elegant to describe Don Knotts, even though, not a bad dresser.
But you would use that same word to describe Astaire, who gets so overworked on this site I am not even bothering with a picture. What’s the difference? It is not the clothes. It’s the comportment.
Ivy, like elegance, is driven from the inside out. The declare Ivy without elegance is to be a poseur. I spelled that right. That is part of what I love about Ivy Style. It is CSI: Wherever blue light that makes it way easier to see the stains.
What are some of those stains? A partial list, for your consideration.
- Name dropping. Of anything. You may speak your credentials once, if and only if they are relevant. They are ALMOST NEVER relevant. Your school, your family’s school, should be evident from the way you carry yourself. If it isn’t, going to your school was a waste.
- Complaint as form of elevation. Complaining about things has the unfortunate wake of the assumption that the complainer could do better. Which is ALMOST NEVER the case. Complaining conveys that you have a higher standard and that others simply aren’t there. But what it really says is that you have too much free time and are spending it whining instead of pulling plastic from the ocean.
- Toffee-nose. Everybody knows that condescension is the mark of an ass. Being toffee-nosed is more insidious. It is more of the “bless your heart” variety. Ivy Toffee-nosing is most often born from the fact that the offending noser is older, and thus understands a tradition better. Age is an opportunity that so many of us mess up.
- Self-absorption. The most Ivy people I know are reluctant to talk about themselves (unless it is their profession – it is my profession – but in my private life I hate pictures of myself and talking about… me). The most Ivy people I know would rather hear about you. In a supportive and affirming way.
- Dismissiveness. One of the core values that we talk about here is the respect for and value of intellectual capital. Dismissiveness is the exact opposite. It is intellectually lazy. Not finishing a debate is losing it.
- A lack of service that doesn’t come with stature. What I mean is, the inability to do good without posting a picture of yourself doing good. I have a great Paul Newman story. I was friends with a therapist (Columbia, ’75 – see, THAT was NOT Ivy) who was seeing a guy in the middle of a divorce. The guy is driving the Taconic Parkway. If you aren’t from these parts, the Taconic Parkway is where James Bond would shoot chase scenes if he were Dutch in the 1700’s. It is harrowing. Anyway, the guy is driving the Taconic and starts crying so hard he can’t focus and so he pulls over, gets out of the car, and is crouched down hugging his knees crying when he feels a hand on his shoulder. He looks to the side and sees a sports car pulled over next to his, he looks up and sees Paul Newman saying, “You okay buddy?” THAT’s Ivy.
Appreciation for hard work is Ivy. Hard work is Ivy. Hard work is not limited to a career. Parenting if done right is hard work. Relationships if done right are hard work. Softball if done right is hard work. And introspection, if done right, is hard work. It is worth taking a look at one’s self to see if any of the above, or any of the list you have have, reveal themselves. If they do, and you can rid yourself of them, you get closer to elegance, which is Ivy.