Ivy Trendwatch: Brooks Brothers’ American Ivy Campaign

What a difference half a century makes. Brooks Brothers, essentially the creators of what came to be known as the Ivy League Look, used to scoff at the term. To wit, this passage from the 1959 novel “Try For Elegance” by former Brooks Brothers employee David Loovis:

He [the floor manager] detested to the point of vehemence the term “Ivy League” although the store was generally considered as the long-time stronghold of that type of apparel. Dunar suspected Pardee’s lack of college background and a secret envy of the well-fed, rangy type of boy and man who mostly patronized the store had something to do with it.

Today Brooks Brothers unveiled a new campaign on its website and in its email newsletter that loudly proclaims the term “Ivy.”

There’s even a replica of a 1967 Princeton t-shirt with copy that directly references “Take Ivy”:

This look seems to draw inspiration from the heyday, with patterned jacket, blue oxford, navy knit, and TV-fold pocket square:

Finally, notice the tagline “Trad & True New Arrivals For Fall.” And here just yesterday I’d written that Brooks would never refer to their clothing by the latest buzzword.

Still, I wouldn’t read too much into it. — CC

37 Comments on "Ivy Trendwatch: Brooks Brothers’ American Ivy Campaign"

  1. I’m going to check it out, but am sceptical of BB’s these days, due to their “updated classics” a true oxymoron if I ever heard one!!!

  2. This article prompted me to look through American Ivy’s online catalogue which largely appears to be the riskier items in the standard preppy closet. This, is turn, led to a perusal of the entire men’s portion of Brooks Brothers’ online catalogue and a slight change in subject. Okay, it’s a slow day at the office. I know this has been the style for quite some time, but (at the risk of being labeled a boring traditionalist) why are the men’s jackets so darn short? It’s particularly noticable on the younger models whose jackets and sweaters look like they left them in a very hot clothes dryer. Jackets ending in the middle of your hand simply appear painfully short to me. I’d be interested to know what others think.

  3. Sweater with “One Country, One Destiny” sewn inside is, of course, imported. Ironic much?

  4. They score with the Cambridge visited suit and donegal tweed jacket. Too glad the jersey blazer ended up darted.

  5. Vested suit, rather. And too BAD about the blazer.

  6. Why would they sell a T-shirt that says “Princeton” when the vast majority of customers did not go to Princeton. I find it bizarre to think that someone who didn’t go to that school would want to wear a shirt that implies that they did. Am I the only one who thinks it’s costume-y and pretentious?

  7. ““updated classics” a true oxymoron if I ever heard one!!!”

    Yes, Ralph Lauren feels very bad about that, especially when he’s playing cowboy on his ranch or balancing his checkbook. 😉

  8. JFKyle
    It’s the hipster dancing monkey look, plus I imagine ivy jacket lengths have varied over time. If you like one of the jackets, buy a long now while they last, at sale time they’ll be giving the regulars away.

  9. JSH
    Why wouldn’t a well dressed unemployed blue collar worker buy one? He’s got no student loan debt, he’s probably hangin’ out at the local neighborhood bar with the fifty percent of the college grads that can’t find a job. Priceless!

  10. Well, they are selling more than one type of 100% cotton button down, so there’s that.

  11. What I don’t understand are the items that were apparently inspired by the early ’90s. All those primary color-block shirts and cardigans look like something, well, a primary school child would wear.

  12. Dan
    Because those “primary colors” are what most traditional Ivy accessories are colored.

    Check on these Canterbury belts. I miss them.
    http://theweejun.tumblr.com/post/22677936370/surcingle-belts

    Or check out regimental striped tie at O’Connell’s
    http://shop.oconnellsclothing.com/neckwear.php

  13. Some the stuff is just downright ugly.

  14. To give BBs credit, I do like the herringbone slacks the male model in the top picture is wearing.

  15. Christian, It would be a service if you would reprint “Try for Elegance” and offer it to us for purchase or otherwise. I have been looking for a used copy for several years without any luck. That it is a paperback novel makes it impossible to find in used bookstores assuming you don’t already have the last remaining copy!

  16. As long as they continue to add to their selection of Shetland Sweaters as they have this fall I have no issues with the terms they use to advertise.

  17. Shetlands ? Where?

    Silent prayer: please don’t ruin them with set-in sleeves.

  18. @ kionon… ewwww! wth indeed…

  19. remember when mailboxes like that were a vital link to the outside world, way before the inbox and twitter feed took over the world. . .

  20. Even I do. I remember still having one and using it in 2000. Of course if you want to get really crazy… remember when if you needed to find a book you had to go look it up in a physical card catalog? Blows my mind that an entire generation exists which doesn’t even know what a card catalog is, much less how to use one.

  21. @ Kionon & Educator: the classic bronze art deco-style P.O. boxes are still clinging to life, especially in university post offices– the one place in college where change seems to come slowly– though of course they’re sadly diminished to holding bills and the like instead of meaningful correspondence.

    I was born in 1986 and still remember being drilled in the use of the card catalog by our elementary school librarian; I suspect mine was about the final cohort to do so. The catalog shelves are attractive pieces of furniture and lend a certain austere beauty to the stacks, but I will readily confess to being glad of not having to rely on them for doing heavy research now that I’m in grad school.

  22. I. Am. So. Sick. Of. Male. Models. Who need a freakin’ shave!

    That is all.

  23. Dutch Uncle | July 26, 2012 at 10:11 pm |

    Much of this stuff is definitely Preppy, rather than Ivy!

  24. Boston Bean | July 26, 2012 at 10:20 pm |

    @ Dutch Uncle:

    “Much”? I would have said “most”.

    Now that BB is using “Ivy” to mean “Preppy”, how do they refer to authentic Ivy style, I wonder?

  25. So the Brethren is picking up on an overused trend…that they started half a century ago. How peculiar!

  26. Philly Trad | July 26, 2012 at 10:30 pm |

    “American Ivy”?

    As opposed to Lithuanian Ivy, Paraguayan Ivy,
    Afghan Ivy, and Indonesian Ivy?

  27. BB should be given credit for showing wrinkles in their clothes.

  28. Sheik of Araby | July 27, 2012 at 6:55 am |

    Don’t read too much into it!?!

    But that’s what your readers do best!

  29. I remember mailboxes like that at college. It also reminds me of this photo spread http://www.whiteboxblog.com/?p=1693

  30. Christian, That’s out of my price range. The one I tried to buy on Amazon 2 years ago was listed at under $5.00 but sold while I was trying to buy it. Unless the copyright was renewed, a book first copyrighted in 1959 would have expired in 1992, so post it as a pdf download for those of us who would like to read it since you so highly regard it.

  31. Christian | July 27, 2012 at 2:47 pm |

    Actually I don’t highly regard it as a work of literature. But as a historical document related to our topic, it was a miraculous find.

    I have no interest in scanning every page of a 200-page novel. It’s not much of a read, but if you’re really curious you can borrow it.

  32. Christian, did you get my last comment?

  33. Those aren’t mailboxes, it’s a card catalog in the library.

  34. Wait! Maybe I’m wrong…maybe they are mailboxes! Anyway, remember card catalogs? Now there’s some “history.”

  35. @Austin At this point I am not sure what they are but card catalogs and combination lock college mail boxes are of the same vintage in my mind and life. Brooks looks like its playing up the vintage aspect of it all.

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