Ivy Trendwatch: False Boundaries And The New Fashion Remix

Earlier this week the UK-based website Fashion United ran a piece entitled “The great prep revival a growth opportunity for menswear,” which introduces the term “remix” into the latest iteration of neo-prep. Ralph Lauren takes the opening of the piece, followed by Rowing Blazers, which is driving much of the publicity for the new prep-meets-streetwear trend.

As is the case in times of change (which is essentially always), there is an interesting push not just to move the present towards the future, but to look back upon the past in a way that is more in sync with the desired destination.

From the article:

Jack Carlson, founder of menswear brand Rowing Blazers, and author of the book of the same name which documented the history of the rowing blazer throughout Europe, is a former US national rower who therefore lived the preppie life before outfitting it. His brand’s recent collaboration with J Press, the mens clothier founded in 1902 on Yale University campus, also sold out in a day. He told the Project Mens crowd, “Prep is a dangerous word and when I first started the brand I was very skittish about it. It comes with a lot of baggage. A lot of people think of the 80s country clubs attended by an elitist buttoned-up clientele, exclusively white. That’s a problem in 2019. So it’s important to look at the original heritage behind it.”

The Anglo-American codes of prep are being democratized for today’s consumer. Tongue-in-cheek, rebellious, or subversive spins are the entry points. Fake crests slapped on everything might once have frustrated the true prep but can be cool now in an ironic way. Critter pants, those trousers embroidered all over with tiny fish or dogs or lobsters, worn with a blinged-out Gucci logo sweater, why not?

“It may be an Anglo thing but to me it’s a punk thing, a hiphop thing,” says [vintage curator Josh] Matthews. “Mainly because prep was a breakaway from normal ideas. It said ‘I come from money and know what’s expected of me, but I’m so cool I can wear these clothes, I don’t have to wear the suit.’”


“The false boundaries between preppie, tailoring and street are being broken down because people are increasingly cultural omnivores,” explains Carlson. “Fashion is not supposed to be one-dimensional. The rugby shirt has been re-appropriated often throughout history. But as a brand we’re happy to educate consumers on why it is this heavy weight, why are the buttons this way, it’s important for people to know those decisions aren’t random. We look at how Mick Jagger wore the rugby shirt or David Hockney or Tupac. This world of prep can be a lot more inclusive than originally thought.”

It should be no surprise that the path of Preppy-Ivy-Trad-Americana is winding in tandem with a changing America, and that the two should mirror each other. During the heyday, Ivy was a style that had already been set by society’s uppers and adopted by those in the middle as a matter of good taste. In the preppy ’80s the same phenomenon happened again, with the best-selling “Preppy Handbook” offering an irreverent glimpse into the lives of what remained of the old WASP establishment. The Ivy trend during the publication of “Take Ivy” some eight years ago seemed to herald a newfound appreciation for a forgotten style, though was quickly followed by neo-prep fashion excess.

But now it’s as if the clothes are being adopted as an act of sartorial conquest: overthrow the establishment and don its vestments ironically in a celebration of victory:

Upper class connotations, be gone. A new breed of millennial international playboy is taking back prep, and he’s not interested in being a member of your club.

So it’s trads versus neos, or dinosaurs versus mammals. And we know how that one turned out. — CC

20 Comments on "Ivy Trendwatch: False Boundaries And The New Fashion Remix"

  1. Boop McSnoot | February 23, 2019 at 1:09 pm |

    I can’t wait for the comments section on this post…

  2. Trevor Jones | February 23, 2019 at 2:18 pm |

    Excellent piece ans excellent analysis. I, too, look forward to the fireworks below!

  3. MacMcConnell | February 23, 2019 at 3:36 pm |

    So who is this “vintage curator” Josh Matthews quoted above?


  4. Just spent two hours with my astrology buddy. Yep, I’ve actually got one.

    He said January 2020 will bring a planetary alignment that will mark the end of the old order and bring about a Great Transformation:


    Will Trump be impeached, or will cultural marxism implode? We’ll find out!

  5. MacMcConnell | February 23, 2019 at 4:59 pm |

    The “end of the old order” would mean Trump gets re-elected. 😉

  6. Surprisingly enough, true traditional Anglo-American menswear survived through all the turmoils of the Twentieth century, and is still available and relevant today, so, I wouldn’t worry about it. It seems many people in this group don’t want to accept the fact that fashion is first and foremost a business, and fashion companies will try anything to make money. Currently, a few brands are trying to “rebrand” and “reinvent” preppy style (which Ralph Lauren did many decades ago, by the way!). It may be a hit or miss for them. In any case, what these brands offer is a niche product for a very small segment of society. Living in New York City (where one can find virtually anything) I never (literally, never) see people dressed in anything that would even remotely resemble Rowing Blazers styles. I can’t even imagine who wears this kind of stuff.

  7. The Old Collegian | February 23, 2019 at 7:02 pm |

    I have been following Ivy-Style and this Rowing Blazers fellow from afar (Australia) for many years now.

    Some points to note:
    – Rugby shirts aren’t “fashion”, every man, woman, and child here wears them. I have been wearing them for about 30 years. It may be that rugby is a niche in USA, but here, it’s a mainstream sport. You would also never pay the price these shirts retain for!!
    – Rowing blazers. Where do I start… I had rowed in secondary school, University and for many years later at a National level. You have to earn a blazer, you don’t just go and buy one. It’s a sign of esteem and respect generally only afforded to Olympians or Life Members of clubs. If I was to walk through Melbourne wearing one, you would be labelled the local term “wanker”. The cost of these blazers is also astronomical. Making something expensive does not therefore render it desirable or fashionable. Maybe it’s me, I don’t get it.

    But, this is just an observation from across the Pacific. If he sells thing and does successfully, good on him.

  8. Behind Enemy Lines | February 23, 2019 at 8:04 pm |

    Upper class connotations, be gone. A new breed of millennial international playboy is taking back prep, and he’s not interested in being a member of your club.

    It’s a form of art to pack so much stupidity into so few words.

    Suffice to say that by the end of the year, the tiny handful of people inspired by this nonsensical spin on ‘prep’ (who are far outnumbered by the models paid to temporarily wear it) will have moved on to new fads. Of course, style, class and common sense will remain . . . uncommon. But the club will remain intact, open to anyone who cares to follow the by-laws.

    Side note: The Old Collegian is dead right about rowing blazers. It’s analogous to regimental ties.

  9. Boop McSnoot | February 23, 2019 at 8:36 pm |

    @ The Old Collegian – “You have to earn a blazer, you don’t just go and buy one.” Jack actually agrees with you. He doesn’t sell school-specific rowing blazers (i.e. with specific crests) to those who didn’t row for that organization. He’s told me so himself. But he feels that the blazer qua blazer, as a generic garment, is not so restricted, and doesn’t see an issue with having one devoid of crests or insignia. Seeing as how the blue blazer itself is a descendant of the rowing blazer, menswear history bears him out in this.

  10. I doubt that the so-called neo-preps mentioned in the articles actually exist in great numbers. It’s a niche market – preppy hipsters hyping expensive stuff to justify the margins that pay their inflated salaries. The rugby shirt prices, for example, are eye-watering. The “collaborations” between brands are just a way to generate media coverage. It’s the insecure urbanites, not ordinary folk, who buy that tat to get affirmation from their perceived peers. CC should ridicule this absurd nonsense rather than give it credibility that it seeking but does not deserve. Btw, I still cannot see any pictures in the blog posts,

  11. This post is somewhat entertaining for a relic like me whose long since given up any attempts at understanding fashion trends.

    I will, however, offer my two cents about rugby shirts. Admittedly, I have never played the game, but have worn the shirts since youth.

    The company in question, Rowing Blazers, claims to consider themselves “stewards of the rugby shirt.” I will never be a steward of one of their “authentic” made in the “old-fashioned way” shirts because I am too frugal to part with $195.00 for a rugby shirt.

    These days my go-to brand of rugby shirt is Barbarian. The shirts are well made (use rubber buttons) and cost less than half of what Rowing Blazers is extorting for their shirts.

    Before Barbarian, my brand of choice was McIntosh & Seymour. They are sadly no longer in business. I still have, and occasionally wear, my “vintage” shirts which are 30 plus years old. There are holes and rips, but the shirts remain serviceable after decades of wear.

    “And so it goes.”

    Cheers, BC

  12. Bernard Faber | February 24, 2019 at 10:51 am |

    Do I sense a rebellion ? At last some sense and independance among the followers. Watch out C C you do not own the minds of your

  13. “(Carlson’s) brand’s recent collaboration with J Press, the mens clothier founded in 1902 on Yale University campus, also sold out in a day.”
    Somebody’s buying this stuff and presumably wearing it. I suspect the folks who post here don’t see it because they’re not around it. Tribes naturally occupy their own territories.
    I’m 60 and in Texas for gawd’s sakes, so this stuff wasn’t meant for me and I’d guess most of y’all. So I think it’s wiser and more interesting to ponder the power of irony in today’s fashion than to maunder about the authenticity of the clothes or their wearers.
    Match. Gas. Done.

  14. Have to agree that rugby shirts here in England are worn by all ages and genders,especially at the moment as the Six Nations are on. When it comes to earning a blazer,back in my university days you can also earn a blazer by playing varsity rugby..

  15. I want to jump back in to briefly explain my negative comment above about Rowing Blazers rugby shirts being seemingly over-priced does not intend to detract from the many accomplishments of founder Jack Carlson. He’s clearly, in addition to his company, an athlete, scholar, and author.

    In any event, I’d guess that the market for rowing blazers is razor thin. It seems that anyone who never participated in the sport would be posing (much more so than a non-rugby player wearing a generic rugby shirt) by wearing one. Furthermore, I can’t imagine sauntering into The Tombs http://www.tombs.com/#!top , the pub frequented by students of Carlson’s alma mater, donning a fake rowing blazer and not get some eye rolls from the crowd.

  16. Old School Tie | February 24, 2019 at 1:04 pm |

    Unless I am very much mistaken, mammals were not, in fact, responsible for the demise of dinosaurs. In fact, some cataclysmic event or other saw them off, mammals just took advantage of the power vacuum.

    Wanker is not solely vernacular in Australia, its origins are, of course, British – but yes Old Collegian and Behind Enemy Lines are right about both blazers and regimental ties, but you will have great difficulty convincing our American breathren that it is a faux pas.

    The only rugby shirt I have ever worn was that of my school (and medical school a couple of times) but as I no longer play for either of those teams nor the old boys, I do not wear the shirt anymore. Real ones are not fabricated from cotton/cashmere mixes in any case. Anything else is mere artifice.

  17. “Watch out C C you do not own the minds of your readers!”

    What does that mean?

  18. Do authentic rowing blazers have collars and lapels as short as these?

  19. Look at what RL bequeathed to us: Models that look like their waiting for their colostomy appointment. Smile, someone, anyone!

  20. Late to the party here, but I think I might be the only person reading who owns a Rowing Blazers rugby shirt. Admittedly, they are pricey — but what isn’t in 2021? — but the quality is fantastic, and I wear it a lot. It wasn’t necessarily the brand that made me buy the shirt though. I am a huge David Hockney fan — he’s from where I live — and there is an excellent photo of him in a pink and black number that I always wanted. Rowing Blazers were the one company who made them.

    But while we’re talking blazers and ‘earned’ rights to wear them, I’d like to mention that I am all for the democratisation of clothes. I went to (what we call in the UK) a newer red brick university, because I studied a modern subject. I have an excellent career running a successful business. But I also have none of the elitist baggage, like the notion that an item of clothing is earned, that comes with going to one of the Russell Group universities. For myself and my peers, that’s for the entitled white folk with rich parents who bankroll their gap years and lunches on Kings Road. It’s something to aspire not to be (just watch Made in Chelsea). Style, class and taste — albeit subjective — aren’t garnered by your alma mater. Anyone can go and buy a blazer. Sorry folks, but the little, working class folk are getting ideas above our station.

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