Ivy Trendwatch: WSJ on the Ivy League Look

The Wall Street Journal offers a summary of the zeitgeist so far. Prediction: The topic will continue to generate buzz this year, but the buzz will end in 2012. Of course, everything is supposed to end in 2012. — CC

26 Comments on "Ivy Trendwatch: WSJ on the Ivy League Look"

  1. OK, I just read it.

    When I was 25 and a cub reporter, my editor told me — and not that I’d committed the sin — “The worst thing you can do is get someone’s name wrong. No matter how flattering the story, they’ll always remember, ‘Yeah, but they got my name wrong.'”

    Imagine if my grandfather had kept the spelling Tjensvold.

  2. And guess whom he married? A woman with the plainest English name possible: Betty Jane Smith.

  3. Calling the Ivy-style “jock-inspired” is a deceptively limited perspective on the whole issue since the essential elements of the style have nothing whatsoever to do with collegiate athletics. Is the WSJ trying to get Joe Sixpack to change his sartorial preferences by focusing on the sports connection? Pathetic!

    I would have expected such a story in the Peoria Bugle, or some such provincial paper, but I naively assumed that readers of the WSJ would already be aware of (even adherents to) the Ivy style.

  4. So I was curious to know more about this Gant revival mentioned in the article, so I went to their website. Colossal fail. Utterly impenetrable to this highly tech-savvy customer. I wanted to BUY THINGS and it was impossible to figure out what was for sale for a young man and how much it cost. I’m sticking with the smaller, better Ivy Style clothing lines like the ones that advertise on your website, Christian.

  5. Funny how they spelled your name right the first time but somehow lost the correct spelling along the way. Also, I seem to remember an article posted here or somewhere else a while back that was also about the return of the ivy league look. Long journey I guess.

  6. Bill Stephenson | February 5, 2011 at 11:48 am |

    Very tempting to write it off as a convoluted, rambling bit of writing. However, I wonder if that isn’t where the Ivy scene is today? Agree that the collegiate athletics thing seems misplaced, and the Gant approach seems to miss the mark. (How it is possible to misspell our leader’s name escapes me.)

    We see retailers all over the place today, trying to figure out who the customer is, and what will work. Grunge that you see on students on the Ivy campus today? How about offerings of JP, BB, and RL?

    Specialty Ivy like OCLS, Andover, etc.? Really a little bit of everything, going after a market that seems to be very fragmented, at the moment.

    Writer might have told his editor he would rather write on something less complicated, such as achieving peace in the middle east.

  7. Having been long absent from Ivy Style – you mean nobody missed me? – I found my way back via today’s online WSJ article.

    Christian writes re his name being misspelled twice: “Imagine if my grandfather had kept the spelling Tjensvold.” 1) Believe me this is no longer your grandfather’s WSJ (it’s hardly mine) and 2) What do you expect when you don’t bother to acquire a standard American Anglo-Irish name? :)

    Re the new faux Gant, I think the phrase “venerable Swedish-owned label” pretty much tells the tale. When Gant was supposedly “Once the world’s largest shirt manufacturer” (a claim I doubt since the mass market in that era was catered to by those who made shirts for Sears, Kresge’s and Montgomery Wards) high school and college guys en route to party at Ocean City, MD circa 1965 would stop at the Gant factory in Salisbury, MD to buy (actual) factory seconds. Gant was a great employer for the (mostly Black) ladies in a region and era that otherwise only offered them employment plucking chickens or shelling crabs.

    FWIW put me firmly in the camp that believes (actually, knows) that Ivy style is virtually all derived from sporting attire (either active – horses, hunting, sailing, tennis before WWII, later backpacking, climbing, rugby, – or spectator sports – e.g., the polo coat being standard uniform for attending football games) or military attire when returning WWII GIs stormed Ivy League and non-Ivy League campuses alike in their khakis, chambray shirts, cavalry twill slacks, ball caps (adapted for shipboard use by the Navy in WWII) and brown bluchers (as worn by Naval aviators and flight officers), etc. (just as WWI vets earlier introduced their hard worn trench coats into civilian circles).

  8. Mazama, with thoughtful comments like your past two, you indeed have been missed.

  9. I have only recently discovered the Ivy look, and yet I immediately recognized the misinterpretations of the style by the writer–not to mention the introduction of a new Mr. Cotsvold. I completely agree with Mazama’s point, that virtually all Ivywear is derived from sporting attire.

    I do have a question regarding the Ivy style. I’ve been scouring men’s clothing manufacturers, trying to find some nice clothes that are inexpensive. I’m young, so I really don’t have the resources to buy things like BB blazers and real Nantucket Reds. I have come across some lucky finds at Marshall’s and TJ Maxx in the form of RL oxfords ($30) and such, but I’m having a tough time finding nice stuff. I do realize that more expensive clothes will last longer, and that cheaper stuff will not look “right,” but as I grow older I’ll probably gain weight and shoulder breadth so there isn’t really a point in spending too much money on these things. Any suggestions would be much appreciated!

  10. Bill Stephenson | February 6, 2011 at 5:17 am |

    Brian – In addition to the good sources that you mentioned, you might want to consider:

    LLB for khakis. About 1/2 of cost of Bills’, 100% cotton, and well tailored. Either flannel lined or unlined. You really have to make sure they understand what you want, but they can do 1 3/4″ cuffs, if you will bear down on them.

    You might want to click on Sierra Trading Post from time to time. Stuff changes every day, but STP buys things like Bills’ from merchants needing cash for new season, and you can pick up pretty good bargains. Be sure to add in shipping costs, and cost of alteration when you check in here.

  11. Wot bollacks.

  12. Bill Stephenson | February 6, 2011 at 11:43 am |

    Brian, there is one other possibility that you might consider. It is common on message boards to see Jos A Banks given poor marks, and for good reason, no 3/2, too much shoulder padding, darts, fusing, etc. All valid points.

    However, you might want to check them out as a budget stretcher, if you haven’t already.

    First of all, they ALWAYS have some kind of a sale going on. Some get a little complicated, but worth watching.

    Next, you have got to have a blue blazer to start out with. If you have unlimited funds there are obviously ones that are preferable to purists. However, you can get a 3 button blue blazer on sale, at Jos Banks, that should serve you well until you can move up.

    Finally, their trousers are a very good value, IMO. Plenty of plain fronts, and good subdued greys and tans. As an example of the continuous sale going on….Now, it is buy one at full price, second $99, and 3rd one free. Kind of convoluted, but a good budget stretcher, and trousers seem quite satisfactory to me.

  13. Orthodox Trad | February 6, 2011 at 12:17 pm |

    I can assure you that there are many of us who try our best to forget the connection between Ivy League style, which is patrician, and football–the collegiate variety being no less plebeian than the professional variety.

  14. There may be little connection today — at least in your mind — but there was:


  15. Bill, thanks a ton. I’ll check out all those sources, and it’s funny because my father wears almost exclusively Jos A Banks shirts and suits to work. He dresses quite boringly, your average businessman. I just started looking for a navy blue blazer last week, and I have a conflict of influences… Dad says only 2-button blazers, Ivy and Prep styles say only 3-button (ok, prep is more lenient but you get the point). Does it really make that much of a difference?

  16. Bill Stephenson | February 6, 2011 at 2:26 pm |

    Brian – Go with what you like, and what feels best when you have it on. No “right answer”, IMO.

    Also never forget, “Father knows Best”. Wouldn’t argue with that.

    Most purists will say that “typical” Ivy would be 3/2 roll, sack, lapped seams, hooked vent, natural shoulders. Not much of that around except for JP and OCLS. Maybe the next one. Pretty sure that Banks has 2 and 3 button.

    Ivyiest of all is Andover, and I think they a feature 2 button. Look at JFK photos, and he usually wore 2 button.

    Go with what you can afford, and what you like. 99% of the people that you see won’t know the difference. You can get a lot of mileage if jacket fits properly, shows enough cuff, tasteful, but not expensive shirt and tie. Appropriate, but not necessarily expensive shoes, well shined. You will be way out in front of the pack, without breaking the bank.

    STP is a often a pretty good source for fairly good shoes at a discounted price.

  17. Orthodox Trad | February 6, 2011 at 10:40 pm |


    We don’t deny the unfortunate connection between Ivy style and football; we try our best to forget that connection and dissociate ourselves from it.

  18. @Orthodox Trad: Collegiate football may be plebian where you live, but in the SEC, it runs the gamut all the way up to the bluest of patrician bloods.

  19. My fraternity at Cornell owned a 1930s fire truck and on Saturdays we would ride it up to the football games. Always seemed to be tweed jacket weather — cool, crisp, and sunny. We’d fill gallon jugs of cider from Cornell Orchards 3/4 full, top them up with rum, take ’em into the game. You’d see the alums out tailgating with some pretty elaborate affairs. For the most part the game itself was secondary, but the overall experience was…I dunno…quintessential?

    Fifteen years later, early ’90s, I’d go with friends to the Princeton games. We’d hang out at Cottage Club before and after. Pretty much the same kind of experience. Even the tiny Princeton band would careen through campus after the game, eventually ending up in the fountain. All part of the tradition.

  20. Bill Stephenson | February 7, 2011 at 2:43 pm |

    Sartre – knew we’d cross paths here. You are right, about the secondary status that Ivy League football plays, today. Very important, but because of the excuse to socialize and see old friends. Wives often leave the game to go shopping.

    During my undergraduate days at Oklahoma, football was deadly serious, and completely out of proportion to what mattered in the cosmic scheme of things, IMO. That’s why I love Ivy League football; played by real students who love the game, go to class like the rest of the student body,and aren’t getting paid.

    BTW, Tiger Inn is across the street from the Cottage Club, as you know. I have a good friend, ’68, who said that they strung surgical tubing between the two trees in front of the house and lobbed balloons filled with pernicious liquids on Cottage Club front porch. Probably seemed like a good idea at the time.

  21. My 2 cents on bargain finds: eBay. At the moment wearing my BB 3/2 roll navy blazer, bought in excellent condition for 70.00. Caveat: measurements. Be sure to know sleeve lengths, width across shoulders, etc. as sizes vary — but listings usually include measurements.

    I’ve also found bargain basement Weejuns, Orvis highland tweed and khakis, Harris tweed sportscoats, ties of all brands and styles, and even my (Cornell also, btw) fraternity flag on gold cufflinks.

    Tip: wait until the last moment to bid on high-demand items; go too early and the price jumps dramatically given a few days — and be ready to not win, as lots of people seem interested in the last-minute bid on the longwings and JP sports coats…

  22. Bill, what does OCLS stand for? I’m guessing it’s not Orange County Library System.

  23. Farmer Jones | February 9, 2011 at 11:10 am |


    Your best bet (IMO) is to watch the websites for the brands you like and shop their clearance sales.

    I got a pair of Nantucket Reds from Brooks Bros last month for $23.

    In December I picked up 2 sweaters, 3 OCBDs and 2 pair of chinos from Lands’ End for $78, total.

  24. Farmer Jones | February 9, 2011 at 12:22 pm |

    My guess is that OCLS is O’Connell’s. They carry a 100% trad 3/2 undarted sack blazer, not sure if it has a hook vent, but it is a center vent.

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