Japanese Ivy News Roundup

Following the Boston Magazine Vineyard Vines profile and Garden & Gun OPH interview, we’ve one more batch of media pieces to catch up on. They concern Japanese Ivy, and are excellent, lengthy pieces well worth your time.

First off, Lapham’s Quarterly has a piece by “Ametora” author W. David Marx called “The Climb Of Ivy,” which offers a condensed version of his book on how American style took of in Japan in the 1960s.


None of the contemporary trends in Japan looked right for the new line of ready-to-wear clothing Ishizu wanted to make for younger men. Looking for inspiration, Ishizu embarked on a world tour in December 1959, culminating in his first visit to the United States. While in New York Ishizu sought out a popular American fashion style often covered in Otoko no Fukushoku’s international reporting—“Ivy League.” By the late 1950s the look had moved beyond campuses and into the mainstream of American wardrobes.

Ishizu took the train down to Princeton, the alma mater of his American lieutenant friend. Japan’s elite campuses were packed with identical-looking boys in black wool uniforms; Ishizu was impressed by Ivy League students, who dressed up for classes in a distinct, individual way. The shots he snapped with his compact camera of Princeton undergraduates later illustrated his U.S. trip report for Otoko no Fukushoku. One attractive Ivy Leaguer in a blazer, undone dark necktie, white button-down shirt, gray flannel pants, and a coat slung over his shoulder became the issue’s unwitting cover model. As Ishizu wrote in an accompanying essay, “There was nothing like that particular American flamboyance that we all have come to expect.”

Next is another long piece on Ivy and Japan at the e-commerce website Grailed:

After several years of building a brand ethos around Ivy League fashion through Otoko no Fukushoku (later renamed Men’s Club), VAN Jacket released its first complete Ivy line in 1962. The collection included an assortment of chinos, navy blazers, seersucker jackets, and repp ties. However, Japan’s apparel industry refused to support the Ivy trend. Retailers declined to stock VAN Jacket as they feared it would turn off their larger customer base. Ishizu knew he would need a way around the middlemen and go straight to the consumer. He decided to use Men’s Club as a vehicle to promote the Ivy lifestyle.

And finally, an English-language Chinese magazine called That’s has a piece covering the same ground but includes fresh quotes with Marx from a recent speaking engagement in Shanghai:

“The main thing to understand from the rise of Ivy style in Japan during the 60s is that the young Japanese people weren’t just blindly copying the Americans;  they were reading about these styles from Japanese magazines edited by Japanese people, and buying clothes from Japanese brands.” This relationship between brands and media became a model that foreshadowed how the Japanese would receive and consume the latest news on fashion and trends for the next five decades.

And that should have us caught up for now on Ivy and prep stories in major media. Stay tuned for a new column from Richard Press, posts from various contributors, and a ton of vintage RL images. — CC

3 Comments on "Japanese Ivy News Roundup"

  1. Great pics, they reminded me of this 1954 pic that really encapsulates the proliferation of traditional american ideals of the era.

  2. American Ivy-Stylists should be proud of their Japanese Ivyist brethren, who’ve never faltered in their fidelity. High Ivy fidelity, you might say.

  3. The photo of the young men remind me of an “Andy Griffith” episode on last night. The ultimate conservative, Howard Sprague, usually sports a dark suit, white shirt, and bow tie. In the episode, Howard takes on the task of being a “Big Brother” to a wayward HS boy. The boy’s older sister, Elizabeth MacCrae, (Louann Poovie, of Gomer Pyle fame) works at a dance place. Howard is quite smitten with her, and takes to driving her to work and back. In the process, he dons a madras sport coat, a sport fedora with an absurd feather, and B&W spectator shoes. In the scene where he’s dancing, he wears a red ascot. In 1960’s slang, he went ape.

    Of course, everything works out OK. The kid finds the error of his ways, and the last scene shows Howard and Sis studying at the library, bettering themselves for the future.

    Love happy endings.

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