English Ivy guru and Weejun fetishist JP Gaul, co-author of “The Ivy Look” (see our review here), has written a piece for Yale University Press’ blog. YUP is the publisher of the upcoming book created in conjunction with the MFIT exhibit.
While discussing his discovery of Ivy as a teenager in the ’80s, Gaul writes:
The key elements of Ivy style – the button-down shirt, the narrow-shouldered ‘sack’ 3-button jacket, the penny loafers and the heavy brogues, are all such strong, simple designs, form following function, and modernist to their very core.
Considering the items mentioned were all created well before midcentury, one wonders exactly how they can be “modernist.” Nevertheless:
Miles Davis saw this, so did Gerry Mulligan and the Modern Jazz Quartet.
Clothes certainly have meaning. Exactly what is a matter of debate. Here’s Gaul once more:
The meaning of clothes shift as they cross borders, both geographically and socially, and the conservative mutates into the radical. The Bass Weejun penny loafer, one of the great design items of the 20th century, was no doubt a great shoe for strolling around the privileged halls of the Ivy colleges, but I can personally testify to its qualities as the ideal shoe to wear when sliding across talcum powder coated northern soul dancefloors – radical conformism in action!
On this I think we can all agree: The meaning of clothes shifts when they leave their native soil. It happened to all the European items the Ivy genre absorbed and repackaged with American flair, and it happened again when American items returned across the pond.
Head over to Yale’s book blog for Gaul’s complete article. — CC