Natural Style: Dartmouth in the ’40s & ’50s

A tour of Dartmouth College’s library in the 1950s, shown in the top video, sheds light on the school’s lifestyle and sartorial history. Male students seen hard at work wearing sweaters, flannels and thick trousers highlight two things: The lack of female students and a clear fashion sense unique to the college.

Dartmouth did not become coeducational until 1972, one of the last Ivy League schools to do so. In addition to the absence of female students, the clip shows that comfort and practicality seem to be preferred to more formal styles worn at other Ivy League schools. The same reliance on comfort and practicality can be observed today on the Dartmouth campus. Located in New Hampshire, it is not unusual for Dartmouth winters to last from late October to early April. During these frigid months, dressing for warmth rather than style is the primary concern for students. Moreover, the college’s isolation from large cities and other universities creates a student body often indifferent to keeping up with fashion.

As much as the Dartmouth experience has changed over the last half century, its most unique characteristics remain unchanged. Due to the campus’s isolated and tranquil location, the Dartmouth experience stresses a special relationship between learning that occurs equally in classrooms and in nature. This is especially apparent in the second video, made by students in the late 1940s, which shows the many outdoor activities available to students. — ALEXIS ABBEY

6 Comments on "Natural Style: Dartmouth in the ’40s & ’50s"

  1. Richard M | June 22, 2009 at 2:51 pm |

    Of course, the site of the original animal house.

  2. Thank you for posting these videos. I really enjoyed them. I have an interest in sports clothes from 1940 to 1950, and these videos are a treasure trove of real people wearing the casual clothes from that time.

  3. Those are great video. I love seeing this sort of social history and the mix of language, style and atomsphere. Are they any more in the series at all. Everything from the cars, the music and the cutting is amazing and really of its time. Classic baseball jackets, slacks and polo shirts. Its like an early George Lucas film made flesh!

  4. I really enjoyed both videos and going back in time. I a so proud that you have shared this interesting history of Dartmouth with us. It is a piece of history- go Dartmouth! I wish some students will take the challenge and do a documentary for the 2010 so future students can reflect back with the 40’s and 50’s. This is real history captured for those in the future to see the contribution of students during the world wars. I am glad this is not just buried in some archive in the library, but due to technology I can view this at 4am in my house. I will refer others to this site. thanks! All Hanover, Dartmouth students, alumni, family and friends should view this if they have not already seen it.

  5. Greg Hammersmith | March 24, 2019 at 12:27 am |
  6. Charlottesville | March 25, 2019 at 12:18 pm |

    Thank you, Alexis, for the terrific videos. I missed them the first time around in 2009. Interesting to note that not all collars buttoned down, and not all sweaters were crew-necks, but the Ivy ethos still pervades. Most of all, though, I would love to have the 1940s woody station wagon and the coral-colored 1950s convertible shown above.

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