News Roundup: Ivy Shirts, Phallic Ties, And Every Man A King

There’s much to get caught up on since the relocation of Ivy Style HQ from Newport to California, so this will take several posts over the next couple of weeks. By which time, of course, there will be new news.

We’ll start with shirts. Simon Crompton at Permanent Style recently did an overview of Ivy shirts, for which we spent quite some time on the telephone. Here’s a sample of what made the final cut:

Christian has written on Ivy style since his site started in 2012, and was one of the people I spoke to for this piece. “Think of the OCBD as one part of a Venn diagram, with the other half the more straight-collar style worn in the rest of the country,” he says. “Over time, the overlap between those two grew, as the button-down shirt became increasingly popular.”

Fellow writer Bruce Boyer has a nice term for that other, standard-collar style – the ‘mid-western grain salesman’ look. “A very plain style, basically,” says Christian. “Two-button jacket, darted but boxy. What you saw mostly in Hollywood, and epitomised by Ronald Reagan in the 1980s. Nondescript.”

As mentioned, one thing that drove the OCBD’s increasing popularity was aspiration – something nicely captured in Mary McCarthy’s 1942 story, The Man in the Brooks Brothers Shirt, where the titular shirt is a sign of status for Mr Breen, a steel salesman from Cleveland.

But later the Ivy look seeped into the broader consciousness just because it was fashionable – during its heyday in the 1950s and 1960s. “Part of the Ivy League story is that many adopted it without knowing its origins – not because it was something they were born into, or were coming into by going to college,” says Christian. “It just became part of the American style.” And arguably, it was the first men’s clothing tradition that America could really call its own.

Ivy suffered a decline in the late 1960s, as fashions do. But it came back with a vengeance in the 1980s, as prep spread similar looks across the country. And then there was the modern revival from 2010 onwards, which had much to do with the growth of menswear as a whole, but was helped by the republication of Take Ivy, an exhibition at FIT, and the growth of interest in heritage brands.

We’ve been covering neckties lately, and several readers alerted me to the little kravat kerfuffle out of New Zealand. As you’ve no doubt been learning, gradually, and then avalanche-like since 2014, everything is offensive. Except for the things that aren’t. But neckties are on definitely the chopping block. It won’t be a clean stroke, more like a series of scrapes. The first is to stop them from being mandatory:

Clothing is inherently political in its ability to represent the values of our culture, and the necktie is one of the most politically charged items of body adornment. The necktie echoes the shape of the codpiece, a fabric flap or pouch designed 500 years ago to emphasise a European nobleman’s importance through his large phallic size. It is arrow shaped and directs the eye of an onlooker down towards a man’s groin.

Finally, from my Level Up category, those of you seeking more extreme measures of coping with external conditions may find inspiration in an essay I wrote for a Bay Area media company, which has consolidated most of the magazines and newspapers I wrote for the in ’90s when I was starting out. This piece, “Off-World in Inner Space: The Hidden Kingdom is closer than you think,” ran in East Bay Magazine:

Astronomers recently discovered a planet where winds howl at 1,000 miles per hour, rocks rain down from the sky and the seas smolder with lava. It was called the most extreme planet ever found, and, as K2-141b isn’t a very catchy name, the distant inferno was quickly nicknamed “Hell Planet.”

Now, I know what you’re thinking: you thought that moniker belonged to Earth in 2020. Which is why if you perpetually find yourself saying “Get me off this planet,” know that it’s really not that difficult. Seekers, sages, shamans and spiritualists have been doing it for eons. All it takes is a crafty escape to your own private kingdom-not-of-this-world.

Imaginary fiefdoms are notoriously difficult to find. Parsifal, one of the knights of the Round Table, stumbled into the secret Grail Castle, said the wrong thing, and was shot back into harsh reality. He searched for 20 years before he found it again.

But here are a few tips to get started. First, find a familiar spot—say, the edge of a park or a town square—with cars, people and buildings on the one hand, and trees, flowers, birds and bees on the other. See these two realms as separate from each other, with living things in each one almost entirely oblivious to the activity in the other. Holding both in your consciousness simultaneously, note that these are indeed two different, but overlapping, worlds: one is the planet with its fine-tuned perfection, and the other is what we call human civilization. There’s nothing wrong with the “world,” or material reality. The source of your angst is the other part. Hell, as Jean-Paul Sartre said, after all, “is other people.” This gestalt shift should clarify that the world of human events is far different from the timeless realm of nature, with its eternal cycle of the seasons, day and night, life and death.

Until next time, gentlemen. And remember: every man a king. — CHRISTIAN CHENSVOLD

13 Comments on "News Roundup: Ivy Shirts, Phallic Ties, And Every Man A King"

  1. “Two-button jacket, darted but boxy. What you saw mostly in Hollywood, and epitomised by Ronald Reagan in the 1980s. Nondescript.”

    Why single out The Gipper? Clinton, Dubya Bush and Obama dressed in a similar way. Trump awful Italian suits and long ties were a rare departure from the norm.

    Over the last three decades, the standard politician uniform has been a two button darted suit, white spread or semi spread collared shirt and a plain tie. Biden’s only variation is a striped repp tie. His suits are typically nondescript to use your term.

  2. Nondescript, “boring” is what some of us aim at. I call it a squeaky clean look and find it a welcome antidote to the hobo look, the gigolo looks, etc.

  3. @Dutch Uncle

    You hit the nail on the head.

    The Greek poet, Hesiod,wrote “observe due measure; moderation is best in all things”.

    So much men’s fashion today vacillates between the extremes of flamboyance (Versace) and dishabille and discheveled.

    I think that what all readers of this website aspire to is what Bruce Boyer refers to as the “midwestern grain salesman look”: Oxxford, Polo, Brooks Brothers, etc…

  4. Neckties as signifiers of white, male supremacy…
    Semiotics gone mad? Stupidity at post-satirical stage?

  5. A couple of years ago I had my tailor build me a 3/2 roll sack cod piece. I’ll never wear a darted cod piece again.

    Cheers,

    Will

  6. I would doubt that any grain salesman ever wore Oxxford.

  7. The view of a necktie as a “colonial leash” echoes the attitude of the Iranian revolutionaries. Ties were more or less banned in Iran (at least among government officials) after the 1979 revolution. The religious authorities saw a necktie as a disguised form of crucifix, and hence non-Islamic.

  8. @Numbers,

    Bruce Boyer referred to Oxxford suits “in the mid-western grain salesman model” in a post called “Bruce Almighty!”

    I have to disagree with you. I imagine there are many grain salesmen who wear the label.

  9. Covering the issue of ties in the New Zealand parliament without mentioning Rawiri Waititi seems like willful disinformation. The issue was not whether ties are inherently offensive, but whether those for whom the Western style of formal dress is foreign ought to be required to adopt it in order to participate in their own government.

  10. Father Brown | February 13, 2021 at 3:33 am |

    @Jesse,
    Will the next step will be for neckties to be banned in the New Zealand parliament?

  11. Behind Enemy Lines | February 13, 2021 at 5:06 pm |

    Jesse | February 12, 2021 at 11:52 pm |
    Covering the issue of ties in the New Zealand parliament without mentioning Rawiri Waititi seems like willful disinformation. The issue was not whether ties are inherently offensive, but whether those for whom the Western style of formal dress is foreign ought to be required to adopt it in order to participate in their own government.

    Speaking of willful disinformation, Western formal dress is no more ‘foreign’ to Rawiri Waititi than is penicillin, or the NZ Parliament itself. He’s also expected to wear trousers on the bus.

    So are you, Jesse. Even on this bus.

  12. Both of my in-laws taught Larry King’s daughter at the boarding school where we all used to work. He became very involved in the community, and even agreed to serve as emcee for the School’s 125th anniversary. He also hosted the retirement celebration for the long-serving and much-beloved Headmaster who ran the school when his daughter was attending. All who knew him described him as a gentleman through and through.

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