Our Kinda Clothes

I have to tell you, I’ve never seen a genre of clothing so contentious as prep and its related cousin, Ivy League style. In just the past week three articles have posted that wrestle with the now-problematic legacy of traditional American clothing.

In a feature on J. Crew from the current issue, Vanity Fair addresses the brand’s original upper-middle class image, and links its financial troubles to veering away from this original vision: 

J. Crew was born in 1983, three years after Lisa Birnbach crystallized the world of boarding school, Top-Siders, and pearl-wearing Muffys in her seminal Official Preppy Handbook. Founder Arthur Cinader conceived J. Crew as a chicer women’s alternative to newly successful cataloguers Lands’ End and L. L. Bean—that would sell the Ralph Lauren look at half the price. Ralph had already laid claim to the landed-gentry sport of polo, so Cinader settled for crew, added a J for flourish, and shot the first catalogue at Harvard’s Weld Boathouse, home of the women’s crew team. J. Crew has always been about context, and viewed in the bosom of casual privilege, simple roll-neck sweaters, weathered chinos, and rough-hewn barn jackets spoke to Ivy Leaguers and aspirants alike. The brand became, as The New York Observer once noted, a “proselytizer for the sun-splashed, ruddy-cheeked American Dream”—in an America that extended precisely, according to a 1989 catalogue, from “Kennebunk to Nantucket, Narragansett Bay to Amagansett, and points South and West.” (South and West being, presumably, Connecticut.)

Over the years, countless style tribes have adopted, deconstructed, and reconstituted whatever “preppy” means, but at its core, J. Crew has always implied collegiate, polished, privileged. The narrowness of the world the company first opened a window to is now, thankfully, a thing of the past. There is no one way to look or dress “American.” So how do you resuscitate a brand built on this definition? And is there still room for it?

Then this week Esquire announced that preppy is back “but completely different than you remember,” which suggests that if it’s completely different, it’s probably something else. In fact, Esquire all but says as much:

Say the word “preppy” and it’ll very likely conjure images of John F. Kennedy, early aughts Vampire Weekend, and maybe your favorite Vineyard Vines-bedecked finance bro. Preppy is, after all, short for preparatory, as in school, as in East Coast WASP factories churning out Wall Street bankers and ‘80s teen movie villains. But while the word may come laden with more than a few negative connotations (at least for some), the style itself has exploded well beyond its elitist past.

Over the last few years, a smattering of savvy menswear brands have taken what was once the provenance of Ivy League schools and East Coast regattas, and infused it with strains of skate, punk, hip-hop, and downtown grunge to create something far cooler, and far more inclusive. Not that prep style hasn’t pushed beyond its WASP borders before. But this time, things are much more ambitious. This is more than just the appropriation of a rugby shirt. This is a full scale re-imagining of what prep means. It’s prep for the people—all people—where navy blazers and popped polo collars are just as likely to appear alongside dreadlocks and hyped-up sneakers as rowing teams, polo clubs, and guys named Hoyt. It’s two pairs of boat shoes coexisting on two very different sides of the prep continuum.

Since the middle of the 20th century, Ivy-prep has served as a cosmos in miniature for America’s culture wars. Originally developed by the WASP establishment, it was later adopted as the uniform of a middle-class everyman, then cast off by hippies, rediscovered in the age of Reagan, and has sped through several iterations over the past two decades. The latest issue of contention centers around “authenticity,” which seems to be a euphemism for the fact that it was WASPs who developed both the style and the institutions — Ivy League colleges, prep schools — for which the genre of clothing is named. Authenticity has emerged as the watchword for new fashions: the more of it you have the better it will sell. Unfortunately, “authentic” can also carry all the problmatic baggage of the past.

Derek Guy, contributing writer at Put This On, recently addressed the problem of authenticity in prep clothing and seems to imagine that a battle is emerging over who is entitled to wear tradition, which may be primarily a reflection his own personal issues. In “Prep’s Perps: A Look At Prep’s Issues With Authenticity,”  he argues that some nefarious preppies are appropriating the style. The vitriol behind the piece actually caught me off guard, and I began to wonder if something more might not be going on. A search of prep and Ivy related articles on Put This On and Guy’s personal site, Die, Workwear, reveals a clotheshorse who is appreciative of preppy style, but, since the 2016 election, is increasingly haunted by the idea that this style he admires is being worn by the bad guys.

In fact, his concerns are not surprising when properly put into context. Starting in the late 1960s, Ivy Style clothing was viewed by campus radicals as the purview of conservatives alone. In a recent podcast for The Hogtown Rake, G. Bruce Boyer recounted his experiences as a well dressed young college man in the era of Vietnam and the Civil Rights Movement. He was interested in New Left ideologies, but inspired fear and resentment from his fellow students for wearing what they perceived as the clothing of the establishment. It was believed by young leftists then that clothing signaled one’s political orientation, and tailored clothing meant conservative, whether or not Boyer himself belies that assumption. It would seem that, at least to campus radicals in the ’60s, clothes really do make the man — and whether he wants to be made or not.

The association between the Northeastern elite and prep lives firmly in a semi-mythical past. Prep and Ivy have been the American uniform for varied classes and races since it first emerged as a fashion trend in 1954. The items comprising the Ivy League Look didn’t have to change in order for African Americans to wish to wear them. So rather than the privileged tribal identifier that Guy believes them to be in 2019, prep and Ivy clothing have served as a democratizing element available to anyone with the taste for wearing them. The question of whether we should be authentic to an era of inequality is shown to be tendentious. White presidents, black musicians, office workers, and college students of all races could be found in Ivy and prep clothing during the heyday, and associating the look with a few bigots of past or present is pure guilt by association. Thus the culture war in which Guy seems to believe prep is yet another battleground — with Jack Carlson versus Tucker Carlson —is in fact far subtler than he might have been imagined. It isn’t merely a conflict between ideologies, ideas, and the bounds of appropriateness, but a conflict over the meaning of things that we all agree we want. Guy’s peculiar disdain for the often conservative, and occasionally backwards, remarks among Ivy Style’s 49,000 approved comments reveals him to be a partisan in this supposed battle, fighting for control over the meaning of the clothes he enjoys. Except that this battle largely exists only in Guy’s Trumped-up imagination.

A friend of mine once remarked to me that prep is “just clothes.” The more I look into the past of Ivy-prep, the more I see the truth of that claim. The style is, in fact, not solely the product of privilege. It might not even be primarily the product of privilege, unless you think every guy who burns in the sun is privileged. It could never have become a fashion trend if it had been. Fashion needs the approval of middle-class dollars to become trendy. But perhaps for Guy all stench of impurity must be expunged in order for him to enjoy prep, lest one become guilty by association with old guard elitism. One wonders what opinions might pop up in Put This On’s comments section, if it had one. — PANI M.

65 Comments on "Our Kinda Clothes"

  1. Pretty sure all of those articles are really just paid promotion by Rowing Blazers. All 3 mention Rowing Blazers explicitely, and Rowing Blazers have been marketing themselves are new-Ivy for woke people. It is completely fine to market yourself that way btw, but what I don’t like is that they are trying to paint everyone else as a brand for backwards racist. “If you want a Blazer, buy it from us. If you buy that one from Brook’s Brothers that looks exactly the same you are probably a racist fascist.”

  2. Drew Poling | June 21, 2019 at 1:08 pm |

    Dagoth Ur: Let’s be clear: you’re putting words into Jack Carlson’s mouth that simply have never been uttered. It’s a despicable tactic. Shame on you.

  3. Brooks is as globalist/progressive as every other major clothing brand, and RB gets a lot of media coverage, but that’s hardly the same as “paid promotion.”

  4. I definitely see the wearing of ivy and prep styles as a strong cultural signifier for a small segment of those who dress in that manner. It is quite clear in this forum, in fact. While many of us see these styles as a great signifier of democratization, a lot of folks are keen to use the styles as instruments of exclusion. I expect to get flamed pretty hard by the loudmouth segment of this community for pointing out this sad fact, but this forum’s devolution into a pathetic alt-right circle jerk has not bothered me tremendously as I know that the bigots and amateur culture warriors are a very small fraction of those interested in ivy and prep style, and are primarily just yelling at clouds anyhow.

  5. Dagoth Ur | June 21, 2019 at 1:39 pm |

    Drew Poling, I think it is a fair characterization. From the PutThisOn article lead above:

    “I asked Carlson if he consciously tries to make a white aesthetic look more diverse, hoping to clean the style of its elitist stigma. He pauses, then talks about how he doesn’t like the forced diversity in J. Crew and Ralph Lauren ads, saying they look phony (the idea of authenticity rears its head again!). “We don’t think, ‘OK, we need a black guy, an Asian guy, and a woman,’” he says. “Most of the people aren’t even professional models. They’re friends, Olympic rowers, or artists we know who have a cool look. But I also think, why would I put out an image that’s problematic? I’m actively trying to change people’s perceptions of who can be in rowing.””

    He clearly says he believe J. Crew and Ralph Lauren’s attempts at appealing to a diverse audience are phony. His message is clear to: Rowing Blazers – virtuous. Other brands – old, stuffy, and racist.

    And to be clear, I am not attacking him for marketing his brand to a diverse audience, or helping with underprivileged kids. Those are noble things to do. I’m attacking him for the implication that everyone else is a racist.

  6. Evan Everhart | June 21, 2019 at 1:50 pm |

    I find this article to be immensely amusing, and thank Mr. Pani M. for addressing the tiresome culture wars and insecurities which are frequently exposited upon within the Die, Workwear blog, which I happen to enjoy, sans the sociological tirades, and odious fixation on contemporary casual.

    As to some of the over the top commentary upon this blog; sure, there’s some, plenty even, but it’s not just the right, but also the left wing which perpetrate their tiresome philosophical bludgeoning. Opinions are everywhere, everyone has one (well, most everyone – some people just agree with whatever the prevailing local opinion might be, and listen to the wind blow), and by and large, when people push theirs into yr face, they typically begin to take on a certain aroma which I am sure that we can all agree as upon the identification of…..

    Clothing isn’t just clothing, but it’s also not a sociological battlefield, nor should it be a point of contention for boorish armchair philosophers who don’t understand the inductive and deductive points of origin and termination of their positions, or the very history and context of the items which they’re attempting to proselytize in their jihad du jour.

    Thanks again, Pani M.! I salute you!

  7. My BS detector sounded the alarms as soon as Esquire wrote: “The classic look is being modernized and re-interpreted with new influences ranging from hip-hop to skateboarding.” Downtown grunge, hyped-up sneakers, and dreadlocks have never been part of the trad/preppy/ivy repertoire.

    I’m so glad that I cancelled my subscription to Esquire years ago because the editorial content is awful. The only thing good about Esquire these days are the Polo ads and the cologne sampling strips.

  8. @JF

    I applaud you for interrupting the pathetic alt-right circle jerk and restoring balance to the comments section during this era of extreme political polarization. I must ask, however, if you could specify a timeline when this “devolution” began.

    If it was since the 2016 election, is it because Trump has emboldened deplorables to become more vocal, or because he has caused the Left to become more sensitive?

    If I may offer one of my favorite quotes from Arthur Schopenhauer, “The world takes its shape chiefly as a man looks at it.”

  9. Dagoth Ur | June 21, 2019 at 2:05 pm |

    Christian, can you cite any evidence that people are further right now than they were under Obama or Bush? Or any evidence that these people are more vocal? Personally, America as a whole seems much further left now than at any previous time. Pretty much everyone is onboard with previously contentious issues such as gay marriage, whereas I remember distinctly in the 2008 election both Obama and Hillary confidently affirmed that they were opposed to gay marriage. There are some people on the right opposed to issues such as transgender restrooms, but a decade about 90% or more would have been opposed to transgender restrooms. I’m not buying this narrative that before 2016 America was a progressive utopia where racism and bigotry were extinguished, and then Donald Trump came along and awakened a sleeping army of Nazis.

  10. Straight Arrow | June 21, 2019 at 2:06 pm |

    Dreadlocks?
    God forbid!

  11. Rowing Blazers charged almost $200 for a Columbiaknit practice jersey that they sell at 2 for $50.

    as big a bunch of phonies as any of them.

    Also they’re “signature” rugbies are just lifted straight from the sports depoque website.

    Gtfo…

  12. @Dagoth

    I was speaking from the piont of view of the Left. Many of them argue that Trump has legitimized the evils of the far right. Some people believe we are living through a combination of the Third Reich and Handmaid’s Tale.

    There’s a graph out there somewhere showing two bell curves. On the right side it shows that the right has become more consolidated in the middle of the right. On the left, it shows that the side has moved farther to the left. It certainly seems a part of the daily news cycle that standard Democratic positions from even a few years ago are no longer progressive enough.

    I believe the chart is associated with this Pew poll:

    http://assets.pewresearch.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/5/2017/10/05162647/10-05-2017-Political-landscape-release.pdf

  13. Dagoth Ur | June 21, 2019 at 2:31 pm |

    @Christian,

    So as you pointed it out, it is clear the left is moving further to the left. After all, the most common criticism among the current Democratic field (made up mostly of people who have been involved in Democratic politics for decades), is that none of them are progressive enough to represent modern democrats.

    But I don’t see the right moving further right. The right is moving to the left in my opinion. What issues are people more conservative on now, than they were a decade ago? Some things like illegal immigration may only seem that way because they are a bigger issue now. Certainly Republicans weren’t clamoring for amnesty or Dreamer programs a decade ago. I just don’t see this army of neo-Nazis that supposidly came from nowhere. Does anyone truly think homophobia/transphobia/racism is more prevalent on the internet new than in 2008, for example? When not a single candidate of any party backed gay marriage? When “f*g” and “n*gger” were some of the common insults in online video games?

  14. Richard E. Press | June 21, 2019 at 2:41 pm |

    As crowned by 1954 LIFE Magazine progenitor of The Ivy League Look ghosts of my late Grandpa Jacobi Press, his sons and still breathing carrying the flag Grandson dismiss validity of the article sans mention of Squeeze holding the Ivy fort making waves among the cognoscenti.

  15. The Earl of Iredell | June 21, 2019 at 2:48 pm |

    Some cultures and lifestyles are quite a bit better than others. I would like to see the Ivy, prep, WASP lifestyle once again held-up as a model for others to aspire to. Borrowing from “Dead Poet’s” — tradition, honor, discipline, excellence; it’s not just clothing. All of these virtues lead to a better life, better in the sense that Aristotle envisioned as eudaimonia. Let’s try to bring everyone up, rather than continually dumbing-down an entire culture that has been fabulously successful in making peoples’ lives better.

  16. James Robinson | June 21, 2019 at 3:11 pm |

    As a Black man without dreadlocks, do I no longer qualify to be a member of the Ivy community?

  17. Evan Everhart | June 21, 2019 at 3:17 pm |

    The comments section just keeps getting better! The hit parade keeps on coming! I wonder how far afield or abstruse it will become!

  18. What a strange article. It basically makes the same point in the Put This On article. That is, Ivy Style has historically been worn by many people, including the middle class and African Americans. It’s only real contribution is saying that people shouldn’t get triggered by racist comments. Yet, at the same time, the author seems triggered by other people being triggered. What’s worse? Calling out racism or defending it?

  19. Divisive tripe. I have always thought of the look as egalitarian.

    The magazine articles I understand. Inclusiveness is a buzzy word, and they use it to sell clothes much in the way they used to do with square toed shoes and boot cut jeans… What you have is old (your stock pile of J Crew or BB), buy this because it’s new (Rowing Blazers, Beams, etc.).

    That PTO article is a bit more shocking since I have a great reverence for most of what they write. That one seems to go out of its way to cherry pick examples to fit the narrative.

    I would be interested if someone could put together an article to combat this type of garbage about how less represented people have used the look to boost their standing.

    I am not a WASP and used the look to round out my rough edges and present myself as more intelligent, trustworthy, and put together. With much success by the way, although in full disclosure I am not THAT far away from WASPiness.

  20. whiskeydent | June 21, 2019 at 3:50 pm |

    Heads up CC. That Pew poll is two years old, a lifetime in politics.

    That said, I doubt the numbers have changed much. So here’s are the thoughts a liberal Dem who is also a professional political consultant.

    Trump was an angry candidate. He generated anger among Republicans, which begat anger among Democrats. Anger leads to extreme issue positions. You don’t have to be a rocket surgeon to figure that out.

    We’re hearing more about how people feel and less about what they think. And as we’ve seen around here, people from both parties sometimes get overwrought and lose their sense of proportion and common sense.

    We’re also seeing a lot of paranoia percolating through both parties. People are seeing bogeymen at every corner.

    For some, that bogeyman is wearing a button-down collar and a 3/2 roll sport coat, while others see ripped skinny jeans and a face that looks it fell in a tackle box. They’re deciding what they’re looking at without really looking closely.

    Oddly, none of the leaders in either party dresses trad/ivy/preppie. None dress in street style either. They’re all in the same dull, middle-of-the-road uniform. Are these clothing associations really relevant now?

    But people are so angry…

    One thing is clear, Trump has the entire country pissed about something or somebody. We could use a rest. All of us need a chance to calm the hell down.

  21. MacMcConnell | June 21, 2019 at 3:52 pm |

    “So as you pointed it out, it is clear the left is moving further to the left. After all, the most common criticism among the current Democratic field (made up mostly of people who have been involved in Democratic politics for decades), is that none of them are progressive enough to represent modern democrats.”

    Case in point, watch Joe Biden struggling to move left even though he is ahead in the polls. God forbid I defend Biden, but why wouldn’t a first term Sen Biden (D) work with segregationist Sen. Eastland (D), a man who had been Chairman of the Senate Judicial Committee since within a year of Biden’s birth date. FYI, Eastland was endorsed by the MISS. NAACP and Charles Evers in his last years in office, politics make strange bed fellows.

  22. Evan Everhart | June 21, 2019 at 4:35 pm |

    A phantasmagoric plethora of adventurous commentary! Onward! And….downward?

  23. whiskeydent | June 21, 2019 at 4:53 pm |

    The leftward move of Dems is very similar to the rightward move of the R’s a few years ago. All of them did so in a search for, you guessed it, authenticity.

  24. What a cute bit of revisionism, self-loathing and wishful thinking. I think I’m done with this website. Be seeing you.

  25. This post possibly requires too much thought for what it’s worth to figure out.

    It’s been 50 years since Woodstock and the most senior Boomers are now 73 and having a hard time facing their mortality. They are all done… and good riddance to most of them.

    I have no idea why the Millennials, who have no idea what the 1960’s were actually like, have an axe to grind…

    I’m pouring a drink… it is Summer today, and that is a good thing.

    Fugit

  26. Trevor Jones | June 21, 2019 at 8:44 pm |

    Tremendous article, you totally changed my mind on the matter. After reading Guy’s article a couple days ago on your suggestion from instagram, I tended to agree with him, as much as I didn’t want to. Prep/Ivy did seem to me to be a symbol of an ideology I wanted NO part in. However, after your thoughtful deconstruction, I now see that the issue lies more with Guy’s concerns of other people’s perceptions of the clothes and him rather than the clothes themselves. Just because there are a few bad apples does that make the whole lot poor?
    However, I do understand his point that some people have preconceived notions about the clothes that are not likely to change. Like Boyer once was, I’m a student with ideologies that match up closely with those of the “hippies” rather than those of the “suits”. However, because of my dress (my personal style is less formal than Boyer’s, more of a comfortable cross between Ivy and Prep), I have been assumed to be conservative, or even “old man”. But I’m reaffirmed by people brave enough to think independently rather than in stereotypes and tropes. I was so touched by the Patron Saint of Ivy, John Simon’s, words when I interviewed him (for this site!) and he made the point that Ivy was the great unifier of clothing, that it was for everyone, and he did not have one set group of customers, but rather people from all backgrounds.
    One of the reasons I assume these clothes bring to mind wealth and exclusion are because, originally, it’s true that they were only for the rich. Then, with their popularization, they became more readily available and, in turn, more affordable for everyone. Now, as the style is being worn by a decreasing minority of us, they’re getting more expensive again. I applaud Rowing Blazers’ efforts to take elements that are foreign to more traditional Prep/Ivy (yes, the dreadlocks, for example) and mix them with the uber traditional ones (like a rowing blazer and the symbolism that comes with that) to open up the door of Ivy/Prep to a lot more people who might not be interested otherwise. It will also perhaps help tear down some of those preconceived notions I mentioned and make more people realize that this look is for EVERYONE.
    Finally, I wanted to say that, by looking at the culture of people who dress in Ivy as “better” than other cultures only emboldens the negative preconceived notions. It also sets you down a road of wrongful self-righteousness and, frankly, looking like a pompous ass. But I think wiskeydent is right, we could all use a break from being angry!! Let’s enjoy the beauty of the clothes together.
    PS, I’m now on instagram and highly recommend that, if you are too, you follow the author — great content.

  27. I just had a most unusual political conversation with a new tennis guy I’ve hit with a few times. He found out I’m a writer and asked what news sources I trust. I told him it depends on what narrative he wants. He went on to explain that he didn’t understand these terms left and right, conservative and liberal, Republican and Democrat.

    He’s from India. Very tall. Extremely good-looking. Looks like an Indian Cary Grant. Gay.

    After playing we walked through the park for an hour. We climbed down to the riverbank and I showed him my secret meditation spot. We watched the sunset and talked about the Kali Yuga. He complimented me multiple times on all the Sanskrit terms I’ve learned. He talked about how he came out fairly recently and how much courage it took. I told him that as a traditional guy I feel the same way. We both agreed that above all one must be true to oneself, to live a life that is authentic and not a lie.

    I think he’ll become a good friend. It’s hard to make good male friends in New York. I seem to have more luck with gay men.

  28. Trevor Jones | June 21, 2019 at 9:47 pm |

    Coming out takes a lot of courage. You typically have to have your priorities straight and be committed for a while (for, if it’s a fleeting idea, sometimes it’s easier to go on living a lie). When you do come out (presuming all goes well), there’s a tremendous sense of weight-off-your-shoulders-style freedom. When I came out as Bi to my best friends, after the initial curiosity on their part, our friendships strengthened. Perhaps because we both felt like we could tell eachother anything, or perhaps because we felt like there was nothing in the way of a barrier anymore. Regardless, our bonds strengthened and I felt almost a sense of liberation.
    It’s Pride month.

  29. MacMcConnell | June 21, 2019 at 11:15 pm |

    I’ve had several friends over the years have the courage to come out. My response is always, “It’s about time”. I don’t love them less.

    I never had any Leftist in college distrust me for how I dressed. Had a Marxist econ professor who dressed Ivy to the nines, very top drawer. I work with hippies on the 18 voting laws, campus freedom of speech , liqueur by the drink in Kansas and drug testing athletes. I did double cross them on the drug testing, they seemed to think sports were fascist. They seemed to think that because athletes got scholarships the university had the right to drug test. I tacked on an amendment stating that any student receiving money from the university should be drug tested. The Hippies saw the error of their ways.

    Folks don’t take politic personal, it’s not healthy. Enjoy Ivy clothing, it’s just clothing. Especially now, it’s easy to find and there will be dry spells, unless you can afford to have things made.

  30. Minimalist Trad | June 22, 2019 at 2:05 am |

    One more post that strengthens our addiction to this blog.
    By the way, for some of us, Ivy clothing isn’t just clothing, it makes us feel better than meditation,alcohol,politics, religion, sports,beards, tattoos, jazz,etc., and it makes us look better than the mass of men.

  31. Down Tradden | June 22, 2019 at 3:09 am |

    I think it’s time someone alerted Manton to this thread. With his relatively recent adoption of Trad to to match his college job and his long -held political inclinations he’d be able to put everyone on the right track. Anyone have his email?

  32. Edsel Marsdale | June 22, 2019 at 8:08 am |

    Down Tradden:

    Who is Manton?

  33. Trevor Jones | June 22, 2019 at 8:16 am |

    Maybe, for some, it is more than just clothes. But I think the point that needs fo be made is that, like the negative preconceived notions I mentioned in earlier comments, it doesn’t have to be. For some people, the clothes bring along baggage that’s just too much to ignore; for others, they bring along regiment, structure and a moral code. But in the end, the clothes don’t actually bring anything along with them and it’s all down to the individual’s perceptions.

  34. Trevor Jones | June 22, 2019 at 8:19 am |

    The clothes, are in fact, just clothes. People’s ideas about them come from a lot of factors combining and being projected onto the clothes or wearer. But there’s nothing intrinsically good or bad about the clothes.

  35. Most “leftists” I know are not radical(s). They’re liberals. A radical is, by definition, a person who wants to tear down–to destroy. Demolish. As in institutions and communities that have defined life-as-we’ve-known-it for years upon decades upon (perhaps) centuries. The committed radical may, in time, seek to build something new. Maybe. But that’s not his/her raison d’ etre. He/she lives to annihilate and erase any/all remnants of institutions (and/or established orders) that have thrived–seemingly at the expense of the masses (with whom he/she identifies) who haven’t been allowed to contribute or participate.

    The radical draws his/her angry inspiration from deep well springs of the predictable consequences of exclusion: resentment, envy, and outright anger. Which, festered and nurtured, becomes wrathful vengeance.

    Here in America, where aspiration thrives, most self-professing radicals are, with the passing of time, absorbed by/into the market economy. Remember those “radical” rap/hip-hop artists who, way back in the 80s, shouted (frequently profanity-laden) lyrics against any/all oppressors (actual or potential)? Well, some of them became very rich and now enjoy the fruits of their (hard-earned) success. What happens when an outspoken prophet who “rages against the machine” gets a taste of the good life? Funny, how quickly most “radicals” are assimilated, assuaged, and pacified. Until they they pose no threat at all. Welcome to America, where aspiration (“the pursuits of happiness”) overwhelms.

    And then … there’s the liberal. Or “Progressive.” A very different animal.

    The liberal is, at heart, conservative–a preserver and protector of institutions and customs that have been established and cultivated with the passing of time. (Remember, Burkeans: Burke was a Whig!) Whether a school, university, religious community, business, political party, or “way of doing things,” the liberal recognizes that, without some amending and editing and changing, demise is inevitable. The liberal’s goal is to protect and preserve. His/her enemies? Radicals of all types and kinds–whether Marxist/Communist, or at the other extreme, libertarians who remain captive to the whims of the market(s).

    When FDR reminded his rich friends, neighbors, and family members that, with New Deal policies, he was trying to save capitalism–to prevent it from devouring itself– he was profoundly right.

    To borrow from (the superb) Roger Scruton, the liberal has adopted an essentially conservative approach toward the living of life. So, how amusing indeed–that benign democratic socialists like Bernie Sanders are painted as “radicals”; that free market-preaching libertarians (who are truly radical) are exalted as wise; that politicians who take an essentially Keynesian approach toward economics are castigated, while CATO Institute types are praised for their Madisonian habits of mind and spirit. (Aside: Madison would not concur with modern-day libertarians, whose anarchist tendencies run deep).

    It makes all the sense in the world that a traditionalist like Bruce Boyer, with his youthful “leftist” tendencies, would be drawn to the kind of clothes we discuss here (or a seemingly more sophisticate interpretation of it). The most “traditional” people I know happily (and accurately) refer to themselves as either “progressive” or “liberal.” Their appreciation for order and rules is unrivaled–especially as they’re compared and contrasted with the laissez faire radicals who decry all forms of taxation and denounce any/all government intervention as “socialist.” Ah and again: the absurdity and humor of it all.

    The American version of “dressing up”–preppy, trad, Ivy, whatever-you-want-to-call-it (because you know it when you see it)–is now accessible to everybody with taste and a computer. (How much effort or money is required of a person who wants to buy an oxford shirt on sale at J. Crew’s online factory store? Not much.). The dilemma is that the look has been cheapened by a generation of marketers and stylists who prioritized profit over and above all else. The consistency of quality has suffered. And then, there’s the persistent and prevailing problem of kitsch. It has saturated an entire segment of this particular clothing market. And, yes, we know it when we see it–whether it’s a polo player riding a pony; a giant, smiling pink whale; or a blazer made-and-sold to remind you that, damn it and by God, these are for R O W I N G !

    Here’s the good news–the Gospel according to Boyer. You can still find really made clothing. It’s out there. Great cloth, top drawer tailoring. You have to want it…and want to look really great wearing it. It transcends the fancies and foibles of the market economy. It’s far removed from the effects of advertising and marketing. And plenty–LOTS– of it can be described as more traditional in character.

    The market has been amended and edited by (dare I say it?) liberal-minded types who seek to protect, preserve, and honor. The tradition of well tailored clothing has been maintained–by people who give a damn.

  36. Old School Tie | June 22, 2019 at 9:56 am |

    If I ever bump into AOC and what I’m wearing triggers her, then I know I’m doing something right regardless of the Latin master telling me I would amount to very little on account of not getting the gerundive…

  37. Old School Tie | June 22, 2019 at 10:22 am |

    Not regardless, in spite of…

  38. I grew up in suburban NY and went to prep school there. I had a style of dress throughout my childhood in the 80s that included J. Crew and items grabbed from big paper bags of hand-me-downs. My friends and I aspired to wear LL Bean and drive Saab Turbos. This changed when left home. I began noticing the contempt I’d get for my clothing in the real world, and subsequently changed my style. A few years ago when I realized my clothing had denigrated to point in which I usually looked like a homeless man, I began to rediscover the clothing and lessons taught during my childhood. It has been a wonderful process because, as an adult, I can finally embrace who I really am. And there’s nothing wrong with that. I can become educated and still be aware so my decisions are better informed. Being truthful about who I am and where I’m from strengthens my position.

  39. @S.E. I usually just lurk around here, but I couldn’t agree more with your comment. Just look at how “wokeness” seamlessly integrated into corporate marketing and culture. There’s nothing radical about corporate America, it’s the very definition of an institution, yet the radical ideology that underpinned current critical theory and its offshoots first became bourgeois and progressive as middle class and wealthy college kids adopted it from their professors. Then it went with those college kids to their workplaces and corporate institutions decided that to succeed in today’s marketplace “woke” was in. I entered college just as this stuff was boiling up in 2015 with the speaker deplatformings on campus and kids saying that ideas their professors told them to disagree with, like cringey libertarian talking points or politically incorrect jokes, were emotionally threatening and “harmful”. Now i’ve started working and this attitude is pervasive in the workplace.

    What’s most bizzare about it though is that only 8% of respondents in political surveys categorize themselves as progressive, very liberal, or woke and yet most corporate marketing today is catered to them. Here’s a link to a prominent study I recently read: https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5a70a7c3010027736a22740f/t/5bbcea6b7817f7bf7342b718/1539107467397/hidden_tribes_report-2.pdf

  40. Boop McSnoot | June 22, 2019 at 1:48 pm |

    I’ll just point out, for those chiding some commenters for making the clothes political, that yet again Ivy Style did it itself in the original post. You can have it one way or the other, but you can’t agree with a post that makes the clothes political the way you want, then try to shout down a dissenting view for “making it political.”

    An article of clothing in itself has no politics, or ideology. It can’t – it’s just an inanimate object with no thoughts or opinions. But clothes don’t exist in a vacuum – they are worn, seen, and discussed by humans, all of whom have their ideas about politics and ideology. So clothing will always take on some meaning as a cultural or political signifier. But that meaning doesn’t have to be restricted – as people have many different opinions, so clothes (even the same clothes) can have many different meanings. Look at Robert Mueller and Tucker Carlson, or (to go back further) William F. Buckley and Allard Lowenstein. The fact that people of opposite views, beliefs or temperaments can wear the same style doesn’t neutralize its meaning (“If they both can wear it, it must not have ideology”) it multiplies it (“If they can both wear it, it must be able to contain at least two ideologies”).

    Politics, and often American culture, has become a zero-sum game – it’s my way or the highway. You’re either not letting people wear navy blue because it has a history of colonialist oppression, or you’re wearing J. Press to… “trigger AOC,” I guess. This goes against the history of Ivy style, which was not developed to virtue signal any political ideology, either radical or reactionary, but was rather an emblem of wealth and class within which many different ideologies existed. Perhaps we could take some inspiration from this history – if we’re all wearing repp ties, OCDBs, sack suits, and Aldens, then we can focus on what we each actually think and believe, and have intelligent discussions of it. The way we, or anyone, wears their clothing to represent political or other beliefs is just one part of that discussion.

  41. Boop McSnoot | June 22, 2019 at 1:56 pm |

    I will add, on a more personal note – I consider myself liberal, and I wear exclusively Mercer, old Brooks, J. Press, Michael Spencer, Allen Edmonds, Alden, Southwick, and so on. I’ve never been shunned for my clothing, by anyone of any political background, and I’ve never been automatically assumed to be a Republican or a Democrat on the basis of what I wear, not in any way that was discernible to me at least. This was true when I was in college (at a liberal arts college, no less) and in graduate school, all over the last ten years, and it continues to be true today. The idea that wearing Ivy or trad style places you in some kind of class oppressed by SJWs and AOCs and PC whatevers is, in my own experience, not true in the slightest. I’m sure if Old School Tie ever did bump into AOC, she wouldn’t care less what he wore. But to then take an opposing political stance, get triggered yourself when someone has the gall to disagree with you, and then cry to mommy that she wouldn’t let you say whatever offensive thing you want because you were wearing a jacket with a 3/2 roll, is not really in the spirit of the game.

  42. Trevor Jones | June 22, 2019 at 2:19 pm |

    @Boop, I think that’s an excellent point. By themselves, the clothes mean nothing. But people naturally have connotations that carry over to the clothes. For Ivy/Prep, these seem to be much more diverse and complex than the traditional “preppy dick” image we so often hear about. Alas, with some things, there seem to be more universal connotations. A great example would be short under-nostril mustache. Even though Charlie Chaplin, a universally loved public figure, had one, Adolf Hitler did as well. It seems that the universal hate for Hitler overrides the universal love for Charlie so we all understand that mustache is not appropriate.

  43. MacMcConnell | June 22, 2019 at 2:21 pm |

    “Real style is never right or wrong. It’s a matter of being yourself on purpose.”
    G. Bruce Boyer

    I ‘m guessing that includes polo players riding a pony and affordable clothing off the rack.

    Not everything Boyer wears is Ivy, but damn he is tasty and never disappoints. Boyer is correct, there are stellar fabrics and tailors, always has been at least in market economies. It’s something to aspire to if you can afford it.

  44. Bruce is my favorite bespoke socialist.

  45. Boop McSnoot | June 22, 2019 at 3:27 pm |

    @ Trevor – Thank you, yours is an excellent comment as well. An example of a failure to create that level of universal connotation would be the white polos at Charlottesville. I had a friend who worried he’d never be able to wear white polos again without being lumped by bystanders into a group with neo-Nazis. Luckily, that didn’t happen – my guess is because “white polo” isn’t a sharp, focused image to attach meaning to. They show up in too many places, in too many contexts, so you can’t pollute them all. The Hitler mustache is an example of a very specific image being attached with connotations successfully. As even my own examples of Ivy/trad wearers indicates, the style *as a whole* is too broad to have one unified set of meanings attached to it – Buckley’s style was not Lowenstein’s was not, say, Kennedy’s (or even JFK’s was not RFK’s was not Teddy Kennedy’s, etc.).

    “Prreppy” movies of the 80s and the OPH were more successful at attaching connotations to the style because they severely limited the range of clothes worn, and made them even more specific – not just a polo, a pink polo with a popped collar; not just green pants, green pants with tennis racquets on them, and so on. To bring this back to the original post, while the author chides Guy for missing nuance, he himself falls into the same trap – by treating Guy’s “prep” and his own as one and the same, he finds an easy way to put Guy in the wrong for his associations and interpretations of it. But the truth is, when Pani (what’s up, Caustic Man! Rebranding here on Ivy Style?) speaks of a “battleground,” he should actually be speaking of multiple areas of possible contention over the meanings of the style. Because he never defines his terms – what is *his* definition of Ivy? – it allows the comments section to veer around through those undefined areas of meaning, unsure of the landscape we’re actually dealing with. Thought-provoking up to a point, but without a clear sense of what these terms are supposed to mean in Pani’s specific context, we can only go so far.

  46. Boop McSnoot | June 22, 2019 at 3:28 pm |

    Prrreppy! Like Tony the Tiger. Apologies for the typo in my last comment.

  47. Old School Tie | June 22, 2019 at 3:50 pm |

    All joking aside, obviously clothes do indicate something more than one’s fashion sense or style. A good example is Italian leisurewear brand Stone Island. It is not uncommon to see signs on the doors of English public houses informing potential customers “no team colours, no trainers, no Stone Island”. Why? Because the chances are that those donning cutting edge Italian garb made by that particular label are not ambassadors of style but are, in fact, violent football hooligans. By extension this could be applied to any look including Preppy/Ivy, whatever you want to call it, although I have yet to see a pub expressly banning blazer and flannels (although try wearing that in some places and see what happens to you…).

  48. Edison Barnsworth | June 22, 2019 at 3:50 pm |

    Nothing looks better than a white broadcloth shirt with a button-down collar.

  49. @Christian

    I’m sure Karl Marx is turning over in his grave after your remark about Bruce Boyer being a socialist. Mr. Boyer is pseudo-socialist, a limousine liberal, if you will.

    Mr. Boyer wears expensive, handmade clothes that must have taken many, many hours to make by skilled craftsmen. His clothes, therefore, are products of bourgeoisie capitalists who exploit proletarian laborers to create luxury goods only the wealthy can afford.

    Most of the REAL socialists I know, and I know many, shop at thrift stores and discounters like Marshall’s very infrequently. They also tend to wear their clothes until they have tears and holes in them.

    Mr. Boyer calling himself a “socialist” is like someone who only eats Kobe beef a “vegetarian”.

  50. Boop McSnoot | June 22, 2019 at 4:29 pm |

    @ Old School Tie – Good comment, thank you. Related to your last point, I can say that I’ve only ever received two comments from strangers about my clothes (other than a passing “Nice jacket” or some such). Once in the Bronx, where someone on the street assured me that “You’ll get the job,” and once at the Whole Foods at Columbus Circle in Manhattan – I was wearing an old Nobby Clothes Shop longbill fishing cap, and a cashier asked in a worried tone of voice, “Yo, why your hat so long?” (I answered “The sun,” which seemed to satisfy him.) I’ve covered quite a bit of New York in blazer and flannels or equivalent, and nothing bad has happened to me so far 🙂

    Your comment about Stone Island dovetails nicely with my earlier comment about the specificity of signs. Stone Island, like Hitler’s mustache, is nice and specific. But Ivy/trad, while specific to those “in the know” (is the collar unlined? The tie and lapels 3.5″? The trousers cuffed? The lapel rolled? The vent hooked?) is still just “business wear” to the majority of people out there, a very vague sign, which means they are able to place you in pretty much any box they want to. This obviously means they could attach any negative connotation to you they wanted, but in my experience they’re much more likely to just see you exactly the same way they see the Wall Street guy in his tight medium blue suit and pointy shoes, or the accountant in a way-too-loose mismatched black suit and black sneakers. Just another guy in a jacket and tie.

    Changing tack slightly, and I don’t mean this is any kind of political dog-whistle, it just connects nicely – I recently discovered an older video where Trump was given a digital makeover by GQ. While some things were, in my opinion, good advice (lose the tan, fix the hair) others were more off-base, founded in GQ’s definition of the term “style” rather than perhaps the one that should be applied. So they slimmed and tapered his trousers, gave him a skinny tie and a tie bar, and so on, when really I think Trump would be much better served by wider (though shorter) ties, and better-fitting but no tighter suits (perhaps double-breasted, were they not too much of an anachronism these days). They were applying “GQ style” to a nearly nearly 75-year-old man – the wrong definition of the term. Not exactly the issue at hand, but a good demonstration of how our own connotations and associations can influence the way we see others, and not always to either person’s benefit.

  51. MacMcConnell | June 22, 2019 at 4:42 pm |

    In socialist countries the powerful get rich. In capitalist counties the rich get powerful.

    Most REAL socialist on television are upper middle class folk running for POTUS. Bernie being the most Ivy styled one.

  52. Anonymous | June 22, 2019 at 5:03 pm |

    @Edison Barnsworth: most insightful comment of the past several days.

  53. Mexican Stalin | June 22, 2019 at 5:21 pm |

    a marxist-leninist-maoist here, ivy clothes are great and we will be giving every person a free ivy starter pack after the rev. it won’t be required to wear them, but there will be no reason not to now that its all free. gotta get past communists being associated with awful Mao and Stalin jackets.
    Derek is good and not bad at all. fuck off with this “I don’t want to think about politics and clothes but here’s why this persons politics are bad” posts. get the fuck over yourself and take time to understand why someone would feel alienated by something as “a-political” as clothes.

  54. Old School Tie | June 22, 2019 at 6:19 pm |

    Wonderful set of comments. It’s becoming a habit on here these days. May I just round things off by asking “is that James Van Der Beek in the J Crew ad?”….

  55. MacMcConnell | June 22, 2019 at 6:26 pm |

    GQ is who I hold accountable for casual Fridays, which bloomed into the work week.

  56. Why would anybody speak of socialist policies and market-driven economics (capitalism) as opposites?There are many varieties of socialism. Government regulation, progressive taxation, and Keynes-inspired spending (investment in public projects) are aspects of one type of (viable) capitalism.

    What we here refer to as Ivy seemed that me (when I was a young man) a very serious look—for adult men. No-nonsense grown-ups. Pre-J. Crew. Pre-Hilfiger. Pre-VV.

    Those old Norman Hilton ads capture the essence of this vibe: focused, serious, successful men. All remnants of the adolescent have dissipated. No room for goofballs, buffoons, clowns. No silliness. Maybe erring toward the stuffy, but oh well.

    Then, along comes the 70s and 80s. Jackasses prevail.

  57. Fred Johnson | June 22, 2019 at 11:10 pm |

    I grew up in New Haven a few blocks from J Press. I liked the clothes I saw there and bought that look, there and elsewhere. I graduated high school in 1966 and I am black. See how simple things are..

  58. Dutch Uncle | June 22, 2019 at 11:24 pm |

    @Fred Johnson

    I’d be interested in hearing what you think about Ed Barnsworth’s comment:
    “Nothing looks better than a white broadcloth shirt with a button-down collar.”

  59. Henry Contestwinner | June 23, 2019 at 1:15 am |

    Trevor Jones wrote,

    “A great example would be short under-nostril mustache. Even though Charlie Chaplin, a universally loved public figure, had one, Adolf Hitler did as well. It seems that the universal hate for Hitler overrides the universal love for Charlie so we all understand that mustache is not appropriate.”

    What? Now you tell me! I’m gonna have to shave off my sweet Oliver Hardy/Charlie Chaplin toothbrush mustache in the morning.

    Will it be OK if I just narrow it down, so it only covers the philtrum—like Robert Mugabe?

  60. Anglophile Trad | June 23, 2019 at 2:21 am |

    If there’s anybody who shouldn’t be trashed on this blog, it’s Bruce Boyer.

  61. I won’t let that happen.

  62. Marc Chevalier | June 25, 2019 at 12:26 am |

    This “problematic baggage” issue is an invention by writers (such as Derek Guy) and retailers (such as Rowing Blazers) in order to position their own products: articles and merchandise. No millennial is old enough to remember the early 1980s preppy craze; no millennial has lived in an America in which Eastern and Southern upper-middle-class WASPs dominated any branches of power. Very few millennials are even aware of the culture which gave birth to Ivy style. It’s off their radars, because it no longer holds power — not in actuality, and not in the public imagination. If it did, then at least some of Bernie Sanders’s supporters would express discomfort with his mode of dress. The fact that none of them do is telling.

  63. Marc Chevalier | June 25, 2019 at 12:34 am |

    [Correction: no millennial reached adulthood in an America in which Eastern and Southern upper-middle-class WASPS dominated any branches of power.]

  64. Warrington Faust | June 30, 2019 at 5:24 am |

    I have read all of these posts, here are a few tings that struck me. “WASP” before this term became commonplace in the 1960’s, we learned that what made America great was the “Protestant Ethic”. Basically, work hard, be thrifty, accumulate wealth. It seems to have worked pretty well.

    I am a WASP, I went to boarding school, I detect a degree of cynicism among my compatriots that I do not note in others.

    Surprise at the South having some culture. No surprise to me, my family has been in Virginia since the 1600’s, my grandmother played Brahms.

    Clothing styles having “baggage”. Where’s the surprise. Old photos tell me that carpenters went to work in suits and ties, then changed into “work clothes”. Adding “diversity” to Ivy League/traditional clothing. Simply more of the nonsense with “cultural appropriation”, “micro aggressions” etc. Clothing manufacturers read the news, whites will be a minority by 2045. Get ahead of the curve. Meanwhile, “Let the bell curve ring”.

    AOC being mentioned at all. She is a freshman congress”person” who claims to be from the Bronx, but actually Long Island, she has no power, she has no following. Why do we care about her at all.

  65. Fred Johnson | July 1, 2019 at 4:14 pm |

    @Dutch Uncle
    I would tend to agree but personally prefer blue oxford cloth.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.


*