Our man in Princeton is semi-officially Julian B. Dean, an Australian doing graduate work there who’s fascinated by the history of the Ivy League Look. This guy is so dedicated he’ll take the train in for J. Press events and then train back home in the wee small hours. Dean will be presenting a number of the historical documents on dress he’s dug up in the school archives throughout this summer.
This post, from a 1949 edition of The Daily Princetonian, centers on what young men at the country’s most stylish educational institution should wear on excursions to Bermuda.
The answer is pretty much the stuff they already own.
Writes the paper:
Tourists Cautioned to Forego ‘Extreme’ Wardrobes for Resort
Much as the tradition of gray flannel and white bucks as the American collegiate uniform has been overworked, it is certain that Princetonians will want to know what to wear when they go to Bermuda. Not only from a standpoint of good taste but also to simplify packing.
Bermuda, though certainly not stuffy, is traditionally conservative. In general, therefore, tourists should discriminate in their wardrobe, avoiding the extreme costumes that are seen in some American resorts. In the same way, French bathing suits, short shorts and artfully shrunken sweaters are discouraged for girls. Remember, too, that most restaurants and dining rooms prefer coat and tie.
During the warmer months, from March to November, poplin, seersucker, linen or palm beach suits are good to have. Since April stands on the threshold of the season, it would be safe to include a sweater and a sport jacket. Buying both of these items, as well as argyles, cashmere and tweed, down there is particularly advantageous. Look for specific information on prices and quality in next month’s Bermuda supplement.
For the sunny weather visitors will need sportclothes, depending on the sport, and beachwear since water there in April is as conductive to swimming as the Jersey coast in June. A raincoat is advisable although squalls blow over so suddenly that you may not have much chance to use it. Comfortable walking shoes are important and are needed for bicycling. Although conservative, Bermuda is not particularly formal. Just to be prepared, include a white dinner coat since, with the introduction of cars, the necessity for peddling to dances has been removed.
Popular in Bermuda is the combination of shorts with long wool socks, a polo shirt and seersucker coat completing the ensemble. Bowties are often scan, and as far as bucks are concerned white, as opposed to the scuffed gray of Princeton, is the style.
For the cooler months, November to March, put the emphasis on tweeds and flannels with a serviceable topcoat thrown in for the windy days.
In case anyone is charged with the task of prescribing clothes for a girl, the following are offered as suggestions: cotton dress, an informal evening gown, a dressy print, blouse, beachwear and sweaters. They shouldn’t be afraid of bright colors, particularly ones that blend harmoniously with the pastel shades which prevail in Bermuda.
Yes, there once was a time when college students were among the best dressed men in the country. Then everything changed. — CC & JBD
Yup, then everything changed. But I wouldn’t say it changed with the fall of the Ivy League look. indulge me for a moment. True, college students seem to have abandoned traditionally tasteful clothing in the closing years of the 1960s but they were still on the cutting edge of a different kind of fashion going into the 1970s. They may have switched to denim, long hair and beads but college students were still leading the way with clothing after 1968. Were college men in the 70s among the best dressed men in the country? In order to answer that we have to abandon presentist ideas about the styles of the 70s. Yes, 70s styles might look ridiculous to us today and are perhaps unfairly lampooned in media. And the fact that it does seem so ridiculous to so many speaks to how fleeting those styles were. Nonetheless, they certainly weren’t staid or worn without thought. College men fully surrendered their status as among the best dressed men in the country in the 90s when wearing pajamas to class, among other things, became a common sight.
Probably the reason college students dress like &@!@ is the rising tuition and room and board. Housing, in places like Boston, are some of the most expensive in the world and you have to be rich to shop at Whole Foods. No wonder college kids these days dress like they shop for clothes at Goodwill and Dollar General.
“French bathing suits, short shorts and artfully shrunken sweaters are discouraged for girls. Remember, too, that most restaurants and dining rooms prefer coat and tie.”
If my memory serves me, “French bathing suit”, was synonymous with “bikini”,
very daring in the US in 1949
I picked up a pair of those Brooks Brothers white bucks on sale a few years ago at the Baltimore store. They’re supremely comfortable, and I’ve taken to wearing them year ’round. Inspired by posts from Christian and Joe from the old An Affordable Wardrobe blog, I’ve paired them with grey flannels and tweed jackets, and I have to say that I think I like them even better that way than paired with any of my warm weather clothes.
“Bermuda is not particularly formal. Just to be prepared, include a white dinner coat … .” That is my kind of informality. Even fairly recently, Bermuda was still far more formal than other islands I have visited, although I didn’t notice any dinner jackets. However, I have not been back for about 10 years, and wonder whether knee socks, shorts, blazers and ties are still occasionally spotted in restaurants as they were then.
Mitchell — You are a generous soul in making allowances for the younger generation, but I fear that the execrable state of academic dress owes more to the general slovenliness of this “present evil age” than penury. Our local collegians will take an Uber 25 miles each way for a midweek evening’s food and drinks with friends at a particular restaurant, but they dress like gym rats or gang members while doing so. To the extent that parents foot the bill, I imagine the same parents would be happy to set up an account at Eljo’s, J. Press or another source of traditional duds if that is what their progeny demanded.
To anyone else who wondered about the word “scan” in reference to bowties and thought perhaps it was unfamiliar 40’s Ivy slang, the word turns out to be “seen” in the original paper.
@Charlottesville: I was thinking the same thing but didn’t want to say it. The Age of Aquarius ushered in a decline in morals and standards that accounts for the reason that hoodies and sweatpants are the norm on campuses today. Dressing well is a virtue but college students would rather spend their money on entertainment and dining out than on their appearance. As “An Affordable Wardrobe” blog put it, “penury is not an excuse.”
What is a “palm beach suit”?
Mitchell — I also note that the world around them encourages eternal adolescence, and hoodies are the norm for everyone from tech billionaire to entertainment figures. Even The Wall Street Journal encourages the look for grown-ups who should know better, so imagine what the average 20-year-old is getting for fashion advice and examples. When I was a kid, I wanted to be an adult (even if I was unsure exactly what that meant). However, I think that most of my generation and those that have followed seem to look at adulthood as something to be avoided. As you note, it likely started in the 60s, but it seems to have been snowballing ever since. Try to be a beacon where you live. I know that one or two of the younger folks have noted my way of dress and make some sort of stab at trying to dress properly, at least on occasion. You may not even be aware of the influence you have on those around you.
Taliesin — Palm Beach cloth was a lightweight blend of mohair and cotton used for men’s suits from the early 1900s into the 1950s or so, and I think that is what was meant here. I have read about the fabric but never actually seen it as far as I know, and doubt that it is even made any longer. Palm Beach was also the name of a men’s suit company that made clothing in various fabrics, but I am not sure whether it was related to the manufacturer of the original fabric. Someone like Bruce Boyer would know.
@Charlottesville. That’s interesting, I had not heard of it before. It appears that BB still carries a few items in a cotton/mohair blend. I wonder if the original palm beach cloth looked anything like this current version.
Taliesin – Thanks for the link. I don’t know what the original looked like, since I have only seen it in illustrations for Esquire from the 1930s and 40s. Mohair can tend to add a bit of sheen if it makes up a significant amount of a blend, so I would not be surprised if the BB version is similar to the original. I have a couple of wool summer suits that include about 15% mohair and can attest to the lightness of the fabric. Other that the skimpy cut on the current Brooks version, it might be a comfortable summer option, although it looks a bit shiny in the picture.
Palm Beach Cloth while containing both cotton and mohair, also sometimes contained linen. The formula changed with the times. The key thing about Palm Beach Cloth that was so wonderful and that set it so far ahead and apart from its fellow tropical fabrics, was that while it wore and hung like a woolen, it was fully washable. It was the non plus ultra of tropical wash and wear suiting. I habe a black tie and a pair of cream trousers in this fabric and it really is exceptional and comfortably luxurious.
P.S. mohair really is great for warm weather. My father used to wear a midnight blue mohair dinner suit out here in L.A., he always looked comfortable; I habe a mohair wool blend navy blue Brooks Brothers suit that I whip out when I still feel like looking discretely elegant and being comfortable. Its right up there with fresco fabric and dupioni silk in my book-Dad had both and they’re definitely comfy in the humid smothering swelter of Southern California….
RE: The title of this posting; it brings to mind a scene from an old Disney film from the 1960s, “The Sword in the Stone”, in which Merlin, frustrated with goings on, shouts “Blow me to Bermuda!” And shoots off into the sky. He later re-appears in of course, Bermuda shorts (yellow with green figures), horizontally striped rainbow T or camp shirt, a red baseball cap, sun-glasses and red converse sneakers, cavorting and gesticulating with his wizard’s staff.
Merlin back from Bermuda:
This reminds me of one concept that I have continually had trouble getting my head around. That is, many young men today equate dressing well with somehow being inauthentic. The most valuable credential in today’s culture is authenticity. If you have tattoo “sleeves” and metal in your face that is neither contrived nor posing, but if you wear a tie most days your seen as a sell-out and a faker. Why is observing a bit of tradition seen as lacking authenticity while abandoning all social norms seen as a genuine expression of oneself? Just asking…
Palm beach cloth has that loose waffle-type appearance – think baby blue safari jackets from the 1970s one finds in thrift stores…
Watch out Jerry! you are discussing politics, you might get zapped off the page…
Jerry — Good point. I have no idea why conforming to a look appropriate to a biker gang is considered authentic for a middle class college kid from the burbs. Nothing could be further from authenticity to his background, his present circumstances or his likely future career. Also, it just looks terrible.
In fairness, to the extent that it is cosplay it is probably part of growing up, and I must confess that I looked pretty awful conforming to the late-era hippie look of my high-school contemporaries in the 70s. However, I did not need skin grafts to remove the traces of counterculture that I had tried out and later rejected. I wonder how the pierced, tat-sleeved pre-med student with an ear plug will be viewed by his patients in 10 or 15 years.
There are several 30-something lawyers I see on occasion who are pretty heavily tatted up, and often badly dressed. They are all SJWs, so I assume it is not a problem with their clients, but I wonder how the 50 or 60 year old judges feel. Of course a judge should not let the appearance of a lawyer affect his or her judgment regarding the lawyer’s client, but they are only human. I think I would find it irritating.
I was making the exact same point when I was zapped from the discussion…
Let me be clear.
College students are not interested in reviving nostalgic uniforms that we once cherished, nor are they interested in any level of decorum.
Millennials and snowflakes are barely able to get themselves out of bed in the morning, and when they do, they “wake and bake” thanks to the legalization of pot that is now a part of our society.
It is sad, but it is the way it is.
Not sure I would go quite that far, Johnny, but I do think that there is less interest in dressing well among the younger set than there used to be. However, there are notable exceptions, some of whom are regular followers of this site. I see others where I work and in church. So while we may not see a complete return to traditional dress (even among people in their 50s and 60s), not everyone under 30 is stoned and dressed like Eminem or an extra on Sons of Anarchy. I think leading by example, and offering advice when it is sought can make a difference for those who are interested. Even in the heyday, there were Rebel-Without-A-Cause types, and I looked pretty bedraggled in faded denim and long hair before I grew out of it. As for getting kicked off the site for politics, I think it probably has more to do with the vehemence of some people’s wording than the general ideas being discussed. We sometimes have pretty friendly discussions among those on the left, the right, the libertarians, the Trupmists and the woke.
My dermatologist has a very large practice here in New York where I go every six months for a check up because I spent too much time in the sun when I was younger. Most of his patients now are those having tattoos removed. More business than he can handle.
Here in the city, wear a hoodie and you will be stopped and searched by the NYPD. Pair that with tattoos and no telling what happens.
Vern — Glad to hear that people are getting them removed. I know that I should look past the surface, but large tattoos really gross me out. An anchor on a sailor’s arm may be okay, even if not for me, but a dragon and 3 lines of text on the neck of my lawyer? I would run from the room screaming. I have a friend who had the Indian motorcycle logo tattooed on his arm when he was in the army (or possibly in high school before he enlisted). He later went to Columbia, then to Med School at UVA, after which he entered private practice and always made sure that his sleeves were long enough to cover it up.
There’s a mordant joke in there somewhere about hoodies, dermatologists and being stopped by the NYPD. The punchline would go something like unfortunately dermatologists can’t alter your skin color.
Whole-heartedly, thank you! Hahahahaaaa!
I’m 33 this year and I dress pretty much ezactly like Dad and both Grandads dressed. I notive that the bosses and my co-workers at my job appreciate my professionalism and corresponding attire and often inquire with me about sourcing similar items. I have noticed a marked increase in the formality of business appropriateness of the clothing worn in my office as well as in the attire of the junior employees who are hired since I more proactively began to fight the good fight of suits, white shirts, and mostly rep or ancient madder ties at work. Less polo shirts and jeans and plain black trousers and more collared shirts, wool slacks, khakis, and real shoes. Even the odd sport coat now and again! -if only I could find a polite way to diacourage those too-short on the sides, too-long on top modernistic haircuts….
Thanks, Christian. Your kind words and friendship are much appreciated.
100 years ago the date of this article, June 26, 1918, the United States Marine Corps declared victory at Belleau Wood, France, one of the fiercest battles in the annals of war. Three weeks earlier, a Marine Captain had shouted the riposte that became equally one of the most famous in American history: “Retreat hell, we just got here!”
It was the first action by American troops and stopped the German advance across the entire country. Less than five months later, World War 1 was over. Four years of concentrated slaughter ceased.