The 1930s was the time of the Great Depression, yet simultaneously it was also the golden age of Hollywood glamor and of masculine elegance. It was also the time when the Ivy League Look flourished, though within closed corridors, the aristocratic golden age versus the postwar, democratic silver age.
This article from the Yale Alumni Magazine details what life was like for New Haven students while others were fleeing the Dust Bowl. There was homework, but there was also football games, junior proms, and shopping for white bucks, as shown in the photo above.
Here’s an excerpt:
Life at Yale for wealthy undergraduates resembled escapist movies about the rich and carefree. They enjoyed their automobiles, weekends in New York, country club summers, sailing on Martha’s Vineyard, and trips to Europe. Spectator yachts lined the Thames when Yale rowed against Harvard at New London in June.
When the residential colleges opened in September 1933, undergraduates selected by the college masters (there was not room for all) lived in luxurious suites, ordered meals from printed menus and were served by uniformed waitresses, and after eating perhaps repaired to the squash courts for exercise fitting their station in life. Faculty fellows of the colleges delighted in weekly dinners followed by port, conversation, and sometimes bridge or poker. The residential faculty fellows (bachelors only) had large apartments. The masters lived with their families in mansions worthy of bank presidents before the fall.
Varsity football prospered. Games filled the Yale Bowl with cheering students and alumni. Gate receipts held up so well during the Depression that in 1931, the chair of President Herbert Hoover’s committee for unemployment relief asked Yale to hold a postseason benefit game with other elite schools. In 1937, Yale raised the salary of one part-time assistant football coach, law student Gerald R. Ford ’41LLB, from $3,000 to $3,500, more than that of an entering junior faculty instructor with a PhD.
Some alumni recalled afterwards that they were oblivious to conditions outside of Yale. Hear Senator William Proxmire ’38: “We lived in a kind of disembodied cocoon, a deliberate isolation from what we could see and smell and hear when we left the New Haven Campus. . . . Most of my classmates were wholly preoccupied with sports and girls and grades, and bull sessions about sports and girls and grades—in that order. If you wanted to be happy, it was a great time to be a Yalie. If you wanted to be serious—you had to wait.”
Surely this was the real heyday? — CC & CS
A few days ago we introduced you to the blog “Wearing The Ivy League Look Since 1958” and its author, “Billax.” This morning Billax left a thoughtful comment on the post, along with what sounds like a mission statement. It’s worth quoting nearly in full to stretch out what Billax calls his 15 minutes of fame, since, as he points out, there aren’t many around anymore who have a natural-shouldered view of late 20th-century America.
If you can live with irregular posts, the stories I want to tell are of the late fifties through 1964. Those years – oh, man – those years were the VERY best. Not merely for clothes, but for the expectations faculty had for their students. For the fervent belief that the faculty was preparing the 10 percent who went to college to manage the world. Such statistical certainty never turns out to be quite right, but it is often largely right. When, in late 1963 and in 1964, the world irrevocably changed for United States college students changed, apparel changed, manners changed, expectations changed, certainly and planning evanesced. For a while, planning died and all order went away. And what went away with it was manners and apparel. That story is really the tale I want to tell.
So as my visitor count does back to insignificant, I can go back to telling the significant story of what happened to all of us after President Kennedy was assassinated, Vietnam divided us, and birth control pills made us think we could be completely irresponsible.
It’s the only story I know first hand, and not too many of us are around to tell it any more.
We look forward to your posts, Billax, however irregular, though we promise not to burden you with expectations. Take it from me and take your time crafting them, if only to catch the typos and faulty math. — CC
Several things are afoot in Ivyland across the pond.
• First off, a new edition of “Hollywood And The Ivy Look” has garnered press in The Telegraph, where Hollywood is said to have had an “obsession” with the Ivy League Look.
• Also in the press department, the John Simons shop got a write-up on The Huffington Post.
• There are new shirts in Graham Marsh’s Vintage Ivy collection at Kamakura Shirts. (In related Kamakura news, the company informs us that its website has been revamped and now includes an improved search function, personal account system, credit card payments, new videos, and a monthly newsletter.)
• We were also contacted recently by the brand Harry Stedman, which has an Ivy and vintage Americana influence. Check them out here.
• Finally, notorious Internet troll and Ivy guru/sociopath Jimmy Frost Mellor (aka “Russell Street”) recently talked Ivy on this podcast, coming in around the 1:54:12 mark.
• And after a year of excommunication, Frost Mellor has been allowed back on the FNB Talk Ivy forum, where he is reportedly posting under the username “Incognito.” One of Talk Ivy’s “mods” (pun obviously intended) assures us he will watch his mouth.
Ever heard the fable of the frog and the scorpion? — CC
Yesterday comment-leaver “Billax” took the time to kindly correct one of my many typos. I wish you guys did that more often.
Billax has been a regular on the blogs and forums for some time, and while many amateur blogs are dimming the lights, Billax actually recently started one up with the name Wearing The Ivy League Look Since 1958.
Whippersnappers suffering from sartorial writer’s block, who can’t get beyond the opening sentence of blue oxford and khakis, should take note of Billax’s varied and eloquent outfits.
And of course he’s a stickler for traditional details. Note the collar roll in the photo above. True there’s also neck roll, but you’ll look that way too when you’ve been wearing the look for 56 years. — CC
The Heckscher Museum Of Art on Long Island is currently running an exhibit on the brilliantly whimsical work of Richard Gachot.
Gachot attended Yale in the 1950s, and, as you can see in the video above, never lost his taste for buttondown oxfords.
With so many artists eager to desecrate icons while sporting the physicial appearance usually associated with the homeless, it’s refreshing to see the 81-year-old looking dignfied and celebrating Americana in a quirky, and not pretentiously ironic, way. — CHRISTIAN CHENSVOLD
Five years ago today, a fresh-faced young pup, I left California for New York.
Now I’m a big-time big-city bigshot with a Chipp on my natural shoulder.
It’s a smelluva town. The Bronx is up and the Battery’s down. And people in cars run you into the ground. — CC
Martin Greenfield, the Brooklyn-based tailor who has, over his long career, made clothes for Brooks Brothers and J. Press, has just released his memoirs. Entitled “Measure Of A Man: From Auschwitz Survivor To President’s Tailor,” the book is available from Amazon for $16.79.
To learn more about Greenfield, check out this great video, which is full of information not only on the man, but how your clothing is made. Also, the New York Post ran a great excerpt from the book, with a typically sensational headline “The day a Holocaust survivor got revenge on his tormentor.” And finally, Breitbart has this interview with Greenfield discussing his memoirs. — CS & CC