When I founded Ivy Style, my editorial plan was to cover both the Ivy League Look as well as prepdom, seeing them as inextricably intertwined. Viewing Ivy and preppy as separate from each other seemed to me just as silly as the dubious assertion that there is in fact a legitimate genre of clothing (with a concomitant set of lifestyle values) called “trad,” or that the Ivy League Look was “all about marketing” rather than an expression of the tastes and culture of a certain segment of American society, another tired canard I’ve read on the Internet.
It always seemed to me that what we’re dealing with is hardly two things opposed to each other, but branches from the same tree, or to be more specific, different stages in the growth of the same branch across a timeline that reflects the ever-changing nature of fashion and society.
But let’s explore the topic further. First off, no remarks on any supposed differences between Ivy and preppy mean anything until the speaker first explains how he is using the terms. “Preppy” specifically has become both watered down by misuse as well as weighed down by the baggage of accumulated connotations. There’s little subjectivity involved in what the Ivy League Look refers to, so for expediency’s sake I’ll leave that one alone. But “preppy” today is a highly loaded term, and the way I see it its useage generally falls into one of three categories which correspond to different points in time over the last several decades.
The most watered-down useage of “preppy” is the current version. “Preppy” today is routinely used by the fashion industry and media to mean anything clean and classic, however tangential its relation to what was considered preppy a generation before. As I’ve mentioned previously, there’s a documentary called “People Like Us” in which a poor white kid from the Midwest uses the word “preppy” to refer to the moderately clean-cut Abercrombie-clad popular kids at his school. This is a far less specific usage of the word than in the book and film “Love Story,” in which it’s used by someone who knows whereof she speaks to refer to a rich Harvard student with a roman numeral after his name who actually attended a prep school.
The second common usage of “preppy” is in the post-“Official Preppy Handbook” sense of the word, when the look — much more connected to the ethos from which it springs — achieved national popularity in the early 1980s. The 1984 prepsloitation film “Making The Grade” is the perfect zeitgeisty example of this kind of preppy. The clothing consists of simple basics such as khakis, penny loafers and blazers, combined with Technicolor sportswear, and the movie is set at an all-boys prep school whose alpha preps are all to-the-manner born.
Finally we come to the sense of the word when it first entered the popular lexicon via the 1970 movie “Love Story,” culminating 10 years later with the publication of “The Official Preppy Handbook,” which, from what I can tell by having read about this topic, met a few old-school preps, and having chatted several times with Lisa Birnbach, is a pretty accurate representation of prepdom at the time.
“The Official Preppy Handbook” extols Brooks Brothers and J. Press, the chief purveyors of the Ivy League Look, so the difference between ’70s preppy and the ’60s Ivy that preceded it is pretty negligible. “Preppy” in the ’70s sense was essentially the same clothing that had been sold by the same Ivy League clothiers as sportswear or resort wear. As I reported in the go-to-hell story for The Rake, bright colors had been a part of the WASP establishment’s leisure wardrobe for quite some time. The pink Shetlands and madras pants we think of as “preppy” had been sold by Ivy clothiers long before the preppy era, and Ivy League staples such as natural-shouldered jackets, oxford-cloth buttondowns, plain-front khakis and penny loafers continued to be worn in the early ’80s under the name “preppy” when WASPy clothing again became popular.
The Ivy League Look fell as a popular style in 1967. “Preppy” came to replace the “Ivy League Look” as the ascendant term for what was more or less same style; the term was also used to describe the tastes, behaviors and values of prepdom’s chief arbiters, the upper middle class of the East Coast. In 1925 Fred Waring And His Pennsylvanians sang about being “Collegiate;” in 1960 Jan & Dean sang about their girlfriend being so “Ivy League” because her canvas sneakers were filthy; and in 1984 pop singer Cheryl Lynn released an album called “Preppie.” Nobody in the disco-duck ’70s or day-glo ’80s would call somebody “Ivy League” because he wore buttondowns and natural-shouldered jackets. The term had become passé.
The exceptions, of course, were in England and Japan, where a retro sensibility kept the term “Ivy” current among a small group of followers. But it was largely a backwards-looking style, especially in England. The Japanese worship vintage American Ivy clothing, but are also happy to produce their own updated Ivy-with-a-twist versions. The English also worship American vintage, but being orthodox Ivy adherents, their contemporary versions are copies of vintage specimens. There is no such thing in England as Ivy with a modern twist.
Now have a look at the photo below. Does this shot of J. Press in 1980 depict “Ivy” or “preppy”? We all agree that J. Press was one of the chief purveyors of the Ivy League Look, and yet the clothes in the photo are so… loud. Does that make them “preppy”? If so, and a single retailer could sell the same clothing referred to by different names in popular nomenclature, then perhaps they’re in fact the same clothes, with the different words used to describe them chalked up to changes in fashion and society.
But it wasn’t just the terminology that had changed. American dress had begun its long, seemingly bottomless descent from the formal to the casual, best exemplified by the approach to dressing for airline travel, which used to involve wearing your best clothes and now seems to encourage wearing your worst. An even more extreme occurred on college campuses. Jackets and ties were common up until ’67 or so and then all but disappeared, and college students today are one of the worst-dressed groups in society — one notch above the homeless and one notch below the guests of amusement parks. If a typical ’70s preppy outfit — khakis, penny loafers, bright polo and bright sweater — is more casual than a typical ’60s Ivy outfit — khakis, penny loafers, knit tie and herringbone jacket — it’s because it was a more casual decade for society as a whole.
Of course brands such as Brooks Brothers and J. Press resisted “preppy” as a description of their clothing just as they’d remained mum on “Ivy League” before and would likely chuckle today at the reference to their clothing as “trad.” They’ve been around long enough to see themselves as above the latest buzzword, and no doubt always will. — CHRISTIAN CHENSVOLD
While we are being pedantic… and rightly so… about things sartorial might I just point out that it here “all to-the-manor born” might have been even more apt.
Any examination of ‘to the manner born’ has to include a mention of its often-quoted incarnation, ‘to the manor born’. That has a similar meaning but stresses manorial birth, i.e. it refers to someone born into the nobility.
“‘Preppy’ today is routinely used by the fashion industry and media to mean anything clean and classic, however tangential its relation to what was considered preppy a generation before.” This is really where the confusion starts. Having worked at a department store, I can tell you, labeling something prep sells.
This is neo-prep or “public school prep” as I have heard it called. And loathe as I am to admit it, there have been several intentional style changes recently to Abercrombie/Hollister, American Eagle, and the like. AE’s recent offering have actually quite surprised me, including the “prep-cut” shorts. I have a wonderful blue gingham button down I picked up from Hollister because a fraternity brother is a manager and he gave me a steep discount. I have to say, I am quite surprised how much I like it. In general, the neo-prep trend won’t last. I was around in the 80s (albeit the first decade of my life), and there was a similar movement. A mass adoption of the prep staples and appropriation of the label by those far outside of the circles from whence it came in the 60s and 70s. By the 90s, it was dead.
There is no difference, to me, between Ivy and Prep through a certain age, say, 15 to 25. After that one may even argue we enter trad territory. Now, many of us who describe ourselves as Prep (or perhaps Ivy) are beyond the age range I have given. In some cases very beyond, but we are making a very conscious choice that perhaps our parents would not, and perhaps we should not? It depends largely, I suppose on our day job. The 28 year associate lawyer who went to Harvard and Princeton and Andover will not, of course, look like he did in his school days. He will have a high powered suit with peak lapels and darted jackets and pointy Italian shoes… because everyone else does. Tribal differences.
As an academic who teaches junior high school, where all of my students wear uniforms, I, of course, see nothing wrong with being Ivy/Prep at 28, and will probably still be Ivy/Prep at 50… because as a teacher, I can damn well do so. It doesn’t look out of place. In fact, it looks completely IN place.
I once commented that in the 80s was the first time I ever heard “preppy”, but then Christian reminded me of “Love Story”, a movie I’d seen many times. That movie, ‘Goodbye Columbus” and movies like them were sort of Ivy cult films for many my age. That said, in the time I’ve cared about clothing, 50s, 60s, 70s, places I’ve lived, Mississippi, Texas or Kansas City, it’s always been called Ivy League. Sometimes in advertising it was referred to as ‘”Collegiate”. I worked in a Midwest university Ivy shop in 1980, we called it Ivy, but as time went by young customers started referring to it as “preppy”. I resisted it, but business was good and I’m a whore, so I had to be hip. Also, many like myself, that continued since the 60s to carry on with Ivy and resisted the debasement, resented the term “preppy”.
It’s the same stuff, preppy and Ivy, it’s just how and where, you wear it. Yes, some got carried away in the 80s with outfits, but deconstruct an outrageous 80s outfit and each piece will fit in any tasteful wardrobe.
I still have a similar blazer like in the photo, only mine is in raw silk, and who my age didn’t have those Corbin pants?
ps the airline “dress code” deteriorated after deregulation. More classes could afford to fly, not just businessmen and the well off. Grandma didn’t have to take a bus or train to visit at Christmas anymore.
Remember A1 Racers? They were popular in the Chicago suburbs in the 60’s and 70’s. I had a couple of pairs.
If I remember correctly, the mens’ shops in the 50’s and 60’s had young men and boys department called “Prep Shops”. They sold the Navy blazers and grey flannels that we come to think as “preppy”. The blazers, flannels,OCBD, and khakis were not considered appropriate attire for grown men, except as casual attire. Movie and restaurant patrons might wear the more casual “preppy” attire to distinguish themselves as being on leisure time.
Business attire would consist of the most staid suits, ties, and shirts. Loafers and tassel shoes would be a no-no, except for casual wear. Tie oxfords the rule.
It is a sad commentary about air travel and college attire. Watched the news the other day, interviewing Penn State students about the recent events concerning the college. Most boys had ball caps on indoors, t shirts, etc. The girls weren’t any better. A college student today would be ridiculed and ostracized for wearing any historically Ivy or traditional clothing.
A sad state of affairs.
Ball caps indoors? That’s a peccadillo. I’m talking about pajama bottoms and slippers.
” I’m talking about pajama bottoms and slippers.”, like in a bar or shopping?
I’ll admit to walking to end of my driveway for the mail in boxers and an old polo. The old sisters across the street tease me about it, but my ego tells me they dig it. 🙂
Hats indoors? Maybe in the dugout, duck blind and men’s grill at the golf course, some clubs still have them, but in a world where very few men open doors for ladies anymore, hats are the least of our problems.
Going by Christian’s definitions, it’s clear that there’s really no difference.
Like everyone else, of course, I have my own personal interpretations.
I agree that “preppy”, “Ivy”, and “trad” are all branches of the same tree. I think that the trad branches are the lowest (i.e., the oldest), Ivy the middle, and prep the very highest. The newer branches are all built on the foundation of the oldest ones.
“Preppy”, of course, refers to prep school, and as such is a younger style (and somewhat by definition more casual… a teenager is not likely to need to wear a suit as often as a 40 year old). The clothes that you wear will be appropriate for a young person without much need of formal clothing, even though you might have some for special occasions. Short sleeves, short pants, bright colors, etc all make sense here.
“Ivy”, once again, refers to school, but this time college. You’re going to be a little more serious, but still fairly casual — maybe wearing a blazer and a tie every day, but still only bringing the suit out for weddings and funerals. Strange colors and patterns are still appropriate, because if you can’t look a bit strange in college, when can you?
Then, you graduate and get an office job where you’re expected to wear a suit, and suddenly you’re trad. Maybe you’re still Ivy on the weekends, and probably preppy on vacation.
And I feel uncomfortable walking outside 15 feet in my pajamas to get the morning paper at 5:00 AM? Wouldn’t even think of doing that if it was light out.
Old habits don’t die easily.
A post script. The facial hair is another thing. Watched golf on Sunday. Tiger Woods wore a nice outfit consisting of light gray pants, white Izod type shirt, and gray pullover sweater. A nice outfit, but the scruffy goatee just made the guy look terrible.
It seems that scruffy beards are the norm among the young.
Actually, I get the mail when I get my mourning paper, but I do read the paper and drink my mourning coffee on the back deck in my boxers and polo, no neighbors on sides or back.
Does a “mourning paper” include only obituaries? 🙂
A lot of the “trad” references I’ve seen–mostly Japanese articles and advertisements–reference the incarnation of the look some of us saw and wore in the 70s and early 80s. See the Chipp/American Trad piece that Heavtweed offered us via his most excellent blog. Wide lapels, a bit of shoulder, club collars, wide(ish) repp and club ties. This is the forgotten era, what I might even regard as the heyday. I see those photos of Cable Car Clothiers and Chipp in the 70s–wow. I wouldn’t use the term “preppy”, and I wouldn’t use the term “Ivy.”. Neither fits. Somehow, American Traditional (again, see the Chipp piece) fits.
And full-fitting pants. Stubbornly Plain front, but a full (think Bills Khakis M1) fit. Again, not “Ivy” according to the rule makers and orthodox. And way to dressed up and stuffy to be at home with any version of preppy.
“Dress Trad.” “East Coast Message.” “New England Flavor.”
I think it’s a testament to the longevity and appeal of “ivy/prep” that an argument such as this can even be had. Keeping in mind how relatively long it’s been around and how many times it’s been in and out of fashion for those who are slaves to fashion, every permutation of this argument appears to be purely semantic and you are inevitably taken back to the same place, to the same inimitable style, regardless of what you call it. I really don’t think it matters what you label this style as long as it’s rightful and deserving place in our culture is acknowledged and understood. For me the worst thing that can be said is when those who can’t see beyond last season and label it as a “current fad”. To this I usually reply that I’ve been dressing like this since before I could dress myself. It’s hardly a fad now, nor was it ever.
Your articles have been great lately. Keep it up.
One of my favorite topics of discussion. In my humble opinion the terms “preppy,” “ivy,” and “trad” are more indicative of a change in language than style. I do however understand why some loathe this loaded term “preppy.” I look forward to reading Mr. Press’s thoughts on topic.
“ps the airline “dress code” deteriorated after deregulation. More classes could afford to fly, not just businessmen and the well off. Grandma didn’t have to take a bus or train to visit at Christmas anymore.”
Very true. I took several trips this month, and thought I was traveling on “Air Greyhound.” A number of my fellow passengers fell into the “one notch above the homeless and one notch below the guests of amusement parks” category.
The worst sartorial misadventures I have seen outside of Wal-Mart can be found in airport terminals.
Hey! I buy shotgun shells and car wax at Walmart.
I agree: well written piece, CC.
I too look forward to reading Mr. Press’ piece.
I agree this is much of the same style. As for the notch above homeless, I think the culture has changed in this country… Companies like google and other highly desirable jobs allow this gym clothes dress codes as I understand it, and of course everyone thinks they will land a corner office google job right out of college, so they don’t bother with dress… Maybe I’m ranting… I’m a midwest boy who wore a suit and tie to every interview after college… (And got offers from both firms I interviewed with)
I must admit that at age 29, I mostly wear shorts (chino at least) on airplanes… I simply get too warm and feel confined to the point of an anxiety attack on airplanes in slacks… Not sure why, but I decided no more long pants on planes! Notch me down I guess… (although i still look better than the girls in “Love” butt sweatpants and guys in tank tops and skin tight jeans…)
I wouldn’t buy anything at Wal-Mart unless given no other choice.
Trousers with buckles in the back were called “Ivy League” in the 50’s. When worn with the buckle in the back unbuckled, my Aunt called them “Trailing Ivy”.
I like to say that style wise “Ivy” is just toned down “Preppy” and “Trad” is just subdued “Ivy.” I also like to break them down by the “seasons” they tend to dominate.
The Fall/Winter belongs to the Ivy.
The Spring/Summer belongs to the Preps.
And the Autumn gives time for the Trads.
A couple of glaring factual errors:
‘The English also worship American vintage, but being orthodox Ivy adherents, their contemporary versions are copies of vintage specimens. There is no such thing in England as Ivy with a modern twist.’
On the UK high street, any ivy is of the updated variety i.e. with a modern twist. The vast majority of the UK population has little or no knowledge of what ivy is, and no interest whatsoever in recreating a style from another time and place.
In terms of the UK ivy scene: it’s so tiny as to be almost invisible, and the only ivy retailer (J Simons) sells as much if not more updated ivy as he does vintage/copies of vintage. E.g. one of his biggest lines is Keydge summer jackets; although sacks, these jackets are cotton with no lining – I believe all summer jackets from the past had a lining (correct me if I’m wrong), also most were a cotton mix rather than pure cotton. More importantly, the Keydge jackets feature buttons that I have never seen on 50s/60s jackets, and working cuffs, another feature that is not classic ivy. JS shirts feature 3 button collar, locker loop and flap pocket – all classic ivy features, but did US shirts back in the day ever have all those details on one shirt? And as the only option? Imo they are also an update. There are plenty of other examples. No retailer could ever stay in business in the UK selling pure vintage style ivy, indeed Japan must be the only place in the world where it is possible (i.e. Tailor Caid).
‘An even more extreme occurred on college campuses. Jackets and ties were common up until ‘67 or so and then all but disappeared’
In Take Ivy (photographed early 60s) the only students in jacket and tie are going to church, and jackets without tie are highly rare.
From what I’ve seen of the UK idea of “Ivy” is that is is anything but. It’s way out there including entirely different subcultures (like Mod) into this sorta of 1960s generic Americana which can hardly even be called a coherent “style.” And yes, there were 60s shirts with three button collar, locker loop, and flap pocket all on the same shirt. I happen to know my Uncle D was very fond of them, and I have heard stories of my grandmother adding third buttons or locker loops when she did not purchase the correct type of shirt and Uncle D was not pleased. Uncle D was born in 1950, so he would have been in college around 1968, but the stories are actually from the early sixties. In the mid sixties he apparently flirted with the greaser style, despite it almost being dead…
Now the Japanese… Also an extremely small, nearly invisible subgroup. Talk about attention to detail. One of the inauthenticities about Japanese Ivy and Japanese Prep are that they are not always (in fact are not very often) the same adherents. I think Orgastic Future has a very nice sum… Where as I tend to change my style and color scheme to reflect the seasons, and more importantly, the weather (prep/ivy/trad is, imo, very conscious of appropriateness. If it looks uncomfortable or silly given season or activity, with the exception of GTH, it breaks one of the cardinal rules), the Japanese seem, imo, to not do so. I am always shocked by GTH outfits in winter, but I have seen them in Tokyo or Osaka… Someone looks like they just walked out of a May visit to the Kentucky Derby… but it’s February. Fits will with the clamor of Harajuku or Shinsaibashi, but is a good example of Japanese “missing the point” which they often do… A cultural issue inherent in all of their subgroups.
Take Ivy included mostly out of classroom shots. I’ve been reviewing plenty of yearbooks from the period as well as documentation provided by the universities, and I would say that in classroom coats and ties were certainly prominent. However, I wasn’t there personally, obviously. It does not appear that Take Ivy’s author was allowed to sit in on many classes… Perhaps our view would be different if he had been.
Anything and everything that might have been deemed “Ivy” in 1964 is readily available today–including plain front pants (chinos, flannels, tropicals) that taper, Oxford button-downs, surcingle belts, penny loafers, skinny repp ties, and plain toe blucher lace-ups.
But, then, there is the essential piece: the undarted sack jacket, complete with padless, sloping, shirtsleevesque shoulders. This piece, expecially the off-the-rack version, is both (the) key to the look, and, perhaps appropriately and maybe humorously, almost impossible to find.
The resurrection of the Norman Hilton Hampton, complete with that famous shoulder, is good news. Of all the OTR jackets that look and feel more “Ivy,” than the rest, I’d go with the Rugby RL “sack” model. Last year they offered a tweed; this summer they’re offering a pincord.
Press? Well, the naturalness of the shoulder has improved, but, as someone once wrote, any retailer is beholden to the mercurial whims of manufacturers who do not specialize in a truly natural shoulder. O’ Connell’s? Sometimes. Hit or miss, again, depending on the maker. All the remaining retailers have either moved on to the updated traditional look, or shut their doors.
If a person can afford made-to-measure, the number of options increase. But does any endeavor that requires that much effort deserve the modifier “Ivy”?
The Ivy ensemble can be replicated–nearly. If that one essential piece is missing, it just ain’t Ivy.
From what I’ve seen of the UK idea of “Ivy” is that is is anything but. It’s way out there including entirely different subcultures (like Mod) into this sorta of 1960s generic Americana which can hardly even be called a coherent “style.”’
Surely within any country containing ivy inspired individuals you will have enormous variety within what those people do with their inspiration? UK ivy varies from completely textbook, to someone using ivy as one influence amongst others. There are also people in the US who are ivy inspired but go for a generic 60s Americana style.
‘And yes, there were 60s shirts with three button collar, locker loop, and flap pocket all on the same shirt. I happen to know my Uncle D was very fond of them, and I have heard stories of my grandmother adding third buttons or locker loops when she did not purchase the correct type of shirt and Uncle D was not pleased. Uncle D was born in 1950, so he would have been in college around 1968, but the stories are actually from the early sixties.’
Cool, thanks for sharing.
Apropos Norman Hilton: At least three retail shop owners I’ve known chuckle at the idea that undergrads in the early 60s, barely surviving on the meager allowance allowed by parents (“even the Yale Man”), would have been able to afford Norman Hilton jackets and suits. Actually, they laughed.
Take a look at the Norman Hilton ads we’ve seen–roughly ’57 through ’66. Who’s in the photo? A middle-aged or not-quite-middle-aged gent, almost always featured in a setting that suggests he is a person of means and even leisure. The marketing was not directed toward the typical sophomore. The ad copy mentions the quality of cloth (Huddersfield, for example). That would have been lost on the undergrad, happy with his blazer, his tweed jacket, and his one or maybe two suits.
Most Ivy shops sold what Boyer remembers–all of it relatively affordable, if only a piece or two a year was purchased.
I believe my characterization of jackets and ties as “common” on campuses is a fair one:
Through the 1950s you could buy a sack suit at any clothing store in America or Sears catalog, at any price point. It was the decade’s fashion, but things changed, just like Ivy League clothing evolves.
Theoretically, if you don’t wear a jacket cut from the original Brooks Brothers or J. Press patterns, your not Ivy. Yes, that is absurd, I’m guessing those patterns have change over the century.
The Brooks Brothers’ button down collar SPORTS shirt showed up in 1896, but the venerable Weejun didn’t show up till 1934, obviously not Ivy. Khakis? can someone find me a photo of Ivy Leaguers wearing them in any numbers prior to WWII. Khakis were work clothing, frat pledges might have rake leaves in them.
There’s been a lot of items the Ivy look has snatched up for their own over the last century and the darted jacket is one of them, at least for those off the rack Ivy consumers.
Don’t misunderstand me, I know the history and very much appreciate it and it’s hardcore adherents. But, we in the hinterlands buy whats available and fits.
Hear, hear, MAC. Well said.
I believe my characterization of jackets and ties as “common” on campuses is a fair one:’
Well they certainly weren’t unknown, however photos suggest that by the 60s jacket and tie was for special occasions, rather than everyday campus dress (for students).
A minor point perhaps, as casual ivy also became less common on campus from around 67 (by all accounts), supporting your point i.e. the decline in campus style.
I think you’ve characterized it perfectly. Perhaps the reason for the ascendancy of the term “preppy” is that by the 1970s/80s Ivy League campuses had become so much more heterogeneous, and the term “ivy” with respect to dress would have been meaningless. However, the class which continued to hew to the Ivy line during this time period, in fact which took it to the next level if you like, was the preppy class.
Indeed the patterns have changed.
A lot of attention is paid to the early 60s, the supposed heyday.
Right now the Cambridge model–Southwick and Brooks–is the neo-Ivy pattern/model of the moment. In 1975, it would have been the Warwick model–used by none a other than Cable Car Clothiers. Wider lapels, high armholes, longer, and a higher button stance. Sort of a throwback to the sacks seen in the earlier part of the 20th century. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn it was the model Brooks used for their (Southwick made) jackets in the 70s and early 80s.
I’ve always wondered when institutions like Brooks Brothers and others ceased to have their own factories or which ones still do. It seems like with the rise of designers and NAFTA most of the manufacturing is jobbed out. Although, many great domestic brands of the past ran their own production right next to lesser, cheaper or private label brands in their factories.
Bravo on this article… this is, in my opinion, the best attempt and connecting the 3 styles, Ivy, Trad, and Prep I have ever seen… what a tricky subject to play with… you were able to ‘walk between the raindrops’ and attempt what few have tried and even fewer have succeeded in doing, which is connect these 3 styles so eloquently.. this was a risky proposition, one which I am sure you may have questioned while you wrote it up… I am very pleased with its outcome, and I echo the sentiments above by Shawn praising you for the quality of the recent updates… Keep up the fine work, and please continue to take risks with this site… There aren’t enough men with balls anymore…
NAFTA (1994) was one of the biggest blows to domestic manufacturing of all sorts; China’s entry into the WTO (2000) was even worse.
NAFTA would not have been so bad for us had it actually been limited to North America, rather than including a certain Third World Central American country.
China’s entry into the WTO has been nothing short of calamitous for us: our trade deficit with China has skyrocketed; over 5.5 million manufacturing jobs have disappeared; and close to 50,000 factories have closed their doors since 2000.
Not quite what was promised.
Not to worry, when we hit the tipping point of national insolvency or complete default, the game will be reset.
Henry, are you of the European opinion that Mexico is part of Central America and not part of North America? Opinion, I say, because geologically that’s not accurate.
Being part of North America is a cultural, rather than a geological or geographical concept for many of us.
Well, I’m of the opinion that such a concept is… well, quite silly. North America a continent. Mexico is sizeable chunk of said continent. North America existed long before the cultural and political subdivisions. The continent is north western quarter-sphere is a fact, not open to revision by cultural alignment.
If you wanted a Canada-America Free Trade Act, then call it CAFTA. It even sounds pretty cool.
As an academic, you should realize that cultural concepts/categories/constructs exercise far more influence than do geographical or geological ones. Dismissing such concepts as “silly” is to deny reality.
Academically, sure I could study the anthropological and linguistic underpinnings of the conceptual basis of “North America” without Mexico. I can grant that this concept exists, and has a very real force among a certain set, such as demonstrated here by Henry (and you?). However, once I remove myself from such an analytical sphere, and I was not in such an analytical sphere at the time I posted, I feel that there is nothing wrong with expressing my genuine reaction, and my genuine reaction was, “Mexico? Not part of North America? Physically incorrect. Undeniably counterfactual. ABSURD.”
East Thrace, which is also known as European Turkey, has an area of 23,764 km2 and a population of about 10 million people.
Would you argue that being in Europe means being of Europe?
Is New York City part of North America just because it’s geopgraphically located there?
Two different conceptualisations of the word “Europe.” Physically, of course I would call East Thrace Europe, because it is geographically located in that area of land which we call, “Europe.” Now calling East Thracians “Europeans” would depend heavily on what the word “European” means in the context involved. If we simply mean “person who was born and is living inside the landmass of Europe” then, yes, East Thracians would be Europeans.
Mexicans are North Americans for reasons that should be obvious when the context is geographical. I also deny that Canada + America = North American “culture.” I would say Canada and America is part of an Anglo-American tradition in large part, but to forget the Quebecois is highly insulting. For a good understanding of why I am so critical of this idea of North American = White People Who Speak English Living In American And Canada concept, please read Le Quebec et Les Quebecois: Un Parcours L’Histoire. It gives the French Canadian perspective on this issue… I read it in the original French, I am not sure if there is an English translation.
…My Mexican friends consider themselves North Americans. Many even have issues with the United States having claimed, in the 1700s, the demonym of “American” as they consider anyone who lives in any of the Americas as Americans. In Latin American and Mexican spanish, we are not referred to as Americans, but as “Estates Unidos” or the more pejorative “gringos.” Calling us yankees, a la the Brits, has also apparently come into recent fashion. Of course, being from the South, I’ve informed my Spanish speaking (and British) friends, that calling me a Yankee will be met with violence. 🙂
The cultivated Mexicans that I know consider themselves Europeans.
Of Spanish blood, they are, in yet another context. The Mexicans I know are recent immigrants to Texas, and would not consider themselves Europeans. Mexicans, North Americans, and to a degree, some would quibble over “American,” but none of them would consider themselves European anymore than I being fully Anglo-Irish would consider myself European.
The “Mexicans” I know are from pure Spanish blood and have never bred with Natives or Mexicans.
They’re white. My cousins neighbor is a white “Mexican” who owns have of Mexico’s newspapers and is buying up all the houses in the WASPy neighborhood. He doesn’t look Mexican, act Mexican, or associate with Mexicans. I’d say he’s more European than Mexican.
Canadians aren’t called Americans, they don’t call themselves Americans, they call themselves Canadians.
Mexicans aren’t called Americans, they don’t call themselves Americans, they call themselves Mexicans.
Americans are called Americans, they call themselves Americans, they’re called Americans, because they are citizens of the United States of AMERICA.
We as Americans have slang we call both Canadians and Mexicans, but being democratic we also have slang we call each other. 😉
Some of the Mexicans and Latin Americans I know would, in fact, quibble with your second statement, MAC. They would argue that AMERICA is not our country name, but rather UNITED STATES, and of America just to clarify where we are located. After all look at the United Provinces of Holland. And when we chose USA, we weren’t even one country yet, 13 different ones.
I’m not saying this my opinion (it isn’t), but I am saying it is the opinion of several individuals from countries south of the border. A good example is my friend Claudia from Chile. She recently acquired US citizenship after many years of trying, to which I responded, “Congratulations, you’re an American now” to which she responded, “Actually, wasn’t I already? I’m from South America. Now I am a US Citizen.” Our conversation of demonyms was very interesting, and no, neither her tone nor her manner were in any way ungracious or petulant.
Tell Claudia she should know better or maybe new citizens don’t have to be familiar
with the founding documents anymore. She should check out the what is written at the top of both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Regardless, tell her we all welcome her and congratulations.
I am not going to tell her that, if it’s all the same to you, MAC. She knows far more about those documents, their history, and what they pertain than most birthright Americans, as is the case with most new citizens. Furthermore, given my own background, I am well aware of what those documents say, and certainly I think there is scholarly merit in the argument that “these united States of America” in the Declaration was written with the context of America being the entirety of the Americas, and that 13 unique national states were recognised as being united in their declaration. Likewise the Constitution refers to these United States of America… not all of “America,” for after all, as your gif shows, we didn’t control all of America, just those “States United.”
Again, I am not saying I agree with her position on the demonyms. I am saying she can make (and did make) a credible argument and cannot be dismissed glibly, as if she didn’t study her arse off to become naturalised, which she did.
The question attending the last picture–Ivy or preppy–illustrates the point quite well in my opinion. Ivy shoes are white or brown. The shoes on the man wearing the green jacket are neither.
All’s good, just having fun late at night, Cheers.
Ivy-philes always must own at least one pair of black shoes, at one time or another one must attend a job interview or a funeral, not to mention motorcycle rallies.
Would you congratulate an American who became a Chilean citizen?
I love chili, of course there’s always those pork or beef, beans or no beans controversies.
Mac, I most assuredly agree about the one pair of black shoes, and would include weddings. But this young shopper was not at any of those events, and yet he wore black loafers. That, in Ivy parlance, “is not shoe”. He was probably destined to work at a black shoe law firm.
To be clear do you mean would I congratulate a US citizen who became a Chilean citizen? Sure, if that is what they really wanted and if they worked very hard at it. I’m unsure why you ask.
I don’t agree that black shoes can’t be Ivy, it depends on the style. But I’ve only owned one pair for forty year, a black English made Ralph cap toe oxford. I did own a black Weejun tassel in college. I’m not counting various motorcycle boots, they’re practical and sometimes it’s fun to costume as a road pirate.
Mac, I’m just enjoying the back and forth. I remember someone saying (could have been Boyer or Fussell, but it is dangerous to name names without certainty) that in the Ivies during the heyday, the traditional wasps wore white shoes, the middle ground wore brown shoes, and the newcomers wore black ones. I intentionally left the categories rather vague lest i reignite the culture wars. I will add that my mother always associated black leather (jackets, shoes, etc) with “gangsters and hoodlums”. People of my generation and locale would have first met with black via Arthur Fonzarelli.
Of my twenty plus pairs of shoes brown/tan are the majority followed by ox blood, then white buck and brown buck. That’s not counting the shoes mentioned above.
In your mom’s generation, which is probably close to mine, black clothing was considered not cool, except for Baptist preachers, nuns and priests. Belts , shoes and purses were ok with dark suits.
“gangsters and hoodlums” liked shark skin suits with black accessories. Motorcyclist like Barbour type jackets or black leather, road dirt, oil and bugs are easily cleaned off, not to mention the protection. Ever get hit in the nipple at eighty by a junebug just wearing a t-shirt? 😉
According to Global/World/lnternational English norms, “American” means U.S. citizen, not citizen of the U.S., Mexico, or Canada.
I would you suggest that that’s what you should teach your students, if they wish to communicate effectively with other speakers of English (with the exception of Mexicans, apparently).
Actually, I’m pretty sure that your students already use “American” this way.
I’ve tried hard to resist, but let me assure you that here in Australia, plenty consider the use of “American” as a reference to the US to be arrogant. My father, an American (see what i did there!) who lived for several years in England, France, and Austria made it clear to me that I was a citizen of the United States, that the term “American” lacked precise meaning outside the borders of the US. My own pilgrimmage has largely confirmed this. I don’t think this is absolutely true, but it strikes me as correct in most contexts.
“…the term “American” lacked precise meaning outside the borders of the US.”
With all due respect, we must be living on different planets.
Throughout the world, and in virtually all of the languages of the world, “American” means “U.S. citizen”.
Ever heard the term “The Ugly American”, well that’s us and we don’t care what the rest of the world calls us. If a foreign country shows our media or has a MacDonalds we own it. 😉
I find your word choice to show you have not carefully read my previous comments.
I have said repeatedly that the views I was describing were those attributed to my non-US citizen friends or recently naturalised US citizen friends. These views on demonyms do NOT necessarily reflect my own views. However, P Hudson has made the case for me. And frankly, just because people understand that US Citizens claim the demonym and are willing to engage in a discourse which includes that conceptualistion of “American” does not mean they agree with it. Many do not. Many are vocal that do not. Your dismissal of both my anecdotes and P Hudson’s anecdotes show an amazing lack of cultural awareness.
That being said, I did take umbrage with the idea of Northamerica (no space) as being defined as Canada and the United States and not Mexico.
I teach my students that American is most common, sure, and they use “Amerikajin” and “Amerika.” However, I also teach my students to be very aware of context and to be culturally sensitive. The Japanese (and for that matter, Americans, as well) are often very bad at this, and it is not instruction they receive either in their social studies classes or their civics education (moral education is what it is translated as, but I find that translation inaccurate, it’s civics). Therefore, it falls to me as the representative of “gaikoku” (outside countries, for those who do not speak Japanese) to fill that gaping void. I am constantly having to correct stereotypes about all countries, not just the United States, and even then, I often have to be very clear with my students that stereotyping inhabitats of even a single country, especially one like the United States, is not appropriate because of regional differences.
I always use my own background as an example. I’m a Texan, I am a Southerner, I’m also Anglo-Irish, going back to the 1670s in Maryland on my mother’s side, and barely two generations on my father’s. I’m a Roman Catholic. I am also at times *classically* “American.” Almost stereotypically so. Now, imagine that I am responsible not just for representing Texas, the South, or America, but *anywhere that is not Japan.* Yes, you are darn right I pay attention to how other cultures, nations, and languages conceptualise the word “American,” even when speaking English, and I let my students know it is an attitude they might encounter. That you have not encountered it does not make it cease to exist.
Broad brushstrokes here…
The two countries of North America, Canada and the US, are part of the English diaspora, regardless of their current ethnic makeup. Their culture, language(s), and heritage are firmly European (Quebec is an odd island of dubious relevance).
The countries of Central America share the misfortune of having been colonized by the Spanish. Except for the European-descended ruling classes, they are predominantly native/mestizo, and remain Third World countries mired in corruption and nepotism. While Spanish is the lingua franca, a multitude of indigenous languages remain used by millions of speakers.
Geography has nothing to do with it. We North Americans have more in common with Aussies, Kiwis, and Limeys than we do with our southern neighbors.
Henry… except that I don’t accept that Canada + the United States = North America. I don’t accept the conceptualisation of North America you suggest. Culture does not change the physicality of a landmass which is billions of years old, and that happens at the moment, to be in a particular location and shape on the Earth. That is hard science, not a matter of anthropological debate.
North America is a geographic reality, one that includes three countries, not two. I certainly agree that Anglo North America includes Canada and the United States, and that Mexico is not part of Anglo North America (it is, of course, instead part of Spanish North America) but these are rough geographic areas of cultural grouping that exist in our mutually agreed to human anthropological and political realities.
North America doesn’t give a damn what cultures or countries are on its landmass. It’s a landmass. It will be the same continent with roughly the same shape for millions upon millions of years. And even as plate tectonics change its shape, the continents have always been roughly the same amount of landmass. This is all seventh grade science here. We arbitrarily determine that the landmass is called, and there were many competing names when it was first discovered by Europeans, and of course, I’m sure if Native Americans had been allowed to develop technology and science which allowed exploration, they probably would have called these landmasses something else entirely. China and Japan persisted in giving these landmasses entirely different names until the middle of the nineteenth century when Meiji internationalised.
Central American countries are located in Caribbean plate. Mexico is not. All the way down to the curve of the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico is on the North American plate. Mexico isn’t split. Mexico is clearly on the bottom part of North America. I refuse to accept that your conceptualisation of a unified cultural North America is one that even exists, because, as you rightly point out Mexico has more in common culturally with its neighbours to the south than it does with its neighbours to the north. And none of this alters the fact North America, being a geographic fact, has the borders of the country of Mexico firmly drawn on it. Call US/Canada Anglo North America, and I’ll accept that.
…if you want your mind really blown, consider the fact that Greenland, half of Iceland, and parts of Japan and Russia are *also* part of the North American plate. And that there is no Europe and Asia as separate landmasses… there is, instead one massive Eurasian Plate… But now I’m really being intentionally pedantic.
My usage was never intended to be geographic. I don’t dispute your geography or geology: I’m talking about economics, politics, and culture. In these spheres, Mexico has no place among Canada and the US. My point was that including Mexico in NAFTA was an enormous mistake.
It doesn’t matter to me whether or not you accept my conceptualization of North America, but refusing to accept its existence is a bit much, since I’m not the only one who holds it, as I suspect you know. I believe it’s valid for the reasons given, but by no means am I insisting you use the term the way others do.
On to other topics.
“if Native Americans had been allowed to develop technology and science”
There’s no “allowed” here at all. The American Indians were Stone Age savages at the time of Columbus. Since then, many have adopted Western civilization, to greater or lesser degrees, but I am aware of no great contributions they have made to it. This is not because they have been “oppressed”; it is because, for whatever constellation of reasons, they have not.
As much as I hate to admit it, being a liberal, but I have to agree with Henry, at least on his statement in regard to the Native American’s. Even a relatively advanced native civilization like the Aztects had yet to discover the wheel, and its doubtful they ever would have.
While I agree that Canada and the US are in a cultural, political, and economic sphere which does not include (and should not have included) Mexico, I do not accept that you can call that sphere “North America.” While I acknowledge that people do, I consider it counterfactual. I have suggested instead that you call it Anglo North America, since you are discounting the Quebecois. I will not be moved in this, sorry. North America is a geographic distinction it will never be anything else, saving perhaps a political unit involving the majority of North America, including parts or all of Mexico. Then you might have something like the North American Confederation which sometimes shows up in science fiction.
As to the issue of Native Americans, you’re missing the point. The point is that North America is a European name. In general, it is one shared now by the rest of the world because Europeans took over in the age of colonialism and imperialism. In another universe, one where subtle differences gave rise to other cultural powers, the landmasses would have different names… and they would still roughly be the same shape size. As I said, in the Far East, there was great resistance to using European terminology, and there were other names for the continents at that time.
Consider this an impasse. Good discourse, however. Very enjoyable.
I, too, grew up in Texas; among, in fact, people for whom “Remember the Alamao” and “Remember Pearl Harbor” were more than empty slogans. I have spent years reacting against this and becoming as open-mided as logic permits. I certainly draw the line, however, at the Political Correctness that insists that I consider Mexicans to be Americans.
We have, kind sir, reached an impasse indeed.
Thanks for keeping it civil, Kionon. I really appreciate it.
We shall agree to disagree, then. I don’t have a problem with your refusal to use the term North America as I and many others do, and I’m sure you’re more than aware enough to figure out when someone is using the term in a way you do not.
I dislike the term Anglo. It somehow seems exonymic to me, though I know it comes from the ethnonym Angle, which is, as we all know, the source for England, English and the like. I don’t have a problem with the term Anglo-Saxon, though. Must be context.
I don’t apply the American demonym as applying to Mexicans. However, I acknowledge and respect where Latin Americans are coming from when they say that the “Latin” is a subcategory within “Americans.” That’s also I am asking for here. Not that you use the demonym as such, but simply to recognise that these individuals have merit to their argument. I acknowledge and respect their view point given the fact that the Americas are a very large geographic fact, of which the 50 states only compromise a part.
Honestly, I’ve never understood why people allow such debates to get heated or to become personal. Bluntly put, none of this really matters to me once I exit the conversation, anyhow. If my friends want to refer to themselves as North Americans (or Americans for that matter), it really doesn’t bother me. And yes, I can figure out when someone is using North America to refer to just Canada and the United States. However, it will typically not go unremarked. The reason I use Anglo is as you suggest, merely to show that the majority of the United States and Canada is culturally and politically the offspring of British colonialism. So to me, Anglo North America makes sense to refer to the grouping you wish considered in terms of NAFTA. I also call myself Anglo-Irish, because calling myself Anglo-Saxon-Gaelic-Celt is probably too much of a mouthful.
I respect everyone’s opinion, within reason. Respect, however, does not lead to acceptance. There is no contradiction there. Such rejection should also not be confused with hostility.
How boring it would be if we always agreed!
Sounds good. I guess I bristle at “Anglo” being used by itself, rather than as a hyphenated modifier. I’m not an Anglo: I’m white (though I have some English in my background, and wouldn’t mind being called “Anglo-X-X”).
Your last two paragraphs state some important things that I wish more people understood.
I guess everyone here forgets that the vast middle third of the USA used to be French territory (Louisiana Purchase). LOUIS-iana of course refers to a French king, and New ORLEANS refers to a region in France.
Probably another third used to belong to Spain, and in fact much land used to actually BE Mexico. Alaska used to be Russian territory. etc etc etc.
the truth is, the 13 English colonies were only a rather small part of what eventually became mainland USA.
Food for thought for the xenophobes here.
Actually, there’s oikophobia and xenophobia, then there’s the truth. The 13 English colonies, especially their evolution into the USA and it’s founding documents were huge in Manifest Destiny. We bought, stole and conquered from sea to shining sea. Hey, you snooze you loose, but we did honor those losers we vanquished, that’s why we have Indian casinos and Six Flags Over Texas.
My point being that, regardless of whatever unscrupulous or nefarious means were “manifested” in obtaining these regions, the various cultures that pre-existed our usurping of authority didn’t just disappear. They were absorbed.
The xenophobic “America is all Anglo and everything else is inferior” is not only tired and hackneyed, but factually incorrect.
BTW, I hardly think the native tribes were “snoozing”.
Yes, I’ve read all their great books and so admire their great governance and progressive attitudes. Some cultures are just doomed, it’s a bug. Also, I’m all for revisionist history, it’s entertaining reading. Being ICWT, my atavism celebrates St. Pat’s and am proud of our excellent open bars at weddings and wakes.
Facts aren’t “revisionist”.
These people existed. These cultures existed. The founding fathers owned slaves. The Native Tribes were lied to, destroyed, murdered, put in essentially detention camps. Much of the country spoke Spanish before English. Certain things are just facts.
Native tribes owned slaves, lied, murdered and destroyed, they lost wars, we won. Native tribes didn’t organize detention camps, they made you a slave or eradicated you, after much sexual abuse and torturer. Yes, we still have noble savages living of the land today, they’re call hobos. Immigrants don’t go to such lengths to get here because, “Much of the country spoke Spanish before English.” They come here because, we don’t speak Spanish as a dominate language, we have a capitalist system and we believe in the rule of law. We aren’t a state-ist banana republic.
What a bunch of hoo-ha…
It’s truly unbelievable to read someone try to justify what was done to the Native Tribes. You obviously don’t know much about the topic, but this isn’t the place to educate you.
You DO need an education though. It’s kind of shocking.
I don’t buy the “La Raza” thing, otherwise past Spanish colonies would be great empires, culture does matter.
I don’t buy the “noble savage” thing either, it’s the old progressives’ white man’s burden crap.
Now, let’s pretend that Spanish and natives in north america didn’t own slaves, torture, and wage war on their neighbors before the “anglo” white settlers came.
Brutal warfare already existed between the Native Americans long before they ever came in contact with Europeans, The Iroquois displaced tribes as early as the fourteenth century, and took their land. The natives were people just like people elsewhere through out history…willing to kill to get what they wanted…
This country was deforested by the natives long before Europeans came to these shores…One of the reasons long put forward by scholars for the downfall of the mississippian cultures was deforestation…Many of the Eastern woodland tribes practiced slash and burn agriculture, which devastated many areas for decades
They give us good peyote.
Oh dear, those poor Swedes who follow that link are really going to have a time with this barn-burner.
Ivy: unmistakably refined, downtown aesthetic
@Kionon I think you mean “loath.”
He stopped blogging, he’s a Congressman from South Carolina and didn’t want to be outed.
My God! Some of you really need to read a book! The level of arrogance and ignorance here is astonding! As a white man, I am apalled that in this day and age people still belive that natives were savages who contributed nothing and that Europeans are somehow inherently superior in all ways. The indigenous cultures very much shaped the way America is today. One of the biggest contributions the Native Americans brought to America and the world as a whole is maize, which was genetically modified by the “noble savage” over centuries from a useless, insignifigant weed into the most dominant food crop in the world. The tribes had elaborate cities and goverment structures on the east coast for centuries before the arrival of the europeans, whose diseases decimated over 90% percent of the population. The Aztecs had one of the most advanced civilizations the world has ever known, most of the knowlege of which was distroyed by the ignorant europeans who lied, cheated and stole to become dominant. The only reason the aztecs did not make better use of the wheel, which the did actually have, was because they had no beasts of burden with which to use it. I could go on and on, but fortunately, there are others who have written extensively on the topic. I would suggest reading 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus by Charles Mann as a start…
I am amused by the level of ignorance of those politically correct cultural relativists who used to satisfy themselves by serving as voluntary apologists for the ignorant primitive peoples of the world by arguing that we could not judge other cultures by our own standards. Now, they argue that those cultures were, in fact, equal to, or superior to Western cultures. Savages were, indeed, inhumanly treated by Western oppressors. This is not to be forgiven, but it does not negate the fact that they were savages whose “cultures” were at the bottom of the scale in terms of development.
Steven R., I share Labrador’s amusement at your self-debasement, although I find it more pathetic than funny.
The Aztecs practiced human sacrifice and cannibalism, cutting the beating hearts out of living victims, then boiling and eating their flesh. They practiced ritualized bloodletting, with their rulers running barbed strings through their tongues and private parts. They worshipped demonic, brutal gods who grew fat on human flesh. If that doesn’t fit your definition of savage, then perhaps you need a new dictionary.
In this discussion, some of the participants already acknowledged that the Europeans were imperfect; your accusation that anyone here thinks “Europeans are somehow inherently superior in all ways” is a straw man, a chimera of your own making.
You twist other things to fit your agenda. “Genetic engineering”? Perhaps you mean “selective breeding,” the term for human selection of specific traits in plants & animals. “Elaborate cities”? More like “large settlements”; they had nothing like London, Paris, or Rome, or even like Edo (Tokyo) or Beijing, for that matter. “One of the most advanced civilizations the world has ever known”? Now you’re just being ridiculous.
I submit that what’s going on in your mind is that Europeans are morally tainted, and as such, have no right to make moral or cultural judgments about other cultures. What that means is that Europeans—that is, white people—have no right to make any moral or cultural judgments, which ultimately means that we, as a culture, have no right to exist. This belief system, widespread among “educated” people today, is not only wrong, but, if followed to its logical conclusion, will mean the end of our civilization.
After I read this article and some of the comments, I felt a desire to reply although this is an older article and in which my comment may never be seen or read, but in any case, here is my point of view. There is a difference between “preppy” and “Ivy League”, in my opinion. To me, there are three terms used by many people to describe what most people refer to as “Preppy”. These three are “Preppy”. “Ivy League”, and “Trad”. I do believe some comments are on track, but to me “Preppy” is a style of clothing, and “Ivy League” and “Trad” are similar in fashion, but more of a type of lifestyle. A lifestyle of clean-cut, well-mannered, gentlemanly, and educated beyond high school type of person(women can substitute “lady-like” for “gentlemanly”). The styles of clothing between someone who is “Preppy” versus someone who is “Ivy-League” do overlap some, but the way these clothes are worn is one of the differences. “Preppy” is more bright pastels that are worn together, whereas “Ivy League” contains more earth-tones, khakis, non-bright oxfords, tweed, jeans, boat shoes, and loafers. Someone who is “Ivy League” or “Trad” is conscience of dress and appearance, but in a less “bratty’, “spoiled”, or “wimpy” way. Fair or not, many people see guys who dress in bright, loud, clothing, without something to break it up or tone it down, as “Preppy” and as possibly gay for example. An Ivy-Leaguer at Harvard who may be a jock can wear a white button-down, tweed jacket, jeans, dress socks and Alden loafers, and portray the “Ivy-League” look perfectly with all of the attributes mentioned above for not only the look, but also the lifestyle and mannerisms, while still being seen as a gentleman with “manly” traits”.
Wow, the comments here run the gambit form gentics to chumps trying to make believe themselves a better lifestyle. They are clothes, nothing more.
Gosh, E, thanks for that insightful comment. You’re clearly so much more superior than all the rest of us that it’s a wonder you condescend to post at all!
So, then, with this blog’s name being what it is, and Unabashedly Prep’s being what it is, and now having cleared the air and drawn lines of differentiation between Ivy and Prep, perhaps select folks here can get off Fred Castleberry’s back? Maybe? This is Ivy. That is prep. If you’re at either place and don’t want to be, just leave. And/or, if you can do either/or better, please do; we’ll all be better for it. But the attacks and bad-mouthing gets no one anything of merit or use. Mmmm-k?
Very amusing to read all at this late date. As usual, I agree with Henry 100%.
Answer to the question in the text:
The illustration depicts an Ivy gentleman and a Preppy clown.
I just had a weird thought (yes I know, shocking!). In the mid-60’s, my brother wore a blue blazer, Gant OCBD and tie to University of Texas football games on days when the temperature hovered around 100 degrees. He was far from alone in the stadium. Somehow, they could handle it.
When I arrived at UT in 1977, I would have said you had lost the tail to your kite if you told me to wear a tie to a UT game in September.
What the hell happened in the intervening twelve years? It wasn’t about hippies and the downfall. I was a frat rat who dressed in the look, and there was a preppy/Ivy outburst in the late 70’s-early 80’s spawned by, in my opinion, the end of the draft, Animal House and Ms. Birnbach.
No, I have a different culprit: air conditioning.
By 1977, air conditioning had replaced fans and wide open windows almost everywhere you went down here (not my high school, sadly). Soon, folks avoided the outside and stayed in the AC if at all possible. And when they did venture outside, they wore clothes that were as light-weight and in as few layers as possible. They’d become slaves to air conditioning and they still are today.
Though I’m mostly joking, I have to wonder if the triumph of AC contributed to the trend toward a more casual, more comfortable style. Especially among those who lived south of the M-D and wore OCBD’s into the ensuing decades.
It’s the only thing that makes sense after this much wine tonight. Hasta later!
Whiskeydent- As a college freshman in Lubbock in 1968, most guys wore sport coat and a tie to football games (along with a concealed flask). I wish it were still so. I’ve been bitten by the grape myself. Phi Alpha.
The equations are simple:
Brooks Brothers = Ivy/Preppy
Polo by Ralph Lauren = Preppy/Ivy
J. Press = Trad
The salesmen at Brooks and J. Press get annoyed if you refer to their style as “Ivy” or “trad”. Polo, not so much with “preppy”.
Apropos of nothing, I am currently killing time during Zoom office hours from home (for another 15 minutes), dressed in a cotton olive green BB sports jacket, Mercer Tattersall button-down, Phi Kappa Phi club tie, chinos, navy socks, and dark brown penny loafers with matching belt. As Peggy Lee sang, “Yes, it’s a good day. . .”
The comments to this old post are all over the place.
The terms “Ivy” and “preppy” when applied to clothes are in fact marketing labels. When the look first went mainstream in the 50s it was marketed as “Ivy League”. Saying that it is a marketing label is not to deny that it reflected the existing tastes and style of a sub-segment of the US population. It did, it reflected the existing style of the upper-class and upper-middle-class segments from the Northeastern part of the US. That is, of course, a much broader base than the eight universities grouped together as the “Ivy League” (which itself was a highly arbitrary grouping that just happened to become traditional). But when the clothing industry marketed that look to the main-street department stores across the country they chose they name “Ivy League”, as in “the Ivy League look” because it sounded “classy”, “aspirational”, “posh”. The most accurate name would have been to call it “the Brooks Brothers look”, but that would have been like marketing Cadillacs as “the Rolls Royce of cars”. They just couldn’t do that.
It’s not the look and its history that’s “all about marketing”; it’s the label “Ivy League” for the look that’s just marketing.
Likewise when an updated version of the same look was marketed in the 80s, they chose the name “preppy”. In that case, the marketing term was gifted them by the best-selling book. The fact that students at prep schools had actually dressed that way (and it shouldn’t be forgotten that the famous book in question was actually making fun of the look) doesn’t lessen the fact that the term as used in the clothing industry was a marketing term, only tangentially related to the specific usage that we see in “Love Story”, for example.
you’re on to something.
When I think about classic Ivy, I think New England rustic–whether the casual clothes (made for outdoorsy pursuits) or the tweed, wool flannel, and robust worsted hopsacks. The ties are, for the most part, heavy jacquard wovens or wool challis. Shetland yarns for sweaters; think oxford cloth for shirts. None of this works in the deep South, except for maybe a few weeks in January.
“American dress had begun its long, seemingly bottomless descent from the formal to the casual, best exemplified by the approach to dressing for airline travel, which used to involve wearing your best clothes and now seems to encourage wearing your worst.”
Ivy League was for college boys who never grew up. Adults during the Ivy League era were expected to wear English-tailored suits and shoes with laces. Stick with a style long enough, though, and there is nobody left to complain, and it becomes the new standard. So the 30s Anglophile dresser looks down on the 50s Ivy Leaguer, who looks down on the 70s preppie who looks down on the 90s trust fund hippie, who sneers at the internet Traddie wearing their grandfather’s clothes. 🙂
Ivy Trad, to me, is a wardrobe of oxford cloth, horsehide shoes, a blazer and a tweed, khakis and grey slax, engine turned buckle which allows the wearer to fly under the radar and hide in the open. Tasteful neckwear and seasonal sweaters as needed.
Preppy, to me, is jack ass slacks, wild colors, multiple accent pieces, garish hosiery and madras patches. “LOOK AT ME! LOOK AT ME!”
I’m not sure what to call the style that most professional men wore in the office during the Ivy heyday, and into the 80s and 90s. Specifically, a 3/2 sack suit with cuffed trousers in gray or blue, striped, muted glen plaid, fine herringbone or solid; repp stripe, neat foulard or paisley tie; button down shirt in oxford or broadcloth; and cap-toed, lace-up shoes – all purchased at Brooks, Press or a similar local men’s shop, of which most towns had at least one and often more. That is what I wore as a new lawyer in the mid 80s, and for the most part still wear in the office today. By then, the 2-button darted look had become more common, but had not really replaced the sack suit, at least in New York and Washington where I spent most of my time.
I have always thought of that look as “Ivy” or “traditional,” but it sounds like others think of Ivy as limited to the collegiate look of tweeds, blazers and Weejuns (which I still enjoy, although long past school age). I gather that “trad” has some negative connotations, so that is probably not quite right either. For me, “preppy” means the look of teens and early 20-somethings, and includes Shetland sweaters, OCBDs, khakis, camp mocs, etc. that I still wear regularly, as well as GTH and garish color combinations that are usually best left to the younger folks, although I may still have a few items in my closet that qualify (patch-madras pants, to name a particularly egregious example).
At the high end, men may have gone in for Savile Row, and at the lower end for J.C. Penney, but the classic American style of George Bush and Archibald Cox, to name just two, with minor variations, was the norm for doctors, lawyers, accountants, bankers, stock brokers, and other professionals and businessmen in most East Coast cities, and to a large degree in San Francisco, Chicago, New Orleans, Cleveland, Kansas City, and Dallas, as far as I know. Other places too, no doubt. A “conservative” suit with a tie was expected in the office. Sport coats were not worn, except on weekends and maybe Fridays, and shoes had laces or, if loafers, they probably had tassels. Shirts were button downs, or if one was being especially dressy (or showy), what Brooks called a “tennis collar” and French cuffs. Khakis, Weejuns, etc. were for the weekend or after work.
What does one call the classic uniform of the American professional man?
Charlottesville & Vic Delta – Sounds about right to me. In my opinion, Ivy League is a natural shoulder sack (no darts) three-button suit or sports coat with center vent and flap pockets, plain front (no pleats) trousers with 1 3/4″ cuffs, and an oxford cloth or broadcloth shirt with a 3 1/4″ button-down collar (no Eton collars). The Ivy League look also incorporates proper accessories: English ties, round tortoise-shell glasses, tank-style watches, appropriate shoes, a sensible, adult haircut, and no beards or goatees. Everything else is some other style or no style. I have no idea what Preppie is, but I think it has something to do with teenagers.
Mr. Grant – I think we see pretty much eye-to-eye.
Ball caps indoors? That’s a peccadillo. I’m talking about pajama bottoms and slippers.
Aren’t Prep, Ivy and Trad just three phases of the WASP life-cycle, roughly analogous to larva, pupa and adult?
A film I highly recommend is the Graduate (1967), sets an Ivy standard……