Sartorial Redemption: Wofford College, ’60s-’80s

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Does menswear move inexorably and unstoppably towards a sartorially dystopian future, or is it possible for things to actually move backward, kind of like the way the stock market “corrects” itself?

These three images from Wofford College (which is based in Spartanburg, SC) show how fashion does move in cycles — even as it cycles unstoppably forward towards a dystopian future.

Top image, 1987, a big improvement over how things looked in 1971:

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Which was a big change from just four years before, in 1967:


Thank god (and Birnbach) for the preppy ’80s. — CC

10 Comments on "Sartorial Redemption: Wofford College, ’60s-’80s"

  1. Orange Fiji | April 21, 2016 at 12:50 pm |

    I hope the gentleman in the last photo had the good sense to give up smoking.

  2. Marc Chevalier | April 21, 2016 at 1:02 pm |

    … and I hope that he gave up those unbecoming bangs.

  3. Huntingdowne | April 21, 2016 at 1:11 pm |

    No doubt there will be some readers who won’t understand your note of thanks to Ms. Birnbach, and others who will object to it, arguing that TOPH was a work of humor or some such thing. Allow me to say that for many of us who were not fortunate enough to be born into Ivy/Trad style, TOPH was indeed a handbook that introduced us to a style that we still favor. Ms. Birnbach did indeed make a contribution to the survival of Ivy style.

  4. carmelo pugliatti | April 21, 2016 at 2:29 pm |

    80s were the last hurrah for classic menswear.

  5. Jojoandthecats | April 21, 2016 at 3:28 pm |

    I agree entirely. The 1980s rescued ‘proper’ balck tie, most ivy/preppy clothes and generally all the anglophile trad stuff. Had we slouched staight from the turgid 70s to the grungy 90s, people would be wearing diapers and flip-flops in Paris by now.

  6. The guys in the middle photo would look a lot more respectable if they were out on the lawn instead of hanging around the toilets. Aside from the sandals they’re not dressed that all that badly.

  7. Here’s a thought: Things do tend to be cyclic and travel in a circle to include fashion, so the days of “preppy” to include khakis, buttondowns tweed, and loafers may not necessarily be gone the way of the DODO…

  8. Pre Heyday, well tailored natural shoulder clothing of top drawer cloth was custom.

    Then, the Heyday. Campus shops thrive. Ivy becomes as egalitarian as possible. Even the scholarship kid from rural Iowa has access to Shetland tweed and West of England flannel. Like every small-d democratic moment, the good stuff is dumbed down –at least a bit. Enter Dacron and other poly-whatever blends. Not, shall we say, the equivalent of Chipp.

    Decades pass. Skip to 2016. Well tailored natural shoulder clothing of top drawer cloth is, for the most part, custom. Or at least high end MTM. Turns out that not everybody who prefers custom clothing wants high, wide shoulders and a shrunken waist. Which is why Jay Walter and Paul Winston are still in business.

    Maybe there’s something to this cyclical stuff.

  9. The “Official Preppy Handbook” was in the “Humor” section in bookstores, not in the “Fashion” section of bookstores. Amazon lists the OPH as humor.

    Ms. Birnbach’s later book, “True Prep” (2010) was also in the “Humor” section in bookstores and is listed by Amazon as humor.

    Ms. Birnbach, following the example set by professional wrestlers who tell the gullible that their activity is a contest, not an exhibition, tells the gullible that the OPH is a fashion book, not a humor book.

    In “Miracle On 34th Street” an attorney proves that his client is Santa Claus when the Post Office delivers mail addressed to Santa Claus to his client.

    Amazon lists the OPH as humor, therefore, based on the precedent set in the case involving Santa Claus, the OPH is humor.

    When the OPH came out, people took the same view of the OPH as Queen Victoria did of Gilbert and Sullivan, that they were making fun of us.

    The most unfortunate side effect of the OPH was that it destroyed the market for blends that included synthetics (despite the fact that Jonathan was told to remember just one word “plastics”) and ensured that vermin could continue to feast on pure wool and pure silk.

  10. So prior to the “heyday” all these venerated ivy shops in the N.E. didn’t sell suits and jackets off the rack?

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