As our exploration of “cool Ivy” continues, assistant editor Chris Sharp examines this Stanley Blacker advertisement, which is held in special reverence in the jazzier corners of Tradsville.
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This Stanley Blacker advertisement is from 1965 and features an American blazer being offered at a British store. When it appeared on the Film Noir Buff Talk Ivy forum in July of 2009, it created quite a stir.
One of the most passionate defenses of the look presented was from “Gibson Gardens” (believed to be the online handle for John Gall, co-author of “The Ivy Look”), who wrote the following:
If you think that Stanley Blacker jacket is all wrong and is badly cut then you are on the wrong website…. The jacket featured in that ad is just about as definitively Ivy League as you can get. It’s what the whole look is about, the spine of an aesthetic… Dismissing that Stanley Blacker jacket on this forum is akin to a Christian who rejects the Bible. Here we are presented with that weirdly straight almost asexual Ivy style in its absolute most perfect expression at the height of the original Golden Age of Ivy. This is a sacred text upon which we are gazing and I react with Al-Qaeda-like fury and intolerance when the very roots of the look are so nonchalantly dismissed with a few ignorant pokes at a keyboard.
So who is this Stanley Blacker who offered a blazer that has risen to such iconic status across the pond and prompted such a vigorous defense?
He was a native New Yorker who studed business at New York University and design at the Philadelphia Textile School. Blacker was an army veteran and joined his father, Morris at Blacker Brothers, at the conclusion of the Second World War. Stanley Blacker rose to become president, but sold his interest in the company when his father died.
1955 he formed Stanley Blacker Inc. and was well positioned to ride the Ivy wave. Sportcoats like the one featured in the above advertisement were a big part of Blacker’s business ,and the New York Times reported that he liked to be known by the moniker “Mr. Sport Coats.” When he died in 2000 at the age of 79, the New York Times called him “a prominent maker of men’s clothing who stitched his name to labels sold at upscale department stores across the country and overseas.” In achieving this, Blacker was a designer name long before the rise of the designer era.
The blazer pictured at the top is certainly Ivy in its styling. The natural shoulder, three-button front with swelled edges, lapped seems and no darts are unmistakably Ivy. Now English Ivyists are likely to tell you they prefer an “authentic” style, while at the same time downplaying the pedigree of any garment. There are voices on the web who will argue that Ivy is an everyman’s style that holds no social clues about the wearer. These same fans of vintage American culture often eschew any connection between the Ivy League Look and the world of the campus, despite the very name the look became popularly known by. In extreme cases, New York is claimed as Ivy’s ancestral home, and the look became popular via fashion marketing.
What can be seen as ironic is how in fact the taste of certain English Ivyists perfectly dovetails with the elite, campus-oriented slice of the Ivy demographic. The jacket canonized as the pinnacle of egalitarian Ivy and which “Gibson Gardens” was ready to defend with “al-Qaeda-like fury and intolerance” was also the chosen jacket for three Ivy League classes during the boom years.
Cornell had a tradition for class blazers that dates back to 1912. During the ’60s, the class would form a committee when they were sophomores to pick a blazer design they would wear the following year. The Cornell classes of 1964, 1966 and 1967 selected the Stanley Blacker blazer, picking out the design in 1962, 1964, 1965, respectively.
If this sounds like Ivy can make for strange bedfellows in the Internet age, well, yes, it certainly can. — CHRISTOPHER SHARP