Stanley Blacker, Mr. Sport Coats

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

23 Comments on "Stanley Blacker, Mr. Sport Coats"

  1. I wish that Ithaca had a decent place to buy clothes today, besides digging endlessly for a nice polo or sweater at TJ Maxx

  2. @JTS,

    It’s a little bit of a hike, but O’Connell’s is in Buffalo.

  3. Very timely, I recently thrifted a navy hop sack, patch pocket blazer of theirs for about $10 in excellent condition.

  4. Chens, I see in the comments on Fred’s post where you zinged him. I know you couldn’t resist.

  5. @JTS, Is there still a place in the old Irv Lewis store on the commons?

  6. Dave, not sure I follow you. There’s no comment from me on the red blazer post.

  7. Hi Chris-

    Yes, the Cornell blazer business was really a driver for stores to compete for; that brings back a lot of memories. Blacker was the number one original quintessential “meatball” and as the cheapest possible make then available, more or less, was the choice of the low bidder blazer committees.

    I don’t really think anybody thought Blacker was Ivy, really, it was kind of just a whiff of the stuff, if you know what I mean.

    very interesting as always, thanks!

  8. A.E.W. Mason | November 18, 2013 at 4:56 pm |

    CC,

    If memory serves, the top picture also featured in one of your recent (w/in the last year) posts on clothing offered by Sears during the Ivy heyday. Personally, I think that coat (and shirt and tie) are great. The whole look reflects, I would say, that certain relaxed, soft (but at the same time dignified) tailoring which rejects anything contrived or attention-getting. And I particularly like the button stance and high roll of the lapels. A lot of my wardrobe is tailored exactly like this picture. And, by the way, it’s a damned comfortable way to wear your clothes.

    Great post. Thanks!

  9. Gibson Gardens | November 18, 2013 at 5:47 pm |

    Remarkable when you see a load of old tosh you wrote on a website years ago being used so centrally in a pseudo-serious article. The internet gives idiots a medium and anything published in it must really be taken with a huge pinch of salt. No editors you see – the gatekeepers have kept the nutters away from print, but the internet is instant access lunacy.

  10. It’s not old tosh and doesn’t require a pinch of salt: You were dead serious when you wrote it and are simply now claiming that you were being facetious because you’ve been called out on it.

    You’ve also written:

    “At the age of 24 I lived for the Ivy look: I ate, slept and breathed the whole thing. A friend coming back from Brooks in 1987, our first pioneer, was greeted like he’d returned from the Moon… We studied the sales receipts like they were medieval parchments.

    We would visit J.Simons when it was closed in the evenings and silently stare in the windows. We were dysfunctional, intense and we didn’t get any action with the opposite sex for about 4 years.

    I don’t know where it all came from, this seriousness about clothes, but it felt very important back then, a real expression of self and our collective world view. I still get that way now and again…

    It wasn’t just clothes, it was all the other associated ephemera. We were learning a code.”

    You are a perfect example of instant access lunacy, though long before the Internet was invented.

  11. Gibson Gardens | November 18, 2013 at 6:07 pm |

    I do enjoy a spot of late night jousting as I sip my peppermint tea. I was an earnest young man and I did (still do) love clothes. But the tone was exaggerated to entertain and get a laugh. I maintain you missed the joke, perhaps deliberately so.

  12. “We were dysfunctional, intense and we didn’t get any action with the opposite sex for about 4 years.”

    That, my man, is where the whole thing went terribly wrong!! Why do I envisage BB catologs replacing Playboy magazines in this scenario?

  13. Yes, Americans don’t understand English humor, and Englishmen don’t understand American clothes.

  14. Christian is right; I wore critter pants (pheasants) to a shoot supper on Saturday and they were definitely misunderstood.

  15. Gibson Gardens | November 19, 2013 at 5:50 am |

    @M Arthur – fair comment sir. I still lament that the stuck together pages of the Fall 87 catalogue mean I can never again enjoy the erotic charge of page 32 (the underwear page obviously).

  16. Regarding Ithaca, when I was there in the early-to-mid-1990s there was nowhere good to buy clothes, and alas I don’t see that changing. Daily wear was mostly of the LL Bean variety, understandable given the weather. Most everyone I knew bought their ‘interview suits’ elsewhere, often NYC or some other large city, between semesters. Even given the large size of Cornell, Ithaca is probably too small to support a decent, quality men’s store like one can still find in Cambridge and New Haven. I imagine they have the same challenges in Hanover, N.H. but I’ve never been there so I don’t know first-hand.

  17. Harry Palmer | November 19, 2013 at 9:10 am |

    “American’s don’t understand English humour and Englishmen don’t understand American clothes” nothing like a sweeping statement is there! I’m sure the 100 million or so people you just spoke for are glad to have you as their spokesman!

  18. The first pic.

    This style does indeed beller “Ivy!” with force. All the specs are here: length, lapel width, sloping shoulder, topstitching, undarted front. It looks as though there’s iminimal shaping through the middle. A full(er) fit.

    The lapel rolls gently to that no man’s land in between the second and top button. Just below the top button, it seems. One might safely guess it’s a 2 button model. But we know better, don’t we? I think Langrock stuck with this silhouette well into the 70s.

    “…cut along traditional lines.” The words chosen for the copy aren’t accidental. There’s that word again: “traditional.”

    Finally, for all the chit-chat about Ivy being a young man’s look (and, yes, I understand the good sense behind the claim), this gent–(married, it appears)–looks to be a seasoned alum. What happens when Ivy ages? It creases, of course. Who knows; maybe the target market was the undergrad who wanted to seem every bit the serious grownup.

    How and why the word “traditional” would have been used by Blacker’s ad guys is a crumb for thought. And, borrowing from the Chinese wisdom that one can’t understand anything until one has first understood its opposite, I wonder which demographics would have found the word–and the accompanying look–positively anathema.

    “Traditional.”

  19. Sincerly i think that often my good friends at Film Noir Buff Talk Ivy forum are interested and focused only on a part of the story: the way in which a European eye watched at American (ivy) clothes in late 50s and 60s.
    Ivy is the style of cool jazz musicians,young Hollywod actors,and nouvelle vague characters.
    Is true,but is only a detail of the great painting.
    As for the conception of Ivy as democratic style: Yes,was democratic indeed, because was the average style for a long period and because were ivy clothes for all pockets in main street shops, but in others ages was more elitist,not worn from the average Joe.
    Remember this cartoon from 1949 Esquire magazine?
    http://www.ivy-style.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/zzz1u.png
    The freshman ( probably at college for a some bursary or GI bills) dresses with then popular and fashionable “bold look”,while the other students are in ivy clothes. The cartoon talk about an age in which Ivy was not so “democratic”.

  20. Jonathan Sanders | November 19, 2013 at 2:00 pm |

    There is something about the jacket that makes it look like armor. It doesn’t really look like it has the capacity to move with the body. Obviously, it could just be the photo, retouching and styling that give it that effect.

  21. @emjkmj I need to head up there at least once some day, but yes 2.5-3 hours is quite a drive and kick in the wallet for gas.

    @C. Sharp I found this place in it’s old address, but I swear I’ve never seen the place on my trips there. http://www.downtownithaca.com/businesses/view/benjamin-peters.html

  22. @JTS That’s the place. Have not been that way in years, but wonder if it is still in business.

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