Stetson’s Ivy League Fedora, 1953

In our recent rise and fall essay, you may have noticed that one of the differences between Ivy’s prewar golden age and postwar silver age is that hats used to be worn on campus. But in 1965, after President Kennedy supposedly dealt the hat the coup de grace, the only hats you see in “Take Ivy” are on the working stiffs of Madison Avenue.

You probably didn’t notice, however, that Tuesday was National Hat Day. I only know because the Headwear Association sent me a press release.

But it’s a perfect excuse to follow up our recent post on Taylor-Made shoes with another Main Street retailer that used the term “Ivy League” in its ad copy once the look became popular. These two Stetson ads are from 1953 and 1955 (coincidentally the same years as the Taylor-Made ads). Thanks to frequent comment-leaver “Old School” for alerting us to them.

Apparently Stetson still makes the hat, though I decided instead to set up an eBay alert for a vintage model. I haven’t worn a proper hat in ages; I used to wear them a lot to retro dress-up events in San Francisco back when I was angry at fate for being born in so crude and coarse an age. In fact, I think I used to wear them to work as a small-town reporter in the North Bay.

Now I’m in New York, but I’m older and wiser, and while New York would seem far more appropriate for a hat than suburban California (not to mention the differences between a man in his forties and a man in his twenties), I’m less inclined to indulge in more obvious gestures of retro-eccentricity. I do think a hat can be pulled off nowadays, provided you’re also wearing a long coat and there are snowflakes falling. — CC

21 Comments on "Stetson’s Ivy League Fedora, 1953"

  1. “…in 1965, after President Kennedy dealt the hat the coup de grace…” people keep saying this but they don’t explain why they believe it when it is not true.

  2. I knew someone was going to call me out on that, just didn’t know it’d be in the first 10 minutes. Yeah I’ve got the Kennedy hat book and was being tongue-in-cheek, but my fault for not making it more obvious. I’ll go throw a “supposedly” in there.

  3. You mention you were a small town reporter in the North Bay. Which town? I live in the North Bay….Fairfield.
    I wore a fedora to a Sacramento Kings game a couple of nights ago. I got a lot of looks wearing it.

  4. Grew up in Santa Rosa and started out there. Not exactly a “small town.” Trying to remember how big Fairfield is…

  5. Some say the demise of the men’s hat was the advent of the personal automobile, no more walking to work or waiting for the bus.

    Ivy League Stetson, makes sense, most like beaver.

    Christian, you might check to see if there are any Stetson outlet stores near you, very good deals can be had.

  6. Just had another look at your ‘English Ivy Obsession’ post from October 2010; that was fun. I think the movies may have got a bit smaller since then, but keep up the good work anyway.

    P.S. I hope you fired your pompous ‘editorial assistant’…

  7. Great website! I encourage men to take up the sadly neglected cause of the proper hat. I wear a hat most days, usually a fedora with a 2 1/2 inch brim from Christys’, Locke or Dobbs, and I have done so from about age 30 on. I generally wear a suit to work, or at least a sport coat, and, in winter, a top coat. In summers, I wear a fairly conservative Panama or a straw snap-brim from J. Press, often with a seersucker suit. While real hats, as opposed to baseball caps, are admittedly unusual these days, I think anyone who wears a coat and tie to work can wear a hat without looking like he is in costume. However, I live on the east coast. While it certainly works in NY and Washington, as well as in most southern cities I spend time in, such as Charlottesville, Richmond, New Orleans and Charleston, I can see that it might not work as well in someplace like Miami or on the west coast, where dress is generally very informal.

  8. Just because the Modern American Slob Culture disapproves of hats is, to my way thinking, all the more reason to wear them.

    I recently bought a Stetson Stratoliner from Orvis, and, when the weather permits, it does make the proper statement.

    Today if a man dresses the way he should, it usually looks as it he’s wearing a costume.

    A sad state of affairs, but the only alternative is to look as bad as everyone else.

  9. Roy R. Platt | January 18, 2013 at 4:51 pm |

    If the dimensions (1 7/8″ brim, 4″ crown) on the current version of this hat are the same as on the original version, I have an almost identical grey Brooks Brothers “University” hat that I bought in the early ’60’s.

    The current Stetson version seems to have a metal “something” in the center of the bow on the band as well as a feather that the original version did not have.

  10. Christian, Fairfield has over 100,000 people now. I’m from a small town outside Sacramento.
    In regards to Tuesday being National Hat Day, I think people are celebrating today. I have seen four men wearing fedoras today. Normally its once a week I see a gentlemen wearing a nice hat.

  11. Oxblood Ruffin | January 18, 2013 at 6:25 pm |

    Traditional hats are definitely on the decline. But there is no shortage of goofy hats: oversized baseball hats, toques, snap brim hats worn backwards, Kangols, more backwards worn caps, and the occasional beret. I really don’t see any style issues with wearing a proper hat. They also keep one’s head warm.

  12. I think you make some good points Mac. My grandfather never went without hat and I think it is one of the things I remember most about him. That and he mowed his yard in clothes nicer than most people wear to work these days.

  13. What’s the function of a hat? It protects one’s head from heat, cold, and sunburn. It shades the eyes from the sun. It can act as a mini-umbrella in rain or snow. I’m sure there are more.
    I prefer Kangol or newsboy type tweed hats for hunting, fishing, golf or just keeping my head warm and dry. The short brim doesn’t obstruct my vision and the wind doesn’t effect them.

  14. The automobile indeed had a negative effect on hat sales; but it was not the car itself that was to blame, but the changing automotive architecture of the late 1950s when the “longer, lower, wider aesthetic was ascendant, particularly in the U.S.

    As an example; from 1955 to 1961, the height of the Chevrolet dropped from a generous 65 inches to a hat-defying 56 inches.

    In earlier times, a man would don a hat as he left the house, keep it on in the car and remove it only when he arrived at his destination. When the lower cars took over and the masses moved to the suburbs, the only chance to wear a hat was the brief walk from the front door to the car, and from the car to ones destination. Most men decided it wasn’t worth the bother.

  15. I bought my first black Fedora, (Adam brand) in 1966, for $ 12. I never really wore it much, always considered it too good for everyday use. Anyhow, not many 14 year old boys wore fedoras, even back then. Months later, my Dad bought me a dark blue wool plaid fedora, almost as dressy as the black felt. I wore that hat into the 1980’s, when it looked too shabby for wear.

    I wore dress hats in the 70’s, a Panama, Homburg, along with a few woolen Irish walker types. Also wore many snap brim types. Somewhere along the line, you just didn’t see any men wearing anything but ball caps. Once in a while, I’ll wear the original fedora, but odd looks abound. I’ve kept it on my hall tree for the last decade or so. Funny, about a month ago, I gave it a good brushing, and it still looks like new. The lining is as clean and new as the day I bought it, 46 years ago. I placed it in my closet, in a box, too nice to leave out.

    Anyhow, most times I wear snap brims or Kangols, but this winter, I ran across my old Hanna Patchwork Walker. Battered, but still serviceable, I’ve been wearing it all winter. A few odd looks, but an old hat on an older man seems to fit. I doubt young fellows could wear one.

    Mr. President didn’t have a hat on yesterday for the Inauguration ceremonies. This bodes ill for the hat, just as Kennedy deep sixed them over 50 years ago.


  16. I have a gray Stetson cashmere blend fedora, and once last year when I was outside a public watering hole having a smoke, someone asked me if I was a detective.

  17. Wriggles,

    Thank you for the stories. I still wear my fedoras every day, and although yes, I get the occasional odd look or stupid comment, the comfort I derive from wearing one far outweighs those scattered negatives.

    Incidentally, Kennedy did wear a hat to his inauguration, if not during the event itself.

  18. There’s a 1960 Stetson Ivy League on Ebay right now. Current bid is only $29.99, so it might be worth it even if it isn’t your size:

    I have a number of hats back in the States. I’m currently in Shanghai, but I wear a tan Stetson fedora every day when I’m outside. I’ve never gotten anything but compliments on my hats. In fact, I get very interesting compliments here consisting of a “thumbs up” gesture, a smile, waving a hand over the head, and saying friendly things in Chinese. It’s funny how people can communicate their appreciation of style, despite a language barrier.

    I will admit I also regularly wear a double-breasted tweed suit. And bow ties. But as a 6 foot 3, 240-pound American I already stick out in China. So there’s no point in trying to “blend in” for me.

    I like your blog. Reading the Official Preppy Handbook when I was in middle school started me on dressing in classic style. I haven’t owned a pair of jeans since I was 12.

    Don’t limit your hat-wearing to snowy days. Felt hats also keep the rain off. And a good straw hat can be your best friend in the sun.


  19. I found this page because I just became the proud owner of an original Stetson “Ivy League” fedora myself. I urge you to keep fighting the good style fight – I don’t think you necessarily have to get completely dressed up to wear a hat, although it depends on the hat style. I wear a porkpie most days, which is informal enough to go with almost anything, and a fedora on other days, and I wouldn’t say I get more than the regular share of odd looks, and a fair number of compliments. On very rare days I even wear a late-1940s Stetson bowler, although that is admittedly a special-occasion kind of thing.

  20. Out of every comment, there is one that is different….

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