Straight, No Chaser: A Call For Untampered Tradition

Once upon in a time in 2012, menswear writer Eric Musgrave wrote a piece for Yale University Press’ London Blog ran a story on the MFIT book “Ivy Style: Radical Conformists.” After calling for historians to focus more attention on largely anonymous retailers instead of big-name designers, Musgrave makes the following plea that will surely resonate with those who take their tradition straight and don’t need any contemporary twist watering it down:

My biggest problem with modern “interpreters” of Ivy style is that this singular phenomenon does not need “interpretation”. Thousands of men, I am absolutely certain, would be delighted today to find exact replicas of the classic Ivy League garments of the 1960s. Yes, they would need to be resized to fit modern bodies, but they would not need to be altered greatly. Ivy style is a pure (and purist) delight. To tinker with it is like “updating” champagne by flavouring it with cherry or bilberry. Best not bother!

Musgrave also wrote the forward to the just-released book “Menswear: Vintage People On Photo Postcards,” a fascinating glimpse of regular gents from decades past, many of whom were extremely dapper. 

20 Comments on "Straight, No Chaser: A Call For Untampered Tradition"

  1. This is very true! Perhaps the Ivy style is too simple to be messed with, so when it is “modernized,” it becomes something else.

  2. A well-aged whiskey is fine rare thing.

  3. Yes, indeed, there are those of us who react to deviation from pure Ivy as much as we do to the use of the verb “resonate” to mean to evoke a feeling of shared emotion or belief.

  4. Updating Ivy Style doesn’t “resonate” with me.

  5. Orgastic future | December 31, 2012 at 12:29 am |

    Basically the “Ivy’s” version of “Get off my lawn.”

  6. Living amongst them, I would say that the English stress Ivy as the great “lost” classic style, rejecting updates like Preppy, for good or ill. They do not emulate the past so much as reject the present (in so many respects).
    Their books are in my opinion true to their remits: Highly personal accounts.
    As for their behaviour online, you have me there. But you can’t expect that island race to have any respect for the internet when they still despise television as a medium. To the civilizations of the new world the internet is a new frontier to be invested with worth. Their old world still regards it as a magic lantern populated by shadows cast by puppets.
    Either they much catch up with us or we must catch up with them.
    A very happy new year to all on Ivy Style. Here’s to the diversity of opinion and the singularity of truth!

  7. A.E.W. Mason | January 1, 2013 at 11:50 am |

    In respect of “Musgrave’s plea,” I entirely agree. Over the past year and a half I’ve purchased an entire wardrobe of vintage clothing from Zach at Newton Street. And, clean contrary to the resent observation made on this blog about passers by muttering “there goes ‘Mr. Vintage’” to themselves as they come upon the vintage wearer, I’m frequently approached by men (and/or their wives)—including colleagues—about where they can acquire the suite or jacket I’m wearing. I was recently in one of the last fine gentlemen’s shops here in Los Angeles, Carroll & Co. (“LA”: Best defined as a remote settlement on the western most edge of the U.S. known for harboring a lot of vulgar show folk.), and the salesman commented on my sport coat, guessing it must have been made to measure by J. Press or Brooks. It was a simple, muted three-button hounds tooth rolled high to the third button (the 3/3 roll); the natural shoulders were almost a spalla camicia. Here, at least for me, is the real treat of fine vintage Ivy clothing: Whereas when I used to purchase a suit or coat from J. Press (I’ve been a Press customer since 1979—the new butcher strip button downs have ZERO roll, a disaster), I could put it on and say, “Yes, it’s almost perfect”; putting on a fine vintage mid-century garment I say, quite simply, “It’s perfect.” Of course, don’t get me started on the difference in quality.

  8. The phrase ‘the great lost look’ in relation to Ivy style comes from respected English style writer Paul Gorman in The Look, 2006. It rejects Preppy for an idealised Ivy classicism which may have never been in living memory.
    Even J. Press themselves were Ivy innovators not originators by their own happy admission.

  9. Replicas are ideal, though I would broaden the traditional color palette.

  10. Leitmotif, good post, we forget that J. Press as well as Paul Stuart, Chipp, Andover Shop, and many others took the basic look and made it their own, the same but not. I also believe too many deny the Western European influences on ivy style, especially English.
    It’s also interesting that so many believe that tradition ivy palette is always muted, based on what, B&W photos. Someone posted that the only purist OCBD shirts are white, blue and blue university stripe, most closets of ivy style enthusiast of the 1950s and 1960s would dispute this. I admit those are important basics, especially if one is on a tight budget or prefers to spend all their money on ties or is color blind. I do believe much of this is a justified reaction to the over indulgent “preppy” 1980s. It’s always fun to have some “fun” items in one’s wardrobe for appropriate venues, but not every item.

  11. Another great post. Thank you for point us to Musgrave’s article.

  12. Thank you MAC. A very happy new year to you.
    Count me amongst those with an interest in the “lost” classicism of Ivy. A classicism which in reality was never as dour and dull as the pseudo purists would vaunt. “Resort Wear” was always fun loving in the 1950s and 1960s even if buisness wear was restrained. Today the trend is to blur “off-duty” with “on-duty” garb. The result? Confusion.

  13. @ Leitmotif
    Regarding your assertions about English antipathy to the internet:
    The most recent stats I could find indicate that the UK punches well above it’s weight in the digital stakes with 83.6% of the population having internet access. We are therefore well in front of the USA (78.1%) and even nudging ahead of S.Korea (82.5%) who are often, wrongly it seems, held up as the most connected country in the world.
    I’ll say no more!

  14. Thank you Woofboxer. My thought was that the English didn’t take the medium seriously but that is only my impression. You could also say that others take it too seriously so it’s not really a dig at the English.
    I do have a sneaking admiration for those who question the importance of the regime of all the modern information technology we labor under these days. I may have spent too long in England!

  15. Jim M. (McGrath) | January 21, 2021 at 11:11 pm |

    An updated classic is an oxymoron. It’s classic for a reason and being updated isn’t the reason!

  16. Matt Froster | January 22, 2021 at 12:08 am |

    Jim M.(McGrath),
    It’s comments such as yours that make this blog worth reading.

  17. Yes….but as the saying goes “been there, done that”. The early Ralph Lauren Polo clothes were perceived as “knock offs” of the basics at college haberdasheries. The (pardon the expression) were the same, only in brighter/louder colors, as were the madras shorts and the “not quite” school and club ties. All this tied together by annual colors that made them sort of “Grrr Animals” for adult males. This last a great improvement as the original items came in their own unique palettes and for a late adolescent male putting together a good combination was often either a matter of: 1. Luck…today’s outfit was on the top of the heap on the floor. 2. Mom, or current girlfriend, was standing in the immediate proximity at the time the purchases were made, or 3. A discerning, which is to say mature and resourceful salesman/saleswoman (many thanks Shirley Liben) gently, and ruthlessly, directed attention to some items, “this is so versatile, and really speaks to who you are”, and damned with faint praise others, “very nice, trendy…perhaps a bit obvious is worn too often”. With Ralph’s you could be reasonably sure that you might be loud, but in a coordinated way.

  18. Jack Ancker | January 22, 2021 at 8:13 am |

    As stated above, once it’s updated, it’s no longer a classic.

  19. Old Bostonian | January 22, 2021 at 10:52 am |

    Perhaps Jim and Jack would have preferred it to have been expressed as
    “an updated version of a classic”, or would they have objected to that too?

  20. Charlottesville | January 22, 2021 at 4:35 pm |

    Updated or straight up, I would be thrilled to see more men wearing classic, natural-shoulder American clothing. By updated, I would draw the line somewhere on this side of Thom Browne’s gray flannel codpiece, Polo’s graffiti-covered herringbone and the like. I usually wear a 3/2 sack with a center vent, but a darted coat like Ralph Lauren was doing in the 80s and 90s, or the 2-button sack with double vents that Eljo’s and Ben Silver sell are much preferable to what we all see around us on most men today. Just offer well-made tweeds, flannels, seersuckers, poplins, worsteds, cavalry twills, corduroys and the like that fit comfortably, wear well and don’t look like a costume. As the original post suggests, I think there are more some men of all ages who would welcome it.

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