A couple of weeks ago we put out a call for anecdotes about the transition years of the late 1960s, when the Ivy League Look rapidly went from smart and current to formal and outmoded. Here are the first few reader responses, and if you have one of your own, please email it to email@example.com. Photo above is from Yale, 1969. — CC
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I graduated from high school in 1967. It was a public school in an affluent suburb of New Haven, CT. Throughout junior and senior high school we dressed in what I now think of as Ivy clothing, although we just thought of it as our school clothes. Outside school hours, most of us dressed in blue jeans and t-shirts. When I arrived at college in the fall of ’67, freshmen started out dressing just as we did in high school, but we soon noticed that the upperclassmen were wearing jeans to class and most of us adopted the new uniform.
I believe by ’68 that the dress code at my old high school was abolished and students began to wear their off-hours attire: that is, jeans and t-shirts. RIP chinos and Gant shirts. (By the way, my siblings and I went to school with the Gant progeny.)
I imagine that this scenario was repeated almost everywhere. Hence my theory is that the abolition of school dress codes, first at colleges and then at high schools, had more to do with the demise of the Ivy Look than is recognized. As for myself, I stuck more or less to my traditional look for a year-and-a-half, and then moved for a few years to the semi-hippyish look in effort to appeal to the chicks.
By 1980 I returned to the old look, where I have stayed since. It’s good to be back. — JB
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I set the date as the Fall of 1964. Let me explain.
At my high school (the University School in Grosse Pointe), boys from grades 7 through 12 were required to wear coat and tie each day. I graduated in May of 1964 and enrolled at Denison University that September. Something of a cultural change to say the least.
Bobby Zimmerman, of Hibbing, MN, had become Bob Dylan, and his second album was all the rage, as were the scruffy Levi’s that he habitually wore. They became the everyday pant to wear from that moment on. Preps at Denison ditched their tweed coats (except for special occasions), and made due with Baracutaa jackets (a la Steve McQueen), Lacoste polos, and Weejuns (best worn with white athletic tape holding the sole to the leather upper).
So I blame Bob Dylan and the promotion of denim as “the people’s fabric.” Ever see Dylan in a tweed jacket? — WC in Virginia
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I am the odd one in your group. I grew up in the Iraq Petroleum Company. Born 1956. My late father was educated in England. I grew up in an Ivy League company society (see photo below). Ideal life, all provided. The only violence we saw was what Hollywood dished out. I wore dress shoes, khakis and white shirts.
In the late ’60s I was exposed to Steve McQueen movies and also “Midnight Cowboy” had great effect on me. I discovered denim on one of our family trips to Beirut, Lebanon, and purchased two pairs of 501 Levis and a Lee Rider jacket. I was the only denim-clad kid in my school. Denim changed the way I planned my future and the way I participated in my community.
Thirty years ago I lost my father and at the same time returned to my roots dressing up just like my father used to. I think what we grow up around has a great influence on how we dress.
Today in the US I work with men grew up in blue-collar homes and clearly they see no attraction in wearing anything but jeans. Jeans have become the sloppy outfit that men can wear every day without giving it a thought. I enjoy your website tremendously. — SA in Oklahoma
It’s upsetting that jeans evolved from workwear to everyday wear and, in some cases that I’ve witnessed firsthand, formal wear. I was born too late.
Great photo from S.A. We understandably focus a lot of attention on collegiate looks and clothing ads from the heyday, and it is interesting to see “real people” (i.e., non-model, grown-ups) from the time when traditional coat and tie was the norm. Scenes much like this would have been the background to my childhood. The connection between true “Ivy” and proper business clothing was fairly close at the time.
“So I blame Bob Dylan and the promotion of denim as “the people’s fabric.” Ever see Dylan in a tweed jacket? — WC in Virginia”
I believe WC has nailed it. He writes from 1964.
At my Virginia (DC suburb) public high school Weejuns, OCBDs, etc. had ruled the roost with nary a deviation apart from corrupt influence of Clark’s Desert Boots (the proverbial camel’s nose sticking into the tent?).
I made the same point about Bob Dylan’s influence on this site nearly seven (7!) years ago:
“… I recall some of the most stylish guys in my senior class (’67) dropped the wingtips and Weejuns that spring in favor of high heeled, zip-up suede “Dingo” boots. Why? Because that’s what Bob Dylan – then at his peak of fame – wore. While “Ivy ” styles were dominant for most guys we also adapted it to include cultural trends of our time which included, among other things, Bob Dylan (boots), the Beach Boys (shirts) and the Beatles (hair). Also, Wallabees where the latest thing, originating only in 1965.”
I’d say that 1960s teen oriented pop culture set in motion of the demise of the dominance of Trad attire years before Nixon-era corruption supposedly did the deed.
Could it be that 60s style bohemia and Ivy League clothing don’t necessarily counteract one another? Maybe– just maybe –they compliment one another. I mean, look here at Winship and Dixon:
It’s typical to affiliate Ivy Heyday style with a crewcut and Goldwateresque politics, but one could make a good argument that sack suits, button downs, penny loafers, and shetland sweaters compliment long hair and sideburns rather nicely.
JB nailed it.
“I stuck more or less to my traditional look for a year-and-a-half, and then moved for a few years to the semi-hippyish look in effort to appeal to the chicks.”
To appeal to the chicks!!!
in the late 60’s our dress code prohibited jeans because the rivets damaged the furniture. By the early 70’s it had been abandoned.
I grew up in New Haven and graduated high school in 1966. I lived on Goffe Street just two long blocks from the Yale campus and adopted the ivy look in second year high school when I started buying clothes for myself and got a Yale Co-Op charge. Since then I have never changed my style of dressing or saw the need to go in any other direction. I am afraid that during those early years the shops on York Street, plus Whites on Chapel and Barrie Ltd. made such an impression that other styles just seemed like costumes.
High school in’57, and college in ’61. Khakis, ocbd’s, white or tan bucks, or loafers, and to this day, all through my teaching career, that was my uniform. Corduroy jackets and crew necks also figure in. Comfortable, respectable, and according to my wife of 40+ years, boring. Compared to the fads that have come and gone, there has to be something right about it.