Tales From The Twilight: A Preppy Frat In A Time Of Sartorial Anarchy

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This is the second installment in our new Tales From The Twilight series, about the final days of the Ivy heyday in the late ’60s. If you were a firsthand witness and would like to share your personal observations, please use the contact button above.

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Your article about “sartorial anarchy” reminded me of my years at Wesleyan. I joined a fraternity, Psi Upsilon, in 1973. Our house was considered the “preppy” house as we had a number of boarding school brothers and a preponderance of rowers, lacrosse, and soccer players.

The early ’70s, as you have noted many times, was an era when the old-school styles gave way to the “relaxed” look. I vividly remember (and can still see some of them today) the composite photos of each year of the frat displayed on the walls and stairwells of the house. The amazing contrast of the composite pictures from the mid-’60s to the ’70s was a stark reminder of how we had devolved stylistically. My senior composite had a little of everything: guys like me in a jacket and tie (lacrosse sticks, of course), and others in sweats or rugby shirts. Long hair, short hair, clean shaven and grungy. We had it all.

Unfortunately, it seems to have gone downhill from there. By the way, I truly enjoy reading your articles every week. Gives me hope that traditional style is not dead yet. — PG in Connecticut

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My perspective is from the aspirational outsider looking in. I grew up around Old Money but had none. I knew Marty Gant’s family, dated a Yale MD’s daughter, got invited to country clubs and aboard boats, but had nothing.

In 1967 I was 12 and the poor kid in an upper-middle-class neighborhood near the wealthy Pine Orchard section of Branford, CT. I commuted to a private school, so had to catch a daily bus on the New Haven Green. My weekday outfit was a buttondown oxford shirt from Sero or Gant, a tie, and blazer. At home it was Gamer Shetland sweaters, the same shirts, Levi’s and Sperry Top-Siders, Jack Pursell sneakers, or old Bass Weejuns.

In New Haven and then in Branford, I began to see hippies and was attracted to the message and lifestyle. I went about seven years without a haircut, but my clothes remained relatively Ivy. My sweaters were from Gamers until they closed, and dress trousers from Arthur Rosenburg. Added to that were the odd piece of Army surplus gear, or what survived of my father’s and uncle’s army shirts and jackets. The guys I saw around Yale dressed pretty much the same: long hair but tweed jacket and sweater, or a field jacket. A few from my high school went to Yale, while I went to Providence College, so for all of my high school and college years I was in New Haven a lot.

I was on the New Haven Green during the May Day protests in 1970, and all the rock bands stopped and played in New Haven, so I saw my share of out-of-town hippies. That is where my head was, but I just did not wear bell bottoms, sandals and Indian shirts. Grateful Dead played at the Yale Bowl, Isaac Hayes at Woolsey Hall, Frank Zappa at the New Haven Arena, Allen Ginsberg and Peter Orlovsky at Yale, Moondog at United Church on the Green in New Haven. That sort of thing.

I miss those days. I moved to San Francisco in 1979, and had to wear a suit to work for 21 years. Brooks Brothers, the J. Press outpost, and Cable Car Clothiers were my sources because they had the New England look. Then “The Official Preppy Handbook” came out and I was suddenly “in,” wearing the same clothes I always had.

Even though Brooks is not what it was, I still wear their shirts and khakis to work. Very few wear ties in Silicon Valley. My “blazer” is a Marmot microfleece vest.

Kidding a bit. Still have a Brooks Brothers blazer, grey suit, and an odd BB sportcoat for when I do have to dress up. — JD in California

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I worked in the Ivy shop of a department store in ’64 & ’65. Went to work for an apparel salesman, he represented H.I.S Sportswear, in the fall of ’65. I was very much “Ivy” at the time: Madisonaire by Varsity Town, Deansgate, Sero, Shapely, Briar, etc.

I assumed my own territory with H.I.S in ’67, and while they still offered traditional styles, they were also offering mod styles coming from England. This started a fashion trend that undermined traditional apparel.

There was also Nehru, leisure suits, bell bottoms, etc. Traditional was still a part of the mix, and I, for the most part, stayed with it and still do today. There were short periods when I would venture into some of the fashion looks, but always came back to my roots.

I never felt any repercussions for sticking with traditional apparel — in fact it seemed to be the opposite. I felt out of place when wearing more forward fashion. That’s probably what caused me to keep returning to the traditional look. — JB

8 Comments on "Tales From The Twilight: A Preppy Frat In A Time Of Sartorial Anarchy"

  1. carmelo pugliatti | April 18, 2016 at 9:56 pm |

    “I went about seven years without a haircut”

    Gee! Would be a real torture.
    I can not imagine me a month without a haircut!

  2. Orange Fiji | April 19, 2016 at 1:01 pm |

    Christian: When I was a pledge many years ago, we were told that “frat” was an unacceptable word & to only say the word “fraternity.”

  3. Tell that to the popular website Total Frat Move.

  4. Allen Groves | April 19, 2016 at 3:43 pm |

    Is the photo at the top one of Ed Roseberry’s of UVA?

  5. Orange Fiji | April 20, 2016 at 12:12 pm |

    Christian: Let us hope that the readers of Ivy-Style are a bit more adult & mature that the readers of “Total Fr*t Move.”

  6. “ ‘frat’ was an unacceptable word”

    OrangeFi, I feel the same way about “tux.”

  7. Charlottesville | April 22, 2016 at 12:31 pm |

    Orange and Flo — Agreed. Please also add “limo” to the list of unacceptable words. What could be more indicative of the decline of university life than a “frat” “bro” in a “tux” riding in a “limo,” no doubt fist bumping with his fellow passengers as he contemplates how like totally awesome it all is. I’m afraid that I overhear this type of conversation all too regularly in these parts. Oh well. At least it’s Friday, and the weekend weather is expected to be totes amazeballs from what I hear.

  8. “no doubt fist bumping with his fellow passengers”

    And tossing this [bewildering] idiom between each of their one syllable sentences – “andimlikeiknowright?!?!?!”

    Dude, andimlikeiknowright?!?!?! Suh [‘sup is over], iknowright?!?!?! Adorbs, so def totes, srsly, imlikeiknowright?!?!?!

    Srsly.

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