The Black Ivy League Look Tumblr


While doing image research this morning I came across the fantastic photo above. When I investigated the source, it turned out to be a Tumblr site called The Black Ivy League Look.

We’ve posted some historic images of students before, bunkered down with books or huddled together the way Robin Williams gathers them in “Dead Poets Society” (the post “Alger Hiss at Princeton” comes to mind). But I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything this intimate before. It looks like a girls slumber party. The photo is densely packed and yet there’s an air of silence. The details are fascinating: there’s the guy in the left foreground lying supine, and the guy next to him looking so cool with his sunglasses on indoors, paired with desert boots and jeans.

The Tumblr site itself appears to have been created in April and only worked on for a few days. There aren’t a lot of posts, some of it is gathered from here and other popular sources (such as FE Castleberry’s excellent photo shoot “The Black Ivy“), but it’s a great idea to start collecting such images in one place and I encourage the site’s creator to continue it. — CHRISTIAN CHENSVOLD


20 Comments on "The Black Ivy League Look Tumblr"

  1. Mitchell S. | August 21, 2015 at 2:49 pm |

    Malcolm X in his later years was an Ivy League Look adherent. There’s a quote from him when asked why he dressed Ivy League, he said, to paraphrase, “When your ideas are radical, it helps to dress conservatively.”

  2. Mitchell, any idea the source of the quote?

  3. A few observations.

    First, the gents in the pictures are well dressed. They look great. I like the tweeds, repp tie, and tartan tie.

    It seems the horseshoe shaped (leather belt) buckle was a Heyday staple.

    Long OCBD collar points. Wrinkled and creased. Superb.

    2 3/4″ tie blade width? Narrow!

    I’m glad the Heyday narrowness has long since passed. Even skinny guys benefit from at least 3″ lapels and ties. A few years after the picture was taken, a return to dimensional normalcy.

  4. Also and interestingly, the jacket shoulders are natural but neither über narrow or slipshod sloped. Nicely done.

  5. ‘nor’

  6. The are some excellent shots from southern black schools here:
    the latter pages of the thread. Actually the whole thread is pretty cool.

  7. ^
    Page 8 seems to be the relevant part of the thread!

  8. Mitchell S. | August 22, 2015 at 7:47 am |


    I’m afraid that I cannot attribute the quote to any source. Mea culpa.

  9. Ward Wickers | August 22, 2015 at 9:07 am |

    Terrific post. A couple of guys in the top photo are wearing Wallabees, which, to me, give feet a cool, carefree look. They highlight the casual, trad dress, yet everyone is serious in their studies. It makes me wonder what has become of these people. Where are they today? What did they accomplish? The man in the center of the photo is wearing a Howard University sweater, but the source says this is a photo of students at Morehouse College. He must have been something of a maverick.

  10. Glad to see the recently-departed Julian Bond held up as an icon, style-wise and otherwise (boarding school, Morehouse; and I also agree that Malcolm X embodies the same late-mid-century style, if not the pedigree.

    The link to the photo shoot just reminds me that Fred Castleberry is the worst writer on the interwebs.

  11. As Paul notes above, Julian Bond, who is pictured in the last photo in that tumblr (scroll all the way down) passed away just last week. His obit was in last Monday’s New York Times. He got the honor of a front-page obit, with photo.

  12. Ward Wickers | August 22, 2015 at 12:59 pm |

    Here’s the link to the NY Times Obituary of Julian Bond. A remarkable man and a notable life.

  13. Thanks for directing us to this. A fascinating site.

    Best Regards,

    Heinz-Ulrich von B.

  14. I believe the top picture is of a study-in.

  15. He was a Gentleman I had the pleasure of selling him some clothing at J. Press before before the store lost it’s way.

  16. Both pictures highlight the persistent–shall we say, pressing–problem with late 50s-60s Ivy style. It doesn’t travel well into normal (yes, I used that word) middle-class culture–the 21st century American version. As great as the guys in the second pic look, if they interviewed for a job at a law firm nowadays, they’d be pegged “hipster” almost immediately. The narrow/skinny thing combined with thick horn-rims–whether the Take/Talk Ivy crowd like it or not, it screams hipster. Which can come off as unserious. I guess that’s okay with them.

    Julian Bond moved on. To super wide everything (lapels, ties, etc.) in the 70s to what I’ll declare a certain kind of normalcy in the 80s and beyond. Most of the pics you’ll find of the man reveal a taste for blazers, tweed jackets, charcoal wool suits, and seersucker. He fit right into the C-Ville (UVA) scene. No hipster weirdness. Think 80s-and-beyond Preppy/Traditional.

  17. Ausonious,

    I think that you are correct. In this link ( it is said to be a study-in at Duke University’s Allen Building, November 13, 1967.

  18. Study-in may be what it is, but I can’t say I’ve seen a shot quite that densely packed. Maybe it’s time for a study-in image search…

  19. First allow me to just say thank you for posting such a wonderful read.
    As a 25 year old [black] man & performance artist I am in awe over you keen sense of cultural competencies in not just this article but as well as many of your published writings.

    The quote stated above referencing ‘radial ideas’ I guess you could say is my style mantra.
    (even though I’m not the biggest fan of Malcolm X)

    I will be following the tumblr page you mentioned and using it as a sort’ve inspiration board.
    To proliferate snazzy attired emulators of such impeccably dressed gentleman is the message of my ‘look’ this coming f/w season.

    Thnx again

  20. Although not the same, this reminds me of the about page on my site – I allude to the convergence of native an occidental cultures making asomething rather beautiful

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