Six Years Ago — The Ivy League Look

This post originally ran in February of 2009. This morning a member of our Facebook group posted a video of the song, which went up on YouTube a couple of years ago (and has only been seen 500 times since). It has been added below.

We did a jazz post yesterday. This one’s for Squeeze. Give my regards to Broadway. — CC

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Though Ivy style during its heyday was broad and multifaceted (at least compared to what survives of it today), its core components were so fixed and predictable that by 1957 the look could be easily parodied with a few rhyming verses.

Even more telling, just such a parody came directly from the campus most credited with setting fashions: Princeton.

“The Ivy League Look” is a musical number created by The Triangle Club, Princeton’s theater troupe. The lyrics are by Clark Gesner, who would later go on to pen the musical “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.”

The Triangle Club, whose past members include F. Scott Fitzgerald, Booth Tarkington and Jimmy Stewart, has graciously granted Ivy-Style permission to present the lyrics for the first time on the web, though reading them is surely not the same as seeing the song performed.

The idea of lifestyle marketing, so entwined with selecting clothing today, is already deeply present in these lyrics from 52 years ago. Credit is given to magazines for dictating dress; Ivy style is presented as both modern and American compared to lower forms of dress, such as that worn by greasers or Midwesterners; Brooks Brothers is held up as the can’t-go-wrong standard; and by simply following a few sartorial shibboleths, any man can look the part, even if he’s never set foot on campus in his life.

The Triangle Club is still in operation and occasionally performs the number, though the lyrics probably don’t resonate the way they used to.

Ivy League Look
by Clark Gesner
From the Princeton Triangle Show After A Fashion 1957
© The Triangle Club of Princeton University

Corduroy slacks disgust me
Black leather jackets are vile
Long greasy hair and blue suede shoes
Transform my blood to bile.
If you want everyone to accept you
As a modern American male
You must dress the way the magazines say
They dress at Harvard and Yale

Though you’ve never been to college in your live long life
Never looked beyond the cover of a book
You can convince every chap that
You’re a Phi Beta Kappa
If you’ve gone and got that Ivy League Look

When the weather gets too chilly for Bermuda shorts
Take those red flannel longies off the hook
Just be sure that that trap
Has a button down flap
You’ve got to have that Ivy League Look

Alexander they say tried to conquer the world
With a helmet and a shield to boot
He should have known he would fail
With all that armor and mail
When all he needed was a Brooks Brothers suit
(They’re very stunning!)

If you’ve lost your shirt and everything at poker games
And a burlap bag is all that ain’t been took
Just be sure that that sack has a buckle in back
You’ve got to have that Ivy League Look

With this dashing new style you’ll be tapered and trim
Just a slender as a blushing bride
You’ll be the picture of grace
When you are viewed face to face
And quite invisible when seen from the side
(You’re almost nothing!)

It is crucial that the well dressed man be most precise
And should always dress exactly by the book
For with a two button coat, you’re just a Midwestern goat
With three you’ve got that Ivy League Look
(Won’t play the Rose Bowl)
Just dress the discreet way, the smart Rogers Peet way
You’ve got to have that Ivy League Look
(Just call me tweedy)
I’ve gone and got that Ivy League Look

8 Comments on "Six Years Ago — The Ivy League Look"

  1. EffortlesslyTrad (FT) | February 15, 2009 at 6:29 am |

    This post made me laugh all day and briefly consider trying to write a new verse to update it.

  2. Thank you for a great post. Your blog is fantastic. Keep up the good work.

  3. Your blog is the BEST of all the “trad, ivy league, preppy” blogs out there. It is more sophisticated, mature, thoughtful, and interesting than the rest. I am disappointed that you don’t have as many comments as some other blogs. Perhaps it is because readers are still digesting the contents of your blog after reading them, since they require more contemplating than the other shallow fashionista blogs of this genre.

    Keep up the good work.

  4. Thank you, gentlemen, that’s very kind of you.

  5. Such a treat to see Clark’s lyrics here. He was a gentle and funny soul. My only minor nit to pick with your post is that you can get the Triangle Club to perform Ivy League Look with only the barest hint of interest. Frequently, we’ll perform it regardless of anyone else’s interest.

  6. McGee you roué! Why don’t you get the fellas together for a YouTube reunion?

  7. Cole Porter it is not.

  8. “Blushing bride…”

    “For with a two button coat, you’re just a Midwestern goat
    With three you’ve got that Ivy League Look…”

    But then we always knew the 2b jacket was for rubes, didn’t we?

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