The New Ivy League Look, 1964

Richard Press’ event at the New York J. Press store on Wednesday was a delight. Photos and yes even video was taken, so stay tuned and I’ll post it just as soon as it’s ready.

In the meantime, one of the gentlemen who came up to me to introduce himself was a Princeton student who hails from Australia. He discovered a branch of our trad tree some years ago when the J. Crew/Rugby/Gant neo-prep trend was in full force. He’s now a graduate student and has graduated to “clothes that don’t fall apart,” as he put it.

The fellow has kindly dug up some articles of interest from the Princeton archives, which we can dissect one by one. First up is a piece from 1964, several years before the fall of the Ivy League Look, already lamenting the growing casualness of student attire. The piece is entitled “The New Ivy League Look: Informality Pervades Campus Dress.” The piece concludes, with emphasis added:

One reason is the influx of scholarship students that began after the war. Such students can hardly afford the extensive wardrobe that once characterized the Princeton man. A far-reaching effect of this trend is a form of reverse conformity which may account for modern dress. Explained one salesman: “I’ll be selling to an alumnus while his son is wearing a pair of pants his kid brother couldn’t fit into, because he doesn’t want to embarrass his two roommates on scholarship.” Not all students conform to the “Gray-T” school of dress which these students have introduced. But the current student goals seem to be comfort and security; as long as these remain, informality in all phases of dress will keynote the “Princeton look.”

Read the whole piece here. — CC

20 Comments on "The New Ivy League Look, 1964"

  1. Ezra Cornell | January 27, 2018 at 3:36 am |

    Perhaps not such a new trend. As I mentioned in an earlier comment, at Cornell, “to break down the bulwarks of caste, a university uniform is provided, to prevent the contrast between the fine apparel of the rich and the plain apparel of the poor.” (1863)

  2. Rene Lebenthal | January 27, 2018 at 3:55 am |

    At that time the change in dressing was certainly due to a lack of money but also to education. But compared to what’s it today it was still stylish and elegant. Today’s students prefer to buy iphones or any other electronic gadget instead of clothing. I have the world famous INSEAD Business School in Fontainebleau and it’s effrayant to say that these “no-style-dressed” young people will be the business leaders of tomorrow. Thing’s are still evolving…and not in the right direction!

  3. Mitchell S. | January 27, 2018 at 8:37 am |

    The problem with “reverse conformity” is that it does not age well. A guy in his thirties and forties looks kind of ridiculous wearing sweatpants and sneakers. Dressing well takes times and practise and people who buy into this reverse conformity are short-changing themselves down the road.

  4. Dutch Uncle | January 27, 2018 at 9:25 am |

    I was a scholarship student in the early 1960s, yet certainly could afford to dress properly. I had a total of two blue OCBDs. two or chinos (we called them “khakis”), one pair of grey flannel trousers, one grey herringbone jacket one navy (we called it “navy blue”) blazer, one pair of Weejun knockoffs, one pair of bluchers, and a couple of striped and woolen ties.
    As Giuseppe Timore put in in his now-defunct blog, “An Affordable Wardrobe”:
    “Penury is not an excuse, because style has nothing to do with money”.

  5. Someone actually shared that article—and shares that disgust over the influx of working-class scholarship students? Because to hell with social mobility if it brings lapses in the dress code?

  6. JayH:
    We went to college in the early ’60s to escape from the working-class.

  7. Maynard G. Krebs invented the new Princeton look above. I’ve been cutting the sleeves off sweatshirts since 1962, and wearing them over OCBDs.


  8. Charlottesville | January 27, 2018 at 1:13 pm |

    Go for it Wriggles! I remember that Bob Denver beatnik look from Dobie Gillis (available on DVD, and streaming). I can only speak for myself, but I have no objection to “working-class” or any other “class” of humanity, and I don’t think that was the point of the post, which I read as more historical in nature. I also applaud the desire not to offend others by showing off, whether by the price of one’s wardrobe, one’s car or whatever. It is simply good manners, and I have put it into practice myself, dressing more casually than usual for a social event, for example, so that I would not look “high hat” as they used to say in old movies. However, Dutch Uncle is correct. I started out with a similar wardrobe, and 50% of my tuition at law school was covered by a scholarship, and the rest by loans; I also clerked part time for a local attorney. As I earned more money, my wardrobe expanded.

    I do not think that the reason for the slovenliness of the current era is primarily economic. Many of my friends and acquaintances have more money than I do, but few bother to dress well regularly. An acquaintance of mine bumped into me at the grocery store yesterday, and complemented me on being well dressed. He had holes in his pants, but his net worth is well up in the millions. I note, by the way, that he is an extremely nice and well educated man, and that he can be seen looking tweedy and smart when the occasion calls for it. I also note that torn and faded jeans sell for more than what I pay for khakis, and Nike makes sneakers that cost more than Allen Edmonds tassel loafers and longwings. There are many reasons for all of this (including what our fellow commenter Rene might call nostalgie de la boue), but with the availability of eBay, discount stores and 70% off sales, choosing to dress in athleisure wear 24/7 is not primarily an economic or even a “class” decision.

  9. Maurizio Bruno | January 27, 2018 at 2:54 pm |

    Je pense moi aussi, que le choix des vêtements, de l’habillement, au-delà de la futilité des apparences, illustre de manière forte le rapport des individus au monde, au réel, aux autres, à la valeur des choses…

  10. Speaking of “high hat” Yesterday I went with my daughter to look at a house. When the real estate agent saw me he said ” You’re all duded up today “. What was I wearing in 2018 to be considered “all duded up”? Suit and tie ? Noo. How about Sport coat, khakis and loafers? Nope. Faded 5 pocket cords, rumpled old Lands End OCBD and desert boots.
    We are not coming out of this downward spiral, it’s over. If you are not wearing cargo shorts or jeans with a t shirt in the near future I foresee people openly mocking us, maybe being chased down the street for tucking in your shirt.

  11. Note that the article cites the very first symptom of the trend towards informality as the khaki trousers that everyone started wearing after the War. What we think of today as the canonical “Ivy League look” is not the more formal pre-war look – it had already taken some crucial steps toward greater informality. It was natural for the trend to continue.

  12. Thrifty Trad | January 28, 2018 at 12:45 am |

    Does that mean that before World War II, Ivy League students were wearing woolen or linen trousers, rather than khakis?

  13. Rene Lebenthal | January 28, 2018 at 6:55 am |

    Concordo al 100 %
    Buona domenica

  14. Johoandthecats | January 28, 2018 at 10:47 am |

    @ George.

    That’s well beyond what we experieence here in London. You have to be weearing a tie for people to think you’re ‘dressed up’. Still, the trend is eveident and regrettable. Cords, shirt and chukkas is “duded up”? What was the estate agent wearing? Disposable nappies and flip-flops?

  15. @Joho The agent was wearing a plaid button front shirt, (Untucked but at least it had a square bottom) blue jeans and I’m not sure but probably what you call “trainers”.

  16. Huntington Howell | January 28, 2018 at 12:05 pm |

    @Rene Lebenthal

    A friend just sent me this quotation which might be of interest to you:

    “La propreté des chaussures, c’est l’élégance du pauvre”

  17. I played golf with a fellow from Kent, England, last fall. A nice fellow, when he saw my OCBD, khaki’s and sleeveless vest (no cut off sweat shirt that day), he immediately tucked in his golf shirt. He asked about the public course dress code. I told him, anything goes, but I just like what I wear.

    @ Charlottesville

    Sometimes, it’s wise not to look too prosperous or proper. The tattered clothes fellow doesn’t want to be a target, or look wealthy enough to rob.

    Sad state of affairs in the world.

  18. Today I was walking on the jogging route at a local park. I saw a guy I have seen many times from a distance coming toward me. I had wanted to get a closer look at him because he always dressed in what I can best describe as a 90s hip hop look (he’s white). I couldn’t believe, he had to be in his mid 30s, carrying a skateboard, with the ball cap on, really giant baggy high water jeans and a black t shirt with “Compton” written in large white letters. I kinda felt sorry for him, I mean there might be something wrong with him, apparently he doesn’t work. Then I started thinking do I look any different to other people ( who don’t dress “Trad” or “Ivy” ) walking around wearing the same thing I wore in High School in 1968. Is it all cosplay or costume?

  19. Rene Lebenthal | January 29, 2018 at 11:46 am |

    @Huntington Howell
    Nice Quotation. And so true. Being properly dressed is not only a question of money but also of style and education. And clean shoes are definitley a part of this.

  20. Charlottesville | January 29, 2018 at 12:38 pm |

    Maurizio et Rene – Je suis d’accord aussi. I have now pretty much exhausted my non-menu French. If clothing really is a statement about our relationship to the world, judging from the clothing of today’s students, the message of tomorrow’s leaders seems to be “I just want to be comfortable, I do not want to grow up, and don’t really care about anyone else.” No doubt I am missing something, and I hope that they will grow out of it, but the signs are not hopeful.

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