The Year I Found My Style

This young lawyer was a lost soul until he found his way to Ivy Style, the website and the clothing genre, and joined the online trad brotherhood.

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Twenty-seventeen is the year I found my style. Prior to this year, I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. Although I am in a career which requires dressing up most days, I had no defined style.

Although I had exposure to some trad and preppy brands, such as owning a few Ralph Lauren sweaters or a few Brooks Brothers polo shirts from my father, I did not consider myself Ivy or preppy. I grew up as a teenager in the early 2000s, so I was used to the stylings of Jnco Jeans and Abercrombie & Fitch as casual clothing. As such, I purchased suits and other clothing items that tended to be horribly oversized and looked as if I was wearing hand-me-downs. When I lost a bit of weight and fashion tended to lean towards the slim-cut darted suits, I picked up a couple of those, too. As a result, I was a mish-mash of different styles.

While I had been introduced to the Brooks Brothers flagship at 346 Madison, having grown up in New York, most of the time it felt uncomfortable. I had been more intimidated by the bastions of classic menswear than anything else. For example, I walked into a men’s store on Madison and 47th around 2010 — a store that turned out to be J. Press — and felt extremely intimidated by the various clothes there. I saw a few oxford shirts, some nice sportcoats, and suits. But I felt most comfortable wearing jeans like most of my classmates, and some rugby shirts. However, I did see two things that caught my eye: a table of Shetland sweaters in every imaginable color, and schoolboy scarves. I didn’t actually end up buying anything; since I wasn’t actually an Ivy Leaguer, I thought that I shouldn’t wear an Ivy-colored scarf. I never walked into that store again.

Then earlier this year I changed jobs and found that I needed a few sportcoats. I tried to find one that fit my needs — something not too formal nor too relaxed — but eventually realized I’d just purchased a gray suit coat. At that point I decided to go online to seek advice on sportcoats, and Ivy Style was one of the first results in my search. Though I didn’t realize it, I already had many Ivy basics in my closet. I owned a few oxfords, repp ties, and Shetland sweaters. Most importantly, I loved wearing these items, particularly my Shetland cardigan, having gone through three since college.

I’d always wanted to enjoy dressing well, but now I’ve finally put all the pieces together. Over the past few months, I’ve added flap-pocket OCBDs, a new blue blazer, and some knit ties. I like that the look allows a bit of individuality and allows me to stand out from the greater community. One can always wear pants and a shirt to work, but it’s the small touches that set Ivy apart, from OCBDs, to to ribbon belts and sack coats. I’ll admit that some Ivy items aren’t for me, but then again, graphic tees with bulldogs on them aren’t exactly Ivy.

And most important of all, because of this website, I’ve actually found myself part of a larger community. I’ve been lucky enough to meet a few fellow Ivy aficionados both young and old, such as the Millennial Fogey. I am proud to have found this community, one I didn’t even realize I was partially a part. — BEN BLUM

15 Comments on "The Year I Found My Style"

  1. Thanks for sharing your story, Ben. Always nice to hear how younger guys find their way to the style — and the website!

  2. Bravo Mr. Blum. Your essay is a well-traveled storyline on 44th Street.

  3. Ulysses Williams | December 28, 2017 at 12:18 pm |

    Does one have to physically get to the J Press flagship store in order to find this rainbow of Shaggy Dog Sweaters? The colors on the website, save for a pink York Street color, are pretty bland. How long ago was this when you saw all these colors?

  4. Zoinks_Sc00b | December 28, 2017 at 1:44 pm |

    Very nice, thank you for sharing

  5. Nice story and relatable for many, I’d imagine. Without guidance, I wandered in an unnecessarily formal vintage direction before this site and others helped me connect the dots between the Oxford shirts and khakis my mother used to buy me and the wool sweaters and loafers handed down from my grandfather, to find a coherent and adaptable style that some call Ivy.

  6. Ulysses Williams:

    Take my advice and stick to grey, blue, and navy Shaggy Dogs

  7. Reactionary Trad | December 29, 2017 at 5:43 am |

    “Some Call it Ivy”.
    Others feel it unnecessary to attach a label to traaditional style.
    The other day I was wearing a white pinpoint button down shirt, a navy/white striped shirt, grey flannels, and cordovan loafers and a salesperson commented on how “Preppy” I looked.
    “Preppy”, indeed!
    For the rest of the day, I wondered what I had gotten wrong in my choices. “

  8. Bravo Ben! Slay ’em in court with your threads!

  9. Great article – glad you found your way into the niche!

    CC – saw that Boxing creeped its way into your twitter feed, hopefully we get a story here in 2018.

  10. CD, I’d like to write about it, but perhaps as part of an outside project I may share here. Not sure how to make it germane here, beyond searching for shots of the 1959 Princeton boxing team.

    Free sparred yesterday for the first time. Got hit a few times. Little cut on my mouth.

    I like it.

  11. Houghton Mead | December 29, 2017 at 12:36 pm |

    First it was jazz and football, now it’s boxing.

  12. Houghton, if I do a boxing post, I promise to give you a 24-hour head’s up trigger warning so you can look away, such as into a mirror.

  13. Henry Contestwinner | December 29, 2017 at 2:34 pm |

    Don’t forget Christian’s penchant for golf!

    I trained karate as a youth (teens & 20s). I came back to it in my 40s, to a different school. Sparring in my youth was minimal contact; at the school I went to in my 40s, it was full contact, with lots of protective gear. As much as I enjoy karate, especially the kata, I found that getting the stuffing knocked out of me was not my cup of tea.

    To each his own.

  14. A flap pocket on your shirt? I know that’s j press but much better; no pocket.

  15. elder prep | March 8, 2019 at 7:24 pm |

    I too share Ben Blum’s wandering in the fashion desert until I found Ivy Style. The last para of his story is a match for mine. In my three weeks of reading IS and modestly supporting it, I have learned so much about trad, prep and Ivy Style that was hinted at in OPH but space restrictions possibly prohibited the full development of the genre that I found here. Well done CC.

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