Many of the storied New England boarding schools were founded during a particularly tumultuous period after the Civil War, when the established order of older money families was threatened by the growing prominence and wealth of war profiteers and fortunes made during the Industrial Revolution. All the boarding schools embodied New England’s Anglophilia, and it was this orientation which helped shaped what we now know as the Ivy style.
Phillips Academy in Andover (established in 1778) and Phillips Exeter (1781) are perhaps analogous to the Eton and Harrow of the United States: two of the oldest and most prestigious boarding schools. Eton’s dress code is carefully structured to display coded symbols of status and rank among the students, and perhaps the most iconic piece of clothing are the brightly-colored bespoke vests from Pop, the senior society. In American terms, being at Eton is like being at Harvard: you’re among the elite. But within each school, being chosen for Pop is like being tapped for the Porcellian or the A.D., the elite among the elite.
The Anglo-American style draws considerable inspiration from these British traditions. In the 1980s, Virgil Marson (1923-2018) – the late co-founder of the Andover Shop, established at the edge of Phillips Academy – had done a run of repp and club neckties for the Academy. Faced with the question of what do with the remainder of the bolts of silk, he transformed them into waistcoats. It was either with the subtle club patterns, or the regimental stripes, ordinarily cut on the bias for ties, but instead cut vertically for a visually-striking waistcoat.
Jim Toomey, the head of the Andover Shop’s original location, recalls, “These were very popular with the students, who wore them with a tuxedo for the spring ball, and under a blazer for graduation. You know, we should probably do this again.” — ANV
Images: Phillips Academy club and regimental neckties, images via Andover Shop; Eton Pop waistcoat via New & Lingwood; Two Eton boys in Pop waistcoats via The Eton Boy.