Varsity Town’s Madisonaire, 1966

Recently we mentioned the “Main Street” Ivy brands that flickered briefly during the heyday, which often touted their wares as “authentic natural shoulder fashions,” as if one were buying an ethos along with a jacket cut.

Of course, among the original arbiters of the Ivy League Look, the natural shoulder was an expression of the values and culture of America’s WASPy upper middle class. But because they got their clothes from Brooks and Press (and The Andover Shop and Langrock and so forth), their clothes weren’t advertised as “authentic” because they actually were.

To wit, check out the ad by Varsity Town’s Madisonaire line from 1966, one year before the fall of the Ivy League Look. What do you bet that by ’68 the street-sign logo was changed to Haight-Ashbury?

Either way it’s still Main Street, a wonderful example of commerce at work and the flourishing of the Ivy League Look to men across the nation, who, if they couldn’t get the real deal, could at least get a replica. — CC

8 Comments on "Varsity Town’s Madisonaire, 1966"

  1. Pure Middle American domesticity. The common man in a three-piece suit tosses salad with his homemaker gal in the kitchen. Madison Avenue does Main Street .

  2. It would be interesting for someone from Ann Arbor to chime in on when the Varsity Town shops went out of business. Many of the “ivy” shops I’m familiar with lasted till early 90s, some even till 2009’s economic melt down. Although many morphed into what Brooks Brothers has become.
    Also, don’t forget that other than “made to order”, most of their off the rack “private” labeled clothing was made by the same manufacturers as the venerable Ivy shops back east. Their American made shoes were their same brands, as were their shirtings and imported accessories.

  3. What caused a chill to travel up my spine while reading the copy of the Madisonaire ad was the promotion of the new “Spice Hues for fall, 1966.”

    The arrival in the late 60s of these sort of colors was the initial salvo foreshadowing the impending invasion of the muddy “Earth Tones” of rust, burnt orange, avocado green, mustard yellow, warm brown and brownish-maroon (in lieu of classic burgundy) that afflicted mainstream menswear as well as architecture, automobiles and home furnishings in the 1970s.

  4. “Say, that’s quite a hue. Spicy, I mean. Thousand Island for the greens?”

  5. Arround here, there are “Chinese” restaurants run by Koreans that mostly serve Chop Suey and Crab Rangoon to non-Chineese Americans. While I’m sure some of the Korean chefs might think that they are making authentic Chinese food for a Chinese audience, I’m sure that just as many recognize that they are creating a new and wholly American tradition.

    This is what Brooks did when it aped the English, and this is what Main Street Ivy did when it aped Brooks.

    Chasing WASP authenticity is a pointless game. The only reason the pastime exists is because a system based so entirely on unchangeables is so anti-Americans that most people don’t believe it can really be that way. Everything has to have a genealogy under the WASP system, and it has to be your genealogy. That old J. Press suit can’t just have belonged to somebody’s uncle, it has to have belonged to your uncle. The old photos can’t just be of somebody’s grandparents while they were at Yale, they have to have been of your grandparents while they were at Yale. If you haven’t got an uncle who wore J. Press suits or a grandfather that went to Yale, then under a WASP system you can never be authentic, ever. You can go to Yale yourself and buy a new J. Press suit, and if you can convince your grandchildren to follow in your footsteps then maybe they’ll have a shot, but isn’t the entire point of the American Dream to escape the expectations of one’s birth?

    With the Main Street, Chop-Suey Ivy, at least there are some people who recognize that.

  6. Wild’s was still in business when I was in Ann Arbor from 1982 through 1984. I recall it started in the 1920s. I remember buying a tie or two there. Bob Seger worked there as a young man.

  7. I’m a longtime reader, and I live and attend school in Ann Arbor presently. Sadly, as is the case most everywhere else, there are few trad shops left in the area. Wild’s is long gone, and what remains of trad clothing can be found downtown at Van Boven’s…a fine shop it has remained to be. We do have a few stores like Jos A Banks, and a Brooks is within driving distance. We have 2 beautiful college campus’s in town, and one trad shop…it can be depressing.

  8. In the picture, what on earth is that on his head?

    J. Kraus,

    I, too, remember the awful earth tones (etc.) of the early 70s. I hadn’t thought about how the milder versions of those colors in the late 60s were presaging what came later, but you’re absolutely right.

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