Why, Oh Why? News Roundup + 1950s Ivy Doo-Wop

We start the week off with a rather motley miscellany. Above, a 1958 novelty tune called “Ivy League Clothes” from a little-known doo-wop group called The Gaylarks. Damned if I can tell what the hell they’re singing about, save for “why, oh why?” Something about Ivy for girls.

It’s from a time when the trunk of the Ivy tree was strong and robust as opposed to termite-ridden and in danger of becoming petrified. But the song is still a cultural artificact riding the contemporaneity of the Ivy League Look’s popularity, which means it’s the ’50s equivalent of today’s fully blossomed branch known as modern prep.

Which leads us to a few news items have come across our desk. First off, Racked.com brings us a lengthy article called “Vineyard Vines and the Enduring Power of Prep.”

Here’s an excerpt:

“We grew up constantly around sailing communities, fishing communities, yacht clubs, country clubs, golf courses,” says Shep. “We use icons of what we call the ‘good life’: boats, Nantucket, golf, tennis. It’s very classic American—prep school meets Wall Street. People just want a little bit of fun in their wardrobe. When we started, we said, ‘Why not help people dress for those great life activities?’”


“Prep is essentially an upper class look. There is a lot of desirability behind it, to dress the part of the higher society that goes yachting and plays polo,” says Francesa Munson, head of retail and product analysis at WGSN. “There are wider implications to the healthy, outdoorsy lifestyle.

I think we should all applaud upper-class-for-the-masses look. It’s so much more refreshing than the “prole drift” as Paul Fussell called it, of lower-class taste for the middle class, which is the driving force behind popular taste in everything today.

Another mainstream company, this time one that’s prepped itself out, is Abercrombie & Fitch, the once legendary manly supply store located just down the street from Brooks, Press, Chipp and Paul Stuart on Madison Avenue. Bloomberg has a cover story on the company subtitled “From clueless prep to sullen teen.”

And speaking of Abercrombie, here’s a Hoosier writing in the school paper on “The Politics Of Preppy,” apropos of A&F’s hijab lawsuit.

And finally from the diluted Ivy files, as we were prepping this post a leaf fell from the tree into our inbox. You probably got it, too:


It’s from Lands’ End and plugs new washed-oxford shirts called Sail Riggers, “in a length just right to wear untucked.”

OK JFK did that, but not when he was at work. — CC

21 Comments on "Why, Oh Why? News Roundup + 1950s Ivy Doo-Wop"

  1. I have a couple of those sail rigger oxfords from Lands’ End. They’re not bad for banging around in. I’d hoped the fabric would be a little softer. And the collar is NOT tie friendly.

  2. “I think we should all applaud upper-class-for-the-masses look…”

    OK, I’ll give that a try. How much harm could it do? After all, the Psycho Hillbilly hasn’t worked nearly as well as I thought it would.

  3. I love the Sail Rigger Oxfords, I have 2 of the plain in tailored fit….but wow the patterned ones are always so ugly and odd

  4. The last line about Vineyard Vines’s “character and authenticity” made me chuckle incredulously. Purchasing a sense of identity instead of developing one on your own is about as authentic as telling everyone you made your store-bought cake from scratch. I prefer to buy clothes, not a lifestyle. I already have one in good working order.

  5. Doug..
    Well put.

  6. I think there’s a strong case that Vineyard Vines didn’t jump on the “preppy bandwagon” but actually helped create the resurgence of the prep look. The brand was launched in 1998, that’s well before the bloggers and other modern prep’s emerged. Even though outside of a pair of shorts (for myself) and some polo’s for my toddlers, I don’t shop there. I do applaud their business acumen though, their company grew enormously over the last 17 years, they should be commended, not criticized. I think they’re helping the younger generation look better, not worse.

  7. Oh, my.

    That “song” is awful! I couldn’t even make it to the end, and I used to listen to The Shaggs.

  8. Malvernlink | March 9, 2015 at 7:39 pm |

    Read “The Politics of Preppy” by Eduardo Salas. Mr. Salas represents the critical thinking, originality, and above all the intellectual honesty that is so prevalent at American colleges these days. I hope he receives a well deserved A in his Sociology class after his Professor reads such a well thought out article.

  9. I like doo woop style,but this song is ugly!

  10. I generally like what I find at Vineyard Vines, and have spent a considerable amount of money there over the past decade. The quality, in my opinion, has declined as they have expanded. And it is all a bit contrived–I agree with what Doug said about purchasing a lifestyle. Thank you, I’ll just take that “party” shirt. They make nuce casual clothing; for my grown-up clothes I still prefer B squared.

  11. Another vote for the Sail Rigger’s. The collar is more substantial than you get on most casual shirts, but as Nard-Dog said they’re not quite up to a tie. They’re short enough to wear untucked, sure, but also long enough that they can be tucked in if you’re not wearing low-rise pants. Also, I think they run rather true-to-size (even in the traditional fit), so those accustomed to sizing down in LE to get a fit closer to Brooks slim than Brooks traditional should order their normal size instead.

  12. Vern Trotter | March 10, 2015 at 7:05 am |


    Who created Eduardo Salas? Bill Ayares? Frank Marshall Davis? He spews more Obama inspired Marxist agitprop and codswallop like we have been hearing since the 1930s!

    I am dusting off my copy of Paul Fussell’s CLASS! Beats returning to John Barlycorn.

  13. Malvernlink | March 10, 2015 at 8:36 am |

    @ Vern Trotter,

    Uh, Vern, my comment is a put on, ridicule, as in poking fun at Eduardo. True believers, whether on the left or the right, are such easy targets. Use a little subtlety.

  14. Kudos to the founders of Vineyard Vines for: a) making a radical life change; and b) creating – as the article notes – a truly rabid group of customers (even if they are spending their parents’ money instead of their own).

    But, truth-be-told, if you’re over 30 and buy any of their stuff, you’re a fool: I got one of their ties as a gift early-on, and the quality was terrible.

    They’re selling the sizzle instead of the steak, which is about as all-American as it gets. But if I’m going to spend $75 on a tie, it’s coming from somewhere else.

  15. I love my sail rigger shirts and wear them pretty much every day to my cubicle. I just wish they’d offer some basic university stripes and bengal stripes. The stripe patterns they do have look like something a prole would have worn 20 years ago.

  16. Paul
    I’d have to agree. Although I could see how die-hard sports fans would by the ties. Most worn in Kansas City are by middle class high schoolers.

  17. sorry “buy”

  18. @Paul: So you’re calling two Presidential candidates and a Sec. of State fools? Along with Nick Saban, Lee Corso, etc.?
    Okay being that it’s John Kerry and John Edwards the fool aspect may work with them. I stand corrected. haha
    However $75 for a tie I agree, you might as well buy Brooks, Ralph Lauren, or get a local custom tie.

  19. “Acting the fool” is Lee Corso’s stock-in-trade, is it not? And at least John Kerry wore his while wind-surfing. Heh.

    But yes, I’ll take a BB, or a Ralph Lifschitz – or even two Chipps! – for the price of a single Vineyard Vines, thank you.

  20. @Paul: Chipps are great, and the prices… unbeatable.

  21. @DPSIV: my Dad had what – I believe – was a Chipp tie back in the 1970s that was navy blue with what looked like a nice small pattern of tan-colored geometric shapes, but upon closer inspection the shapes were little embroidered images of a man in a raincoat & hat, from behind, opening the raincoat to flash someone, with his bare legs sticking out beneath the hem of the coat. Each little figure had beneath it the initials “D.O.M.” (“Dirty Old Man”).

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