February 17, 2014
Can you spot the presidential hopeful?
John Kerry, looking goofy as usual?
Maybe Mr Kerry has that weird look on his face and that awkward pose because the fellow in the bow tie is goosing him. He’s got a sort-of suspicious look about him…
To keep the game going. Which one is Robert Mueller?
Looks like Kerry to me, too.
The upper 1%’s children look as dopey as the rest of the country’s.
He really should have stuck with purist Ivy.
Even Kennedy knew that was a liability.
Robert Mueller? I’ll guess the guy behind the bow tie guy.
I believe the gent on the end, lower right, would not be keen on the length of today’s jackets!
This picture provides an interesting counter point to the intention of this website. The real elite boarding school students seem to have as much taste as public school kids: inappropriately long jackets, buttoned last button, etc. However, it is from these people the so-called “ivy style” originated. Many impostors, who graduated from state schools yet claiming to be “trads”, have become so very fixated on the minor details like jacket length and collar gap. and would not hesitate for a second when they see anyone disobeying the “rules”. What they fail to notice is that old money doesn’t care that much about the way they dress. Their social resources, rather than the natural shoulders of their jackets, have guaranteed them respects in the society,
Now don’t get me wrong: I enjoy the beauty of classic clothing (that’s why I read this blog in the first place); however, I have seen way too many iGents/iTrads who sneer at any innovations from some traditional brands, and bask in self-reflected glory. Please, my good sirs, praise the beauty, and don’t judge others’ stylistic choices. As a matter of fact, the “ivy style” itself is a breakaway from stiff, traditional dress codes. Isn’t it ironic that people who claim to embrace this youthful style think and talk like fogies?
Beg to differ. Ivy Style did not “originate” with/from a few St. Paul’s students circa the 50s and 60s. We can grant a portion of the postwar Eastern Elite favored the soft tailoring of Brooks and Press, but I wouldn’t venture a substantial majority did.
Be careful about using a picture of a few high school students to paint with such a broad stroke. Detail-heeding, rule-observing neatniks at that age? Of course not.
That said, should any modern day public school student dress as these young gents are–tweeds, button down oxfords, repp ties–he would be deemed a foppish try-hard, or, either better or worse depending upon one’s perspective, a fogey indeed.
I recognize that my observations are not entirely scientific nor terribly accurate. I apologize for this lack of study in the subject matter, as I do not work in the clothing industry, and have my own businesses to mind.
However, I think my point is clear: Ivy Style is beautiful, but other more contemporary or “fashion-forward” looks should not be sneered upon by people who didn’t even go to an ivy league school (of course, neither by those who did).
Also, trust me sir, the real ivy league students, at least the ones I know, seldom bother themselves with “detail-heeding, rule-observing neatniks”. They have enough confidence and not enough time.
My wish is simple: that the content on this website be less sour and more positive (alas, says the very person who is complaining here). In the end, dressing smart is nice, but it does not mean being smart. Plus, being judgmental and pretentious doesn’t increase a person’s charm, or intelligence. Don’t you agree?
I agree with your sentiments 100%. From my point of view as a survivor of one of those expensive all-boys schools and an expensive college out east, here’s my take on this. It seems to be pretty much what happened to every one of my classmates, but that doesn’t come close to making it true in general.
As a teenager, my parents just bought the clothes that I wore. This ended up with me (and all my classmates) looking pretty much like the people who were parodied in The Official Preppy Handbook. And because that’s all we knew, we also dressed like that in college. We were walking ads for L.L. Bean, Brooks Brothers and J. Press and actually thought that we were being rebellious and daring when we broke our high-schools’ dress codes. Even though we were in college.
Then we got jobs and started to think for ourselves. After a few years of that dangerous activity, most of the preppiness was gone. Totally gone.
And then middle-age hit. And the stresses that come with jobs. An that come with getting our kids through college. And with the death of parents and friends. And more than a few divorces.
After that, we found that the clothes that we wore when we were kids became useful in unexpected way – by wearing them, we somehow felt that were kids again, when people took care of us and we didn’t have to worry about the bad stuff that life throws your way. So I now think of them as “comfort clothes,” and they never fail to work their magic, just like going to an alumni reunion event does.
And when we bought clothes for our teenaged kids, we ended up getting stuff for them that was eerily familliar…
Do I (or any of my classmates) know exactly what a “collar roll” is? Or what “collar gap” is? No. But I definitely know exactly what makes me feel like a 14-year-old kid again.
I agree with your statements, and lm’s comment backs it up entirely.
When I see pictures dating from Ivy’s heyday, I am struck by the boyish rakishness of the subjects. They did not worry about these sartorial rules so many of us uphold. These images make me want to dress this way, whereas the conformist What-I-Wore-Today’s of AskAndy’s Trad Forum and the like often put me to sleep.
There really should just be a point system. A J. Crew Button Down might be worth 2 points, whereas a must-iron Brooks Brothers button down would be worth 4. Kamakura’s might be worth 5. Follow the formula for all items of clothing and you will be able to statistically gauge how popular you will be in the Trad sphere.
-There are plenty men who graduated from state schools whose (good) taste tends toward the classic and traditional. They even–(gasp!!)–pay attention to details that make all the difference. To declare them “impostors” is beyond ridiculous. Tell UVA and Chapel Hill grads who shop at Ben Silver and M. Dumas they’re “impostors” because they didn’t prep at St. Paul’s.
-“Old Money” can be obsessive about details (sartorial or otherwise) as any other group. The mythology of the nonchalant, devil-may-care aristocrat confronts the boundaries of credulity. Likely more mythological than some would wish.
-the suggestion that Ivy League students are supremely self confident and prefer to use their time engaging in matters far less trivial than well-made traditional clothing is one about which we are right to be dubious. Insecurity and time-wasting prevail in all sectors of Amercian life, including the halls of Ivy League schools. Maybe especially there.
-Oh, the demand for comments that are “less sour” and “more positive”! It might begin with fewer tirades against so-called “igents” and “i
-There are plenty men who graduated from state schools whose (good) taste tends toward the classic and traditional. They even–(gasp!!)–pay attention to details that make all the difference. (how dare they? Who do they think they are to heed details?!?!) To declare them “impostors” is beyond ridiculous. Tell UVA and Chapel Hill grads who shop at Ben Silver and M. Dumas they’re “impostors” because they didn’t prep at St. Paul’s. Comic.
-“Old Money” can be as obsessive about details (sartorial or otherwise) as any other group. The mythology of the nonchalant, devil-may-care aristocrat confronts the boundaries of credulity. Likely more mythological than some would wish. Closer to the truth: everybody, including the rich by inheritance, can be a tad obsessive-compulsive about something.
-Oh, the demand for comments that are “less sour” and “more positive”! It might begin with fewer tirades against so-called “igents” and “trads.”
Draft. Edited. So bloody important it demanded two versions. 😉
You point out a number of subjects who do stick to the sartorial rules (“Old money can be..”). Yes, they can, but the point made throughout this conversation is that, also, they may not be. It all depends on the person.
The problem is that those of us with similar sartorial interests have become so focused on the details that we lose sight of the larger picture. Call them iGents or Trads if you prefer.
A more positive attitude would be welcome in this community. However, complaining of tirades against “trads” is ridiculous. It is the rarity. What is common is the ostracizing of anyone for the slightest variation to a collar roll.
We should all have something better to occupy our time.
S.E. has hit the proverbial nail very squarely on the head. What he says is very true in my experience.
It’s worth noting that one can even be “a tad obsessive” about one’s devil-may-care nonchalance. Indeed, it is highly likely. Even the most seemingly erudite, I-don’t-care-about-my-appearence types betray themselves when they resist their wives neatening them up (sometimes almost violently, I’ve seen that up close many times, lol), or surreptitiously jostling their bow tie so it’s perfectly off kilter, or mussing up their hair so it’s just right, or whatnot. Et cetera.
A potential source of conflict has to do with context.
I gather there are some among the comment-posters who indulge in “Ivy” clothing as a sort of hobby. A pastime. Some may not have to “dress up” for much of anything, including work.
I wear suits to work and, since my work week bleeds into my weekends, sport jackets and either gray or tan bottoms to weekend gatherings. It’s not that I don’t enjoy classic, well made clothing. The more significant point is that it doesn’t matter if I do or not. I wear it because it matters vocationally.
Some shoulder padding in suits and a full but shaped cut. Conservative lapels. Dimpled repp ties, slightly polished loafers and balmorals, button downs that roll neatly, and so on. Good cloth that results in good drape. And so on. For some of us, ignoring rules and engagement in fashionable extremes aren’t options.
The suggestion that Old Money doesn’t care how it looks is absurd. Their negligence is cultivated and is a status marker.
The preppy class is different, though overlapping, and there are numerous examples in our Historic Texts section of conformity and even anxiety over appearance.
If we can agree that the negligence is present (even if cultivated), we should accept it as a part of the look as a whole. This is where I feel the line is often drawn between Preppy/Ivy and “Trad”, but that is just my interpretation.
Remember that we are looking at a picture of kids. Don’t over think it.
Getting back to the picture. With the exemption of a few, most of what I am seeing would work today. Front right (glen check tweed) nails it.
What do you mean by “dimpled repp tie”? Are you referring to the way it’s tied, or the fabric? I’ve never come across the expression.
@ Oxford Cloth Button Down
The same could be said for Take Ivy, yet it is heralded. After all, we are interested in a style that has its origins in preparatory schools and a few universities. Don’t write the kids off so quickly.
Christian himself points out in “The Rise and Fall of the Ivy League Look” that Ivy League students of the 50s and 60s transitioned to a more “IBM” or “Mad Men” style upon entering the professional world.
I don’t believe “Ivy” as we know it was ever meant to be something to aspire towards professionally, sans for those in academia who were surrounded by it.
You probably mean the way the tie is tied — the pinch just below the knot. Sorry, it’s been a long day.
The darker, Mediterranean ones look like presidential material.
That ambitious, pushy look in their eyes–says it all.
Another Dan G? I sense a “highlander” situation brewing
Isn’t it a vast improvement the way that neckties have become wider?
Time for an article on the necktie dimple?
@ Dan G., “…darker, Mediterranean ones…”? I’d have pegged the “Tomorrow Belongs to Me” youth in the upper left (reminds me of Bush 41) and the Prince of Wales jacket boy in the lower right (was he a member of the Nixon Years?) as rising stars in the Junior ______ (insert political party name here). Something in the toothy smiles.
Otherwise, looking at this motley crew, I am further reminded why most guys in my class preferred wearing the school blazer/grey flannels kit for formal pictures (just like the chap front and center). On other photo op occasions, we were certainly and happily slovenly.
@ S.E., under the rubric of “de gustibus non disputandum,” while even today I could find boys at my school wearing much the same things in much the same slapdash way, I would never find anyone in that spectacularly fogeyish Prince of Wales cum foulard tie combo. Even my Latin teacher with all his Exeter/Harvard degrees didn’t dress that way.
MCH, I agree with you (minus I don’t herald Take Ivy), but I just wanted to remind everyone that we are looking at high school students here not even college kids and kids love to eschew the rules. Also, high school students in my opinion generally lack the style of college students even if they are not your run of the mill HS students.
In this small class from we have a Secretary of State, a former Deputy Secretary of Defense, and a former of Director of the FBI.
The young men were immersed in a curriculum that emphasized “the classical and the sacred.”
Academic requirements that likely included theology and Christian ethics, mandatory Chapel (Anglican) services, and daily athletics.
The clothes function allegorically. Divorce them from the Anglophilia and other habits of mind and soul, and, all of the sudden, you have, like a handsome Gothic Revival building being auctioned off to the highest bidder (likely a Goldman man), something that can be branded, marketed…and, to put it bluntly, bought and owned.
And yet, in certain corners of the world, the traditions abide and even thrive. If watered down a bit.
Yes, the ties are thin — and no dimples. Narrow lapels also in most of them.
@S.E. excellent analogy.
In a Firing Line episode, WFB asked Malcolm Muggeridge what we are to do, and Mugg said we need to make islands of holiness and keep vigil.
There still exists very tight, albeit small, groups who know all-too-well the loss you speak of; who tried to recreate all that as best they could at the prep schools and colleges we’re continually referring to in these threads; who (generally speaking) are well off and give liberally to their (usually anglo-catholic) parishes, in hopes of keeping the post-modernizing forces at bay; who are continually sailing closed hauled against the gales of postmodernism. Chesterton said so much so well, and never less so when he said that at the heart of a Conservative is an eternal rebel.
This discussion makes me wonder if there is a point at which dressing in an Ivy, preppy, or trad style becomes a form of historical reenactment. A lot of the discussions of rules remind me of similar conversations reenactors/living history folks have about the historical accuracy of their Civil War uniforms and accoutrements or their Medieval clothing and weapons, or whatever their period of interest might be.
Historical reenactment? Surely something to that.
But if it is, the best kind.
I feel that there is a strand of it which is surely a form of reenactment (which I find silly), but I hesitate to say it is a style doomed to history. Much of this discussion does seem to focus on the New England brand, which I agree was the original. However, the Southern brand is different yet no less authentic–often without even having attended a private university or preparatory school.
Perhaps these islands of holiness Muggeridge spoke of are necessary in New England as a whole, but in the South the well-to-do and upper-middle class still attend Sunday morning service weekly in their loafers and blazers, and the ladies still wear Easter bonnets on that special day.
MCH, I wish to agree but go further. Respect is due to all faiths. Nor am I immune to my own version of nostaglia and reenactment, and so will not chide others’. That said, let’s be aware that not everyone attributes the current state of the U.S., which is a very complex historical issue, to the decline of the influence of the Episcopal Church.
It would be very interesting to make a comparison between an older version of the ruling class (ethnically and religiously homogenous, mostly Northeastern U.S.) and the current one. Are there no continuities? Lewis Lapham — Hotchkiss (1952); Yale — thinks there are. The central characteristic is a career that moves between private business and/or Wall St. and government positions. It’s epicenter is the Council on Foreign Relations. It’s a hypothesis, but perhaps worth thinking about.
I don’t personally think it’s a kind of historical re-enactment; unless we try to freeze the style randomly, which is problematic in and of itself (which style exactly? where? when?), reducing what was dynamic and varied into something else entirely, rather like pinning a butterfly to a wall.
@MCH, I include the Southern “style” as one of the living traditions, just as “original” as the NE styles. There has always been – even before the war of northern aggression – something about the south that seemed relatively unscathed in comparison by modernity. And I admire that immensely.
Still, ideologies of all kinds are rampant everywhere and one must be vigilant, perhaps even especially within oneself. As Flannery O’Connor said about nihilism (could be used to say much the same about many modernist/postmodernist ideologies: “If you live today, you breath in nihilism … it’s the gas you breathe. If I hadn’t had the Church to fight it with or to tell me the necessity of fighting it, I would be the stinkingest logical positivist you ever saw right now.”
The Council isn’t what it once was. But that’s true of many institutions that benefited from the the post-War zeitgeist (political, religious, economic, cultural, etc.). I would venture that it wasn’t the Council or the US Senate or even the Ivy’s and their feeder schools, but, rather, the Mainline Protestant Churches, including Presbyterians,
Congregationalists, and Episcopalians. The Session of Brick Presbyterian and vestry of The Church of the Heavenly Rest likely had more power and authority than some would be willing to guess.
@RJG, for my part, I wouldn’t attribute the current state of the US to the decline of the Episcopal Church; in part because the decline of the Episcopal Church as a cultural force is itself a symptom of much deeper changes at work.
Also, you are correct about the apparent continuities; however, I say “apparent” because the cultural and educational and philosophical (such as they are) proclivities of the baby boomer generation – and forward – represents a marked rupture amid those (relatively superficial) continuities to which you refer.
The Old Mainline Protestant Culture was big on old world manners and embarrassment at the lack thereof. The clothes were, functionally, extensions of the creed. Discretion, self-effacing humor, a healthy dose of hands-folded-behind-back quiet. And ways were found to keep the loud, the messy, and the generally obnoxious off the boards. It was what it was, for better or worse. And it still is–here and there, now and again.
Unrelated to the discussion as a whole perhaps, but where I live in Tennessee the Methodists seem to have had carried the mantle. I recognize in places along the seaboard that the Episcopalians probably have had more influence.
Unrelated to the discussion as a whole perhaps, but where I live in Tennessee the Methodists seem to have carried the mantle. I recognize in places along the seaboard that the Episcopalians probably have had more influence.
**edited for corrections
Let me add to what’s been said by S.E. and Katzenjammer while trying to avoid the paper work on my desk in front of me.
If logical positivism is the line of thought by which anything that cannot be verified empirically is of no value, then, yes, we are all on the same page. The kind of, dare I say, chivalric values S.E. has recalled have little place in a commercial world, hence his shorthand reference to Goldmann.
I guess what I’m suggesting is that those values are ideals, and even in earlier generations were at odds with the bottom-line-the-business-of-America-is-business mentality with which they co-existed, sometimes even within the same person.
Interesting picture. It is interesting to note that Kerry was never perceived by his classmates as Old Money or establishment even though his middle name is Forbes.
@RJG, what you say is somewhat true I think; nevertheless, when I am in London or Boston (or now, the UES of Manhattan), I cannot help but wonder at the enduring institutions that were founded, and supported almost into perpetuity, by a class that understood that they were stewards of what was of value around them.
That same sense of stewardship is nearly impossible to cultivate in people who weren’t shaped, even obliquely, by that same culture; and their money, however made, seems far more likely to support transient political/social causes – almost exclusively, if it even escapes the pursuit of conspicuous consumption in the first place (not that conspicuous consumption is anything new).
Speaking of which – I was in Mayfair last November/December, and the hedge fund-fueled consumption was just out of f-ing control: it wasn’t out of the ordinary to see not one or two Lamborghinis, but four or five lined up in front of a restaurant, or three in line at a stop sign, etc.
@ Katzenjammer — you raise the issue of stewardship. I agree, that is exactly what is missing; or, to be less sweeping, is much less dominant now than it was then.
But isn’t this just good old American individualism coming fully to the fore, having jettisoned the kind of cultural restraints that used to keep it in check?
@ Anonymous 3:05
Thank you for that article. It would appear that private jets and the outright buying of entire stores is not only a plague upon our current 1%, but also those of St. Paul’s graduates of 1962.
I’d say moral and aesthetic relativism took hold long ago and pretty much killed off what grounded the old guard. The great colleges led the charge. The equal moral validity of all appetites and passions has not only failed to make us culturally rich but has turned us into a cultureless country. We are a country of “disparate” warring interests, sniping at each other through the roughly 80,000 pages of the Federal Register, with its ever increasing proposed alterations in “approved” behavior. And how could any of us have been so foolish as to think that an identified tradition based, as it was, on discipline, restraint and anti-sensuality, could have possibly survived. We are fat, stupid, economically bankrupt, and interested only, it seems, in watching the next spectacle, whether it be a TV show or our new Lamborghini (see above) parked outside some trend-setting eating hole. Yuck.
AEW Mason, I second your yuck. Yuck.
@A.E.W Mason: Couldn’t agree more with you on all of that. And yes, yuck indeed.
For some of us, ivy style is a costume; for others, it’s a uniform.
Costumes are for amusement, for a change of pace.
Uniforms indicate allegiance to history, to traditions, to rules, and are worn with pride
Speaking of Southern Episcopalian WASPs…
I’d argue ’64 to ’68 comprises the Heyday as the look spreads througout the Mid Atlantic and the South. The early 60s take on Ivy feels a tad wide-shouldered and brylcreemed (vestiges of the 50s). And things kind of went all to hell in ’69.
Click on the “read online.” I guess the PDF version works, as well.
As I peruse this treasure trove of Heyday Ivy, two features demand attention:
First, the super clean cut haircut for which the 50s was known is rare, especially among students. A good bit of the mop-like, comb-down-over-forehead look.
Second, the myth of the super skinny lapel and tie is just that. I’m seeing a lot of 3″ and maybe even 3 1/8″ ties and lapels.
Still, a lot if confirmed: button downs galore, repp ties, wrinkled chinos, gray flannels, and Weejuns and Weejuns and Weejuns. And madras and tweed. And Weejuns.
A lot of what some modern-day designers would have us believe harken back to Heyday Ivy– including super skinny ties and lapels and super short jackets–turn out to be pure innovation, not resurrection.
Those yearbooks resemble my Kansas City middle class high school in the 60s, thanks for sharing
I bet Ivy as the going look lasted longer at the likes of Sewanee, UVA, Davidson, and W&L than the Ivy’s themselves.
Actual undergrads wearing actual Ivy kit.
@JGH, et al.
Concerning dressing “Ivy” as a form of historical reenactment, I think that there’s probably an element of truth in this. Things have definitely moved on from when I was in school. My first reaction to Vineyard Vines was roughly, “Eh?” But it turns out the my sons and the current students at my prep school think it’s fine. My ultra-conservative prep school even has its own school-logo tie made by VV. Similarly for J. Crew. I remember them as a source of GTH ties back in the ’80s, but now you see kids at prep schools wearing all sorts of clothes from J. Crew. So today’s “preppy” (which probably becomes today’s Ivy when the kids graduate and go to college), is very different from what it was a generation or more ago. So are VV and J. Crew “preppy?” I’d have to say that they are because they’re worn at prep schools today. But they’re definitely not the traditional Ivy that people seem to like to reproduce.
Maybe a better analogy is with the guys who try to recreate medieval times “as they should have been.” Maybe the Ivy reenactors are copying what they see as the good parts of a particular snapshot in time of prepdom without copying the bad parts. (Yes, there are bad parts. Lots of them. But let’s not talk about those.)
All the GTH and VV stuff would have been considered gay during the heyday, though “gay” was certainly not the word that would have been used.
Guys with jackets a too long –or short — likely were wearing Father’s, Uncle’s, or Brother’s. Old was better than new.
Chipp was considered gay during the heyday, and was probably thought “Gay” as well, if not the word that would have been used.
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