Bobby Darin Swings Ivy League Suits And Desert Boots

Speaking of American music during the Ivy heyday — as we are on the “Optimism And Prosperity” comment thread — here’s a terrific pop culture find. Frequent comment-leaver “GS” uncovered a reference to Ivy League suits and desert boots in the song “Have You Got Any Castles, Baby?” recorded by Bobby Darin in 1960. GS noted on our Facebook page that the song was originally written in 1937, which would make the line the earliest reference to desert boots in an Ivy context that Tradsville has ever come across.

Alas, the reference comes the second time through the lyrics, which is when Vegas-y lounge singers would typically update the lyrics to standards with contemporary references, such as Buddy Greco does in “The Lady Is A Tramp.”

Here’s the passage in the original lyrics:

Have you got any castles
That you want me to build baby
Have you got any dragons
That you want to have killed, baby?

I’ll get into my seven league boots
I’ll get into my bulletproof suit
I’ll get out my revolver that shoots
And rat-a-tat-tat-tat, down they’ll go

And here’s Darin doing the Ivy heyday version:

GS is a college sophomore, which makes him about the age I was when I started buying old Bobby Darin records for $3.99. It’s always nice to see generational continuity. And while GS didn’t find the earliest known reference to desert boots, he did find another example of “Ivy League” in the popular sartorial lexicon of midcentury. Yet far more clever than the suits and boots substitution is the rhyme in the opening verse of “romance a lot” with “Sir Lancelot.”

“Have You Got Any Castles, Baby?” is from the musical “Varsity Show,” which has a collegiate setting. Here’s a description from Turner Classic Movies:

This Warner Bros. production was that studio’s entry in the “college musical” vogue of the 1930s. Dick Powell stars as a Broadway producer who returns to his alma mater to stage a variety show, despite the protests of a faculty adviser (Walter Catlett) who disapproves of the new “swing” music. Powell schemes with the students to stage the show in an empty Broadway theater. Among others in the cast are the Lane sisters, Rosemary and Priscilla, in their film debuts; Ted Healy, in his final film appearance; George MacFarland, better known as “Spanky” from “Our Gang”; the dancing team of “Buck and Bubbles”; and Johnnie Davis.

And you can watch the entire film on YouTube here. — CC

14 Comments on "Bobby Darin Swings Ivy League Suits And Desert Boots"

  1. Darin’s version was recorded in 1959 which is still a fairly early Ivy League connection to desert boots. The boots were first seen in the ’40s and became popular, I believe, in the ’60s.

    It’s a great song, too!

  2. G. Bruce Boyer | June 13, 2017 at 1:07 pm |

    Clark’s desert boots (only in sand suede) were popular in the US in the early 1950s.

  3. So they were immediately popular with college studnsts? For some reason I think of the 1960’s as the desert boot’s popular era.

  4. *students.

  5. I surfed through “Varsity Show” during lunch. There’s an annoying logo in the middle of the screen….

    But what a surprise! Guess who does this song in the movie? John Bubbles!

    The subject of one of my earliest blog posts from 13 years ago!

  6. kenpollock | June 13, 2017 at 3:47 pm |

    Bobby may have started out Ivy League, but he eventually turned to English/Savile Row style.

  7. GS

    Did Bobby Darin actively work in Robert Kennedy’s 1968 presidential campaign?

  8. According to Wikipedia, Darin did indeed work on the ’68 Kennedy campaign, Mr. Korn. It even says he was present when Kennedy was murdered and that the ordeal scared him for the rest of his life.

  9. *scarred.

  10. Anyone see the Kevin Spacey biopic on Darrin? I recall finding it not bad.

  11. I heard that Bobby Darin traveled with Robert Kennedy during that campaign on the campaign air plane and that Kennedy would often ask Darin to sing “It’s Blowing in the Wind”. Not sure if this is true.

  12. Nice article about Bobby Darin that mentions the Kevin Spacey movie.

  13. Thanks for the reminder, CC, been meaning to watch it despite hearing that it wasn’t well received.

    I’d like to believe that nice, little story, Mr. Korn, so I’ll take your word for it and won’t even bother looking it up.

  14. R Firestone | July 25, 2021 at 9:33 am |

    I’m a little late to this party to say the least, but a couple more tunes I’ve run across mentioning Ivy League clothes are “Let there Be Love” by Tony Bennett on his “The Beat of My Heart” album and “The Worst Kind of Man” by Judy Garland on her “The Letter” album. I always enjoy listening to the latter tune when I’m sporting an unbuttoned OCBD collar with ascot and J Press blazer for drinks with the guys. The looks I get are always priceless.

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