Buttondown and Desert Boots: The El Capris’ Ivy League Clean, 1958

How cool was it to dress Ivy during the heyday? Cool enough for the El Capris, an African American doo-wop band from Pittsburgh, to cut a B-side called “Ivy League Clean” in 1958.

The song failed to chart, however, and the band became just another forgotten doo-wop band whose name starts with “El.”

That is until the days of YouTube and blogs. So let’s raise a glass (strawberry milkshake seems appropriate) and toast those long-gone days when pop artists would actually sing about wearing a buttondown collar, striped tie and Tyrolean hat. My favorite line is:

When I come to the gig
I’m sharp as a tack
With the tassels on the shoes
And a belt in the back

And make no mistake: Those who fail to dress clean-cut will be swiftly punished:

If you wear big shoes
And a wide open shirt
When you come around
You’re sure to get hurt

The funny part is that a hipster band singing the same lyrics today might actually be kinda cool.

What goes around comes around. One of the great laws of physics. — CHRISTIAN CHENSVOLD


27 Comments on "Buttondown and Desert Boots: The El Capris’ Ivy League Clean, 1958"

  1. That hipster band today is known as Vampire Weekend. They sing about bleeding madras and United Colors of Benetton.

  2. This just went to the top of my summer playlist “YEAAAAH”

  3. I thought someone would mention Vampire Weekend. Didn’t know it’d be the first post.

    I’ve heard of them, but never heard them.

  4. It took me only about four listens to figure out the repeated line at the beginning is “See him goin’ Ivy League,” but what are they singing about in the “belts and buckles” line? And what kind of suit is he talking about?

    It almost sounds like “trad”!

  5. Sammy Ambrose | April 19, 2011 at 9:31 am |

    Check out the flipside to this El Capris disc, Chenners. It’s called “They’re always laughing at me.”

  6. I’m laughing too, Sammy — all the way to the bank.

  7. Sammy Ambrose | April 19, 2011 at 11:36 am |

    I don’t understand. What has the bank got to do with doo -wop? Is that another El Capris 45?

  8. Vampire Weekend are the preppiest band I know, most of their songs are about preppy things. Its excellent music too

  9. Vampire Weekend is a very Ivy/preppy band indeed. They were undergrads at Columbia, and many of their songs relate to college in some way. They speak of the Campus, Oxford Commas, and the “Mansard Roof” mentioned in the post about the new BB building. The cover art on their eponymous debut album is actually a picture from a party they played at in their Columbia days. And aside from all this, their audience is predominantly college-aged kids, which is the most important qualification for a band that one would call preppy, Ivy, or just “college”.

  10. Damn it- bless you for finding this gem!

  11. Scooby Dubious | April 24, 2011 at 3:23 am |

    Is this the video that J. Simons swiped from YouTube for his Facebook page? Did one of his pathetic sycophantic toadies teach him how to use a computer?

  12. Scrappy Deux | May 1, 2011 at 12:56 pm |


    Excellent point Scooby. You always nail those pretentious Brit wannabes with their massive insecurities and hypocrisy.

  13. Bags' Groove | February 21, 2016 at 3:12 pm |

    @Scooby D
    “Pathetic sycophantic toadies”???
    What is it guys like you have against John Simons…and his customers?
    I’ve noticed several here having thoroughly unwarranted pops at him.
    Why, pray tell?

  14. Bags' Groove | February 21, 2016 at 3:18 pm |

    @Scrappy D
    “Pretentious Brit wannabes with their massive insecurites and hypocrisy”???
    See above.
    And can I take this opportunity to tell you what a wonderful sweet person you are.

  15. Bags' Groove | February 21, 2016 at 3:22 pm |

    Oops, just spotted the date. Apologies. More wasted comments.
    They’re probably long-gone. Sadly, Simons bashing still seems to hang around.
    Yes, I’m thinking about that crossword puzzle………

  16. Jack E. White | February 21, 2016 at 3:47 pm |

    As a black man now entering his 70s and an admirer of Ivy League style, I have truly enjoyed reading the Black History Month postings. Thanks and congratulations.

  17. Roger C. Russell II | February 22, 2016 at 3:24 am |

    I did not realize that Desert Boots were part of the look in the 1950’s. I knew they were part of the WWII influence on style. However, I have always connected them to the mid or late 1960’s. Hence Steve McQueen with his Playboy boots.

  18. Worried Man | March 3, 2016 at 1:31 pm |

    “The funny part is that a hipster band singing the same lyrics today might actually be kinda cool.”

    Yeah, man. They’re called The Hook Vents!

  19. Revisiting this Ivy League doo-wop tune after discussions on other threads.

  20. I agree with Mr. Russell, I think of desert boots ’60s Ivy.

  21. Vern Trotter | June 13, 2017 at 11:20 pm |

    I had fraternity brothers in 1957 who wore Clark’s Desert Boots. They were from Chicago. Never noticed them worn by anyone else on the East Coast.

    Never heard the El Capris until just now. So superior to today’s hip hop/rap.

  22. PhillyTrad | June 14, 2017 at 1:51 am |

    I Love Vampire Werkend. Catchy melodies. Exclllent musicianship. Smart. And they seem to be having fun in a relaxed stule. They have a great song about Cape Cod. There is also an album cover, if memorry serves well, of a very beautiful blond in a yellow Izod polo shirt. It could have been a photo you’d see in the OPH.

  23. Oxford Shirt Lifter | June 14, 2017 at 7:31 am |

    The A side mentioned by Scooby Ambrose above.

  24. @PhillyTrad: that shirt is actually a Polo Ralph Lauren 😉

  25. @ PhillyTrad

    The attractive young lady in the photo/album cover sued the band in 2010. Ann Kirsten Kennis sued the band, their label, and the photographer for misappropriation of image. Vanity Fair has the full story:


    The suit was settled in 2011 with Ms. Kennis winning an undisclosed amount; although litigation then sprung forth against the photographer from the band and continued against the photographer from Ms. Kennis.


    Altogether an interesting generational gap regarding property rights. Ms. Kennis, according to the article, worked very hard to develop her “brand” (her image). She sought restitution for what she believed to be piracy, and apparently was satisfied enough with the settlement that the suit was then dropped.

  26. Speaking of desert boots, I wore mine yesterday with my maize yellow cords with a fair isle sweater. Very trad, very autumnal.

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