My favorite Rodney Dangerfield joke has nothing to do with the rules about madras and white bucks and Labor Day, which the rest of this article will be full of. Here’s the joke. “I asked my wife, Honey, how come you never make any noise when you have an orgasm? And she says, how would you know?”
We got into a pretty spirited debate yesterday about the rules. The ones about what you can and cannot wear after Labor Day.
I have always struggled with the rules of Ivy because the movement itself was marked in large part by a rebellion against the rules. So if you were going to flexible with one style, wouldn’t it be the one that is based on large part on innovation? Leather shoes with no socks, hello? Or maybe the irony of the GTH pants. Go To Hell, unless you tell me I can’t wear these after Memorial Day, in which case, well, okay. And sorry.
The psychology and the history of these rules is good to understand. Yesterday I had a conversation with a friend of mine who is a financial advisor, and pretty high up at his bank, which you know the name of. He isn’t C-level, but mighty close. He and his tier are having a meeting next week because despite throwing everything but the kitchen sink at the employees, including a bonus so one could buy a new kitchen sink, no one is coming back to work. And this isn’t the administrative level folks either. This is across the board. Human nature. Give us a reason to get more balance, we do. So without the guardrails of Labor Day, perhaps the thinking was that people would do what people are doing. And to get them to move their feet, you have to – oh, wait for it – sell a lifestyle. No white pants and white shoes (well, no white shoes ever unless they are bucks) after Labor Day is some good culture signaling that the bell has rung and school is in.
But as is the case with much of life, things have changed and this fall the bell rung and most people didn’t want to come back to school. Instead, we reinvent. Just enough.
Which is kind of the point of Ivy as a style anyway, if you were paying attention at the beginning(s). Things were changing, and we reinvented, just enough. Not so much that we depart from the traditional to the point where it is disregarded, but by integrating the original into the new reality. That’s how Ivy was. And how it will survive.
Wear the madras until you don’t want to wear the madras.