Twelve years ago today, brimming with enthusiasm for a new project and no idea where it would take me, I unveiled Ivy-Style.com.
I was in Los Angeles at the time, and the town had long maxed out what it could do for me. I was in a benign rut that perpetual sunny weather tends to foster. And then fate intervened. Not the good kind of, however, but the harsh and judging kind. I remember one day telling my old man in a state of exasperation, “I feel like the gods are judging me.” They were, and little did I know what they had in store.
You see, the recession had hit, and it was all the worse because I should have seen it coming. My writing gigs had been slowly drying up, but one of my great blessing-curses is the ability to throw myself completely into a project and ignore everything else. As ’08 came to a close, all my editorial clients had slashed their budgets to zero. I was 38, and the time had come for a mid-life crisis that would last for ten years. I became a bundle of nerves who woke up anxious at 3 AM every night — I think it was Fitzgerald who said, “In the long dark night of the soul, it’s always 3 AM” — but I had one remaining client: Ralph Lauren. And so after six months in my home town humming The Clash song “Should I Stay Or Should I Go?” I packed a single suitcase and bought a one-way ticket for New York, arriving flat broke two weeks before my fortieth birthday to see if life really does begin at forty. Within a couple of years fantasies gradually became reality. I got a great apartment, great girlfriend, and a job on Madison Avenue covering the twilight of the WASP establishment. And now here I am a “country gentleman” in New England.
It was Ivy Style that got me through this long drawn-out period in which I never quite felt like my old self, trying to get life entirely on my strengths without addressing my weaknesses. Thank you to all the loyal sponsors and readers for your support during this personal journey and creative project delving into a fascinating angle on American cultural history. It was a pleasure to meet so many men who were legends of the heyday: Richard Press, Bruce Boyer, Paul Winston, Critt Rawlings, Nick Hilton, Alan Flusser. I’m proud to say that Ivy Style began by telling the little-known story of African American jazz musicians who got hip to collegiate style in the ’50s. From there we went on to explicate the role Jewish clothiers played in popularizing the Ivy League Look; gave W. David Marx an early forum for his pioneering research on Japanese Ivy; and featured trad dressers from backgrounds including Hispanic, Sikh, Pacific Islander, and European; and featured contributions from some 75 people without ever once asking where they went to college (as if I’m in the position to ask).
Twelve is one of those special numbers: there are 12 months of the year, 12 signs of the zodiac, 12 apostles of Christ, and 12 gods of Olympus. And so I think it’s a good time for me to pass the baton. Ivy Style boasts a loyal readership, Facebook group, and roster of sponsors. In fact, this is the first time we’ve ever had the three most legendary independent Ivy retailers at the same time: J. Press, Andover Shop and O’Connell’s. There are 2,200 blog posts, about half of which have evergreen historical value for recycling. Ivy Style’s product offerings, which included three production runs of our club tie, were quite successful. A savvy business team — rather than a one-man editor like me — could attract new readers, forge partnerships with larger companies, start an ecommerce platform, and take charge of this fascinating and ever-changing story of American life.
Interested parties may contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Once again thank you everyone for joining me on this journey through the past, present and future of traditional American menswear. I’ll be here as your captain until I’m no longer needed, and your news tips, contributions, and notes just saying hello are always greatly appreciated. I’m not sure what’s next for me, and here we are in another recession. This one I think will be quite different, though. There’s a funny thing about spending a decade soul-searching, you see. Sometimes, by an act of grace, you actually find it. — CHRISTIAN CHENSVOLD