Life Vests


As a follow-up to yesterday’s post on vests, let’s take a look at a micro-fad that struck a group of Yale students in 1950. We’ve used some of these photos on Ivy Style before, but not the whole batch.

The shots come from an April 1950 issue of LIFE Magazine, which reported on the trend for plaid vests among some Yalies. While vests had been part of the pre-war Ivy look, this might very well have been the last gasp among college men. When the Ivy heyday began just a handful of years later, vests would seldom be seen.

You can check out the whole issue of LIFE here; click the contents button and scroll down to “Men In Plaid.” The story also features Chipp. — CC

23 Comments on "Life Vests"

  1. I think the pictures give away why the trend didn’t last. Half of them are taken outside and half of the ones inside show the guys having removed their jackets. Thick plaid vests under tweed coats was probably just too hot for a lot of guys in the collegiate fall season.

  2. A. central heating
    B, Yalies don’t wear coat and ties to class anymore. When they did who would want to lug around their Gloverall all day walking between classes if the weather wasn’t extreme?
    C. I wear both sweater vests and wool vests under tweed jackets. I my modern office with state of the art environmentally friendly temp controls always feels like the air conditioning is on 365 days a year.

  3. Charlottesville | January 31, 2017 at 11:30 am |

    I recall seeing odd vests in movies and magazine images from the 50s and early 60s, but don’t know whether it was considered Ivy, or more Madison Avenue. I break out the red or Royal Stewart version for Christmas parties, and I think a Tattersall or suede vest can look good under tweeds, but rarely wear them these days. I often get a complement when I do, though. Like a bow tie, fedora or collar pin, it is a bit unusual, but not yet costume. Billax was an aficionado of the vest as I recall.

  4. Chewco L.P. (Cayman) | January 31, 2017 at 11:56 am |

    Man, I need a waist coat… I also need a pair of decent glasses. The ones I have (rectangular) are not flattering and I am struggling to find rounder frames that can fit my abnormally large head (Oliver People’s are too small). Any suggestions would be great.

    Waist coat + tortoiseshell glasses? I might end up looking like Lane Pryce (Mad Men) but what the heck.

  5. That Life magazine piece really looks like a completely staged pseudo-trend article. I suspect none of those kids had ever worn a plaid vest before that photo shoot, and never wore one again afterwards.

  6. @Chewco: try “Eyebobs” online – I’ve gotten my tortoise reading glasses there for years, and I think they can also do prescriptions.

  7. @Chewco: There are larger options out there from Oliver People’s, namely the Elins (I’m wearing a pair now), as well as Warby Parker.

  8. The Loafer Lawyer | January 31, 2017 at 1:44 pm |

    @Chewco- I sympathize, but have realized that my more sleek and modern prescription frames provide a nice contrast to my conservative and frequently trad/preppy daily “uniform”. Some would say they are a detail that highlights, others would say it clashes. Simply an alternate way of looking at it, IMHO.

  9. @Chewco

    Chartwell Collection from C W Dixey.


  10. MacMcConnell | January 31, 2017 at 2:25 pm |

    Chewco L.P. (Cayman)

    AngloAmerican Optical, not cheap and larger size frames are special order, takes a while.

  11. Chewco:

    Also try Moscot. They offer a variety of both new and vintage styles. I myself wear their Nebb, which is as close as I can find to the Bausch & Lomb frames that I wore in 1965.

  12. Fred Johnson | January 31, 2017 at 7:17 pm |

    I noticed that some of the young gentlemen illustrated are wearing button down collared shirts and pleated trousers. Flat front trousers were obviously not universally worn.

  13. Chewco L.P. (Cayman) | January 31, 2017 at 8:01 pm |

    Wow… thanks for the suggestions! I’m definitely going to look into all of these. I recently heard about moscot too, so that must be a good sign.

    C. W. Dixey looks interesting but it appears to be based across the pond.

    Eyebobs, Angloamerican, all great suggestions. Time to give this another shot.

  14. I think the pleats were a carryover from the late ’40s drape look. The flat-front as default would not have been solidfied until later in the decade, when everything started to get narrow and trim.

    As some historian has pointed out, the dominant culture of each decade doesn’t fit the actual calendar, so what we think of as the ’50s is really from say 54-64, or the eighties is really 82-92.

    Growing up, I was led to believe by popular culture and conventional wisdom that the 1960s were entirely summed up by the final three years of the decade.

  15. Chewco:

    Since Mike Connors passed away last week, I have been watching some early first season (1967) episodes of Mannix on YouTube. His boss at Intertect (portrayed by Joe Campanella) wore a great pair of what was known back in the day as “horn-rim” glasses. Moscot I see has these as well; the Zetz.

    What’s old is new again!

  16. Chewco:

    Sorry it’s not the Zetx, it’s the Vilda

  17. Mirco Fad not!! Through the 50s and well into the 60s odd vests were worn with
    suits and sport coats in Ivy and would be Ivy precincts. I wore a tattersall vest
    with a grey flannel Rogers Peet suit for my Bar Mitzvah in 1953. I am not from
    “Our Crowd”, let alone old Yankee stock. My father was a very successful dentist
    and real estate investor from Queens, who dressed like old money, though he
    was the son of an immigrant butcher. A few years later I acquired a tan odd vest
    from the sainted John Lewton in Ithaca, NY.

  18. That’s true that tattersall and scarlet vests were popular among the kind of men played by Tony Randall or Jack Lemmon in the movies. I distinctly said on campus, though. I think we’d have a hard time digging through yearbooks and finding many candid shots of students in vests from 1954-67.

  19. Foppish.

  20. @Chewco L.P.

    The Oliver Peoples Scheyer model is their largest round frame. Enjoy.

  21. Christian
    I think the coasts live in parochial bubbles, the ivy look shops in the midwest thrived during the time between 1967 and the “revival”. I will agree that it was diminished to a degree on campuses like Ann Arbor, but thrived on campuses like MU, KU and KSU. Besides the “shoe” guys always carried on, as noted by the commenters here my age and older not all for the east coast..

  22. Carmelo Pugliatti | February 2, 2017 at 2:43 pm |

    Pleats can be “narrow and trim”.
    Two forward pleats,for exemple …or one forward pleat.

  23. That may be true, but that didn’t stop them from becoming all but extinct from 54-67. As Paul Winston of Chipp said, “No one got pleats.”

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