There’s so much news in Tradsville it might take a couple of posts to get all caught up. First off, never doubt the evergreen nature of the Ivy League Look, as even a repost here from a decade ago can make news again. Our recent revisit of Christopher Sharp’s fine history of the Yale Co-op caught a mention at InsideHook (formerly Real Clear Life, for which I wrote a few pieces), which in turn was mentioned by the menswear trade publication MR.
More recently, the Yale Co-op shirt has made a comeback, via Vineyard Vines — the announcement was made in 2019. (This follows an earlier revival of the shirts in 2011.) And apparently, you can buy them at the Barnes & Noble that now occupies the old Co-op’s site. Sometimes, history can be circular in the most peculiar ways.
MR has reported on other things within our purview lately, if only to stimulate the mockery of the curmudgeons. LL Bean has unveiled a collaboration with fashion designer Todd Snyder, and it looks pretty much as you’d expect, although this tote bag is rather amusing:
British GQ is pushing OCBDs, which is an encouraging sign, and pegs it on this great shot of Paul Newman:
Next, Colorado State’s school paper the Rocky Mountain Collegian has a feature pegged on “Take Ivy,” which apparently finally made its way to Colorado. The piece is entitled “Reclaiming Ivy: Why it’s still cool to dress preppy.”
The text is predictable, but kudos to writer Gabriel Go for even doing it. Let’s quote the piece in full:
In 1965, a group of Japanese photographers and fashion designers published a photo book celebrating one of the era’s most fashionable subcultures: the American Ivy League student. Titled Take Ivy, the book is a treasure trove of authentically American fashion. The photographs featured young, mostly white college students dressed in their everyday uniform: Oxford cloth button-down shirts were paired with khaki chinos or madras-cloth shorts, then layered underneath Shetland wool sweaters and hopsack blazers, finally punctuated with crisp white socks and freshly shined penny loafers from G.H. Bass. And that’s not mentioning the ever-present necktie, tied in a four-in-hand knot and loosened for a comfortably lazy opened collar — tres chic, tres americaine.
Call it “Ivy League,” “Preppy,” “Traditional American” or “Yuppie:” These are just some of the names, subcultures and style tribes which have adhered, in one shape or another, to the style tenets of old school America. Ivy League fashion hearkens back to the 1920s study halls of Princeton, Harvard and Yale, where young, well-off students from the American upper-class sought ways to dress more casually while still conveying wealth and power. It’s no coincidence then clothes most associated with Ivy League style — suits, blazers, chinos and loafers, for example — are also tied to notions of privilege.
If starter pack memes are any popular indication, the Ivy League style connotes a sense of arrogance and showoff-yness that doesn’t endear itself to everyday wear in the 21stcentury. Dress codes have relaxed considerably since the 20th century, and the power connotations inherent in Ivy League-style clothes make the style seem stuffy and even unnecessary. Earlier this year, Goldman Sachs announced that, in order to attract younger employees “raised on a sweats-and-hoodie Silicon Valley-style ethos,” the Wall Street banking giant would now make suits and ties optional. Goodbye pinstripes, and hello khakis.
But all of this shouldn’t be taken as an indication that dressing Ivy is outdated. In an Oct. 28 panel titled “American Style: Ivy, Trad and Prep into the 21st Century” in New York City, menswear industry leaders and authorities — like Esquire’s Nick Sullivan, the magazine’s creative director, and American fashion designer Todd Snyder — spoke at length about the evolution and “democratization” of Ivy League fashion.
By “democratization,” Sullivan is referring to another inherent, less exclusive quality of Ivy League fashion: its adaptability when consumed by cultures other than its WASP roots. Artists like Miles Davis proved that button-downs and loafers looked just as good in a jazz ensemble as a Yale lecture hall, and Coco Chanel’s 1930s takes on women’s suits showed that men don’t hold the monopoly on bespoke tailoring.
Ivy League fashion may have started at the top of privileged America, but the messages it carries have changed just as much as the country since the style’s inception. Gone are the days when a young man simply bought a suit so he could fit in with his peers. Now, anyone can wear a suit and do so to stand out and express themselves in through the storytelling dimensions of style.
Not to sound like, say, an old curmudgeon, but judging from the photo, the reclaiming has a ways to go.
Finally, working my way through my inbox, I see that Colorado State’s lifestyle magazine, College Avenue, also did a recent Ivy-themed story (which includes a much better photo, used at top). This story is called “Appropriate appropriation: The Black history of Ivy fashion,” and quotes English Ivy pioneer Graham Marsh discussing Miles Davis and The Andover Shop. As we’re in the month of February, which is Black History Month, it’s worth reiterating that the assimilation of jazz musicians into the Ivy League Look during the era of segregation is a fascinating and little-known aspect of American cultural history — so much so that writing about it in 2008 ultimately inspired me to found this website. But as the article makes quite clear, young people of today consider it positive for black Americans to don the clothing of the white establishment, but negative, or “cultural appropriation,” when it goes the other direction. Older people often disagree with this way of thinking, but such is the era we live in. Quotes the article:
The future of trad dares to pair tattoos with topsiders, locks with loafers and blazers with hoodies. Oh, and this future is not solely reserved for men.
Happy weekend wishes to all of you. Layer up your clothing on the outside (one of the signatures of this style), and do something to cultivate peace inside. — CC