Take Olive: Drab Dress on the College Campus

As “Take Ivy” becomes a menswear touchstone once again, we revisit this post from the last time around, in which I wrote that the lasting legacy of the book will be isolating certain motifs. It’s like rewatching a movie: First you take in the whole, and then in subsequent viewings you focus on more subtle things, like individual character motivations from scene to scene. So as a follow-up to this week’s ode to olive by Bruce Boyer, today we present a selection of images you’ve seen before, but with an invitation to look at them in a new light. They’re shots of college students in the ’60s wearing various shades of olive, from dark to drab.

The top and following two images show olive at its most accessible: in sportcoats:

Below, the kid on the far left wears an olive casual jacket, while the fourth guy wears olive chinos:

Olive chinos — or in the case below, shorts — pair great with a white oxford:

Instead of a yellow rain slicker, there’s this:

Even the graphic design of “Take Ivy” pays homage to olive. It is, after all, one of the elemental colors of the Ivy League Look — CC

Images from Take Ivy by Teruyoshi Hayashida, published by powerHouse Books.

10 Comments on "Take Olive: Drab Dress on the College Campus"

  1. The only color Barbour Coat carried way back when by J. Press was olive.

  2. Valuable historical detail from a Squeeze Man!

  3. Bill Stephenson | April 12, 2011 at 1:55 pm | Reply

    Boyer made an excellent point that the back pocket flaps probably came from military khakis.

    My guess is that the olive shown in the excellent photos came directly from military fatigues, in use until after the Viet Nam War. I know, fatigues now have a camo color configuration, but they were solid olive prior to that.

    That may be the reason that the few of us that are left don’t have olive high on the list of our color choices. Ranks right up there with sleeping on the ground, and going places where you need to get shots before travel.

    FWIW, the scene on the green in front of the Hanover Inn, is right around the corner from a quick stop food store, that at one time was the largest Budweiser distributor in the US.

  4. Halls of Ivy | April 12, 2011 at 3:43 pm | Reply

    Once again, it seems that the Ivy vs. preppy distinction is not just a matter of different labels for the same thing.

  5. Halls of Ivy | April 12, 2011 at 4:00 pm | Reply

    I say “preppy” focused mainly on the GTH dimension of Ivy and ignored many dimensions worth preserving. Let it be said that there are still some of us curmudgeons who have never been disciples of GTH-type Ivy and continue to stick to the orthodox version which preppies find drab and boring.

  6. Bill Stephenson | April 13, 2011 at 1:46 am | Reply

    The whole Preppy/ Ivy thing is probably a never ending, without a lot of outside interest, or a resolution in sight.

    GI benefits after WWII may have had something to do with it. For the first time, any veteran who could pass admission requirements could get into any college that would accept him. No need to be a legacy, or to have graduated from one of the traditional prep feeders. Family fortune wasn’t required, as the government would pay the bill, wherever you went.

    Ergo, a lot of men began to mix with those who had picked up clothing styles at places like Hotchkiss and Exeter. Simple, utilitarian, and functional.

    Returning vets had little to spend on clothing wore a combination of their khakis, and the utilitarian styles already on the campuses.

    Not surprisingly, many of these vets drifted to places where only the elite had frequented pre war like JP, after graduation. Because of the dedication that many of these vets had, a lot became hugely successful. People who never could have had an Ivy education, now were Ivy grads, and moved into a world that was previously “closed” to many, that were now there because of merit, and because the government would pay the bill for any school that you could gain admission to.

    This generated an entire cadre of bright, ambitions men, ( a few women, but not many) who achieved big success, and caused others to aspire to follow in their footsteps.

    Then the OPH comes on the scene in @’81. Clearly satire, but an underlying message that you can achieve a desired status by simple looking like what you aspire to be.

    Huge emphasis was then placed on “Looking the Part”, never mind having any substance. Preppy then became a part of the vernacular. Based on the concept that many who had perfectly adequate educations were led to believe that by dressing and acting a certain way, they could “move us in the social pecking order”. An absurd notion, but it got traction.

    Thus, Ivy that was elegant, and purposely understated was adopted by those under the influence of the OHP but overstated with too much GTH, the right kind of a dog, etc. OPH even had a list of acceptable preppie communities.

    Real estate prices reflected this aspirational urge, and RL was smart enough to build a clothing line for those seeking status through outward trappings.

    A lot of cogent arguments against this thesis, but maybe a thread of truth here and there.

  7. Good insight, Bill.

    Discussions of “preppy” tend to start with the OPH in 1980, however, and not with the term’s entry into popular nomenclature via “Love Story” in 1970, three years after the fall of the Ivy League Look.

    The years 1970-1980 is where the real preppy story is, not the commodified popular fashion part that spawned the Hollywood prepsloitation flick “Making the Grade.”

  8. “Does he wear drab, olive clothing?”
    “Yes, he does dress quite drab…”
    “Well, he’s a communist!”
    A great exchange from Seinfeld

  9. Southwick made “featherweight Shetland” tweeds — “the hue,” read the ad copy, “is olive gray.”

  10. Why I find surprising about this collection of photos is how the 5-pocket pant is significantly more represented than the tradition chino slack.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.


*