Editor’s Note: We are especially proud of this piece. First, any time that someone tries out Ivy in part because of what they experience here, we are doing at least part of our job. Second, I love to hear from people who weren’t born into Ivy (actually we were all born naked, right?). Over at the FB group we went through a phase where we had to “negotiate” with people who think that unless you went to prep or Ivy, you can’t be either. Suffice to say that those opinions have become funny now.
John Weichel resides in Atlanta, with his wife Maddie. He works in the electricity generation industry, where he services and dispositions issues on power plants from around the world. His education comes from the University of Oklahoma where he studied mechanical engineering. More pertinent to the Ivy Style community, John is a recent convert to those values that ring Ivy, but a semi-faithful reader over the past two years. His first dress shirt was a University Stripe OCBD loaned to him by a friend for a function he never gave back, and he’s usually the only one who wears a tie to his office (something of late seems to be changing in that, however). As a bit of a side hobby, sometimes he’ll buy 80s and 90s era 4” wide ties from his local Goodwill and narrow them to his 8cm preferred width. Outside of work, he’s involved in church, reading, and bicycling.
There are things in life we happen into. It’s not as often as we’d like that we embrace the mantra of our second-grade teachers to “learn something new every day,” but sometimes you learn a thing or two despite the daily malaise of work and life we perform. For me, two years ago, that thing I wasn’t expecting was Ivy Style. It’s funny when you think about it, I don’t even remember the event that I was trying to pick an outfit for when I happened upon this site. A few hours later, and about 10 articles deep, I was introduced to “Ivy Style.”
Unlike some I’ve read about here, I wasn’t bitten by the bug right off the bat. About 6 months ago I came back around, and this time was a little bit of a different reintroduction. I was drawn to the styles and pieces often talked about here in a way I wasn’t drawn before. I guess it’s one of those things like wine.
Anyways, I’ve never lived any time where these styles historically originated. I’m a kid from Dallas, Texas who now resides in Atlanta. Most definitely, that’s the South. But a funny thing happened when I started looking around. Some of those Ivy pieces I was being introduced to were already staples of a well-dressed Southern wardrobe. At first, I had it backwards, thinking Ivy borrowed from the South, but with a bit of research, I learned the styles I had loved from the South, really had their roots in the Ivy moment.
We spend a lot of time bemoaning the degradation of Ivy or well dressing generally, but as I started looking around down here, I realized many of the pieces are still alive and well, even if the lines of Ivy Style have definitely blurred a bit over the years.
You won’t hear an argument coming from my corner that hardly anything in the South is Ivy by the traditional standards, but it’s interesting to see how some of the foundations of Ivy are still the foundations of what us southerners buy. Often, some of the must unknowing protectors of the Ivy style are those traditions and cultures of the American South. A few fun examples are in order below:
The Hotbed of Campus Cool
Like the days of yore, the place to look when you’re looking at style is still the campus. Deviation from Ivy tradition number 1, it’s not the campuses of elite private schools, but around here, you can pick basically any state school to see what I’m referring to. The young men seeking degrees come to football games in blazers and repp ties. That fraternity look is khakis and those classic gold buttons. The sack cut is preferable to help keep that change in body mass that happens over those 4 (or 5) years of undergrad in check. These state schools are also where you’ll see khakis and loafers, oxford shirts and crewneck sweaters. Summertime breads seersucker shirts with river shorts. No doubt, you’ll also see a fair number of T-Shirts making the way to class as well, but hey, that’s life in the twenty-first century.
Also, almost every college town around here still has a good haberdasher. If you ever get time to slow down in one of those towns, there’s a lot of good stores still dressing guys. As well as some good new ones in bigger towns too.
This doesn’t stay on campus either. The elementary school my wife teaches at recently had a grandparents day celebration and I could not tell you the number of blue blazers, khaki pants, and repp ties that were in attendance. I’m not even talking about the grandparents. Students, siblings, teachers, parents, and grandparents all had some form of this dress on. Nobody would call it Ivy down here, but everyone knows that to the occasions we put on a jacket, a good repp tie always works; most of us know that without knowing what a repp tie even is. Naturally, there’s a lot of takes on the original, but the foundation is pretty clear.
The Office Dress Code
I’ll speak a bit from my experience for this next one. As the office has “casualized” the go to uniform has become an OCBD and khakis. Again, with some variation. Walk into an insurance sales office, engineering firm, architect studio, or medical practice, and it’s a good bet to say you’ll see OCBDs and khakis. All sorts of stripes and solids and colors and styles will be there (again, a deviation), but a good oxford cloth will be the common denominator. Comfortable enough to survive the extensively long warm season, and nice enough to still look the part, most places in the South haven’t gone all the way to the tech uniform yet.
Sportsmanship Shines Through
I’ve come to learn Ivy was built to be functional. We talk about that a lot when we speak of those quintessential pieces. Myself, and many of my friends, grew up fly fishing, duck hunting, dove hunting, training hunting dogs, or bass fishing. Those are the kind of hobbies where the Barbour coat still is more than a fashion piece. Duck boots, thick waxed cotton khakis, and field jackets are kept alive because of their utilitarian disposition. Again, the Ivy foundation is hard to miss when you know what to look for.
Odds and Ends, Ivy with a Twist
Yes, the traditional Ivy look is not an easy one to find. Much of what I’ve shown above has the twist to it, usually with a spin of prep. So where do we tend to amend? Boat shoes, a more colorful tie, light brown shoes, denim, cowboy boots, and the designs of our needle belts are a bit foreign to the original outfits of old Ivy. Our collars are sometimes pointed, and it’s as if our blazers lost their lining when they crossed the Mason Dixon (it’s hot here); most of our pants aren’t flannel for much of the same reason. Below are few of those line crossings:
The State of Southern Ivy
My fellow Americans, the state of our Southern Ivy is… well, still there. Like I said, these are some fun examples. That’s it, fun examples of some ways I see the Ivy foundation shine through the style of today.
Some of our favorite Ivy brands are from the South (we can all look forward to some good Duck Head reviews soon). The Ivy classics made their way all over this great Union, and a lot of those pieces still rear their elegant head on occasion. It’s not as if we Southerners all walk around speaking about our great collar roll and paying tribute to those Ivy icons that came before us, but we are drawn to those styles and aesthetics that us Americans seem to have been pulled toward for many a generation now.
There’s a conversation we’re used to having, it’s the one about the evolution of the style. The rules are bent, the styles are inexact, the original is blended with the new. But if you look real close, underneath that kitchen remodel and bunch of new drywall is a foundation as solid as it ever was. A foundation built on the cool of old and the enduring of the past. Yes, much of the Southern Style foundation is an Ivy one, you just might have to squint a bit to see it.
- John Weichel