The State Of Southern Ivy

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.

My friend Joel at his college ring ceremony. I promise it’s not as long ago as that picture quality looks like.

 

Last picture of a ring ceremony. My friend and her brother celebrating metal circles.

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.

More friends during a normal fraternity chapter meeting. You can tell who the pledge is based on the uniform.

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.

Recent church event. My friend on the right has no idea what Ivy is.

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.

Note the oxford and chinos, see the deviation? Yes, there’s a lot of boots in that pic. This was a pic of college interns on a slow Friday.

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:

My friend Joel again, still knows how to dress.

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

28 Comments on "The State Of Southern Ivy"

  1. Kyle Souleyrette | March 22, 2022 at 10:16 am | Reply

    As a proud Southerner, I have been waiting for this post. Love it. There is a proud academic, commerce, sporting, and leisure tradition in the South that necessitates dressing well, and dressing for the occasion.

    The green jackets we will see in a few weeks are not a one-off event, but something normal and expected; in the office, at church, and at school.

    Thank you kindly, John.

  2. Great article. My wife is a graduate of one of these Universities (UVA) and every time we go to one of her reunions I’m always impressed on how Ivy like people dress. Truly, the South is still a bastion of style.

  3. I attended The University of Tennessee from 1988-1992. The frat guys dressed Ivy, but the rest of us wore way too many jeans and t-shirts.

  4. Some well turned out young people. Encouraging to find that southern gentility seems to be hanging on in some form.

    Kind Regards,

    H-U

  5. Charlottesville | March 22, 2022 at 1:18 pm | Reply

    Mr. Weichel – Thank you for your very nice article. I am glad to see that men are still dressing well at the University of Oklahoma and in Atlanta. I particularly like the Barbour coat and lovely wool plaid tie in the last shot.

    Like you, I didn’t really think of the way I dress as Ivy in my late teens and 20s. Khakis and OCBDs with camp mocs or boat shoes were pretty standard, with a crewneck sweater added in the cooler months. Later, I just saw it as the way professional men in my Virginia town dressed, and the local men’s shops provided all of the 3/2 sacks, OCBDs and repp ties one could want (even if I couldn’t afford very much of it back then). It wasn’t until moving to Washington after law school that I connected any of this with the Ivy League.

    While not what it was even 10 years ago, the Charlottesville area can still boast of a few seersucker suits in warm weather, tweed sport coats in fall and winter, and quite a few blazers at any season. Khakis, oxford cloth shirts and penny loafers are also fairly common sights bobbing along in the sea of denim, sweats and fleece. I even saw another tie in the office today, so perhaps all is not lost. It will be interesting to see how things develop as more people return to the office after the 2-year hiatus.

  6. I really enjoyed my time in Atlanta. The south side and downtown still had that southern charm. At that time BB had a decent store on the same block as the main H. Stockton store, where Fairlie-Poplar met downtown, walking distance from the Healey, the Peachtree Hotel, the Realto Theater, and the 191 club. Some of the locals wore seersucker and bowties.

  7. I tried trolling. But JB edited me. What I was saying is stupid. So JB just typed this for me instead. Because JB is smarter than me. Well, everybody is smarter than me.

  8. Wow, a balanced, adult and dare I say hopeful article on the state of Ivy. Bravo!

    Speaking as an alum (and former frat guy) of a Southern university, the Ivy look was de rigueur in the late 80s. I joke that at the time, you were practically issued a pink PRL OCBD upon pledging a frat.

  9. @VEA –

    I’m not certain that JB is smarter than you, but I do expect he exercised excellent judgement is editing your input.

    Many in the Inter-Blog-FB-assphere see trolling as a call for help, in the form of a base and demeaning lashing out at those for whom the commentator holds a rabid, soul draining longing, sense of jealousy. Kind of like Sandra Bee calling Ivanka Trump a Feck….nt. It’s the same emotion, and you should feel loved and protected by JB’s selfless act of kindness. Sandra Bee no longer has a TV show, it seems JB is still providing for you a platform, albeit edited for the sake of propriety.

    All the best –

    🙂 well said. That will be the last one that we let up there, next time I post his face. … THANKS – JB

  10. Thanks, John.
    Nice to see well-dressed young men. It would be nice to see some photos of well-dressed older Southern gentlemen as well.

  11. I’m amazed to hear they’re still wearing blazers to football games. Over here in Austin, you’d faint in your sweat-drenched jacket at most of the games.

    Which raises another point. True oxford cloth is too heavy during our interminable summers. That’s why you see guys reach for a POCBD (pinpoint oxford cloth button down) shirt when they wear a sport jacket in the summer.

    Starting Friday, the forecast daily highs will be in the mid-80’s. It’s time to dig the linen and seersucker out of the back of the closet.

  12. The young man pictured in the center of the five interns needs a trip to O’Connell’s for some gentlemens cut chinos in a larger size. Internships should include a travel and lodging expenses paid field trip.

  13. Here in southcentral Pennsylvania, we enjoy the range of seasons that allow us to experience the complete palette of Ivy/prep clothing.

  14. The South has always been full of prep style. When I was in graduate school we referred to prep as collegiate because I’m not sure if the word prep was an adjective then.
    The College of the South in TN is very prep. I’ve dealt with people in AL always dressed similar to myself. Georgia the same. Especially, the Atlanta area.
    Just my two cents! I guess one cent now due to inflation.

  15. Jonathan Mitchell | March 23, 2022 at 11:29 am | Reply

    whiskeydent,

    As others have mentioned elsewhere,you should give broadcloth a try. Even lighter than pinpoint oxford cloth.

  16. Hardbopper,

    Since there are 5 interns in the photo, which one is in the center, pray tell?

  17. Craig,

    He’s wearing a light blue button down. There are two interns at his left, and two interns at his right. All interns should get a wardrobe field trip, as part of the curriculum, not just him. His pocket flare and too tight taper is most noticeable.

  18. It’s Sewanee—The University of the South.

    And yes, very traditional.

  19. @elder prep

    This is one of the best things about living above the Mason-Dixon: the four seasons, including three months of tweed season. What’s Ivy without flannel and tweed?

  20. If that is the Tech uniform, it’s AOK by me. I would add a casual coat and tie for when not by myself in my office space, but that’s just me. All of the interns chinos are RTW, with prefabbed hems, and as a result they are too long (and too tapered). It would be nice if retailers stocked unfinished hems and alterations “tailoring” with the purchase. As for trouser width at the hem, something between 17″ and 19″ depending on the number of inches at the seat would present a more balanced look and be a lot more comfortable.

    Several years ago, I purchased some unhemmed heavy chinos, one inch larger than my usual, from O’C’s. I took them home, laundered them in hot water to pre-shrink them, then off to a local alterations guy for cuffed hems. A few years, and hundreds of squats and deadlifts later, they still fit perfectly, and I am no menswear model.

  21. @Chris, I second your assertion about the motive of envy among trolls (though I’d add to that an unexamined inner life and a general lack of decency), but the example you cited of “Sandra Bee” didn’t quite make sense to me as an equivalency. Also, I believe you may have been referring to Samantha Bee, and her television show is very much still on the air.

  22. The challenge, as always, is avoiding a downward spiral– into a Pitto Uomo’d version of the look (I’ll refrain from mentioning a couple of Southern ‘designers’). All the narrowing of lapels and pant bottoms and ties–and embarrassment about anything that’s not sufficiently Italian or French (or both). Ugh.

  23. “Later, I just saw it as the way professional men in my Virginia town dressed, and the local men’s shops provided all of the 3/2 sacks, OCBDs and repp ties one could want (even if I couldn’t afford very much of it back then). It wasn’t until moving to Washington after law school that I connected any of this with the Ivy League.”
    – C-VILLE

    Apropos (sort of) C-Ville’s recollection– the connection with the Ivy League is now purely sentimental (the Japanese Traditionalists at J. Press would, of course, appreciate the roots) and, borrowing from the wisdom that Christian shared repeatedly yet gently throughout the past few years, the look/style follows (flows out of) a particular culture. I think CC’s wisdom is akin to J.B.’s keen observation that “Ivy is a fashion born of a mindset manifested in a lifestyle.” Yep. It is. And chances are very good that the mindset is a sort-of traditionalist conservatism, which is actually quite diverse and sundry. Pop culture, plastic and techy and bureaucratic and modern, is the culture against which it stands firmly. J.B. isn’t overstating the point when he speaks of “values” that undergird and inspire the aesthetic.

    Which is another way of saying: in 100 years they’ll still be wearing tweed, oxford cloth, striped ties and khakis at Sewanee, Holy Cross and HSC.

  24. Interesting article. The term “Southern Trad” resonates most with me as a New Englander transplanted to the VA Piedmont.

    To grossly oversimplify, I think the principal contribution of the south to the Ivy/ Trad canon is a more liberal use of color.

    The constant FB mentions are tiresome, but agreed that one can be Ivy without attending one, same as Prep – though would note that the most fanatical adherents to ivy doctrine are least likely to have the prep/ ivy background attacking the genre with a zeal rarely seen outside of new vegans and born-agains.

  25. @Nevade

    Yes and Thank You

    I was referring to Ms. Bee, I did not realize she was still out there. My mistake.

  26. NaturalShoulder | March 23, 2022 at 11:06 pm | Reply

    Whiskeydent – fellow Texan here (I should note not Texan by birth but have lived here 21 years so think I qualify). I second the recommendation of broadcloth over pinpoint which I find more comfortable than oxford cloth or pinpoint when the temperature rises. The only two drawbacks to Texas are the allergies and lack of a winter. I do have some tweed and flannel in the wardrobe which can be deployed sporadically over the winter.

  27. Natural Jonathan:

    I have some broadcloth. It is definitely lighter than pinpoint, but it has some drawbacks.

    1. Despite the relative lightness, broadcloth can make me feel hotter because it’s often more tightly woven and consequently does not breathe as well as pinpoint. And that light cloth is much more likely to stick to my sweaty skin and turn me into a mess. Not good.
    2. Unless you starch the bejesus out of it, it will wrinkle more quickly than pinpoint. A wrinkly, sweaty shirt is very not good.
    3. Unlike pinpoint, it has no texture or luster. To my eye, it does not appear as “dressy” as pinpoint. That’s why all of my broadcloth shirts are patterned.
    4. Still, I recognize completely that pinpoint is not a great solution to the problem.

    So what do we do? A couple years ago, I traded emails with the folks at Mercer and they recommended end-on-end, which I don’t think I’ve ever tried. There are also some linen-cotton blends out there that might work as well.

    I hope y’all circle back to see this, because I’d like to hear more about what y’all think.

  28. There’s still plenty of tweed weather here in Virginia. (Some may consider us more mid-Atlantic than Southern)
    Long Live the Uniform

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