The Stuff Beams Are Made Of

Hot on the well worn, suede laceup heels of our interview with Jay Walter comes an interview not with the old guard, but the new. UK-based website Permanent Style has a Q&A with two buyers from the popular Japanese brand Beams.

Who knew that “French Ivy” was popular in Japan? From the interview:

Is American style still popular in general? I know it was a big influence after World War Two.

Ivy Style has come in and out of style, and gone through different iterations.

It was popular after the War until the 1970s, for example. Then in the 1980s there was a version called French Ivy. And American Ivy brands became popular again in the 2000s, spurred by Thom Browne among others.

Were you into Ivy Style, personally, when you were growing up?

Yes, I was particularly into French Ivy in the 1980s.

This is a look that’s hard to define, but it mixed a lot of English and French brands – Chester Barrie, John Smedley, Lacoste – as well as some American ones. Myself and Kamoshita-san were both fans of French Ivy.

Head over here to check it out. — CC

16 Comments on "The Stuff Beams Are Made Of"

  1. “The best Italian tailoring is in…Tokyo?” is the title of a magazine article that describes the love of hand-crafted Neapolitan soft-shouldered tailoring in Japan: https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.cntraveler.com/story/the-best-italian-tailoring-is-in-tokyo/amp

    The Japanese love “trad” tailoring whether it’s American, British, French, or Italian.

  2. Charlottesville | July 10, 2019 at 2:27 pm |

    Interesting article. The British-American connection seems very much in keeping with classic Ivy. In the illustration above, I think the English influence on 1960’s Ivy can be seen in the Tattersall vest and repp tie, and I would happily wear those or the 1970’s British American look today. The 80’s preppy ensemble is a familiar sight from my younger days, but would not be my choice either; it would probably work for a 20-ish guy on campus or at a beach town. Not, however, the Thom Browne outfit. Interestingly, a guy wearing Thom-Browne-length pants and no socks with dress shoes just walked by my office as I was typing this. It is not a look I can endorse.

  3. Old School Tie | July 10, 2019 at 5:35 pm |

    I think that French Ivy only exists in their imagination – they don’t seem to be able to provide any visual evidence of this style other than contemporary images, the happy-go-lucky chap in the magazine image is not 1980s. The illustration including the different styles is contemporary too, with the Italian fellow straight out of a recent Pitti Uomo sprezz-fest. Where is the evidence for French Ivy? I’m only going to accept evidence-based prep from now on…..

  4. Hardbopper | July 10, 2019 at 5:53 pm |

    Denim with a blazer and a tie is French trad? Well, you learn something new every day! In the early 80s we did this because it could get very chilly mid- fall and into spring. We would wear fairly rugged boots if their was snow on the ground. This was, I thought, purely regional-American, and functional with form. I would do this again if the circumstances called for it, but now I’d think “vive le Levi”?

  5. Trevor Jones | July 10, 2019 at 10:53 pm |

    @Mitchell, I, too, love trad tailoring. Which is exactly why I end up buying more and more of my new clothes from Japanese tailors. Their attention to detail and commitment to key Ivy elements is far greater than their American or British contemporaries, despite what the die-hards will have you believe.

  6. Minimalist Trad | July 10, 2019 at 11:13 pm |

    CC: It would be interesting to hear what René Lebenthal has to say about “French Ivy”.

  7. Benoit Dupont | July 11, 2019 at 12:51 am |

    French Ivy was a corduroy or tweed jacket combined with a lightweight denim/chambray shirt with or without a button-down collar (never Oxford cloth, but sometimes gingham or plaid poplin), a knit tie, jeans, and frequently chukka boots.

  8. Franz Tempelmann | July 11, 2019 at 1:29 am |

    @Benoit Dupont
    That was also the uniform of grad students/TAs in the humanities and social sciences at West Coast universities in the 1960s. They smoked Gauloises.

  9. I think the French connection with the Ivy look is obvious. To begin with, the French invented what we call the “polo shirt” (which should more accurately be called “tennis shirt”). Lacoste is the most authentic polo shirt you can possibly buy.

    Hermes ties have always been popular with “wasps”.

    Those who could afford it, would sometimes commission shirts from Charvet (JFK for ex).

    Weston makes some of the most iconic penny loafers in the world.

    There is a “preppy” French brand Daniel Cremieux, which is also worth mentioning I think.

    And finally, the “old money” East Coast establishment ladies have always worn French brands (Chanel, Dior, Hermes, etc…).

  10. René Lebenthal | July 11, 2019 at 5:40 am |

    @Christian and @Minimalist:
    There was obviously a period of French Ivy. Let me just share a few thougts that come to my mind spontaneously.
    This period is the 80’s and part of the 90’s. There were lots of brands selling to people who were called BCBG’s (Bon Chic Bon Genre). There was a brand (that still exists btw) called Cyrillus. Very often it was a mix of trad style, good behaviour and Catholic Schools. Other popular Brands were Eden Park, Weston, Chevignon and of course a staple of French Ivy: Faconnable.
    Faconnable was in a certain way “our” Ralph Lauren. He made casual chic and a mix of Ivy, british, italian and french style very popular.
    Unfortanetely all this stopped when in 2002 or 2003 the Company was sold to Nordstroms.
    Many of the above mentioned brands still exist, but are not trad/ or Ivy anymore. Some are remaining, like Daniel Cremieux or my personally beloved brand called Breuer. Breuer manufactured, by the way, all the ties for Faconnable.
    Nowadays you can still find people dressing ivy or trad (in the range of the over 50’s)in Boroughs like the 16th or especially in Versailles or even in Fontainebleau.
    But we are talking of infinite minority.

  11. Jonathan Sanders | July 11, 2019 at 8:00 am |

    I was beginning to write a comment but saw Rene’ Lebenthal and he basically hit the nail on the head. I had a group of French friends in the ’80’s and their “trad” interpretations were awesome. Weston or Alden loafers worn with argyle socks, battered jeans, rumpled white button downs (with possibly a scarf worn as an ascot) and a Perfecto motorcycle jacket. Also, what looked to be vintage BB suits with same button and scarf. All worn with shaggy hair and a cigarette. The other brand that was big at the time in France was Chippie.

  12. @Rene: don’t forget about fragrances. Christian Dior’s Eau Savage (featured in the Original Preppy Handbook) and Creed (worn by JFK) are the ne plus ultra of Ivy style fragrance, both American Ivy and French Ivy.

  13. René Lebenthal | July 11, 2019 at 10:30 am |

    @Mitchell
    Of Course you are right.
    Faconnable still does their original fragrance which i still wear today.
    There is one thing I’d like to add concerning French Ivy. Ralph Lauren also contributed largely to the Prep/Ivy movement in the 80’s in Paris and in France in General. The first RL store was opened at La Madeleine in 1986, the year of the Opening of the Rhinelander Mansion. Many French not only wore Lacoste but also RL.

  14. Henri Leclerc | July 11, 2019 at 11:03 am |

    I have a feeling that when the Japanese used the term French Ivy, they were thinking of the style described by Benoit Dupont, rather than the style described by René Lebenthal.

  15. Charlottesville | July 11, 2019 at 12:05 pm |

    René very accurately describes the type of clothing I saw on a number of 20- and 30-somethings in Paris in the early 90s. They probably grew into the 50-somethings he describes today. I bought a couple of very nice Faconnable sport coats in a light-weight, gun-check wool, undarted, 3/2 lapel roll and double vents. A great “continental Ivy” look.

  16. Cuff Shooter | July 12, 2019 at 1:55 am |

    “French Ivy was a corduroy or tweed jacket combined with a lightweight denim/chambray shirt with or without a button-down collar (never Oxford cloth, but sometimes gingham or plaid poplin), a knit tie, jeans, and frequently chukka boots.”

    I am reminded of the Ralph Lauren wardrobe Woody Allen wore in “Annie Hall”.

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