Were You There?

Several Ivy-Style readers have left interesting comments recently, mentioning how they’ve been wearing button-downs and Weejuns for 50 years, and stuff like that.

Here’s a comment on the Brooks Brothers novel post from a reader who worked at Brooks at the time:

I took a year off from college and worked at Brooks from fall to spring in 1959-60. There were only four stores then: two in NY, one in Boston, and one in Chicago. There were partial stores in SF and LA. Three salesman traveled the country by train, setting up showrooms in the best hotels. Old Mr. Brooks lived in the Yale Club; his daughter had married Julius Garfinkle, owner of Garfinkle’s in Washington DC. Garfinkle’s then owned Brooks Brothers.

The president of Brooks was an Irish-American named Reilly as I recall. He wore the exact same gray suit, solid navy tie, black cap toes and white button-down every day! Of course they were not the same, just identical.

If you were around during the heyday of the Ivy League Look, please send me an email. I’d love to hear your memories about clothes and colleges, offices and country clubs, legendary retailers and campus shops, and anything else that stands out in your mind as it relates to traditional American style and the social milieu that gave rise to it. — CHRISTIAN CHENSVOLD

Photo of UNC Frat Council, 1965, courtesy of The Trad Yearbook Archive.

7 Comments on "Were You There?"

  1. Now THOSE are some natural shoulder suits. For all the talk about Brooks Brothers and J Press carrying on the Ivy tradition, they all seem to have substantial shoulder padding going on (at least from the last time I paid them a visit.) Is there any other suitmaker out there that hasn’t bulked up their suits?

  2. Vern Trotter | August 25, 2010 at 8:37 am |

    Something curious about this picture: most of the three button suits have the top button buttoned. It was/is normal to have only the middle one buttoned unless seated and then none. The photographer must have instructed this.

    There were Ivy style shops such as Baskins, with a store on every Big 10 campus; there would have been a similiar store at UNC. Southwick suits, Gant shirts and Bass weejuns were their staples.

    Note the closely cropped hair. With the military draft still on, it heavily influenced how often we visited the barber. Your military obligation after college weighed heavily on one’s mind always.

    Great picture. Golden days when young men cared about their looks!

  3. I noticed that too and wondered if they did it for the photo.

    Young men still care about their looks, just in a different way, part of which is caring about appearing not to care.

  4. Vern Trotter | August 25, 2010 at 8:55 am |

    Another thought: the ties were so narrow, 2 years or so later I gave all mine to my young sons to wear with their blazers. They were the same as those then being sold in the boys department at Brooks. The girls department only sold oxford shirts and sweaters. Not that you ever saw a female buying for herself in the store.

  5. Old School Tie | November 9, 2019 at 4:13 pm |

    At school we used to “reverse” our ties and have the narrow end at the front in order to emulate that narrow 1960s look. The fat end would be inserted into one’s shirt so as not to be seen. I’m not for one moment suggesting that practice is being seen above, however, narrow ties and lapels were the fashion then and clothiers must have reflected that in their products, all of which suggests there was no absolute “standard” when it came to these things.

  6. Yes, I was there, and yes, we did button the top button on our 3-button jackets.

  7. Jerry Stanton | November 10, 2019 at 1:56 pm |

    We grew up in the New Haven suburbs in the 1960’s. By 1964, for me and my friends, hitchhiking was the primary means of travelling thé 4 miles ito downtown New Haven along Whitney Avenue.
    I was 12. We roamed up and down Chapel, York Streets and Broadway as if we owned them. We
    waltzed in and out of Gamer, White’s, Enson’s, The
    Co-op, Rosenbergs, Gentree and Saks without a care in the world. But not J Press. We were afraid of J. Press. As soon as we walked in the door we were greeted sternly, “yes boys? “
    We spread our business equally among the aforementioned clothiers, save Press. We bought our share of button down shirts, crew neck sweaters, madras and blazers. But far and away our favored purchases were footwear. We loved Barrie’s. We had to have their loafers (much
    preferred to Weejuns). We spent the big bucks, earned mowing lawns, shoveling snow, and caddying, on what were called “gongha boots.” These were sort of a monk strap ankle boot. They were priced in the mid $30’s I recall. This in a day when a pair of made in the USA shoes could be had at Thom McCann for less than half that price. Barrie’s knew where their bread was buttered. If we walked in off the street wearing Barrie’s, a salesperson would shine them. Gratis.
    What a way to build brand loyalty.

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