MPB is proud to be the world's most popular men's sewing blog!



Jul 12, 2012

Ivy Style - Yea or Nay?



Do you ever feel like you're watching an unfortunate fashion trend happen and you're utterly powerless to stop it?   (If you've ever seen a car run over a squirrel, you know what I'm talking about.)  Readers, that's how I feel about the so-called Ivy Look.

Consider the evidence:

First (actually, the order is a bit arbitrary) there was this book, which I noticed late last year.





Then there are the blogs like The Ivy League Look and Ivy Style, not to mention Tumblr's The Weejun.  In fact, there's such a proliferation of ivy online, it's choking out the virtual sun.

There was/is also Mad Men.  And the reprinting of the 1965 Japanese classic, Take Ivy, which I saw for sale at my local J. Crew.







Parenthetically, if you think Ivy Style is closely related to Gilligan's Island Style, you're right!





Finally, while researching FIT exhibits for MPB Day, I discovered that this fall's big show is none other than Ivy Style (opens September 14, 2012; you can read the details here).

Readers this is big, arguably bigger than any trend for toile de Jouy pants or vintage Fifties maternity outfits I may set here. 

What we think of today as Ivy Style was simply the establishment look of the Sixties; it's not quite the same as Kip-and-Muffy preppy -- it's more conservative, yet it also transcends race and religion (though not gender).  While it started decades earlier (in the Twenties?), the Fifties and Sixties represent its mainstreaming (perhaps due in part, to the G.I. Bill, which sent returning veterans to college) and its zenith.

Sidney Poitier in "In the Heat of the Night"

Ivy Style is Ken and Allan (I know, I've contributed to this in my own way, and I feel terrible about it).



And my own Dad -- seen here on a summer vacation!



Ivy Style is perhaps best defined by what it is not: groovy.

The Partridge Family

Ivy Style is coming back and we need to prepare!  NOW is the time to invest in those vintage Fifties/Sixties mens suit and blazer patterns; they are going to be worth money, big money.  OK, maybe not big money, but more money....or maybe the same money: a safe investment in these uncertain times.  





Of course, original Ivy Style clothes are already collectible; most of the renowned manufacturers are long gone and those that remain, like Brooks Brothers and J. Press, are owned by corporations that have compromised their quality.  (Don't take my word for it, read this.)

In closing, friends, I hope you don't think I'm just adding fertilizer to the ivy vines with this post.  Blue linen blazer notwithstanding, I'm ambivalent about the Ivy Look.  To me it represents establishment values and a nostalgia for the disillusioning days of The Best and the Brightest.  Its return portends more striped rep ties, oxblood penny loafers, and boxy three-button suits.  As a child of the Seventies, I'll take The Partridge Family over, say, My Three Sons, any day.

Readers, what are your thoughts about all this: have I missed anything important?

Did anyone in your family dress this way?  Do you, or someone you love, still go for it?

Ivy Style -- Yea or Nay?

48 comments:

  1. Wow. Sydney Poitier does it best, I have to say.

    I'm a "nay" but I'm probably biased because, in general, the Sixties are my least favorite 20th-century decade, style-wise. Extremes of boring and weird with nothing in between. I'm qualify it, though, by saying that my objections are mostly personal taste: I don't necessarily think it looks that bad, I just don't like it.

    ReplyDelete
  2. As a graduate student I fear I've turned to the dark side. I have a wardrobe of j.crew and lands end. If someone asked me what I'd be wearing seven years ago I would have promised that I'd be still wearing my creepers and dying my hair with manic panic. I tend not to wear my vintage clothes to school. I don't know why I think leather patches on my sweaters are *cool* but I can roll out of bed, throw on my j.crew-whatever and I look damn well put-together even if I have bed hair.

    I think the trend will begin again soon, have you seen the new outfits that Ralph Lauren made for the Olympic Teams? Double breasted jackets with berets? I'm sure there's a few on that team wondering if they're going to the Olympics or an Romney fundraiser.

    ReplyDelete
  3. lol that look has been long gone from Harvard for at least 40 years now! The only time it ever appears on campus is at reunions when the old duffers show up for their 50th. Although I have seen some of the older faculty at the Business School sport the look when when they teach.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's fascinating, Phyllis. You'd think you'd see it there all the time but I guess not.

      Delete
    2. Sadly no, even The Crimson Shop, one of the last genuine purveyor's of Ivy menswear, has been gone from Harvard Square since 1992.

      Delete
  4. I'm not into the "preppy" look per se, but in France it's still common to see men of all ages wearing nice suits and ties every day, and I've grown to love seeing that put-together look. When I see the French starting to dress more like Americans--running shoes, sweats, graphic Ts--I'm both saddened and reminded how much I prefer the more traditional look. But even when style trends come back, they're usually with some sort of modern twist, so hopefully not everyone (other than those Olympic athletes) may find themselves in a casting call for Gilligan's Island: the reReREmake.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I'm all for men wearing more suits and generally looking more buttoned-down and put together.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I have a nearly-identical photo of my own father, so yeah, I guess someone in my family did dress that way. :)

    I like classic clothes, but I have too many bad visual memories of my 1980s trendy-preppy looks. So I'm very careful to avoid topsiders and oxford-cloth shirts! But a nice cardigan and some classic loafers? Sure, I'd wear it.

    ReplyDelete
  7. If I see a man in a conservative suit and tie, he's either a businessman or a salesman (particularly those selling religion). My man prefers jeans and a linen shirt. So much less constricting, both physically and mentally!

    ReplyDelete
  8. I love this look! I like how they can look so comfortable but not sloppy. I also love the suits and jackets, but can see them more updated with denim. The more Ivy League -casual- style reminds me of well put together functional utilitarian gear - they do kahkis with flat pockets in cotton, but never cargo pants or drawstring - their most casual cotton knit tees/polos must have collars...their straight edge look teeters on the edge of hooliganism -is that a word?- What I mean is, although the look is buttoned up, it is made for action.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I pretty much dress in the female version of Ivy, which I think of as less-obnoxious preppy (no madras or critters for me) with an eye to vintage. Simple skirts, cropped pants or cuffed slim jeans, loafers & ballet flats, oxford shirts, cable knit crewneck sweaters, and pearls.

    I'm a consultant, and I often don't know what kind of situation I'm going to be going into, or what the formality level of a place is. The Ivy style has the advantage of seeming appropriate no matter what, which is huge for me.

    I also think it's a great antidote to the other, larger trend of "all sexy all the time" for women. I think everybody should get to dress however they want, but having your boobs out all the time, or whatever, is exhausting.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Well taylored suits or sports jacket and pants - yes.
    Nicely fitting T-shirt and jeans,or equivalent - yes.
    Groovy - no.
    Jogging, stretchknit etc, unless you are actually jogging or what ever - no.
    Then there is beach wear, lounge wear, lingerie etc. Don't let me get started on those.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I work for a large insurance broker - headquartered in NYC. We've eased or dress code quite a bit since I started in the mid-seventies when Brooks Brothers was a clothier of choice. And it was the source for shoes - mostly for men as women couldn't afford to shop there. I had a boss who was always dressed in his BB best and about shoes he said "If you can't tie them, don't buy them."

    Now everything is more casually and as you say the quality at BB has declined. We employees even get a 25% discount on all purchases at BB. My brother just purchased a quite lovely linen jacket at BB.

    ReplyDelete
  12. I live near Portland (OR), and it's either the all-casual-all-the-time-schlub look or the unbelievably-self-conscious-ironic-hipster look. A low-key, appropriate dose of The Ivy would be an unbelievably welcome reprieve from both extremes.

    ReplyDelete
  13. If it means not seeing young men's undergarments, not worrying about their possible wardrobe malfunction I am 100% for it. I would love for town pj's to disappear unless there's a real medical reason but that might be only a dream. Go preppie!

    ReplyDelete
  14. Peter,

    Men, men, men, men, men. Normally I'd be all over the topic, as it were, but not anymore. Tossing this hollow bone, you shouldn't expect too many of us to chase, choke, or swallow it.

    You've been patently "Cathy-averse" in your postings for quite some time now. Not word one, or even a candid photo with her only partially in the frame.

    This fan is demanding you hoist the Lane crane, to update or explain.

    Raging in my own veins,

    Testosterone

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. She'll be back (front and center) soon enough.

      Delete
  15. I'm all for it... a huge improvement over what I see around me most of the time!

    ReplyDelete
  16. As with all clothing styles, it depends on who is wearing it. Any style can look bad on any body. Ivy style? A quaified yea.

    ReplyDelete
  17. For some reason I can't reply directly to anyone else's comment - anyway, I couldn't agree more with Jean S. I don't live in Portland, but the SF Bay area is much the same.
    -- stashdragon

    ReplyDelete
  18. My eight-year-old son has developed an obsession with formalwear. He begged and BEGGED for a tuxedo, despite our not living the Black Tie kind of lifestyle, so I broke down and bought him one from Amazon that was approximately the same price -- and same quality -- as your average Halloween costume. To my horror, he wanted to wear it EVERYWHERE... So I end up putting him in "Ivy Look" outfits a lot as a compromise: "No, you can't wear your tuxedo to the movie theatre to see the Avengers, but how about a nice tie and blazer instead?"

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You are luckiest mom I have ever heard of!

      Delete
    2. It sounds like you're raising Thurston Howell IV! LOL

      Delete
  19. I'm all for the return of Ivy. ANYTHING that persuades today's young men that baggy, butt-revealing jeans, backwards baseball caps, stained T-shirts, flip-flops revealing dirty, untrimmed toenails and three-day growths of beard are not a good look is to be devoutly wished-for.

    To the men sporting the above-mentioned fashion sins: You not only don't look good, you look downright unsanitary. If your goal is never to get laid again, you're on exactly the right track. I would never have thought it possible that any "look" could make Eighties male fashion appear civilized and attractive, but you blokes have done it.

    BRING BACK IVY!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's the ugly, unwashed and unkept feet that always get me. I can handle the beard and the caps, but not untrimmed toenails. Yuck!

      Delete
    2. Also, I've never understood why women draw attention to their feet with bright toe-nail polish.

      Delete
  20. I love Ivy! I probably first became aware of it in 1982, watching the movie "Diner". Loved how Steve Guttenberg got rousted from bed and put on his white button down collar shirt and tie from the night before to go the pool hall. Coming of adult age in Washington DC in the 80's, I was surrounded by clean cut hair, white shirts, rep ties and blazers . . .again, love it! With any comments from above espousing the virtues of a pulled together look vs. the pajamafication of America, I'll join the choir!

    ReplyDelete
  21. Your dad was hot! I happen to love the Ivy look. It would be great to have some classic options to buy.

    ReplyDelete
  22. If it's got anything to do with suede elbow patches, I say "NAY". Otherwise, I'd love for men to put on suits and offer women seats on the bus. (One seems like it would beget the other.)

    ReplyDelete
  23. SeamsterEast@aol.comJuly 12, 2012 at 3:49 PM

    I dunno. I see something quite different. But it may be my limited range of sight. I see a frumpiness closing in.

    Let me explain.

    A month or so ago I went out to buy some blue jeans to replace mine which has simply worn out. Problem: I couldn't find any I wanted to buy. I even went to West Village (NYC) but didn't find but one store still selling blue jeans, and they were low-end.

    A bit of "paying attention" and I noticed over the next week or so it appeared men under age 50 weren't wearing jeans anymore (except for obvious construction worker types and muscular black men, who also wore single color t-shirt).

    YET ..... the pants the men under 50 (and about half the men over 50) were wearing were CHEAP and dull colored. The pants cost less than the discarded blue jeans.

    WTH??

    I decided to see what men (and later, women) were actually wearing. I chose 53rd and Lex, because it is close to me and it is a nice business district in Midtown Manhattan. I could also sit outside with iced coffee and maybe a sandwich and just watch, largely unnoticed.

    Remarkably, nearly all men wore frumpy clothing (as did a high percentage of women). NO expensive pants, few expensive shirts, NO expensive shoes, NO pants fitted through the crouch to show the form of anything, NO expensive haircuts, NO expensive watches. By and large same same for women. Indeed, the men didn't even seem to shine their cheap shoes (me, an ex-Marine KNOWS how to shine shoes). The women often wore flip-flops with office wear. The women wore virtually no useless accessories like necklaces, broaches, silk neck scarves or anything else expensive but non-functional.

    STILL, men compete with men and women with women for the attention of potential mates. HOW were they doing it with frumpy clothing?

    Weeeeeelllllll, some men wore better shirts (better cloth, better clothing dyes, shoulders/sleeve interface at the end of a man's shoulder), but THAT was about it.

    Did it work? It MUST have, otherwise the men would change clothing styles. Women, too.

    Ah-Ha! the light turned on.

    There is a Great recession going on (at least most people think so) and (like the Great Depression of 80 years ago which spawned the frumpiest clothing in the last 100 years) people (men and women alike) are going out of their ways to look "practical", "sensible", "forward thinking" etc to potential mates.

    Who wants a spend-thrift profligate as a domestic partner? Frumpy clothing lasts until you wear it out. Fitted clothing lasts until you have "a weight change" of more than 5 pounds.

    I suspect (expensive looking) Ivy League won't be back in force until at least the economy has been going great guns for quite some time, maybe a decade or more.

    BTW, other expensive status symbols men (of perhaps less than incredible physical shapes and/or handsome faces) have used in good times include expensive cars, expensive restaurants, expensive housing, expensive foreign vacations, etc.

    Right now, 13 million cars are being sold (down from nearly 18 million), "little French Bistro" restaurants (with their $28 plates of lettuce) open late or not at all, McMansions sit vacant across the land, Tiffany's sales are down, and Caribbean Sailing Charters all but dried up.

    "Practical", "Serviceable", "Sensible", "Good Value" seems to be the watchwords, in clothing and many other areas of living.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oddly enough, I equate Ivy (or preppy) style with those very terms "practical," "sensible," and "good value." Especially "good value." In the past, at least, this style meant you spent your money on good quality, durable garments and shoes that would wear well and not be so of the moment that they would be out of style in a season or two. Like "old money" would dress--not cutting edge fashion; not cheap, but not terribly expensive either. And the wearer would be turned out neat and presentable.

      Delete
    2. Seamster:

      I interpret it a bit differently. We live in an era which I think can fairly be termed shameful - corporations have bought our politicians, and therefore our nation. Our votes make no difference in our lives any more. I think people have - hopefully, only for the moment - given up.

      During the Depression, it was different for people who had any means of support at all, though I do understand perfectly that there were many people who didn't. There are many, many photographs of people back then dressed for Sunday, however bad their crops were and however ill-paid their jobs. The dresses of the women are often the cheapest calico or challis, but they're ironed, with a clean lace collar. The men are in suits - cheap, ill-fitting, but still suits, and worn with clean white shirts and neat, if home-cut, hair. There was pride then.

      There isn't any now.

      Delete
    3. A...former Marine, you say...

      Delete
  24. What I want to see come back is Bogart, Bogart all the way. Traditional, but not preppy; less academia and more swagger. SWOON.

    ReplyDelete
  25. Mmmm...Steve McQueen, Sidney Poitier, your dad (quite swoony!)...if that's preppy/ivy, I'll take it.

    ReplyDelete
  26. You picked the ugliest Ivy style. Where are the Prince of Wales check jackets with black pants and tasseled loafers? Or, how about the dark teal or blue sharkskin suits with tight cuffed pants that end just above the ankle and loafers (and white socks, giggle) worn with a small fedora and a coloured shirt?

    On your build, I thought ivy would look good as it was the slimmed down look that all the jocks hated because they couldn't fit into it.

    ReplyDelete
  27. I spent last summer working in Oxford, UK and believe me those rich boys can still rock an updated version of the Ivy style. A lot of the older professors still do the whole tweed jacket look, and the lady professors the eccentric lady in long skirts thing.
    I loved it all and should have taken some sneaky street photos..

    ReplyDelete
  28. Peter, I'm a little confused. Is the Ivy look the same as the Preppy Look? If not, how do they differ? Here is Australia, ivy is considered a noxious weed in some states, so I'm not sure I'd want to look like something that is officially listed as being for eradication.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sian, here's how I think of the difference: Preppy is more of a flamboyant, colorful, WASP (White Anglo Saxon Protestant), country club sort of look. It's more garish (pink shirts, lime green corduroy golf pants!) and (originally) exclusive. Ivy Style is more mainstream, conservative, and sober. There was a lot of crossover, since many of the preppy people (preppy refers to private prep schools that were preparing kids for elite -- often ivy league -- colleges) ended up at the kind of colleges and universities where ivy style flourished, and wore similar clothes when they got there.

      Does that make sense?

      Delete
    2. Here's an article from the Ivy Style blog that addresses this very topic:

      http://www.ivy-style.com/same-or-different-ivy-versus-preppy.html

      Delete
  29. Google a picture of Robert Downey, Jr at the San Diego ComicCon. Very Ivy.

    ReplyDelete
  30. In the eighties this was done by some with an ironic twist - ska, new wave and punk styles would incorporate some ivy pieces for irony. Without a twist its just really square.

    ReplyDelete
  31. My motorcycle riding, engine and chrome loving hubby is a closet prepster. On his down time off wears polos in color or plaid button downs over solid t's with top siders. I know he could shop from the casual pages of J Crew nearly exclusively and be perfectly happy. He looks great in his preppy look but I doubt he would wear a suit unless it was made to order.

    I prefer a modern ivy look because it's clean cut and it seems more effortless than other looks but other looks are okay too. But~

    Regardless of style, I dislike any look that appears forced and loath the low-slung pants thing. A few weeks ago I saw a college student wearing low-slung skinnies and he seriously looked like a penguin walking down the street. Tragic.

    ReplyDelete
  32. Ivy style inevitably endorses an ideology to which I say "NAY!!!"

    ReplyDelete
  33. Peter, I have never posted or blogged before- but I have to admit that I found you thru google/kenmore 158.1040 and have been reading ALL morning!
    Yesterday in a Richmond thrift store I saw: Pendleton dark red blazer, $3, daughter not interested. YSL blazer, mens 70's in pinstripe. Daughter not interested. Men's zoot suit style vest in satin- daughter interested. So if flashy is better, the ivy look won't come back for a while.

    ReplyDelete
  34. Hi Peter,

    this just popped up in my RSS feed, and given your post, it seemd timely to pass it on to you as well:

    http://www.tofugu.com/2012/07/25/the-japanese-fashion-bible/

    It's talking specifically about Ivy, one very particular book documenting it, and its influence in Japanese fashion.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Vayshti. Excellent resource!

      Delete
  35. Yay all the way....As a Brit, Ivy had a massive influence on the early 60s mods, who took the buttoned up establishment stuffiness and turned it into something cool and working class.

    ReplyDelete

Related Posts with Thumbnails