Historical Perspectives of a 'natural shoulder' Style
Welcome to The Ivy League Look
This blog presents a historical view through articles, photographs, reminiscences, and advertisements, of an American style of men's fashion of the mid-20th century known as "The Ivy League Look" or "The Ivy Look."
This blog will not present modern-day iterations of this "look"; it will be shown in its original context as an American style worn during this specific era. Author commentary will be kept to a minimum.
This is not a commercial site and links to commercial sites will not be posted.
At the Brooks Brothers' Madison Avenue address we found no garish signs in the window, only the familiar husky and headless tweed torsos which, legend has it, come to life each All Hallow's Eve at the stroke of twelve, and throw one heckuva board meeting. Inside, we were greeted by a graying Warner Oland look-alike who proved to be a perfectly nice man named Mr. Campbell. He showed us his selection of English striped silk and polyester rep neckties, now $6.95 to $7.50. A fine selection they were indeed, our eye particularly held by his array of solid-color foulards-with-the-little-thing's-embroidered-on-them. Sporting motifs mostly, plus little bulls and bears and crossed automatic pencils. Mr. Campbell was especially enthusiastic about a tie with little neckties on it, which, frankly, gave us the willies.
Our salesman excused himself to get more patterns; more seductive, however, were the solid colors, and we selected a brace of them, one off-burgundy and the other a deep maize, and not wishing to trouble Mr. Campbell further with wrapping and sales slips, briskly pocketed them and headed for the shoe department. Here we would find a wide assortment of those shoes-with-the-little-holes-all-over-the-toes at, if not next to cost, certainly something closer to our Fayva budgets than normal.
The shoe department proved disappointing; someone had already cleaned out the shoes-with-lhe-little-holes, leaving only odd sizes behind, and we had to content ourselves with replacements for our worn, adhesive-mended Weejuns (which we left in a drastically reduced Cold Duck cooler/ice bucket).
Better luck on the fourth floor: luggage and ready-to-block hats in seductively vague beiges and pommy grays. We picked up a nice set of matching English leather carry-alls and, deploying ourselves at either aisle end to watch for floorwalkers, stuffed them full of headgear to be blocked at home with the wonderful Abercrombie & Fitch Home Hat blocker received from Aunt Eleanor in lieu of our usual Old Spice gift pack assortment (we still don't know how much she got when Uncle Rudolf's insurance finally came through — and they're still pretty suspicious about that second set of tire tracks — but mum bets it was a bundle).
Sportswear proved equally fruitful. Wool tweed sports jackets normally $115 to $235 were now a low-low $92 and $188, and considering what the same money buys some poor yid up the Avenue at Paul Stuart, these fine Shetlands and lambswools would have been a steal at twice the price.
After selecting a rich rust number from the rack, we picked up a super double-breasted camel's hair overcoat reduced to $299 and headed for the third floor dressing rooms to try them on, along with some nifty blue oxford Brooksflannel pajamas and a dozen pairs of Brooksknit undershorts which fit neatly, if a bit snugly, under the tan whipcord cavalry-twill trousers which we temporarily cuffed with straight pins from those terrific Brooks button-downs.
Suddenly feeling a bit warm, we decided to skip Sportshirts and Knits and proceed to the last stop of the day: those white Irish linen handkerchiefs whose hand rolled softness so reassuringly bulks out a new camel hair's ample pockets.
On our way out, we encountered our friend Mr, Campbell again. He seemed disappointed that we had not waited, so we paused a moment to admire a fine silk four-in-hand peppered with little embroidery necktie salesmen. As he turned to answer another shopper's query, we impulsively stuffed it in our jacket and hastily re-buttoned our overcoat.
"You should see the ties we've got coming next month," Mr. Campbell whispered with a conspiratorial wink upon returning, "Women. Nothing indecent or anything like that. Just famous ones like Jacqueline Onassis and Mrs. Angier Biddle Duke. Real doozies."
We thanked Mr. Campbell for the tip and headed casually for the exit. Once outside we found the crisp March air a tonic after the stuffy atmosphere within and, much refreshed, decided to skip lunch and see what looked good at Saks.
This good-looking two-button suit is a variation of our famous No. 1 model, and is favored by men who like a slightly built-up shoulder, a more tailored appearance in the cut of the jacket, and pleated trousers.
Princeton Charlie is someone we all know. He wears a rep tie, tweed jacket, weejuns and wheat jeans to JP. He takes a bottle of bourbon to the dance and has a case of Colt 45 back at the room. Also back at the room he has all sorts of red and blue lights wired onto a wagon wheel hanging from the ceiling, a Princeton banner on the wall, a wooden bar and a closet full of cocktail accessories, photographic equipment, binoculars, toy tigers and watches.
The incredible thing is not that there are people on this campus whose life-style approximates Princeton Charlie's. The incredible thing is that this should be taken, even by the campus media, as a model or idea when plenty of freshmen aren't sucked in by this bush-league ethos, and most of the ones that are, outgrow it by the end of their sophomore year. Most clubs aren't even interested in Princeton Charlie, the exceptions being those sad clubs of declasse preppies who imagine that he lives on somewhere "down the street." Princeton Charlie is someone we all know; he is also someone we all want to forget.
The intriguing question is why he is with us still. In a sense he is the ghost of an imagined past. For one thing it couldn't have been that bad; for another he is a little too precisely like the daydream of a mid-west high school senior who has just been accepted at Princeton.
He lives on because the U-Store and Orange Key and the administration can use him. He is a way of getting at underclassmen. He is a way of inducing that false consciousness that is so necessary to move goods in a department store which has more to offer a 30-year-old vacuum-cleaner salesman than a student.
The campus media, including the "Prince," can use him because it is always easier for a writer to employ an intrinsically coherent rhetoric, no matter how much that rhetoric offends his own intelligence, his own taste, his own morality.
Virginia's Gentlemanly Tradition Manifested Daily By Coats, Ties
By Richard W. Hughes Former Editor-in-Chief of The Cavalier Daily
Reprinted from the Gentleman's Quarterly
Students here no longer have cocktails before dinner each evening, as once they did, and the old practice of tipping hats to professors has disappeared (probably because students no longer wear hats): but at the University, the tradition of wearing a coat and tie whenever one goes out still prevails.
It is not a tradition set by any ruling on the part of the University; instead, it is based upon the assumption that the University man has maturity enough and sufficient pride in his personal appearance that he would want to appear presentable to the outsider, as well as to his fellow classmates.
Doubtless, the wearing of coats and ties as everyday dress shall strike some first-year then as being odd. Those entering the University from secondary schools in which informal dress was standard might feel especially averse to wearing what he may have considered "dressup clothes."
Probably a remnant of the days when the school was a haven for the scions of wealthy Southern and Eastern families, the tradition makes for a fairly fashion-conscious student body. This is not to say that the Virginia man is always impeccably attired; many go out of their way to prove one can be grungy even when wearing a coat and tie (e.g., dirty shirt with frayed collar and cuffs, rancid wheat jeans, no socks and the usual nasty sneakers or deteriorated loafers held together with once-white adhesive tape). But at least most students know how to be well dressed (or "tweedy," to use the local expression) when they want to.
The latest major style trend is an onslaught of plaids in everything wearable. Glen plaid wool sport coats are beginning to compete with the traditional herringbone for winter wear; spring jackets are now nearly all plaided and checked in various color combinations.
The same is true of slacks. "Fancy pants" used to be a derogatory epithet; now it's a compliment, for plaid and striped slacks-both in woolens and lightweight blends-are replacing the conservative solid colors. (Another development: slacks for spring in such colors as lemon yellow and raspberry.)
Those who would probably wear sport coats constantly at any other school-the "super tweeds"-wear suits at the University; and nearly every student has one or more suits for football games, cocktail parties, concerts and other more or less special occasions. Here, too, the plaid revolution is making itself felt, and cold-and warm-weather suits in muted glen plaids are becoming very popular. Chalk-and pinstripes have also made a strong entry into University wardrobes. Vested suits are frequently worn to dressier events, but rarely for day-to-day wear.
The deluge of plaids has had a profound influence in the Charlottesville tie market, as any local haberdasher will tell you. Club ties now predominate, and the devices on them are steadily growing in size and complexity (for instance, brilliantly feathered birds-in-flight, with wing spans two-thirds the width of the tie). Students still fall back on the standard rep stripes, wool challis and silk foulards, however, and the tie your-own own tie-especially in the large butterfly cut-is beginning to catch on.
Despite the current plethora of plaids, stripes and wild colors, the average daily attire remains fairly conservative and largely unchanged from year to year. There is a considerable cult of students, for example, who are apparently convinced that heavy cotton khakis are the only pants made, and that they must be worn for at least three months straight before being washed.
Blazers are common (though rare in double-breasted styles), and, for spring, a standard item is the beige, blue or green poplin suit. Shirts are oxford cloth button-downs, mostly in solid blue, white, yellow or pink, or in widely spaced pinstripes: Shoes, naturally, means Weejun-style loafers, although most students own a pair or two of wingtip or plain lace-ups ("student-leader shoes"). V-neck sweaters are often worn under sport coats.
A staple of the University man's informal wardrobe is a heavy red-and-black-plaid flannel shirt used as an overshirt. White ducks, worn with blue or yellow shirts, sprout like weeds on weekend afternoons in the spring. Bad weather brings boots of all sorts into the open.
The University's coat-and-tie tradition, not enforced by rules but voluntarily adhered to by generations of Virginia men, seems to have served to place the everyday dress habits on a higher level than they might be elsewhere. Sartorial propriety is instilled early in the undergraduate's career.
Straight lines. Soft front construction. Soft-rolled lapels. Minimum squaring of the natural shoulder. Center vent.
The Daily Princetonian - 5/9/49
"MOST CUSTOMERS KNOW WHAT THEY WANT," is the experience of 54 years on Nassau Street by Bernie Olbrys (left) and Joe Cox of the new Country Squire, gleaned during the years when the store was known as Douglas MacDaid. "Quite a few women come in to help buy -- but some men don't like their wives to come with them."