Ivy Style has a really cool article about the connection between 60s prepsters and batik-printed cotton. You see these once in a while on eBay - I’d love to find one for myself.
John F. Kennedy in SI, 1960
I was going through the garage of an estate sale this morning, and happened upon this old issue of Sports Illustrated. It’s from 1960 (the ad on the back references NBC’s coverage of “The NFL Championship Game”), and then-President-Elect John F. Kennedy on the ocean at Hyannisport.
For you prep fetishists, it’s close to perfection, but it’s a lovely lesson for the rest of us, too. Not much more than a blue polo, khakis, some canvas topsiders and a cotton sweater (or a tweedy sportcoat) are enough for the future president to look stunning.
Ivy League Style in 25 Items Or Less
There’s a lovely new book called Ivy Style based on the Ivy Style exhibition at the Fashion Institute of Technology. I’ve been reading it, and besides the glorious illustrations and vintage advertisements featured throughout, one of the things that struck me was G. Bruce Boyer’s description of a college wardrobe in the Ivy era. What’s remarkable about it is that with some very modest tweaks (white bucks aren’t exactly standard issue these days), it could fly for most young men even today, fifty years later.
Six shirts, three white and three blue, and two or three pair of khakis would do the job. In cooler weather, a Shetland crewneck sweater in any color was added. A pair of brown penny loafers and white tennis sneakers (possibly a pair of white or tan buckskin oxfords) constituted the acceptable range of footwear. For outerwear, a cotton gabardine balmacaan raincoat (always tan), and a stout duffel coat (in tan or navy) were all that were needed, although many men also had a cotton gab golf jacket, also in tan… everyone had a tweed sports jacket (Harris or Shetland) and/or a navy single-breasted blazer for semi-dress, and a gray flannel suit for dress. Summer semi-formality was assured with a seersucker or tan poplin suit, some had madras sports jackets, for the more formal occasions a dark gray or navy tropical worsted suit. A half-dozen ties (regimentals, foulards or dots), and the necessary compliment of underwear, socks, pajamas and handkerchiefs filled out the basics.
That’s a pretty solid capsule wardrobe. Sadly, no crazy boating blazers, beer suits or raccoon coats.
Ivy Style at the F.I.T. Museum
I’m headed out of New York this morning, having taped a few episodes of Judge John Hodgman, enjoyed a San Francisco Giants World Series victory, ordered a few shirts from my friend Carl, and attended WFMU’s Radiovision conference. I didn’t have a lot of free time on this trip - blame the baby - but I did make time to visit the Fashion Institute of Technology Museum and their lovely exhibit Ivy Style.
Among the sights:
- Some stunning tartan sportcoats by Jeffrey Banks, the former protege of Ralph Lauren, author of several menswear books, and sole African-American contributor to the exhibition.
- Some delightful Berk slippers, featuring a pair in crescent moon and star theme which match some I bought for my wife recently.
- Ralph Lauren outfits pieced together from collections 30 years apart, but sharing a near-perfect aesthetic symmetry.
- A Thom Browne Ivy-inspired suit featuring a spiked crotch.
- Some genuinely gorgeous bleeding madras in shorts, coats, and everything else.
- Some amazing information about a Princeton tradition, still extant, called the Beer Suit. Derived from workwear, it was clothing made to be worn by seniors while drinking, to avoid ruining the good stuff. They look a bit like a painter’s outfit, with graduation years and slogans stenciled on. After graduation, the suit was worn to reunions until the 25th reunion, when one could finally wear a class jacket - usually (by the looks of it) a crested blazer.
If you’re in New York, don’t miss the exhibition, which is free. And don’t forget the symposium, which is in just a few weeks.
Over the weekend, the Styleforum user ChetBakerSings managed to thrift this Chipp sack coat. Not only is it both insane and amazing, it might also look familiar - it’s currently featured in the Fashion Institute of Technology’s Ivy League exhibit. That’s a thrift score.
Some fascinating meditations here (as in Stillman’s films) on the cultural values of the prep (and close cousin the WASP). Certainly an interesting compliment to our piece with the Lo Heads, whose aesthetic is in dialogue with preppy aesthetics.
“The unpadded shoulders, the three-buttoned long and boxy coat, the too-short, thin pants, and the thin ties with striped buttoned shirts in dark colors—well, I suppose this may go very well with some personalities but it’s not for me. To me, all such look like TV producers. Maybe they want to.”—
American Style: My Inspiration
Jesse wrote a great post last week about American style. As he noted, much of this style has been shaped by J Press and the traditional Ivy League culture. It’s a tradition that he explored, actually, in his latest video (which I’m sure you’ve seen five times over, like me).
Like everyone else, I’ve geeked out over at The Trad and Ivy Style, and was very excited when Take Ivy was rereleased. But more than any of those, there is nothing that gives me more inspiration for American style than Art Kane’s famous photograph, "A Great Day in Harlem." Indeed, as much of a Europhile as I can be sometimes, the style of old jazz musicians, pre-1968 or so, will always remind me that American style can compete with the best of them.