When Undergrads Wore Tailcoats To Parties

September 12, 2014

When Undergrads Wore Tailcoats to Parties

Ivy Style somehow tracked down the man you see above. In the photo, when Life Magazine shot him for a 1954 issue that featured J. Press, he was being fitted for a soft shouldered, 3/2 roll, tweed sport coat. The photo has circulated forums and blogs for many, many years now, making it a famous image that every guy interested in classic American style has seen – oh, I don’t know – maybe a 1,000 times.

Apparently, the student originally came in to be fitted for his custom tailcoat. As Ivy Style reports:

It was the fall of 1954 when a simple errand put him on a collision course with Ivy style history. “J. Press, or J. Squeeze as we called it, was the New Haven substitute for Brooks Brothers,” says Brown. “Best I can remember was that I had walked in to check on tails they were making for me.”


Many Ivy devotees have mooned over the jacket he is wearing in the photo. “I don’t think I bought that jacket,” Brown recalls. “As I remember, they wanted to feature it and it fit.”

The tailcoat he’d commissioned was another matter. It saw plenty of action during the debutante season. “There were a lot of great coming-out parties with lots of alcohol, legal then,” he recalls. “I remember rolling down the hill of John Nicholas Brown’s daughter’s coming-out in those tails, to the breakfast tent at 2 AM. That house is now Harbour Court, the New York Yacht club station in Newport.”

There was a time when some undergrads commissioned custom tailcoats to get drunk at parties! You can go over to Ivy Style to read the whole thing.