A brief history of Ivy Style and a case for classics

A recent fashion seminar in NYC was all about the future of Ivy Style. Simon Crompton, a fashion writer with a blog called Permanent Style, predicted that Ivy Style is today more relevant than ever because men’s fashion is trending less casual. Young guys, he maintains, are looking for dressed-down looks that appear somewhat dressed-up.

According to fashion historian Alan Flusser, Ivy Style is essentially a fashion movement that began in the 1920s at Yale University in New Haven. It was a uniquely American fashion aesthetic based on WASP culture; although the look was decidedly casual, it suggested affluence as these were kids who could afford private education and expensive tailors. (And coincidentally, the ascendancy of Trad fashion here in the States coincided with the Prince of Wales rejecting the formality of Victorian England in favor of a more casual way of dressing, much to his father’s dismay!)

But while Prep started in the 1920s, it didn’t take hold until the ’30s (primarily on the East Coast). In the 1940s, the GI Bill of Rights brought hundreds of soldiers in their Army khakis to New Haven. J. Press adapted these khaki trousers and featured them paired with Donegal tweed sportcoats. In 1954, Life magazine did an issue on Ivy League fashion in the States, inspiring virtually every department store in America to add an Ivy League shop to their menswear floor. It didn’t hurt that as President in the early 60s, JFK rejected the rope-shoulder Savile Row suits worn by his father in favor of soft shoulder models. In the ‘70s and ‘80s, Ralph Lauren virtually resurrected what we know as Ivy Style, this time tweaking it upscale and sexier.

Noted Esquire’s Nick Sullivan, “Prep is coming back because there are so many different takes on it: Young men in their 20s have had virtually no exposure to Ivy Style so for them, it’s a curiosity, a whole new way of dressing.”

All this considered, may we suggest that quality classics become the foundation of your apparel purchasing, thereby avoiding the need to regularly replenish your entire wardrobe. For fall ’19, your checklist might include: a fine gauge wool or cashmere turtleneck, crew or V-neck sweater; slim-fit jeans (with stretch, without holes) in dark denim; wool or cotton-blend argyle socks; nice sneakers (in canvas or leather) that you won’t be wearing to the gym; a few white and blue oxford shirts, a knit tie, a great leather belt, and at least one pair of tailored trousers in grey, navy or a traditional menswear pattern (we like herringbone or glen plaid). May we also suggest a subtly patterned soft sportcoat to replace your old navy blazer? Yes, the blazer still works but a patterned sportcoat is a slightly more updated take on traditional that’s sure to generate compliments.

Happy shopping!

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