The seven-year itch brings me back to the Ivy Style Exhibit co-curated with my esteemed peer G. Bruce Boyer at the Museum of the Fashion Institute of Technology during in 2012 attended by more than 50,000 visitors. A rendition for the unknowing the exhibit presented wardrobe essentials that delineated the Heyday of Ivy beginning in the early 1950s awaiting glorious revival for our culturally dislocated times.
We forget a phrase that’s no longer in the fashion vocabulary, and that’s “good taste.” Ivy Style always represented excellent taste. It wasn’t a symbol of economic superiority; it wasn’t necessarily the dress of the wealthy…it’s inter-generational. Which means it represents economic value. If you buy something that is traditionally Ivy Style, when you pull it out of the closet two years later it isn’t, ‘Oh, that’s what they wore ten years ago.’ It could have been worn in 1955, 1985 or perhaps even nowadays. Here is my roster of 7 Ivy League wardrobe-essentials.
- Grey Suit: Many men today do not wear a suit every day, but there are certain occasions in a man’s life that require a suit. And that doesn’t mean they need a whole bunch of suits in their closet, but they do need one and possibly two depending on where they are and their station in life—maybe for a wedding, a funeral, interview or business conference. To represent Ivy Style, it should be a grey suit—a blue suit is too formal for the daytime. I would suggest an old-fashioned grey solid suit or a grey chalk stripe suit in mid-weight wool, perhaps uncomfortable during the height of summer, but works from September to June. It is the quintessential Ivy League Look.
- Blue Blazer: A blue blazer with brass buttons can be worn with grey dress trousers for relatively formal occasions, or it can be dressed down with khakis, jeans, or corduroys. Also looks terrific with tartans or Nantucket reds.
- Grey Dress Trousers: A pair of grey mid-weight wool trousers are a classic Ivy Style look. Comes in handy for more formal occasions when jeans or khakis just won’t do.
- Khakis: Khaki pants are a must. Khakis are more signature to Ivy Style than jeans. I have nothing against jeans, but my personal preference is for khakis. They are the classic, informal pant — sturdy all-cotton twill with a flat front and quarter top pockets. Credit veterans are flooding the Halls of Ivy thanks to FDR’s 1944 GI of Rights for introducing them to Ivy League style.
- Oxford Cloth Button Down: If you look at pictures of President John Kennedy at the family compound in Hyannis Port playing touch football, wearing oxford button-down shirts with rolled-up sleeves and khaki trousers…. that’s Quintessential Ivy with Camelot frosting.
- Repp Stripe Tie: Are neckties going the way of fedora hats? What’s going on with ties today? Except for TV anchors, many media figures are more often than not pictured without a tie. But from my view, I think it’s gauche, to the worst degree, to wear a suit and a dress shirt without a tie. It looks sloppy and unfinished…To my way of thinking, particularly when ties today are $75 and often a lot more than that, a repp stripe represents the best value and can be worn with anything.
- Loafers. Growing up in New Haven, along with thousands of Yalies, I got all my shoes at Barrie’s, the shoe store located adjacent to J. Press. Our everyday favorite (to this day) is “penny” loafers in the dull brown/oxblood shade. Nope, never put a penny on the shoe. Sue me.
J. Press brings’em back alive.