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.
How about white bucks with the thick red soles….
Excellent list, excellent, but disturbing in one way: ties going the way of the fedora. I agree with all he wrote about the importance of ties, I own many and wear them often, but the those of us here feel about them might have been equally felt about business hats up until 1960, which practically disappeared from American life after JFK did not wear one to his inauguration. I was at the State Department in May and was blown away by how many men in the lobby, visitors, were not wearing ties. I met with a young Congressman who was not wearing a tie. If business and, eventually, political leaders see no need for a tie, as they once did with hats, I don’t see how we can hold the line. Very unfortunate. But on the other hand, who among us on this page would want to wear a business hat to work tomorrow?
Certainly do appreciate the seven must-haves. They bring back memories of Steve Naifeh and
Gregory Smith’s 1980’s book “Moving Up In Style.” Where the Seven must haves are
Right on! I enrolled @ Cornell in 1950 with that wardrobe and it’s still the only style I wear. They’ll need an extra large casket for me to hold it all!
Don’t forget the Shaggy Dog crewnecks, navy, charcoal, natural, hunter green,
Right on – appropriate for all occasions!
The most wonderful man was in your New Haven store in the 50’s and 60’s. His name was George Feen (sp?). He helped my father, me and my brother.
Always fun to see him.
I totally agree with your list of essentials. I have worn bow ties since discovering them at prep school. Although, I must admit that today I am one of a few individuals wearing any kind of tie. Mandatory tie and jacket requirements have been scaled back at my two clubs to attract younger members. As an aside, I will be visiting yout new flagship store later this month for the first time. I have been a customer for over forty years.
This is almost perfect! I would add, under repp striped ties, that bow ties are always an excellent option. Certainly “dressy,” they provide a degree of nonchalance and élan!
I agree about the tweed jacket. A blue oxford button down with khakis and Weejuns was essentially a uniform down South until a few years ago., the basis for tweed or blazer.
Classic good taste never goes out of style. For perfection in Ivy style and taste, I recommend a made-to -measure suit, or sports jacket and trousers, exquisitely tailored by Jay Walter at the New York store.
Great list. Those are essential items. Time for me to seriously consider the grey suit which reminds me of William F. Buckley on “Firing Line”.
It’s about time someone sent a shot across the bow of the “modern” dresser. Too tight pants, no ties with suit or sport coat, those ugly shoes that look like fancy gym shoes, etc. Good for you for standing up for quality and good taste.
Well written. I don’t think ties have gone by the wayside I think that people lack self-respect therefore dress like slobs..
Love your comments!
In my opinion, Bob Mueller represents the best of Ivy League sartorial tradition. Granted he’s a Princeton—not Yale—man, but his collar roll is understated J. Press all the way, a testimony to good taste.
No pennies in your loafers? That’s where we kept NY or Boston subway tokens.
I could not agree more with everything you have expressed.
And I applaud your continuing this tradition.
I could not agree more; those seven areall that’s needed, however, I would add a number 8; three-two roll Harris Tweed sport coat to really cover the basics.
I am thrilled that you have reopened your NYC store. Since then I have shopped nowhere else. J. Press seems to be the only store that still has the classic style clothes that I love. Thank you.
I’ve been holding the line since 1955.