Welcome to The Ivy League Look

This blog presents a historical view through articles, photographs, reminiscences, and advertisements, of an American style of men's fashion of the mid-20th century known as "The Ivy League Look" or "The Ivy Look."

This blog will not present modern-day iterations of this "look"; it will be shown in its original context as an American style worn during this specific era. Author commentary will be kept to a minimum.

This is not a commercial site and links to commercial sites will not be posted.

April 15, 2009

...for the nation at large

The phenomenon has been there to be seen for quite some time, no doubt, but it was just the other day that we fell to musing on the triumph of the Ivy League style in fashions for men. Natural shoulders and narrow lapels, somber colors and dignified cut are the now ubiquitous hallmarks of the Ivy mode, and what used to be the special garb of a special breed of northeastern American is now accepted dress of John Doe all over the nation.

What is curious about this fact is that the Ivy look is traditionally the mark of the Harvard type, the intellectual, the sophisticated Easterner. And, as we are assured continuously by writers who claim access to the general will, this type is either an object of fun or a sinister figure in the popular imagination. He is an egg head, probably a "pinko," more than likely a "bleeding heart" internationalist. He is clearly not a one hundred per cent American.

But if the Ivy League egg head is a figure of mixed suspicion and derision, how is that his working clothes have become prestige symbols for the nation at large? Why, if he holds the type in such contempt, does the average citizen now wear his emblematic short haircut and gray flannel suit?

We read too many papers to deny the existence today of anti-intellectualism or the prevalence of the anti-Harvard animus, yet merely to say paradox is to explain nothing. All we can offer is the observation that in cultural values, as in everything else, things are seldom as simple as they seem. Opposing attitudes can and do exist simultaneously in the minds of men, and we think this is the case here. The Ivy Leaguers's place in American life is not to be seen in black or white; it is as darkly gray as his famous flannel suit.


Commonweal magazine, August 9, 1957, via FNB

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