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.

June 25, 2009

Calvin Trillin, The Ivy Look (and GHW Bush)

When I was home during a Yale break, my father would usually insist on taking me for a clothes-shopping expedition that I look back on as something close to a parody of the cultural tensions in store for a Midwestern family that sent a son to a place as removed from our experience as Yale then was. Even if I had gone to the University of Missouri, shopping for clothes would have presented a problem for us. My father was a strong believer in highly shined shoes and carefully folded pocket handkerchiefs; by his standards, I was only sporadically presentable. The outings were doubly complicated by the fact that what was to be called the Ivy Look had not yet made its way across the country, so the clothes for sale in even the best stores in Kansas City simply didn't look much like what people at Yale wore. Somehow, I couldn't get this across to my father. As we drove home from Wolff Brothers and Jack Henry Men's Clothing, having bagged only a single shirt or a pair of trousers I knew I'd never wear, the silence in the car was less comfortable than the silence had been in those drives to the city market.


Messages From My Father: A Memior, Calvin Trillin, 1997

Alice and Calvin Trillin on their wedding day, 1965 (NY Times)

Bush's Munchies A Preppie Journal: Up From Pork Rinds
By Calvin Trillin

I realize that I was expected to take a stand on pork rinds right away. Last month, when George Bush mentioned his love of pork rinds as an example of why he has been unfairly typed as a rich Eastern preppy, it was my role as a columnist to say something like, "That does it: Anybody who eats pork rinds is a regular guy." Or, if I had remained unimpressed, "Pork rinds served in silver bowls that have been in the family for generations don't count."

Before I discussed the matter, though, I wanted to consult an old college friend of mine who's a rich Eastern preppy. I wanted to find out whether a rich Eastern preppy who was caught eating pork rinds would lose his certification. But my friend, Thatcher Baxter Hatcher, was away on a yachting trip.

I might as well admit that Thatcher Baxter Hatcher is not the only rich Eastern preppy I number among my acquaintances, even though I'm a regular guy who enjoys nothing more than a package of barbecue-flavored corn-nuts washed down with a six-pack of Grain Belt. I know several rich Eastern preppies, all of whom have three last names, and the sort of nickname you might give a hound dog - Brewster Barton (Pudge) Brewton, say, or Thorton Horton (Mutt) Houghton.

But I decided to wait for Thatcher Baxter Hatcher, because he's a particularly authentic example of the type. He has three last names, of course, and a nickname (Tush). He wears pink button-down shirts that he bought in 1954. He talks with his teeth clenched, in an accent most scholars of the American vernacular refer to as Locust Valley Lockjaw. He plays a game called court tennis, which has rules so complicated that you can understand them only if your grandfather understood them.

A long time ago, Thatcher Baxter Hatcher took me to some parties at the fancy clubs he belongs to. I sure didn't see any pork rinds. I would have noticed if there had been any, because, considering the food I was given at those parties, I would have been grateful for the appearance of a package of stale Cheese Doodles.

I discovered that people in a truly fancy club eat food that has no taste at all; I later realized that they associate spices and garlic and schmaltz with just the sort of people they're trying to keep out of the club.

Anyway, as soon as Tush Hatcher returned from his yachting trip, I dropped by to see him at his place in Long Island. He brought a tray of drinks out to the porch, and I was astonished to see that what he brought for us to nibble on was a bowl full of Doritos jalapeno-flavored taco chips.

"I didn't know you folks ate this sort of thing, Tush," I said.

"They're my favorites, except maybe for smokey bacon-flavored potato chips," he said.

"Well, I'm amazed, Tush," I said. "I just assumed that what you would have with a drink was some of those finger sandwiches that taste like balsa wood."

"Then you remember the food at our clubs," Thatcher Baxter Hatcher said. ''Well, boarding school food is even worse, so all of us get hooked on packaged junk. We all ate so many of those little packages of crackers with peanut butter that some people think that's why we can't separate our teeth when we talk."

"I never knew, Tush," I said.

"Beer nuts," he said. "Beef jerky. Corn chips. Cheese-flavored popcorn."

"But surely not pork rinds," I said.

"Oh, sure," Tush said. "Remember Parsons Peyton Perkins?"

"Pork Perkins?"

"Exactly. How do you think he got that name? Eating pork rinds at the St. Paul's School."

I guess George Bush is going to have to come up with something else to eat if he wants to get de-typed. I suggest that he reveal an addiction to Frito Pie, a Texas specialty that's made by pouring chili - canned chili in the absolutely authentic version - into a package of Fritos and shaking vigorously. I'm sure it's safe. Thatcher Baxter Hatcher had never heard of Frito Pie, and when I described it to him he just shuddered.


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