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.

July 11, 2009

Milton and Maurice, the Julians of Chapel Hill

UNC-CH, 1965

If you were a member of a UNC sorority or fraternity this is how you dressed. Male clothes for this group came from Julian’s, The Hub, The Varsity Men’s Shop, or Milton's. These women were probably outfitted at the Fireside. All these stores did a booming business, and were located on central Franklin Street. (www.chapelhillmemories.com)

The story begins in 1946, when the Julian brothers, Milton and Maurice (father of fashion designer Alexander Julian), opened their first shop in Chapel Hill. Two years later, Milton went out on his own with Milton's Clothing Cupboard, pioneering the Ivy League look throughout the Southeast.

A local icon, Milton remained in his original Chapel Hill location for more than 40 years. Through the 50's and 60's, Milton's Clothing Cupboard expanded to locations in Charlotte, Dallas and Atlanta. Bruce started cooking up marketing schemes at about 14 (like the time he unleashed dozens of turtles marked 'Sale at Milton's' all over the UNC campuses).

"Milton Julian is the personification of joy. Of all the people I knew growing up in Chapel Hill from the 1950’s through the 1990’s, no one seemed to enjoy what he was doing more than this Franklin street merchant. His fame is derived from his store, Milton’s Clothing Cupboard, which he operated from 1948 to 1992, selling upscale men’s, and often women’s, clothing. Milton was also always a man just a little ahead of his time, and continued to adapt to fashion trends better than any other store in town. While his brother’s store Julian’s for example maintained the Ivy League look throughout its existence, Milton’s continued to evolve without ever feeling dated or trendy." (www.chapelhillmemories.com)

A Brockton, Mass.-native, Julian brought the Ivy League look down south, including the flat-front khaki pants and alligator belts, his son Bruce Julian said. Milton Julian owned six stores in North Carolina, Georgia and Texas that have since closed. (www.thedailytarheel.com)

Milton went back to school, but six weeks into it decided to return to the haberdashery business. He had sold shoes and socks before the war, but now he joined his brother Maurice, who had started selling to servicemen training in Chapel Hill during the war, but was now serving clientele returning to school, at Julian’s College Shop."

“I started out across the street,” Milton said. “We were sometimes not so friendly, but were mostly friendly competitors,” he said of Maurice, who would later sell his store to his children, Alexander and Missy, who continue it as Julian’s.

Milton Julian, a young buck from humble beginnings in Brockton, Mass., came to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to attend law school after spending a year at Salem College in Winston-Salem. For two years, he went to classes in the morning and sold shoes and socks in the afternoon. He then served in the Air Force for three-and-a-half years, and upon returning to Chapel Hill in the fall of 1945, decided to join his late brother, Maurice (the father of fashion designer Alexander Julian) at his men's clothing shop on the bustling Franklin Street. After a couple of years, however, it was clear the siblings couldn't see eye to eye as business partners. As Milton cryptically puts it, "Some brothers are compatible and some aren't when it comes to business ventures."

Julian up-and-left Maurice's store in 1947, and nine months later, in the fall of 1948, started his own shop: the now- legendary Milton's Clothing Cupboard. After scoping out possible locations for opening his new store, including Charleston, SC and Morganton, Va., he decided to stay in Chapel Hill. He set up shop at 163 E. Franklin Street in Chapel Hill, a location at which he remained for over 40 years.

... Julian's game plan was simple: offer innovative, Ivy League clothing along with superior customer service. He told one interviewer, "We pioneered the Ivy League and Brooks Brothers looks in the Southeast. Esquire and GQ thought we were in the vanguard of men's fashion." Julian got the word out about his new store by placing fliers on cars around campus, and posting them around town. He also enjoyed extensive word-of-mouth referrals.

For the next 40 years, Milton's Clothing Cupboard sold items essential for the Ivy League look: Gant shirts, Weejuns, Rivetz ties, Harris tweed sport coats, khaki Chino pants, snazzy worsted wool suits. As one reporter stated, Milton's clothes had "snob appeal."

By birth a New Englander, Maurice Julian was the first to bring the best of Ivy League to the Southeast. A master in style and innovation, his groundbreaking designs helped to create "preppy." Julian distinguished his shop by his peerless taste and unending quest for only the finest, using the highest quality fabrics and custom tailoring. Maurice and his wife Mary sustained a rare, unique, genuine specialty store. Although the business was created to fulfill the needs of the Officer Training School (which came to UNC in 1942) Maurice quickly expanded his clientele to include the whole University community.

In 1990 GQ magazine described the gem of a store this way: "Julian's is a place where you can spend an afternoon looking at fabrics and buttons—some stock, some one of a kind—ordering a suit you won't see on every other guy on the street and talking about tweed and twill and Scottish mills and what all the rain lately will do for the magnolias."

Alex says: "When I was 12, I tore the collar of one of my 200 blue oxford, button-down shirts while playing football. I went down to the store to have the collar fixed, but decided instead to switch collars with one of my yellow oxford button-down shirts. They say necessity is the mother of invention, but whoever would have suspected that sandlot football would launch a fashion career?"


heavy tweed jacket said...

This is a fascinating history of The Ivy Look in the Southeast. Thanks for putting this together!

Anonymous said...

If only the style would make a come back.

Rusty Turner said...

Worked for Milton in Atlanta in the '60s, when I was just a kid; he was the nicest man you could imagine. BUT, to work for him you really had to know your stuff. Before you got to work the floor, you had worked the back stock and had helped with alterations and with displays. If a customer asked a question, you KNEW the answer. Later, I ran my own business (an automobile dealership) the same way!