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.

October 15, 2009

Hedera helix California

In yearbooks from this period, teenagers of the Silent Generation1 seem older, more mature, than their counterparts of today...

While young men were showing in the late 1940s and very early 1950s remnants of the pachuco style in their one-button roll jackets with shoulder pads and wide lapels, or the influence of black culture in their flared Billy Eckstine collars2, and even a retardaire hint of the late 1930s and early 1940s in their Pendleton wool shirts, the driving force of male teenage fashion through the 1950s, especially among the more affluent and upwardly mobile, was in the direction of an Ivy League look: poplin windbreakers from McGregor, khaki pants with a backside belt and buckle, brown and white saddle shoes or all-white bucks, loafers or Clark's desert boots.

Likewise did male hairstyles show the same transition from street-smart pachuco to suburban Ivy League as the pachuco-inspired ducktail or DA (duck's ass) haircut, with luxuriant side locks sweeping back to a meeting point, yielded by the mid-1950s to a modified flat-top with side fenders and by 1960 to the Ivy League austerities of the Princeton cut, short and flat against the head.

Since teenagers defined themselves so aggressively by fashion, the deliberately stylized upward mobility of teen fashions in this period, together with the ubiquitous coats and ties, adult dresses and high heels, of more formal occasions, suggested something about the social aspirations of the Silent Generation, its desire for success and an adult identity.

Ed. notes:
1 The Silent Generation, as first defined in 1958 by Princeton dean Otto Butz, consisted of the high school and college generation of the 1950s and early 1960s (i.e., those born between the last years of the Depression and the end of World War II).

2 From Wikipedia: "Eckstine was a style leader and noted sharp dresser. He designed and patented a high roll collar that formed a "B" over a Windsor-knotted tie, which became known as a "Mr. B. Collar." In addition to looking cool, the collar could expand and contract without popping open, which allowed his neck to swell while playing his horns. The collars were worn by many a hipster in the late 1940s and early 1950s."


Golden Dreams: California in an Age of Abundance, 1950 - 1963, by Kevin Starr, 2009

Hedera helix 'California'

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