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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.

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October 24, 2009

Hemingway on Fitzgerald's tie

Photo published in LIFE magazine - 4/10/64

"He was lightly built and did not look in awfully good shape, his face being faintly puffy. His Brooks Brothers clothes fitted him well and he wore a white shirt with a buttoned-down collar and a Guard's tie. I thought I ought to tell him about the tie, maybe, because they did have British in Paris and one might come into the Dingo - there were two there at the time - but then I thought the hell with it and I looked at him some more. It turned out later he had bought the tie in Rome." (p. 126)

"...when I met him at the Closerie des Lilas a few days later, I said that I was sorry the stuff had hit him that way and that maybe we had drunk it too fast while we were talking.

"What do you mean you are sorry? What stuff hit me what way? What are you talking about, Ernest?"

"I meant the other night at the Dingo."

"There was nothing wrong with me at the Dingo. I simply got tired of those absolutely bloody British you were with and went home."

"There weren't any British there when you were there. Only the bartender."

"Don't try to make a mystery of it. You know the ones I mean."

"Oh," I said. He had gone back to the Dingo later. Or he'd gone there another time. No, I remembered, there had been two British there. It was true. I remembered who they were. They had been there all right.

"Yes," I said. "Of course."

"That girl with the phony title who was so rude and that silly drunk with her. They said they were friends of yours."

"They are. And she is rude sometimes."

"You see. There's no use to make mysteries simply because one has drunk a few glasses of wine. Why did you want to make the mysteries? It isn't the sort of thing I thought you would do."

"I don't know." I wanted to drop it. Then I thought of something. "Were they rude about your tie?" I asked.

"Why should they have been rude about my tie? I was wearing a plain black knitted tie with a white polo shirt." (pp. 128-129)


A Moveable Feast, Ernest Hemingway

From Men's Style: The Thinking Man's Guide to Dress by Russell Smith:

Reps and Regimentals

There have long been very complicated discussions in men's fashion books and magazines about the correct name for certain kinds of striped ties - Americans call them reps, a word for the kind of weave that produces their corded or ribbed surface, apparently from old French - and about the correct angle and direction for the tilt of the stripe. But these discussions are increasingly academic. The reason for all the consternation was that there is a long-standing British tradition of wearing one's military and sporting associations on one's tie, and that these particularly associative ties are, for a certain British class, almost sacred. If you belong to a certain regiment or went to a certain school, you may, according to this class, wear the tie which signals your belonging; if you wear it without grounds, you are a poseur and a fraud.

Of course, this consideration has never bothered Americans much, and so the image of the loud American blithely walking into an English gentlemen's club, wearing a tie proclaiming his service in some ancient, elite military unit - the Household Cavalry or the Life Guards or somesuch - thus provoking offence and embarrassment, are legendary.

Probably the most famous description of such a faux pas is not by a snobbish Brit but by a laconic American. It comes in Hemingway's A Moveable Feast, when the young writer runs into F. Scott Fitzgerald in the Dingo Bar in Montparnasse and notices his friend is wearing the blue-and-red striped tie of the Life Guards (a tie that was popular at the time because the Prince of Wales wore one).

...These days, unless you are actually spending a lot of time in England with the kind of person who is likely to recognize famous regimental or sporting ties - of whom there are actually very few - you don't need to worry about avoiding certain colours or patterns. Besides, most of the famous ones are so gaudy and ugly that you might not be tempted to buy one in the first place.


Richard M said...

Thanks for this fine, elaborate post.

OldSchool said...

Thanks for this treasure.

3button Max said...

much enjoyed...

heavy tweed jacket said...

Excellent post and reminder of the power of Hemingway's prose.