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.

January 6, 2010

Uniformity in American Higher Learning

...The United States is a nonhistorical environment, and individual identity must be earned.

But the young American male need not hunker down in a group like a fraternity to risk anxiety over being caught out of uniform...Fraternity boys engage in all sorts of levities and pranks, but not a single "brother" would think of appearing in, say, colorful tights. The brothers in their millions are clad in the obligatory uniform of their decade. It used to comprise, at least in the East, khakis or gray flannel trousers, button-down shirts, tweed jackets, and loafers. Crew neck sweaters and corduroys were also acceptable. Professor Edward Said of Columbia recalls what everyone - everyone - looked like at his prep school and at Princeton, where he went next: "My classmates either were or tried to be cut from the same cloth...everyone wore the same clothes (white bucks, button-down shirts, and tweed jackets)." Getting the shirts right was particularly important, and in button-downs, light blue was virtually obligatory. Said testified that he once witnessed two Princetonians at work soliciting the desired worn-out look by applying sandpaper to the collars of new, and of course blue, shirts.


Paul Fussell, Uniforms: Why We Are What We Wear (2002)


longwing said...

Is it the set rules or the uniformity that make it a uniform? The set rules remain even while the uniformity is gone.

Richard M said...

Are not endless t-shirts, jeans and sneakers a uniform too-only a slob one?

Tucker said...


Yes, and that's mentioned by Fussell in that chapter.

Anonymous said...

When he was at St Paul's, John Kerry would take a new pair of Weejuns and scuff them up and wrap masking tape around them -- to make them appear as if they were old and on their last legs.

Now he appears to wear bespoke John Lobbs.

I'm sure there's a moral here.

Richard M said...

Anon: Moral: Marry a billionaire wife.

Anonymous said...

Fussel book is fantastic...