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Virginia's Gentlemanly Tradition Manifested Daily By Coats, Ties
By Richard W. Hughes Former Editor-in-Chief of The Cavalier Daily
Reprinted from the Gentleman's Quarterly
Students here no longer have cocktails before dinner each evening, as once they did, and the old practice of tipping hats to professors has disappeared (probably because students no longer wear hats): but at the University, the tradition of wearing a coat and tie whenever one goes out still prevails.
It is not a tradition set by any ruling on the part of the University; instead, it is based upon the assumption that the University man has maturity enough and sufficient pride in his personal appearance that he would want to appear presentable to the outsider, as well as to his fellow classmates.
Doubtless, the wearing of coats and ties as everyday dress shall strike some first-year then as being odd. Those entering the University from secondary schools in which informal dress was standard might feel especially averse to wearing what he may have considered "dressup clothes."
Probably a remnant of the days when the school was a haven for the scions of wealthy Southern and Eastern families, the tradition makes for a fairly fashion-conscious student body. This is not to say that the Virginia man is always impeccably attired; many go out of their way to prove one can be grungy even when wearing a coat and tie (e.g., dirty shirt with frayed collar and cuffs, rancid wheat jeans, no socks and the usual nasty sneakers or deteriorated loafers held together with once-white adhesive tape). But at least most students know how to be well dressed (or "tweedy," to use the local expression) when they want to.
The latest major style trend is an onslaught of plaids in everything wearable. Glen plaid wool sport coats are beginning to compete with the traditional herringbone for winter wear; spring jackets are now nearly all plaided and checked in various color combinations.
The same is true of slacks. "Fancy pants" used to be a derogatory epithet; now it's a compliment, for plaid and striped slacks-both in woolens and lightweight blends-are replacing the conservative solid colors. (Another development: slacks for spring in such colors as lemon yellow and raspberry.)
Those who would probably wear sport coats constantly at any other school-the "super tweeds"-wear suits at the University; and nearly every student has one or more suits for football games, cocktail parties, concerts and other more or less special occasions. Here, too, the plaid revolution is making itself felt, and cold-and warm-weather suits in muted glen plaids are becoming very popular. Chalk-and pinstripes have also made a strong entry into University wardrobes. Vested suits are frequently worn to dressier events, but rarely for day-to-day wear.
The deluge of plaids has had a profound influence in the Charlottesville tie market, as any local haberdasher will tell you. Club ties now predominate, and the devices on them are steadily growing in size and complexity (for instance, brilliantly feathered birds-in-flight, with wing spans two-thirds the width of the tie). Students still fall back on the standard rep stripes, wool challis and silk foulards, however, and the tie your-own own tie-especially in the large butterfly cut-is beginning to catch on.
Despite the current plethora of plaids, stripes and wild colors, the average daily attire remains fairly conservative and largely unchanged from year to year. There is a considerable cult of students, for example, who are apparently convinced that heavy cotton khakis are the only pants made, and that they must be worn for at least three months straight before being washed.
Blazers are common (though rare in double-breasted styles), and, for spring, a standard item is the beige, blue or green poplin suit. Shirts are oxford cloth button-downs, mostly in solid blue, white, yellow or pink, or in widely spaced pinstripes: Shoes, naturally, means Weejun-style loafers, although most students own a pair or two of wingtip or plain lace-ups ("student-leader shoes"). V-neck sweaters are often worn under sport coats.
A staple of the University man's informal wardrobe is a heavy red-and-black-plaid flannel shirt used as an overshirt. White ducks, worn with blue or yellow shirts, sprout like weeds on weekend afternoons in the spring. Bad weather brings boots of all sorts into the open.
The University's coat-and-tie tradition, not enforced by rules but voluntarily adhered to by generations of Virginia men, seems to have served to place the everyday dress habits on a higher level than they might be elsewhere. Sartorial propriety is instilled early in the undergraduate's career.
Cavalier Daily - 9/1/67
"Fraternity Party, November 1967" (Ed Roseberry)