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.

September 1, 2009

The Ivy Look Heads Across US, LIFE, 1954

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Top: HOUSTON INSURANCE BROKER Alex Dearborn, Sewanee '50 wears classic three-button suit bought from representative of New York's Chipp.

Bottom: ATLANTA AIRLINE EXECUTIVE William Magill, University of Chattanooga '38, wears "natural look" gray suit from Rich's department store.

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Natural-shouldered suit becomes a new male uniform

The "Ivy League look" identified with determinedly inconspicuous New England males for over 50 years and with Madison Avenue advertising men for the past 10, has now got out of eastern hands and is making its way across the country (left and below). It has also got away from upper-bracket tailors and into the hands of cut-rate clothiers like S. Klein, whose advertisement (right) gives as complete and compact a definition of the look as has ever been written. The popularity of the natural-looking suit has widened quickly in the last two years as men became dissatisfied with pale bulky suits and flashy ties left over from their postwar splurge. Although the authentic Madison Avenue uniform perpetuated by Brooks Brothers and campus-originated shoppes like J. Press (p. 70) has nonexistent shoulders and fits so snugly that it looks a size too small, facsimiles from volume clothing manufacturers and tailors are less severe in cut. To reaffirm their individualism beleaguered Ivy Leaguers are considering adding a fourth button to their jackets or resorting to a radical new silhouette (p. 72).


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A New Haven institution which rivals Yale in some well-tailored hearts is J. Press, established in 1902 and now carried on by the founder's two sons. Its slope-shouldered product, which the Press boys consider the only acceptable dress for a normal Yale man, has scarcely changed over the years. Press has branch stores in New York and in Cambridge and maintains traveling representatives to replenish the wardrobes of scattered alumni customers. Sometimes regarded as more of a club than a clothes shop, J. Press is delighted rather than dismayed that its look is now capturing the country.

Top caption: PRESS FAMILY PORTRAIT in New Haven shows uniformly dressed salesmen standing behind founder's sons Irving, Yale '26 (left), and Paul.

[Back, left to right: George Feen, Sam Kroop, Gabe Giaquinto, Herman Racow. Front: Irving Press, Paul Press]

Right caption: YALE TACKLE Philip Tarasovic tries to minimize heroic shoulders.

Bottom caption: ODD JACKET, a style supposedly begun by a Yale student in 1928, is fitted to James M. Brown III (see p. 2 of linked document), Yale '56, in the same tweed worn by Press salesman.

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DRASTIC ALTERNATIVE TO IVY the "moderate Edwardian" silhouette now available only from custom tailors, appears in tweed suit worn by New York publicist Patrick O'Higgins. Made by Bernard Weatherill, it combines features of British riding clothes and a guardsman's uniform. Jacket flares in back and is four inches longer than usual. Pockets are at a deep slant and buttons on sleeve actually unfasten. Tapered pants are 15-1/2 inches at cuff.


LIFE magazine - 11/22/54

1 comment:

Quiet American said...

This article is quoted in the Esquire History of Men's Fashion and I have been wanting to read it for a long time. Thanks for the tip.

I think there are two interesting things. The first is how they emphasize this is a national style by 1954. All of the pictures in the main article are of guys from the South or West. I guess the 1950's were a time in which many pre-war regional idiosyncrasies were being taken countrywide through the mass media. Its interesting to see that process playing out here.

In terms of business suits, at least, this style had been established as a Fashion trend, if perhaps a regional one, several years earlier. This ad was in the Cornell Daily Sun as early as November of 1951


with Browning King being at that time a NY area chain.

The second interesting thing was how slim the pants were even in the early 1950's, especially on the Hollywood press agent guy.