Take Ivy holds a mirror to the reader. Some see it as a nostalgic look at a period long gone. Others see privilege. A lot of people see inspiration. Not only in clothing others but clothing themselves. I see someone from the outside looking in.
It was that last sentence about being "on the outside" that got my wheels turning, and rather than post my take in the comments section over at The Trad, I thought I'd get all long winded about it here.
I was ten years old in 1986. Back then I saw a lot of guys, mostly of Italian descent, dressed not unlike I dressed today. You know the look: button down shirt, crisp from the cleaners, with khakis, crisp from the cleaners, and loafers with bare ankles. Plain and simple. Pretty much the classic East Coast casual uniform (tangent: back then, such an outfit was still considered casual, by no means appropriate for funerals or weddings or even a day at the office). Us swarthy types put a slight Italian twist on it.
Two buttons open at the neck, sleeves rolled back. You'd see Weejuns and Sperry Topsiders often enough, on the kids, but mostly the loafers were Italian horsebits. I've eschewed the jewelry. Those guys always had gold chains, bracelets, pinky rings, the works...and they always did that thing with the sleeves where they'd roll them in instead of out. Little touches, but the clothes were largely the same as the Harvard guys.
My Dad's cousin Bob lives in this killer 1960s split level ranch in the 'burbs complete with a kidney shaped pool. He was always having barbecues back then. The kids would spend all day in the pool, surrounded by guys dressed like this, accompanied by ladies with smart hair-dos wearing tailored knee length skirts, heels and lightweight cardigans. Nearly everyone's last name ended in a vowel.
As the author of a blog that largely focuses on a particular type of menswear, it's no surprise that I frequently read a lot of related material. The internet has given everybody a strong opinion and a really loud voice to use in proclaiming it. Mostly the stuff I read is fun, but there's this creeping undercurrent of guys out there who still believe that if your family didn't come over on the Mayflower, descend from upright Saxon stock and send the boys to Harvard for the last three hundred or so years, then you're some kind of degenerate heathen who has some nerve wearing khakis and tweed and button down collars. To be frank, it's more than a little racist to claim that race and religion entitle one to any particular mode of dress. Because that's all this really is, a mode of dress. If a store is going to offer these things for sale, then the only thing that entitles anybody to wear them is the money to buy it.
Miles Davis bought clothes at The Andover Shop. Many of the little shops that sold this stuff were Jewish owned and operated. Where I come from, Italian dudes have been wearing a variation of this stuff forever. I can remember my Mom buying me Sero oxfords at Bradlee's as part of my Catholic school uniform when I was a boy. I certainly don't feel I'm on the outside looking in, and I really don't believe these togs have all that much to do with privilege, not anymore. Despite what some people may think, it's been an awful long time since any of this stuff was the exclusive province of the yacht club gang. Granted, I did grow up in Boston where the influence of the Ivy League set has always enjoyed a broad appeal, but still, its only clothes fellas.