26 July 2010

The Mirror That Is Take Ivy

I've been interviewed a number of times about Take Ivy and readily admit to not staying on message. However, journalists usually have a story or angle and they're looking for quotes to support it. I've tried to take them down a different path but these are not explorers. And who can blame them? They have a job to do for which they get paid. I'm a volunteer.

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.

As an Army Brat - I'm not from anywhere and it's one of the reasons why I love New York so much. You don't have to be from here to belong. But one of the thrills of moving was discovering new places. This was before a lot of places started to look the same.

You see? I'm getting off message already but stay with me. I assume you're not getting paid to read this. There's a mid 1980s BMW three series that parks on my street. The block lines, circular headlights and thick grill have aged well. And like wine, the car has come out of its 'dumb' period but it hasn't hit fad status yet. It stands out in the midst of boring plastic parked around it and yet it's still unappreciated. A good time to be a fan.

When we see something again. After a long absence. It's almost like seeing it for the first time. If we have some small connection to it - it's even stronger. When I look at Take Ivy...I might as well be Japanese. In the late '60s, I left oxford and madras for Hang Ten, Nehru jackets and hi water bell bottoms only to come back in the late '70s. Sans some Italian butter and Ivy's parent, the English, I've been faithful ever since.

Someone looking from the outside at something attractive in its foreignness. Going native. Whatever. That's what it means to me. Last week I saw both the old and the new Take Ivy on a bookshelf in a friend's office. I never thought to ask what the book meant to him. What he saw in it. That's a question I'd like to ask you. When you get your hands on it - Come back here and tell me. Just don't go wandering off the reservation.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for your fresh insight, Tintin. I admire your oblique take.

First and foremost, when I view Take Ivy, I see ground level photojournalism, popular during that time; about a certain subject of interest that, until then, probably no one paid much interest to.

Secondly, I must admit, I see fashion-challenged left-brain students left to their own wardrobe devices for the first time in their lives. Personal statement or fashion failure? Either way, it works. Which may be just one reason why it's so popular among designers, who then ultimately force the idea to its non-charming, "geek-chick" end.

The look works best with the young. That goes without saying. But I, in my advanced age, can still pull from it, albeit subtly. Therein lies the beauty of it.

Lastly, if not being an American, then looking "American" is still popular around the world, then Take Ivy's continued, or at least, resurgent popularity is proof.

I actually believe Hang Ten is a first cousin...


Old Hamptonian said...

Although they were popular first in a particular milieu, I do not think of classic Ivy League clothes as being in any way the "true" province of one group with particular social, educational, or regional backgrounds. The style did not even arise in this country; it began as the hunting clothes of a British gentry unimpressed with America's monied classes.

Neither do I associate the clothing with the "preppie" conformists at my college in the late '70s, although they put me off wearing the Ivy League style in favor of other classics (Levis, flannel shirts, and yes, some Hang Ten) until the end of the '80s, when the coast was clear.

When I was a child, Ivy League, or Collegiate as it often was called, was the style worn by most college-educated men, and many other white collar workers. My father, my medieval history professor, my best friend's father (an important mentor), my high school physics teacher: none had Ivy connections, boats, large portfolios, or interest in the lifestyle of the wealthy Northeast; all were officers in WWII and/or Korea, coming from modest backgrounds; but they all turned out for the office or classroom in tweeds and flannels because those were comfortable, practical, and correct clothes. My father bought his at Hal Turner's Wythe Men's Shop. The style belonged to all who knew how to dress properly. When I started to dress properly for work, I looked to those men as examples, and overlooked the frat boys at college in my day.

Laguna Beach Fogey said...

History, and little more. This is the style my family, my friends, my friends' families, and I wore growing up. Our English connections, of course, added certain features, but this was the template in the US. But things change. Take Ivy is history, to me, in other words what once was, but it is also inspiration for what will be again. Sartorial history is not linear, rather it is cyclical. Keep the faith, bro.

Anonymous said...

Am I the only one who finds the photos in "Take Ivy" distinctly homophilic?

Japanese peeping toms taking photos of American male students' tight asses.

Family Man said...

Anonymous, I think you're viewing the past through modern lenses that are distinctly warped.

Not too long ago, The Art of Manliness had an article called The History and Nature of Man Friendships. This article had lots of old photos of men being physically affectionate with each other; the article pointed out that "men were free to have affectionate man relationships with each other without fear of being called a “queer” because the concept of homosexuality as we know it today didn’t exist then."

Even now in modern Japan, there is not the suspicion of homosexuality like we have in America, and young boys are sometimes physically affectionate without anyone thinking there's something queer going on. So I doubt that 45 years ago, the Japanese photographers were covertly shooting homosexual soft porn.

tintin said...

DB-Remember our evolution in high school? In 1965, I would guess most of these guys were well versed in dress their freshman year. They had to tweak here and there per the standing dress code but the core of their dress had been around for a long time. And I'm not even talking the private schools.

Old Hamptonian- Wonderful comment. I grew up with the collegiate store. Not that I ever went to one. Most of my stuff came from the P.X. but the look was standard issue through most of the '50s and '60s. And then college kids didn't want to go fight a war in southeast Asia and another collegiate look came along. Drafts always screw up fashion.

LBT- What was is already happening. No need for faith. But some cash to start up a US made suit manufacturer couldn't hurt.

Anon- Thanks for sharing what the book means to you. Like I said, it's a mirror held up the reader. I see some guys going to class. You see tight butts.

Paul Raymond said...

Above the myth surrounding the book, I would say that the enthusiasm you have displayed for it and the ethos it represents drew me to take more than a passing interest.

I've never known the US to be so unsure of itself as it is now. What was an attempt to capture
a particularly American strand of a traditional clothing aesthetic has perhaps taken on a more significant meaning. Do those photos not also project the self-confidence, dynamism
and vigour of the nation at that time? Those drawn to the book could be yearning to see those qualities reflected in the cultural language again, and for a way of dressing that spoke of a simplicity and integrity without bombast that is a million miles from the cynical bombardment of lifestyle branding and fast fashion seen today.

Then again, I could be talking utter piffle and I could be just a Limey that likes looking at photos of nice sweaters.

Greg said...

My copy arrived on the 31st much to my surprise (it was scheduled for the 2nd.) As I read the book I happened upon the same feeling that you had. There is something vastly appealing in the sense of innocence coming from the Japanese authors That combined with the time frame makes for an interesting combination.

Maybe Take Ivy is a mirror in the sense of Lewis Carroll's mirror - one that invites you to look inwards and walk into a whole new world. My half-sister went to Brown - I've been to the campus multiple times and was never left with an impression such as this. The book is written with such innocence at a time where the old style was only beginning to fade (note the student in the football jersey, torn pants and sandals; a look that is commonplace today.) Take Ivy was well worth my time and money - and I look forward to returning to it's pages in years to come.

Anonymous said...

I'm shocked how bad some people look in the book. Bulky wool socks, bermuda shorts and a billowy button down don't work well together. Some students in the book are downright stylish, but they seem slightly the exception, not the rule.

What Take Ivy is, a very thorough study of Ivy STUDENT style. I emphasize student because well, they don't seem all that stylish.

I think part of the reason they hold up so well is because student style today is abhorrent in comparison. Today we have a scourged of popped collars, cargo shorts and students who have the lack of respect to attend class in pajamas.

On a final note, my dad was in college at the same time as these photos were taken, it is nice to see what he probably dressed like.