THE IVY LEAGUE
The Ivy League look has had an enormous influence on the fashion industry and remains one of the most distinguished styles around today. At its heart is the desire to present oneself as ready to engage with big ideas and move the world forward – two principles commonly associated with the group of elite American colleges (such as Harvard, Yale and Princeton) from which the fashion takes its name. There, college students developed the idea of the Ivy League look from both British and American men who, in the 1920’s, instigated the trend for combining casual and sporting attire. From the 1950’s to the 1960’s the Ivy League look spread through every social circle to steadily become the most desirable mainstream apparel for middle class adults in the US and Britain.
The look inherited from the ‘50’s consists of a two-button blazer or a three-button jacket with a rolling lapel, an Oxford button-down shirt, cable-knitted waistcoats and high-waist
ed trousers with a straight or tapered leg. Footwear would consist of a long wing-tip brogue or a loafer and to polish off the look you could don a silk tie. The ethos serves clothing for every occasion in your social calendar, from formalwear to weekends in the country. On the more causal side, you could wear a chino pant or Levi jeans, a heavy sweatshirt with raglan sleeve, knitted ties, Oxford shirt and converses. These looks quickly became a sort of code of conduct amongst the folk at the best colleges who were proud to be there and spread across the world, taken up heartily in Japan, as the book Ametora (How Japan saved American Style) by W. David Marx shows.
Many people confuse a certain preppiness with the Ivy League, and, although they share certain strands of DNA, the ‘preppy look’ is a lot more colourful/casual, suitable for garden parties, trips to the Hamptons or casual affairs; the Ivy look aspires to more smart-casual occasions. There are many ways to tell apart the ‘preppy’ and the ‘Ivy League’ people: a prep will wear a boat shoe but an Ivy Leaguer will wear a penny loafer; for preps it’s all about convenience and comfort over style (they’ll throw on the first polo top they find with any old pair of chinos), where as the Ivy Leaguer will take the extra time to find a sweater to wear with that particular polo, and to colour coordinate it all with the trousers.
The two main clothing stores that represented the Ivy League look were J. Press and Brooks Brothers. J. Press was founded in 1902, right on Yale university campus: its clothing’s stayed the same since opening and the company has a vast amount of off the peg jackets with the traditional three button sack that is rarely found in today’s American fashion. The stores stock traditional men’s clothing such as casual trousers, sweaters and jackets. They also carry out a range of scarves and ties that feature the specific colours for Ivy League schools. The store caters for most of the old-fashioned, preppy and popular trends.
Brooks Brothers, meanwhile, was founded in 1818 and became known for its ‘ready to wear suits’; the store is hugely popular and responsible for outfitting 40 out of the 45 of American Presidents, from Abraham Lincoln to Barack Obama. Brooks Brother plays a massive part in the
industry and they’ve brought us many new ideas to improve men’s fashion: in 1896, they applied button-down collars to dress shirts, then in 1895 their Ivy League sack suit was made; in 1900 Harris Tweed was introduced; in 1904 the classic Shetland sweater was realised – they’re constantly innovating.
Many products we have created here at Regent draw inspiration from right across these iconic decades. As you travel through the store you’ll see lots of these products carefully placed within overall looks that aspire to continue the innovation associated with the Ivy League. Upon your entrance you’ll find our woven leather belts, while upstairs in the smoking room our white Oxford button-down resides, along with the necessary woollen rollneck, velvet smoking jacket and navy blazer. Across the landing you’ll find the Italian knitted ties. Then, finally, on the top floor you’ll find the heritage Selvedge jean and the Shaggy Shetland jumper. You can celebrate and get into the Ivy League lifestyle with a drink and a Havana cigar in the Liquor Room on your way back down!