We cannot give enough thanks to Christian Chensvold,
who has written numerous blog posts about us since the opening of our Madison Avenue store.
Without his help we could never have succeeded in introducing our button-down shirts in the US.
Recently we got the chance to interview Christian about his blog and his love for the Ivy League look.
How did you become interested in Ivy style?
As I got older I began to think that many other styles of dressing were little too forced and contrived. There is something kind of pure and simple about Ivy, and also the main thing is that it is American. I think it’s foolish to think that only Italians and Englishmen can tell us how to dress. We have this wonderful tailoring tradition in America whose origins go back all the way to 1890s with Brooks Brothers and the tailors in New Haven. I think that the style expresses American values and culture. The natural shoulder is such a defining symbol of the attitude — that this kind of dressing is not puffed up and pompous. There is nothing fake in it. It is truly natural and unaffected. The sociology in how the values of the people who developed Ivy style is reflected in clothing is fascinating, and I never get tired of finding the historic anecdotes that express this history.
Also, I should give credit to Japan and what it has done to help preserve the Ivy League Look after it ceased to be popular in the United States, as detailed in the book “Ametora” by W. David Marx. He’s done the most research into what the Japanese have done in their magazines and their brands to interpret and also preserve this great American style after so much of America had forgotten it.
How did you come to start the blog?
I’ve been interested in menswear since I was 18. I started blogging in 2004 with a project called Dandyism.net. After four years my taste was changing and I was looking for a new project. Around that time I pitched a story to Ralph Lauren’s online magazine, for which I’ve written for 10 years. I had learned that many jazz musicians wore the Ivy League Look in the 1950s, which was unusual as most of them were African American. There was an old man in Harvard Square, Charlie Davidson of The Andover Shop. He provided clothes to Miles Davis in about 1954, and also many other musicians such as Chet Baker, Gerry Mulligan and the Modern Jazz Quartet. I thought this was the fascinating story about two parts of American culture coming together. I pitched the idea to my editor at Ralph Lauren Magazine, and they loved the idea. It was only a short article, but it still showed the cool side of Ivy, not just the prep schools and colleges and conservative older men. This was a different side of the Ivy League Look, something younger, cooler, and more unexpected. I enjoyed doing that article so much and got so interested in the topic, I decided it would be the subject of my new website. There were a number of preppy, trad and Ivy websites in 2008, but none was really being done by a professional journalist. I thought my news judgement, photo judgement, interviewing skills and connections in media and menswear would help me. The first couple of years it was just a hobby, and then gradually it became popular and became more of a business and online magazine. I’ve had a full lineup of advertisers for many years now and it comprises about half of my work time.
It was only a short article, but it still showed the cool side of Ivy, not just the prep schools and colleges and conservative older men.
What do you think is the future of the Ivy League Look?
It has changed over time and it will continue to change, but I think it will always be around in some form. What we refer to on the website as the heyday was the time when it was most popular, roughly 1954 to 1967. After that, people still wore the clothes, and Brooks Brothers and J. Press were still in business, but they were catering to older customers who had grown up on the look, and young people weren’t necessarily wearing it. The whole country became casual in the ’70s, and Ivy and preppy style reflected these broader changes in the way we dressed. Then 1980 comes around and the publication of “The Official Preppy Handbook,” and the ’80s was a very preppy decade based on the casual country club clothing of the Ivy League Look. It was more casual and sporty, and new items were added, such as jeans, so it managed to continue.
What’s young and driving it now is someone like Kiel James Patrick, the accessories designer from Rhode Island, who has a huge following on Instagram. He’s presenting the preppy look in a very modern, technologically savvy way for young people and has been very successful. Also, within the past five years there was a neo-prep revival in fashion, with things like Michael Bastian at Gant, the collaboration of J. Press and Urban Outfitters, and of course what Ralph Lauren is always doing with the Polo line. But what we haven’t really seen is a revival of the ’50s and ’60s Ivy, which is more sober. The gray suit, straight cut, natural shoulders, hook vent, pinned collar — more of the “Mad Men” business look of Ivy. The natural shoulder sack jacket has not been revived in a way to be fully appreciated. If retailers showed how cool and relaxed the look is, I think customers would respond. I think J. Press is taking a step in the right direction with its Blue line, which is more fashionable but not as extreme as its York Street collection. That may be a suggestion of what’s to come. There will always be interest in good clothing with the connotations of success and education.
Special thanks to Christian Chensvold
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