The Ivy League look in men’s clothing peak mid 50s- 60s in USA. Also called the Madison Avenue, look its influence on menswear has been lasting.
Named after the USA Ivy League Universities is the quintessential American gift to tailored menswear. The Ivy look was overtaken by 60s swinging British fashion, but on the other side of the world the Japanese embraced Ivy maintaining the style over the last 50 years. The stronghold of Ivy is Japan.
The Americans, influenced by Italians, married British country/casual style with city/business style and created a relaxed look. It is a smart comfortable marriage between city and country, casual and business. Ivy was a reinterpretation of old world tailoring for the new world.
The basics of Ivy look are sack jackets, soft natural looking shoulders, patch pockets, swelled seams and hooked single rear vent. (Sack doesn’t mean looking like a bag, but refers to a garment that hangs from the shoulders). The lack of front dart gives a slim straight silhouette allowing any check patterns to mesh in front without interruption.
Ivy trousers are usually flat fronted, high waisted and slim but not tight. The khaki chino is the classic Ivy versatile trouser. It can be dressed up with a jacket, OCBD shirt and knit tie or dressed down with no jacket and the OCBD shirt open at neck.
The best known of all the items – The Oxford Cloth Button Down shirt with desired collar roll – is still a staple of men’s wear. A slim square end knit tie is smart for work and simultaneously relaxed enough for weekend drinks.
In USA the penny loafer or its opposite the long wing brogue are the staple shoes. Desert boots are a standard option.
The overall look is portrayed well in illustrations of the time. A long slim silhouette , always smart without looking constricting or formal. The Ivy look works on young and older men. The illustration (below) from Japanese Tailor Caid captures the Ivy style well.
Ivy has been long associated with modern Jazz and English fans of Modern Jazz – (see Bill Evans LP cover). The Modernists- morphing into Mods – wore Ivy clothing in order contrast with the English Savile Row style.
The Ivy look reached Australia as evidenced by the advert included here (Dress Up In Style For Outdoor Activities). The Marcus Clarke stores were focused in NSW but I have similar adverts from Melbourne. The look certainly was around, promoted and easily available in early 60s Australia.
The influence of Ivy continues. It remains the style of choice for men wishing to be smart, “modern” and yet relaxed and approachable at all occasions.
Words by SC Member, Tim O'Leary