In conjunction with their current museum exhibition Ivy Style, the Fashion Institute of Technology hosted a two day symposium on the collegial origins and contemporary adaptations of preppy Americana. I’ve never seen so many proud pocket squares and bow ties in one room. Here are some things I learned at the exhibition (back to school!):
-Though it may now be accepted as standard, even conservative, preppy style was once considered cutting-edge. We’re talking back in the mid-20th century when Ivy campus style—privileged college students’ mix of gentile clothes with athletic sportswear and attitude—was adopted by working class GIs and jazz musicians. Some even called it an anti-fashion.
-Post-WWII, GIs going back to school brought military looks, like the parka, and sportswear, like the grey heather sweatshirt, into the preppy mix. The 20th century American look we think of is just that: classic prep like J.Press and Brooks Brothers with military touches and sportswear comforts.
-The term “blazer” is so named for the red emblazoned jackets of Cambridge U’s Lady Margaret Boat Club rowing team.
-Kids actually wore raccoon fur coats to sports events. N.B. You could easily conceal a flask in them!
-Andy Warhol wore nothing but Brooks Brothers brand button down shirts.
-Mid-century: Brooks Brothers produced a pink oxford shirt for men. It started to be bought out by women customers who requested one cut for them. Despite high demand, for years, Brooks Brothers refused to produce a women’s edition.
-A photo of Princeton University boys on “Top Hat Day” (in head-to-toe white get ups with round-handled canes and black accessories) looks terrifyingly like the droogs from Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange.
Photos by George Chinsee, courtesy of WWD.