Thursday, September 2, 2010

Take Ivy…My Take

It’s no secret that the Japanese have been nothing short of obsessed with Trad style for decades. A broader generalization says that the Japanese have been obsessed with things Western for decades. I’m not providing any groundbreaking news when I restate the story regarding sabiro—the phonetic pidginization of Savile Row. Sabiro is Japanese for suit. Edward Green and probably other Northampton shoe makers, enjoys a greater percentage of their production in smaller sizes for Japanese buyers than any of their other market segments. And J. Press would probably be a distant and faint memory if not for the Japanese.

I’ve got a fairly small foot…you know what they say. And I’ve sold very nice shoes from time to time on eBay…trust me…I’ve given tons of loot to Goodwill but when I realized that people would pay you a hundred bucks for your shoes…geez…how do you think I finance the Belgians over here? Where do you think my size 8D used Aldens and other trad things end up? You got it. Japan. God help you if you are selling an 11.5D Alden cordovan whatever ‘cause you ain’t gonna fan the flames of a Nippon bidding war like I cultivate. Fifty bucks to ship them over there and all’s well. Our Japanese friends are crazy for our Trad goods…vintage, used, repurposed whatever.
I lived in Montclair New Jersey in the late 1980’s and used to run through the stately neighborhoods that included Upper Mountain Avenue. It’s a stunning area populated with elegant old homes…probably owned by Ivy Leaguers. But I used to run through these neighborhoods with my Japanese buddy A. Y.. It was like running through an Ivy League campus. I picture A.Y. as the type of guy who in 1965 would have devoured Take Ivy cover to cover. He owned the sushi restaurant on Valley Road and we would drink our faces off in his place at least twice a week. He’d close-up and head out with us.We’d end up at one of our posse’s digs and drink till daylight. He’d bring the good sake. And he was obsessed with Trad clothes. More shit walked out of my closet after I hit sake-REM than I’ll ever be able to prove. But I’d see some of my shirts and shit the next week, on A.Y., as he greeted and seated us.
So Take Ivy needs to be reviewed through the lens of its original intent. The annotated picture book seems to have had a singular purpose. To feed the Trad crazy boys back home a nice little visual buffet of the animal itself…round eyed white boys captured in situ…hurrying about to and fro…on the Mother Church grounds of Trad-prepdom…the campus. The Take Ivy collaborators were on a mission. To crack the code for their peers back home. The liner notes are superficial at best and what’s lost in translation makes for a chuckle or two. Here’s an example. The picture above enjoys this caption… 1968 …the year printed on his chest signifies his graduation year. A simple calculation tells us he is a freshman. He is wearing a crew neck top in green, his school color.” Stop it. 
Off-white is not quite white. But let’s be fair. It’s 1965 and there is no internet, no Life Image Archives, no Google Pictures, no Roetzel book or Flusser books. And Ralph Lauren, well he’s still aggravating the shit out of Cliff Grod over at Paul Stuart and sending Norman Hilton and his cutters in New Jersey over the edge. Had he sold his Morgan by then? 
Elbow Patches…A student is wearing a cotton twill jacket with a rubber twill collar, rubber cuffs as well as leather elbow patches. Quite the stylish dresser.”  Patches I’m depending on you son….
The point is this…I’m sure when this book hit the stores in Japan, the target market went gaga. It was ’65 and they probably had nothing else of the sort; written in their language, assembled by their peers who offered impressions of The United States of Trad and more specifically, the Confederacy better known as the Ivy League. I mean where else are you going to get ground level Princeton intelligence like .... “Passenger Wanted…this is a bulletin board where students exchange information using a piece of paper. You can find messages like, “Passenger Wanted” and “A Guitar for Sale.” This was written for a people who had never seen their Emporer. It's all good.
Madras Checks…In an effort to differentiate him from the masses, this student wears patchwork madras Bermuda shorts.” You ole intriguing outlier being different kinda rebel you. But that’s where the intrigue with this piccolo tome ends. It is an artifact and a lean one at that. I can appreciate Trad fetishization. Hell I’m the guy who went spastic when O’Connells offered all of the new old stock bleeding madras stuff. I’m one of that particular club. 
I did enjoy reading the segment on trad clothing stores. Assuming that they knew of J. Press and The Brethren before they hit the States, I'm not surprised at their reaction after stumbling upon The Andover Shop. Frazier was in there, vetting Miles' fabric selections. Here's the lore you'll learn, only in Take Ivy... "A Shop With A Modern Twist...This unusually modern looking boutique appeared out of nowhere, among an array of classical-looking men's boutiques."
 Abe Vigoda. Yale '37.
But what fanned the base interest in this little ditty over here in the States isn’t complex. And it damn sure wasn't grounded in thirst for sartorial erudition and gabardine depth. Until now, it was rarer than hardcover Apparel Arts magazines from the 1930’s. Trust me when I tell you that if I hadn’t seen a copy of it, most people hadn’t. So scarcity breeds covetous behaviors. We all had to see what this thing was all about. Well I’ve seen it and it took me all of eleven minutes to hit the “been there—done that” button on the ADG—ADD monitor. The photo of Tintin above, is worth fifteen bucks. Hook center vent-hungover as a mother ____. Drunk socks and the same shorts he wore on the bus back down to New Jersey from Smith. He'd been up there with my old girlfriend Roxanne Burgess. He puked three times on the bus ride home.

Here’s the good news…at fifteen bucks courtesy of, why not nick a copy for your sartorial library. Original hardcover Apparel Arts magazines from the 1930’s are worth every penny of the three hundred to four hundred dollars they command. Take Ivy is worth every penny of the fifteen dollars you’ll pay for it. And not a penny more.

Onward. Not disappointed, not surprised. Certainly amused but not impressed.
A.-trad-D.-fuzzy-G., the second, actually.


Anonymous said...

Great post, ADG...Are all the translations that amusing?

Blue Trad

JDB (Chin Up, Pretty Smile, Give 'Em Hell) said...

That isn't Tintin sweetie, that's you in your "airport rig".

M.Lane said...

Say what they will, we were dressing like this in South Carolina and Virginia a long time before it got up to NJ and Mass and Etc. The proof? Beach music. You know what I mean...


Memphis88 said...

My favorite was the part in the section on athletics that reads, "Unlike Japan, however, at least American students seem to be enjoying themselves. Also, when commenting on the casual dress of the students, "We live in a home called the campus, so why bother dressing up?"

Anonymous said...


apropos of nothing here and not fit for posting - a Sob & Kitty link


Anonymous English Female said...

ADG - so if that's Tintin with the cute butt, which one is Laguna Beach Trad?

Richard M said...

Or one can go online to peruse things such as the Life Magazine archives and the Corbis and Getty archives and get the same and better pictures for free.

Anonymous said...

Oh, the earnestness...

As a companion piece (Take Ivy, the video, if you will) check out the Princeton promotional video posted several weeks ago at Ivy Style.

It was only 15 odd years before Take Ivy morphed into Animal House.

ADG said...

Richard ...Indeed. And you of all people can attest to the rich veins of retinal candy available therein.

AnonEng...Lugana Beach is Roxanne Burgess.

Taytayta'er...thanks man. I sat in my drawers last night, eating Cheetos and watching car clips.

Memphis88...edgy text no?

MLane...And YOU know, that when you leave that comment here, you are damn certain to be preaching to the starched/khaki/weejun choir. legs have lost a ton of definition since I no longer run long distances. But trust me, mine aren't that thick. It's Tintin. Trust me.

BlueTrad...yes. I only culled a couple of samples. And I didn't want to come across as ridiculing the end result because (I think) I get what these kids...the Ivy Style creators were trying to do and say back then.

longwing said...

I got mine yesterday. Can't understand why the print quality sucks so bad. Did the publishers just scan an old copy. I mean, it looks a lot like my old high school yearbook - and not in a good way.

Easy and Elegant Life said...

Have to agree with Longwing as the photos are grainy at best.

Interesting to leaf through. I remember people dressing like this until "the Preppy Handbook" debuted and then all the kids were layering polos under their buttondowns. "Bout the only change though. I'd show you yearbook pictures, but those folks are still alive and privacy laws being what they are...

Patsy said...

The whole book and book hoopla strikes me as odd, but I'm a middle aged woman who reads men's style blogs, which is pretty odd too.

JMW said...

I laughed out loud at the comment about not having ever seen their emporer. :) We have a friend who lived in Japan for a few years; he said it's not that they just wanted to act or dress Western, they wanted to BE Western. He said it was an amazing social studies experience.

Anonymous said...

"Well I’ve seen it and it took me all of eleven minutes to hit the “been there—done that” button on the ADG—ADD monitor."

Yep, about the same here, too.

Glad I have it. It will live on the coffee table for a little while, before it makes it's home on the bookshelf next to my two pristine copies of TOPH.

Wish the quality of the new book was a little nicer, but, like you said, "worth every penny of the fifteen dollars you’ll pay for it."

Anonymous said...

You've done it. My appetite is sufficiently whetted.

My next mouse click will be over to the Barnes & Noble website to order this little treasure.

A.E.F. said...

Oh ADG, really! We all know - or at least suspect - Laguna Beach Trad is much better looking than one of your old girlfriends...

Laguna Beach Trad said...

I'm completely underwhelmed by this book, a copy of which I received for review a few weeks ago.

ADG, you know as well as I do, if you were raised on this sh*t there's NOTHING new here!!

The only difference being, the preps and sloanes I grew up with looked MUCH better put-together than the Ivy students in the book.

In fact I would go so far as to say the great majority of the kids pictured therein look like slobs, or, as the authors say, "uncouth".

"Uncouth style" pp. 72-73...ROFLMCAO!!!

The proponderance of shorts, t-shirts, sweatshirts, sideburns, and sneakers is a direct challenge to the buttoned-up Trads of today who claim to detest such un-Ivy clothing.

Then again, the photos were taken in the 1960s, possibly the worst decade in which to start such a project.

And then one wonders how genuine Ivy fashion was amongst the students given the dress codes and "dress study groups" imposed by the universities.

My suspicion that Take Ivy and the whole fasination for this style is mainly for (1) foreigners (nothing wrong with that) and (2) aspiring home-grown climbers and poseurs, which invites a different sort of critique.

I am tempted to write a longer review for next week, but I do not want to be uncharitable. Then again, that hasn't stopped me before.

Ben said...

Surprisingly, I enjoy the captions more than the pictures:

"A pair of cotton trousers is a staple of the student wardrobe. The trousers come in various colors: white, off-white, olive, and many others."

NCJack said...

Wonder if fifty years from now there'll be a huge demand for a volume called "Take Crap". I'll do the shooting, you write the copy.

Young Fogey said...

So solly, Meestah ADG-san, but Japanese for "suit" is sebiro, wees "e" as fahst vower.

But it is thought to be a borrowing from "Savile Row."

Arso flom English:
waishatsu 'men's dress shirt,' from "white shirt"
suutsu 'suit' from "suit" (yes, more than one word for "suit")
beruto 'belt' from "belt"
kooto 'long coat' from "coat"
nekutai (do I really have to tell you?)
jaketto (ditto)

And here's a fun one: hai kara 'stylish, fashionable' from "high collar" (back in them thar ye olden days of yore (late 19th century), Western clothes, which included a detachable and therefore high collar, were considered the bee's knees, hence the shift in meaning)

Purdy nifty, huh?

ADG said...

Fogey...nifty indeed.

Ben...the digital age has provided us with an overwhelming and deeply interesting cache of pictures. Again, I have to go back to 1965 when I'm sure, this book was big shit to kids back home in Japan. And yes, the captions are the best.

LagunaTrad-Prep-Fogey...I think we've all been relatively charitable regarding this book. I'm wondering though, if anyone feels know...those who've tried to give this attenuated little pamphlet more gravitas than it can carry?

AEF...word has it that you know firsthand. need for the quality to be any better. Its current state complements the content.


Patsy...odd is good. or what do they say..."the odds are good but the goods are odd"

EasyOleElegantOne...privacy laws? IS your old high school yearbook

ADG said...

NCJack...are you saying that my copy writing would be crap?

A.E.F. said...

ADG - that word would be I have (some) first hand knowledge of the looks of your Cinderella step-sisteresque old girlfriends, old man.

NCJack said...

Heaven forfend! Not by a long shot (well, outside spittin' distance, anyway). Whereas the style personified in this classic tome is "Ivy", what we'd encounter on campuses today get the drift.