Ivy Style

9780300170559Ivy Style is a work published by the Yale University Press describing a very particular style of clothes and dressing that was all the rage in the mid-20th century. Ivy style itself is something that most people would recognise on sight, but would be hard-pressed to describe beyond being ‘preppy’. It came out of American college campuses, generally in the Ivy League, and was extensively catalogued in the seminal Japanese work Take Ivy. Think lots of chinos, blazers, loafers, button-down collars and sweaters and you’re getting close. There have been many attempts to catalogue and extensively describe the Ivy look, and it’s hard to find a book that doesn’t at least do a halfway decent job, but Ivy Style has some of the best writing and photographic work that I’ve seen in a work on the subject.

There has been much written about the printing of this book – the typesetting, in particular. There are many complaints that the font is too small and printed in a light grey colour that makes it difficult to differentiate from the background, but I haven’t found this to be the case: you simply need to read it in the correct light. Even with this caveat, I’ve read this book by some pretty dim bedside lighting and not found myself straining my eyes. Of course, black type would be the ideal choice, but ultimately this is a pretty minor quibble.

When it comes to the quality of writing, there is some true insight to be gleaned from the various essays and pieces compiled in this book: a variety of writers have brought their ideas on Ivy fashion to the table, whether describing it in its native location on the 40s, 50s and 60s American college campus or detailing how this style of dressing has been disseminated throughout modern fashion trends and Western society as a whole.

It’s interesting to read some pieces in this book that revolve around non-American countries’ adopting of Ivy style and fashion, and consider how it could be seen as a reflection of the Westernisation of the rest of the world. Ivy Style truly makes one consider how such an Anglo-centric style that was particular to a fairly specific subset of American society became such an influence on other societies with very little in common with your average mid-20th century US fraternity member. Worth a read, definitely.