When the fashions and styles of previous generations cascade through to the modern day wardrobe, reborn, revived and celebrated in equal measure, it’s easy to see where the saying ‘fashion goes around in circles’ comes from. However, rummaging around vintage clothing shops or flicking through old photographs to see the things being worn by our ancestral cohorts is not necessary, as so many classic garments from our not so distant heritage are being worn today and are as popular as ever.
If we take the archives of Mod fashion for example, it’s clear to see that the styles of that era are constantly being drawn upon for inspiration for use in a more contemporary guise, with specific items such as the obligatory parka jacket now an everyday item of clothing, with its original template being adhered to and reworked by a multitude of designers.
Of all those important and charismatic looks that flourished here in the UK, passed down through time, forgotten and then rediscovered, often adapted for a more up to date look, it’s perhaps overlooked that one of the most important and influential styles that still holds a strong presence to this day actually originated in the United States rather than here in the UK.
From the mid 1950s and throughout the 1960s, there was a fresh new look that gripped America, encompassing a vibrant social outlook that encapsulated music and an appreciation for quality made clothing. Males from a varied spectrum of professions and backgrounds become totally committed and engrossed in this autonomous scene that oozed a refined confidence and an appreciation for a new found modernistic philosophy. This independent and detail conscious existence was termed The Ivy look and is as evident today as it was in the days of Miles Davis and Steve McQueen, both iconic figures to the advocates of this most elegant and stylish lifestyle.
With its name originating from the college campuses that were the birth place of this charismatic scene, it’s no surprise that the look held an almost scholarly complexity, yet was carried off with an edge of sophisticated cool. Jazz music played a synonymous part in proceedings with an array of artists wearing the clothing that was associated with the style and the likes of John Coltrane and Quincy Jones were often portrayed on understated yet chic record sleeves that were a valued part of Ivy culture, sporting the get ups of the everyday dandy.
Cut, design and quality were the essential elements longed for by the followers of the Ivy look with J Press and Brooks Brothers being the favoured purveyors of this much revered and sought after clothing. The typical day to day look held a strong resemblance to a number of styles that are currently prominent in modern day wardrobes with archetypal items such as the classic chino, long sleeve button down shirts, tennis court sneakers and the loafer all featuring predominantly.
Together with Bass Weejun, a standard protocol was followed regarding applicable footwear and clothing, with both Converse all stars and desert boots being heavily favoured as an alternative to the loafer. To compliment the footwear and depending on the season, leg wear varied from chinos or khakis to slacks, and when dressing for a more non formal and laid back occasion, a pair of Levi 501 XX denims were more than an acceptable.
Tab collared or long sleeved button down shirts were the all important item for the upper part of a well chosen get up with the
Oxford cloth and checked variations being the most typical of selections. These were sought after with great aplomb, with the cut and details of each individual shirt often being discussed and debated with much fervour and enthusiasm. To complete the perfect ensemble, the jacket or coat was as important as the rest of the outfit and a number of choices were available in an array of different guises and styles, yet the cut had to comply with the adamant demands of the wearer with only a superlative amount of detail attracting the most passionate and obsessive of considerations.
Attention to detail and the sharp rhetoric in which the way Ivy style was adhered to held an unmistakeable correlation to ambitiously minded and talented individuals, exemplified by the likes of the Kennedy brothers, numerous musicians and film screen actors such as Paul Newman who were all keen patrons of this most refined and sharp lifestyle.
The Ivy look has been one of the most consistently seen silhouettes over time, from its heyday in America to the undeniable influence it had on Mod culture in the UK with its similar outlooks and ethos. Fast forward to the modern day and Ivy style is arguably one of the strongest influences present on the modern day wardrobe, lending itself to the quite charming thesis that although fashion may go around in circles, style, in fact, will always be timeless.