The Gentleman: Lagniappe

Inspiration from Old Photos

There has been a lot of discussion on men’s style blogs in recent weeks about the reprinting of a book called Take Ivy. This slim photography book by Teruyoshi Hayashida first appeared in Japan in 1965. It features about a hundred pages of candid photographs taken at Ivy League schools and in New York City in the mid-1960s. The book apparently became something of an underground cult-collectible, with original copies going for thousands of dollars at auctions. With the recent success of the television show Mad Men and the renewed interest in early to mid-1960s style, Take Ivy received its first English language printing last month.

The Gentleman decided to pick up a copy of the book to see what all the fuss was about. All in all, it’s an interesting little volume. It struck me as kind of odd to be an American reading a Japanese book commenting on American style, but maybe that is part of its charm. The second thing that I found fascinating is the degree to which modern dressing is being influenced by styles from this era. Or rather, the general public is becoming aware that this type of classic men’s dressing never disappeared, and more and more people are turning away from trends and toward looks that never go out of style. Below are three photos which I found particularly enjoyable: one casual and two business casual.

This first photo looks like something I wore all summer: blue button down dress shirt (I usually wear my sleeves rolled up), patchwork madras shorts and a pair of all-brown Sperry Topsider boat shoes. What’s fascinating about this photo is that there is nothing about it that would look out of place or outdated if it were worn today, and yet it’s a forty-five year-old photograph. This is exactly the kind of timeless dressing that I try to convey in my Gentleman columns.

This photograph captures a group of college students walking to church. Each of the men in the photograph is wearing a sport coat with “odd trousers,” meaning trousers of a different color than the jacket. With autumn approaching, sport coats are an important wardrobe item to consider, so I will discuss them further in a future column. My favorite look is the man in the center with a button-down collar, slim black tie, light khakis and a brown tweed sport coat. I also found it interesting how each man in the trio is wearing a different collar style. Left: full spread, middle: button down, right: point. Finally, each young man is wearing nicely tailored, yet still casual, cotton trousers. Their pants are neither baggy nor hipster skinny. This kind of balance, I am convinced, is the key to timeless dressing.

The third and final photo that I want to showcase is what Take Ivy referred to as a grown-up Ivy Leaguer; that is, a man working on Madison Avenue. I love everything about this photo. The contrast between the light tan sport coat and the charcoal dress pants is fantastic. I also love the little red accent provided by the subtle pocket square. The brown trilby hat is excellent as well. Hats are an accessory that really need to come back in full force for gentlemen.

I really enjoyed this slice of Ivy League life through photographs from the past. If you’re interested in checking out the book, Amazon is selling it for a reasonable $16 . J.Crew is apparently also selling it in some of their stores if you are more interested in flipping through the book while shopping instead of buying it, as I suspect many people will be.

Next week: the Gentleman introduces you to a new style icon, the misadventure-prone British gentleman, Bertie Wooster, as portrayed by Hugh Laurie…

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