Monday, July 26, 2010

Ivy Fever

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Sunday’s New York Times had an article on “Take Ivy,” a slim book of photographs commissioned by Kensuke Ishizu, the founder of clothing line Van Jacket. The book, first published in 1965, was the result of a fact-finding mission undertaken by a Japanese photographer and three writers to Ivy League campuses in the US. The four toured Harvard, Dartmouth, and Princeton with an eye to capturing the style of American men at these revered institutions. The photographer took hundreds of photos.

Because Japanese male style had been entrenched in old-fashioned looks that had not changed in years, Ishizu was seeking inspiration from America. The book became a style bible for Japanese men enamored of the traditional style of American clothing, as well as an ethnographic study of the Ivy League male. Since its publication, “Take Ivy” has become the center of a sort of cult whose passion is partly fueled by the fact that the book has been out of print and has never appeared in English. Fashionistas have scanned and photocopied the book ad infinitum to share its inspiring photos.

The men shown in the book have been captured in their glorious, fit and beautiful youth wearing the clothes deemed appropriate to that place and time. They were caught at sport, play, dining, and walking along Harvard Yard, College Green (Dartmouth) and Nassau Street in Princeton.

The Bermuda shorts - some in plaid - tight white jeans, button-down shirts, sweaters, slacks and loafers they wore are still attractive additions to many male wardrobes. The look is casual, sporty and rich.

It occurred to me as I enjoyed these pictures that the ultimate model for these clothes was the erstwhile president – John F. Kennedy – who wore this style with panache. His Ivy League credentials were real, of course, and he sported the look when at play at the family compound in Hyannis Port, MA.

Next week, “Take Ivy” will be published for the first time with English language text. A new generation of male (and female) fashionistas can now enjoy the book and revel in its nostalgic glow.

'Til next time.

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