It’s hard to remember a time without Gangnam Style, but it’s even harder to remember before there was Ivy (as in Preppie) Style. There’s just a few more days to trek to The Museum at FIT for its revealing show on the roots of American menswear, Ivy Style.
Sure, the show is peppered with references and examples of the current Kings of Prep –Lauren, Hilfiger, and (prep with a twist) Thom Browne. But the real eye-opener here is the manner in which the curators journey back in time to show you how something so familiar today was once so radical – how “Ivy” got its name in 1876, how students set the sportswear trends before WWI, and the debut of the now-forgotten (but influential) “beer suits” at Princeton in 1912.
It’s also startling to learn that Brooks Brothers industrialized wardrobes as far back as 1818, and that J. Press “owned” the market for natural-shoulder jackets for pretty much the entire 20th Century.
Thankfully, FIT has packed enormous amounts of menswear history on its special exhibition web site, so work your way through it and mine it for your own favorite tidbits (e.g. origins of saddle shoes, polo coats, and blazers).
Favorite factoid: In 1931, the average college student spent 51% more on clothes than the average man-on-the-street – a college trend that kept going right through the Great Depression. So, maybe it’s like Gangnam Style, after all? Psy sports it too, you know.
If you can’t get to the show in the next few days, take the virtual walkthrough with the Richard Press, the former President of J. Press, who interprets the who, what, why, and when of menswear history (including the roots of the most memorable scene in Animal House). Don’t ask, just watch: