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Style Starter – Ivy & Prep

Like the unified roar of an acapella group belting the last note at the social, Ivy style has been coursing loudly through the storied halls of the world’s most famous institutions and has echoed far, far beyond. So far and wide, in fact, it has gotten lost in the day-to-day routine of getting dressed. That’s because so much of what people wear today is based on, or has been influenced by the Ivy tradition without evening knowing it!

Perfectly capturing youthful ease and rigid tradition, nailing Ivy style – although taking much less investment than getting into one of the actual schools – requires more than just clothing. It requires a reverence for the style, knowledge of who wore it before, and of course the confidence and swagger to pull it off.

Historical Context

Style-Guide---Ivy-&-Prep- 19th-century-engraving-of-Yale-College-via-Getty-Images

19th-century engraving of Yale College via Getty Images

We’ll get to the clothing in a second, but to fully capture the fascination with the Ivy look, one has to consider what the Ivy league stood for leading up to the surge in popularity.

Strongly associated with the beginnings of the US, the Northeast & New England house all 8 Ivy League institutions. 6 schools were founded in the 1700s and good old Harvard began in 1636, only 16 years after the first group of Pilgrims arrived at Plymouth Rock after traveling from England on the Mayflower. In this context, it’s hard not to associate the Ivy League with enduring traditions that stand the test of time.

But beyond history, the tight-lipped, closed doors exclusivity of these schools created a culture where one’s journey to get in starts long before the application process. Prep schools were where you’d go to prepare for the big leagues, often serving as pipelines to the Ivy League institutions.  As a result prep style was a more laxed, messier Ivy variant that mixed in athletic and casual clothing.

And just as a reminder, we are predominantly talking about the upper echelon of society here. So mixing the exclusivity, heritage, and wealth associated with the Ivy League, students could have been wearing potato sacks and they would have caught on – because the clothing was more than clothing and served as a symbol of success, backed up by the most famous schools and graduates in the world. And who wouldn’t want to be a part of that?


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