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Preppy Ivy League: America's Collegiate Style in the 1960s

submitted on 18 November 2023 by

Introduction: The Origins of Preppy Style

Ah, the 1960s - a decade of change, revolution, and an explosion of self-expression. But amidst the hippie movement and cries for peace, there existed a subculture that thrived on tradition, sophistication, and a devotion to the institutions that formed the foundation of America's elite. The Ivy League schools were the epicenter of this phenomenon, and their sartorial choices became the epitome of the "preppy" style. So, let us delve into the world of collegiate fashion, where Brooks Brothers is God and Lacoste is king.

Uniform of the Elite: The Key Pieces

Preppy style is undeniably the uniform of America's elite, with a focus on clean lines, quality fabrics, and timeless appeal. The following pieces were the backbone of the 1960's Ivy League wardrobe:
  • The Navy Blazer: A single-breasted, two-buttoned, and gold-buttoned navy blazer was a must-have for any aspiring Ivy Leaguer. Paired with chinos or gray flannel trousers, this garment exuded an air of authority and class.
  • The Oxford Shirt: The quintessential preppy shirt, the oxford was a staple in every color, with the button-down collar being an absolute necessity.
  • Chinos: Khaki trousers made of cotton twill, chinos were the everyday pant of choice. Pleats were optional, but a crease down the middle was mandatory.
  • Madras: When the temperature rose, madras shorts and pants became the go-to option, often accompanied by a matching belt. The more vibrant the plaid, the better.
  • Loafers: Whether penny or tassel, loafers were the favored footwear for both casual and dressy occasions. Socks were optional, but only for the truly daring.
  • Ties: Stripes, club, and repp ties were the order of the day, with extra points awarded for owning one from your school or a prestigious club.
  • Sportswear: Lacoste polo shirts and tennis sweaters were the epitome of preppy leisurewear, with the iconic alligator logo being the ultimate status symbol.

Grooming: The Polished Look

Effortless sophistication was the name of the game when it came to grooming in the 1960s Ivy League. Hair was short and well-coiffed, with a preference for the classic side part. Shaving was a daily ritual, with the clean-shaven look being the only acceptable option. As for fragrances, a subtle scent was the way to go, with many opting for the ever-popular 'Eau Sauvage' by Dior.

Preppy Style Beyond the Ivy League

As the decade progressed, the preppy look began to permeate American culture beyond the ivy-covered walls of Harvard and Yale. High school students were eager to emulate the style, and soon enough, even middle-aged men were donning navy blazers and penny loafers in an attempt to capture the essence of the Ivy League.Yet, it wasn't just the United States that took notice of this sartorial trend. Across the pond, British youth began adopting the preppy look, with the Mods incorporating elements such as button-down oxford shirts and loafers into their own distinctive style. In Japan, the Ivy League look became known as 'Ametora' and spawned a whole new wave of fashion that continues to evolve to this very day.

Preppy Style in Hollywood

It was only a matter of time before the silver screen caught wind of the preppy craze. Films such as "The Graduate" (1967) and "Love Story" (1970) featured characters that personified the Ivy League aesthetic, with Dustin Hoffman donning the iconic navy blazer and Ali MacGraw sporting a chic turtleneck and peacoat combo.Even James Bond himself couldn't resist the allure of the preppy look. In the 1969 film "On Her Majesty's Secret Service," George Lazenby's Bond sported a navy blazer, gray flannel trousers, and a striped tie while infiltrating the villain's lair. Talk about dressing to kill!

Conclusion: The Legacy of Preppy Style

While the 1960s may have been a time of free love and protests, the preppy style that flourished during this era has left an indelible mark on American fashion. The clean lines, timeless appeal, and adherence to quality have ensured that preppy style remains a mainstay in wardrobes across the country, from Wall Street to Main Street.But, as with any subculture, the preppy look has evolved over time, adapting to the changing tastes and sensibilities of its followers. Today, you're just as likely to find a preppy enthusiast sporting a slim-fit suit and skinny tie as you are to find one in a traditional navy blazer and repp tie. Nevertheless, the core elements that defined the Ivy League style of the 1960s remain, ensuring that the preppy look will continue to endure for generations to come.
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