The Land of the Rising Inseam
Everyone breathed a sigh of relief when the hype over the 'Ivy look' died down a couple of years ago. Everything was given the peppy 'preppy' moniker — running vests, hob-nail boots, sock suspenders — you name it — rendering the term completely meaningless.
As this nonsense was going on, those who respect the traditional first-wave Ivy League approach to dressing captured in Take Ivy quietly looked East. Ivy style firmly embedded itself in Japan from the 1960s, and Japan has done a great deal to keep this relaxed but clean cut approach to dressing true to its origins.
Witness Tokyo's Miyuki-zoku (an Ivy League youth cult), who politely rebelled in their adopted Madras jackets and penny loafers in the 1960s. Clearly, they loved their half-mast trousers a little too much.
The Ivy Torch Still Burns
Appreciation of the Ivy style never faded entirely in Japan, even when it seemed close to doing so in the US during those terrible 'grunge' years.
Take Japan's Kamakura Shirts as an exemplar of the continued esteem held for the Ivy look. Kamakura's CEO Yoshio Sadasue explains of his company that 'Ivy League style is in our soul and Japanese craftsmanship is at our heart'. Kamikura cultivates its aesthetics based on 'the finest traditions of British tailoring, and the quintessence of the Ivy League look from the States'.
Laudibly, Yoshio hopes his company can help resist the march of 'mass-production and standardisation in the name of efficiency and productivity [destroying] the art of fine crafting'. Yoshio originally worked for VAN jacket, the Japanese company that introduced the Ivy look to Japan in the 60s and much admired by the Miyuki-zoku who liked to carry around shopping bags from VAN to indicate their allegiance. The man is completely wrapped in Japanese Ivy.
Kamakura Shirts now have shops in the US and Japan, and ready-made shirts in fits suitable for both locations. Opening in the US to sell the classic Ivy look is like reintroducing a native species to a once-threatened habitat; and a testament to the renown of their products.
Kamikura offers a compelling selection of button-down cotton shirts influenced by the golden age of the 60s in their Vintage Ivy range.
The range is the result of a collaboration with Ivy traditionalist (and Brit) Graham Marsh, who has written a couple of books on the subject: The Ivy look and Hollywood and the Ivy Look.
The shirts have the essential soft roll button down collar, mother of pearl buttons and are constructed from 'specially researched fabric to recreate the look of the 1960s'. The shirts also come with a postcard designed by Graham.
The latest shirts in the collection include the Shadow Check (top picture), which reminds Graham of the one worn by Woody Allen in Play it Again, Sam.
From checks to stripes, the Regimental Stripe short-sleeved shirt (below) is inspired by 60s surf culture on the west coast of North America, and the kind of striped shirt The Beach Boys wore in particular.
This is a great shirt for hols in a boiling hot location when worn with white trousers, a good pair of sunglasses and loafers. For added swing, you will want to take a portable Dansette and have the Miles Davies Quintet playing in the background when you're loafing on the beach or picnicking.
I confess to not being massively keen on short-sleeve shirts generally, but this one really impresses; the pattern working better in my mind's eye than with long sleeves. You would have difficulty wearing anything on top of it, which means high summer outdoors, which means short sleeves — my mind's eye sensibly suggests.
Each shirt in the Vintage Ivy range is a limited edition. I can understand why the Regimental Stripe shirt is currently sold out, and we can only hope the limits expand a little.
If these shirts have whetted your appetite, look out for new additions to Kamikura's Vintage Ivy range of sensible, no-nonsense traditional Ivy League shirts from Japan.