27 September 2010
League of gentlemen
The Ivy Look is a cool, coffee-table book for the hip pocket
It’s pretty much official. The 1960s are seriously cool, writes Rosie Walters. They’ve been cool before, but this time round, it’s different.
Not hippy kaftans and daisy headbands or Hair-inspired psychedelic tripping – the 1960s we’re in love with now are serious. And it’s all thanks to Mad Men. The whisky tumblers, the Betty Draper dresses Louis Vuitton is parading down the catwalk, the sets that have got the blogosphere humming with envy, the Helvetica poster – it’s all seeping into our everyday lives.
But while the women’s fashion has got everyone talking, the classic American look, favoured by Ivy alumni like Pete Campbell (off duty) is the subject of a small, stripey book by Graham Marsh and J. P. Gaul called The Ivy Look, (Frances Lincoln, £12.99), a portable, visual handbook showing how the modern man can dress in that classic style.
Described as ‘a pictorial celebration’ it’s full of pictures from mid-1950s-60s ad campaigns, cool portraits (JFK, Paul Newman, Anthony Perkins, above, Quincy Jones) and tie-tying instructions, with several classic Blue Note covers thrown in (Big John Patton’s The Way I Feel, below demonstrating the coolest way to wear a button-down).
But hidden among the flip book of visuals (art directed by Marsh, author of The Cover Art of Blue Note Records) are succinct, informative chapters that give clear instructions on trouser creases and turn-up length, but also the social history of the era, and the defining influences.
What comes across most clearly is Gaul’s and Marsh’s genuine love of the Ivy style and the culture that went with it: jazz, postwar graphic design and advertising, French movies (below), culture, etc., all representing the idealism and easy-wearing opulence of ‘The Ivy Look’.
This is a book that fanatics will appreciate: if you need to know where to track down authentic Levi 501s in London or find a forum for fellow Ivy-ers, then this is the book for you.
For the casual outsider however, the size makes it difficult to appreciate the artwork. The limited captioning makes you wonder if there really is a need for ten shoe adverts in a row. The text is rich with historical details, but at times reads like a manual. But at its best, this demonstrates vintage dressing for the committed, and its Mad Men-esque attention to detail provides a step-by-step guide to getting ‘the look’, which right now has never been so cool.
See also, ‘Cool, clear, collected’ by Robin Kinross in Eye 1 (out of print).
Eye magazine is available from all good design bookshops and at the online Eye shop, where you can order subscriptions, single issues and back issues.
The summer issue, 76, out now, is a music special – full contents here, and you can see a selection of visual details on Eye Before You Buy on Issuu.