Spring Forward

Advances in modern materials take us through the changing seasons.

BY WILLIAM KISSEL

Clothing by Samuelsohn

If you still believe that cashmere and wool are for winter and cotton and linen must stay in the closet until the first signs of spring, you may not have a clear grasp on the material world—or at least not on the materials that have been developed in the past decade.

In today’s world, where travel is more commonplace and indoor to outdoor temperatures can fluctuate wildly, the best spring menswear is made from fabrics that are essentially seasonless. Featherweight cashmere in the summer? Why not? A small percentage of tropical wool blended into that linen shirt? Of course, especially since wool’s elastic properties help combat wrinkles.

“The biggest trend is weight-neutral fabrics that travel well and go from one climate to the next with ease,” explains Craig Wertheim of Scabal USA, one of the top cloth makers in the world. The Brussels-based company’s solution this season is Fresh, a collection of tropical-weight, wool-blend suit fabrics treated in an advanced finishing process that makes them more breathable as well as cooler to the touch, especially for spring.

Of course, cotton and linen are still the two most versatile fabrics for the warmer months. The hygroscopic properties of both plant-based fibers make them highly absorbent and resistant to heat. That same characteristic also makes them remarkably durable, and cooler when in contact with the body.

But contrary to popular belief, traditional winter-weight cloths such as alpaca, cashmere and wool—all derived from the downy fleece of animals—are also hygroscopic, meaning they too can absorb perspiration and have the ability to keep the body cool in summer, depending on the weight of the fiber.

Clothing by Samuelsohn

In fact, cashmere’s unique molecular structure actually helps the fiber absorb as much as 35 percent of its own weight in moisture. That compares to 25 percent moisture absorption for cotton, which makes cashmere the better choice for wicking perspiration away from the body.

Thankfully, modern technology can render many classically cool-weather cloths in microscopically thin and lightweight versions. To that end, some extra-fine gauge cashmeres are now as light and airy as a pair of silk stockings, primarily because top knitting factories are using the same weaving machines to produce both.

Or consider the incredible lightness found in this season’s fine-micron wools, some of which are made of gossamer-thin fibers six times finer than human hair. The newest technologies have been embraced by makers of both sportswear and suits, so unless you’re an Icelandic fisherman, it’s hard to believe there isn’t room in your wardrobe for any of these year-round weaves.

For spring 2014, suit makers including Canali and Ermenegildo Zegna have been especially keen on seasonless blends of tropical-weight wool mixed with silk, bamboo and even mohair for a look that can add a bit of iridescence to the finished cloth. Others are using high-tech fabrics such as microfiber, which is lightweight, water-resistant and breathable, as well as Ermenegildo Zegna’s Techmarino cloth and Loro Piana’s Storm System, which both add comfort and breathability to wool and other fabrics for when temperatures rise and fall.

Clothing by Samuelsohn

“Selling wool or cashmere in summer five years ago would have been tough,” offers Arnold Silverstone, president and creative director at Samuelsohn and Hickey Freeman, two of the leading suit makers at the forefront of new trends in fabric technology. “But the weights, the weaving and the technology have all changed so much that you can have jackets that look like cotton poplin and seersucker, but are really made of wool.”

Among the company’s newest fabrics is a proprietary performance-driven wool called Extreme, created in collaboration with Loro Piana’s patented Rain System technology to give it natural stretch and render it water and wrinkle resistant as well. “We also did a lightweight cashmere/silk blend for spring that weighs only 200 grams, so it’s almost shirt weight but gives a soft hand [previously found] only in cashmere,” says Silverstone. “The ultimate summer blazer is no longer limited to cotton or linen; now you can wear a blend of wool/silk/linen and still be comfortable.”

May the Fowl Be With You

Fried chicken gets dressed up.

BY DONALD CHARLES RICHARDSON

Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc, Photo By Thor Swift

So what if versions of fried chicken have been eaten since ancient times in Europe and Asia, chicken fried in palm oil has been a longstanding staple in West African cuisine, and the Scots were early proponents of frying chicken in fat? (Some even credit them with introducing the technique to the United States.) Despite its worldly history, fried chicken has become an inimitably American dish. After all, how many other countries celebrate National Fried Chicken Day? (July 6th, FYI.)

It’s almost impossible not to love fried chicken. It’s crispy, satisfying, delicious, and like all great comfort foods, it can even evoke nostalgia: memories of Sunday family dinners, summer picnics or late-night refrigerator raids. (Few things in life are quite so satisfying as discovering an overlooked chicken leg.)

Although fried chicken has always been popular, these days it’s become so fashionable that even elitist gourmets are crying fowl. And cooks all over the country are keeping abreast of this current passion for poultry.

Raised on a farm, Mildred Cotton Council spent years learning and creating her recipes. In 1976, she finally opened Mama Dip’s Kitchen (Mama Dip was her childhood nickname) in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, where she continues to turn out some of the best fried chicken in the country. “I’m a country cook. I can tell how a chicken is raised by the taste,” she asserts.

When asked if she has a special recipe, Mama Dip explains that she has “never called it a recipe” before sharing her prep routine: she soaks the chicken in a big tub filled with salt water, then rinses it off, dips it in flour and adds black pepper.

“Best not to freeze for fried chicken,” she cautions. “People get chicken on sale and put it in a freezer, [but you] need a fresh chicken to begin with. Every day we get a delivery.” Mama Dip always serves her fried chicken with biscuits. Another tip she’s generous enough to reveal: “I started making biscuits with plain self-rising flour with a little extra baking powder mixed in there. It’s really good.”

Chicken and waffles at Birch & Barley

Other restaurants, vying for the cock of the walk title, have come up with their own inventive methods of making fried chicken. In Portland, Oregon, David Kreifels, one of the three partners who created Simpatica and Laurelhurst Market (named in 2010 as one of the best new restaurants by Bon Appétit) says they only serve fried chicken from the butcher shop on Tuesdays at Laurelhurst Market, and at brunch on Sundays at Simpatica.

The chicken is soaked in buttermilk overnight, dusted with a blend of curry powder, flour, salt, pepper and paprika, then fried in oil. The spice coating allows the chicken to develop a nice crisp at a lower oil temperature. It’s allowed to “rest” after frying and Kreifels says, “As it cools the crust gets crispier… and the crust stays on because of the lower heat.” Their chicken is served with waffles in fruit syrup.

In Washington D.C., Birch & Barley’s fried chicken and waffle dish is so popular that husband and wife team Kyle (chef) and Tiffany (pastry chef) Bailey have opened another restaurant, GBD (Golden, Brown & Delicious), that highlights fried chicken along with their gourmet doughnuts. You can actually order a fried chicken sandwich with a doughnut as the bread. (Truly, you can!) GBD uses 100 percent hormone-free chickens plunged into a buttermilk brine, then fried fresh to order. It’s served with sides like crème fraiche biscuits, scallion potato salad, pimento mac ‘n’ cheese, creamed kale and roasted garlic mashed potatoes, and presented alongside 12 different dipping sauces, including buffalo hot, satan spicy, homemade ranch buttermilk, barbecue and honey mustard.

It stands to reason all the attention on this essentially simple American dish was eventually bound to ruffle the feathers of famous chefs. Renown for the gastronomic experiences he creates at his legendary French Laundry and Per Se restaurants, Thomas Keller salutes home cooking with Ad Hoc in Yountville, California.

Here, chef de cuisine Katie Hagan-Welchel treats chickens like poultry royalty. Using only local birds no larger than 2.5 pounds (to promote even cooking), the chicken is cut into 10 pieces and spends 12 hours in an herb-lemon brine (to help the meat stay juicy). It’s air dried to room temperature then dredged in flour mixed with garlic, onion powder, paprika, cayenne pepper, salt and black pepper. Next it’s dipped in buttermilk, then returned to the flour mixture and finally fried in peanut oil.

Laurelhurst Market Steakhouse & Butcher Shop

Chef Hagan-Whelchel uses two different fryers—one for white meat, another for dark—pointing out that dark meat takes longer and she prefers to cook it at a lower temperature (320 degrees) than the white (340 degrees). Fried chicken at Ad Hoc is on the menu every other Monday and served with corn bread and seasonal vegetables. It’s also available in a box lunch at Addendum in the garden behind Ad Hoc, from Thursday through Saturday.

When you get right down to it, whether simple or sophisticated, fried chicken at its best is soul-satisfying food you eat with your fingers while having a really wonderful time. “Fried chicken somehow emotionally resonates with everybody,” says Hagan-Whelchel. “It’s a thread through all of us… it just makes you feel good.”

Evolving Traditions

At Etro, creative experimentation is perfectly balanced by centuries-old inspiration.

Etro Spring/Summer 2014

As a fashion and lifestyle brand, Etro wasn’t so much founded as grown organically. In 1968, Gimmo Etro began producing high-quality fabrics embellished with original designs and innovative colors. In 1981 the furnishing textiles line made its debut, featuring a paisley print that would quickly become Etro’s leitmotif.

The addition of leather goods and travel bags (1984), home accessories (1986) and fragrances (late 1980s) consolidated the brand’s standing as a lifestyle powerhouse, but it wasn’t until the 1990s that the now-iconic men’s and women’s prêt-à-porter collections were introduced.

From its headquarters on Milan’s Via Spartaco, Etro is now helmed by Gimmo’s four children. Jacopo, the eldest, oversees textiles, home and leather goods collections. Next is Kean, the “creative spirit” of the brand and director of men’s collections. Ippolito is CFO and COO, while baby of the family (and only daughter) Veronica designs women’s wear.

Almost as deep as Etro’s family roots are its roots in textile culture. Inspired by history, the textiles interpret signs whose origins have been lost in time. Using only the finest fibers and finishings, the paisley motif is constantly reinterpreted in what Etro calls “a game of suggestive elegance.”

Etro Spring/Summer 2014

For the spring/summer 2014 men’s collection, even everyday pieces were designed to surprise. Inspired by the Mexican riding tradition of charreria, the highly researched and elaborately patchworked materials highlight Etro’s unparalleled expertise in fabric combination. Intricate leather tooling, for example, is informed by age-old saddlery techniques and used abundantly across clothing and accessories. Traditional English fabrications, from sharp pinstripes to cotton-linen twills, cut into the mix, offering a classic balance to Aztec-inspired embroidery.

Sculpted and cut close to the body, the season’s silhouettes are resolutely masculine and exalt a man’s natural shape. Jackets feature a powerful shoulder, while suits are cut in three pieces, plastered with intarsias, piped in suede or leather saddle stitching, lined in georgette silk, and layered over un-done striped shirts.

Orange, the signature hue of traditional saddle-makers, takes center stage. New shades of white were invented by blending linen and cotton or by appliquéing suede onto twill. Ice cream shades of strawberry, lemon, lime and bubblegum blue create tone-on-tone patterns used on jacquard shirts. Etro’s signature prints possess an unstudied, arte-naïf quality, as if drawn by hand. A horse print, on shirts and jackets, bears the unfinished semblance of a rough illustration. The paisley is also treated in a new way: as a blurry, black-and-white pattern that seems to emerge from a mirage.

Etro Spring/Summer 2014

On the women’s side, Veronica Etro presents her vision of deconstructed elegance, where the simplicity of dressing contrasts with the detail of handcraft. A rich array of influences includes her grandmother’s patterned bookshelf, the exotic blooms of Indo-China, and the precious metal work of the Ottoman Empire. The paisley motif is hand-sewn into complex collages along with tie-fabric patterns, exotic florals and the season’s new figurative drawings, resulting in a new “print” that’s actually a splintered patchwork pattern. Purposefully asymmetrical in their placement, the prints have an air of imperfection and are trimmed in metal fringe or enameled metal mesh that blends into the design.

“I observe everything,” explains Veronica Etro, “storing sensations and inspirations to share with my creative team. I keep a notebook in which to record things that strike me. Then I work by subtraction, gradually cleaning out the notebook and throwing away most of the notes until it is time to get up the courage to close the circle. What is left forms the heart of the collection.”

Etro Spring/Summer 2014

Bright, bold colors—lemon, coral, mint, lavender—mix effortlessly with neutrals like sage, khaki and ivory. The new ease of the season can be felt in Etro’s simple shapes, many of which wrap around the body with a casual, comfortable air. Shawl-front halter gowns fall gently in a column to the ankle. Skirts, cut below the knee, look like draped sarongs but are in fact constructed. Details like scarf necks, flap panels and pockets on the front of evening gowns or backs of jackets, fracture the sense of formality and allow summer’s optimism to shine through.

DID YOU KNOW? Paisley is an ancient decoration rich in history and meaning. The droplet-shaped motif was born in Mesopotamia, where it symbolized the seed of the tree of life. The design migrated from east to west, and has been found on objects from Indian prints to Celtic embroideries. In Kashmir, shawls printed with this pattern were offered as gifts to the Great Mogul, then passed down through the generations. Etro’s collection of 150 of these shawls, dating from 1810 to 1880, has inspired the use of paisley as the common thread that runs through its collections. Over the years the design has been illuminated with pop hues, fossilized, pulverized, corroded, overlapped, paired with flowers and stripes, enlarged, and reduced to its original essence. This special talent with prints is what puts Etro in a class of its own.

Listen Up!

The newest contemporary art exhibits are heard, not seen.

BY ELISE DIAMANTINI

Janet Cardiff’s Forty Part Motet, Photo By Wilson Santiago Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Sound installations are a growing trend in the contemporary art world.

Some attribute their popularity to the globalization of music through the internet. As Mark IJzerman, a sound artist/composer and writer for Everyday Listening, a website that posts various sound and art installations, sees it, “[The internet] makes way for music that uses sounds in different ways, which is why people’s ears are open to a wider variety. Sound is all around us, but we’re often not truly aware of it in the same way as the things we see because sound is temporal, fleeting. Learning how to focus on ‘active listening’ takes time and concentration, maybe more than looking at a painting, for example.”

Garnering recent attention was Janet Cardiff’s Forty Part Motet, presented at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s The Cloisters. This exhibit was The Cloisters’ entrée into contemporary art, and it was a first for Cardiff as well, since the exhibit was previously shown only in stark, modern rooms; this time, the backdrop was the beautiful Fuentidueña Chapel.

Associate curator Anne Strauss referred to the work as “a contemporary artist deconstructing a renowned 16th century piece of music, transforming it into her own masterwork presented in a 12th-century setting.”

The exhibit was breathtaking: 40 speakers set up in an ovular shape each played the recording of a singular voice from a member of the Salisbury Cathedral Choir. Together, the voices sang the 40-part motet Spem in alium numquam habui by Tudor composer Thomas Tallis. The 11-minute performance opened with a verbal introduction by the artist and played continuously during the museum’s operating hours.

Guests were encouraged to walk around the room and listen to each speaker—separately and collectively—to gain the overall sensory experience.

Soundings: A Contemporary Score at New York City’s MoMA, Photo By Jonathan Muzikar Copyright 2013 The Museum of Modern Art

New York’s Museum of Modern Art also featured an exhibit in this emerging genre last year. Soundings: A Contemporary Score was MoMA’s first major exhibition of sound art and featured the work of 16 contemporary artists. The museum’s website described the exhibit: “These artistic responses range from architectural interventions, to visualizations of otherwise inaudible sound, to an exploration of how sound ricochets within a gallery, to a range of field recordings—including echolocating bats, abandoned buildings in Chernobyl, 59 bells in New York City, and a sugar factory in Taiwan…. The exhibition posits something specific: that how we listen determines what we hear.”

Like art, sound installations can be exhibited in various forms. As IJzerman says, “It can be a sculpture in which sound is a dominant factor, or a knitted sculpture which reacts with sound when you touch it. Sound installation art is very much intertwined with both the exploration of music and sounds, but also sculptures and interactive systems.”

A Soft Mix: What You Need Now

No one does casual luxe quite like AG.

BY ELISE DIAMANTINI

Known for a super-soft hand, luxurious fabrics and vintage washes, AG’s jeans are American made and manufactured in its 400,000 sq. ft. Los Angeles factory. For spring 2014, AG is stepping up its game with cutting-edge styles for both men and women. Here, we highlight the must-have items for spring 2014.

MEN’S MUST-HAVES

Every man’s closet should have a mix of denim and non-denim bottoms. Color is king, but not as bright as past seasons. Think earth tones: grays, beiges and greens.

COLORED SELVEDGE: AG is injecting its signature style into the selvedge denim craze that’s currently trending in menswear. (Selvedge refers to denim woven on a shuttle loom with a finished edge to prevent fraying.) AG uses a dyeable, comfort-stretch fabric (unique because most selvedge denim is not dyeable and raw). Key colors for spring are blues, greens, khakis, washed-out blacks and whites.

As AG’s men’s sales manager Jake Campbell explains, “White denim is very cool and poised to make a comeback for spring. It looks great with sportswear and has that elegant nautical feel.” Also exciting is the brand’s “double indigo” jean; it’s twice-dyed so when you roll up the cuff, it’s blue rather than white.

LUXE CHINOS: Non-denim pants are the hot item for spring. AG’s super-luxe colored chinos are made of Italian fabrics in sueded cottons, giving these pants the most luxurious look and feel. This modern, tailored-fit chino is offered in both five-pocket and trouser styles. These versatile pants can be dressed up with a blazer, or worn like jeans on the weekend. This season’s casual palette will feature colors like soft grays and khakis.

AG Adriano Goldschmied Spring/Summer 2014

WOMEN’S MUST-HAVES

The theme for spring is sophisticated-chic in a neutral monochromatic color palette (creams, beiges, whites).

MOTO-INSPIRED: Moto styles were a huge trend for fall/holiday, and will only gain popularity for spring. AG is updating the trend with The Reagan, a moto-inspired style with chic seaming and zipper details. Pick up a pair in one of this season’s must-have muted tones like beige, nude and white.

TWILL TROUSERS: Relaxed silhouettes are gaining traction in women’s fashion, and a more sophisticated style is the twill trouser. AG’s trouser fit is available in essential twill and has a slim, tapered leg. This twill style looks great in the season’s muted monochromatic colors as well as gray and faded black.

Ask Forum: Fall 2013 Fashion Tips for Him

Q: I recently bought some dress shirts with French cuffs. On the inside part of each cuff, there are two cufflink holes, while on the outside part of the cuffs, just one. Why?
It’s to adjust the tightness of the sleeve, although not all makers offer this option. In any case, kudos to you for wearing French cuffs and cufflinks, adding a touch of class to your sartorial style. We hope you’re also trying bowties, pocket squares, tie clips and/or boutonnieres, all of which add personality to your executive look.

Q: Boxer shorts are not working under the new slim pants I’ve been buying. What type of underwear should I try?
We suggest trim boxer briefs in some of the new high-tech fabrics that are moisture wicking, antimicrobial and amazingly comfortable. Try them in fashion colors and patterns if you dare.

Q: I’ve noticed that my darker, harder-finish wool suits (even the expensive ones) tend to pick up shine after dry cleaning. Is there anything I can do about this? I’m tempted to go over the fabric with fine sandpaper but I worry I might make it worse.
Skip the sandpaper and cut back on the dry cleaning. If your suit gets soiled, spot cleaning is best; dry clean as infrequently as possible. Other tricks of the trade: buy some good cedar hangers and leave space between suits in your closet; rotate your wardrobe so that you don’t wear the same suit on consecutive days. Most importantly: update your wardrobe with a new suit or two every year or so. With today’s slimmer fits, what’s in your closet is likely to look somewhat dated.

Q: What’s the proper length for pants these days?
Definitely shorter than they used tobe, now that slimmer leg styles arepopular. While we don’t recommend showing your ankles (although young trendsetters are doing it!), we do suggest just a slight break to no break at the top of the shoe. Unfortunately, lots of guys are still wearing their pants with a big break or even a double break: we feel that excess fabric bunched up on slim pants is a bit unflattering.

26 Shades of Blue

THIS SPRING, THE WORLD’S MOST UNIVERSALLY BELOVED COLOR — AND THE COLOR THAT SOMEHOW MAGICALLY LOOKS GOOD ON EVERYONE — IS EVERYWHERE! IN A STUNNING SPECTRUM OF SOLIDS, PRINTS, TEXTURES AND PATTERNS, WHEN IT COMES TO BLUE, THE SKY AND THE SEA ARE THE LIMIT. SO GO GET YOUR BLUE ON!

PHOTOGRAPHY: SERGIO KURHAJEK / STYLING: WENDY MCNETT / HAIR & MAKEUP: CLAIRE BAYLEY

Ask Forum: Spring 2013 Fashion Tips for Her

Q: There are many beautiful, lightweight scarves out there, but how can I wear them in the warmer months?
In the Northwest where it rarely gets too hot, you can pretty much use a scarf all year, especially a sheer style in airy cashmere or a cotton/cashmere blend. When it does get warmer, untie it and drape it over your shoulders as an easy wrap.

We’re also starting to see silk scarves come back as a fashion item, like Pucci. Look for them in the same geometric, striped or color blocked patterns popular in RTW styles. To get even more use out of your scarf collection, tie one up and wear it as a headband or style it on your handbag to accessorize.

Q: Color always plays an important role in my spring/summer wardrobe. Are there any particular color trends I should look for this season?
Beautiful blues! From azure to turquoise, there’s a shade out there that looks good on everyone! If you’re not comfortable with the boldness of blue, tone it down by popping one piece against an otherwise black-and-white outfit in strong graphic shapes – another huge trend this season.

A black and white wardrobe is perfect for unpredictable weather, since you can layer pieces easily and veer towards one shade depending on the rain or sun. Plus, owning a variety of black and white items means you don’t have to pack as much when you travel. Pair black and white separates together or opt for a monochromatic look, livening up each outfit with accessories.

Color blocking continues its reign on the runways, though stripes are bolder than in seasons past. Pay extra attention to where the stripes hit on your body and make sure your garments are tailored for a perfect fit. Or try three stripes of color on your shoes or bag: just as on-trend but much easier to pull off. The most important style advice of all: wear what makes you feel good!

Q: Last year my favorite designers all showed floral patterns on the runway. Which prints will be big in 2013?
Pixel and geometric prints are popular this season, though florals are certainly still happening, especially when layered with lace. Head-to-toe geometric prints are not for the faint of heart, but luckily they also work well in small doses and pair back beautifully to the black and white items in your wardrobe.

Ask Forum: Spring 2013 Fashion Tips for Him

Q: After years of struggling with contact lenses, I’m seeing guys wear some very cool glasses. Should I switch over?
Absolutely! Whether or not you need glasses, eyewear is a hot accessory this season. We like bigger frames in black or tortoise for a pseudo-intellectual look, vintage styles with a modern twist, or a touch of color on the temple. Check out our great selection of optical-quality reading glasses that can readily accommodate almost any prescription.

Q: Watching the new James Bond movie, I realized that all my suits are out of date. What’s up with this skinny look? Can I wear it if I’m not skinny?
In fact, the men’s clothing industry has been pushing a slimmer model for several years now, but it took a hit movie and Daniel Craig to finally get the message across! Yes, today’s suits are narrower in the shoulder, chest and leg. The coat sleeves and flat-front pants are slightly shorter and the overall effect is much more youthful. Our suggestion: try one or two suits in this updated model (we have options at many prices) before you replenish your wardrobe. You might also want a few slimmer-cut shirts and narrower ties (about three inches; the ones in your closet are likely three and three-quarters) to complement the trimmer-fit suits.

Q: I read a study that said the first thing women notice on men is their shoes. So what shoes should I be wearing this spring?
Shoes run the gamut from bright athletic styles to cool wingtips to suede lace-ups to dress/casual hybrids that combine luxury leathers with high-tech soles. Color is key, if not on the shoe itself then on the soles or laces. The possibilities are limitless: finally, a fun footwear season!

Q: I’m seeing lots of color in men’s fashion magazines: is this just for the runway or are real guys wearing it?
Real guys are wearing it! Color has always been a factor in men’s sweaters, shirts and neckwear; only recently has it moved to bottoms. We suggest pairing bright color five-pocket pants with more neutral tops (knits, wovens, sportcoats). It’s a great look that’s surprisingly easy to pull off, once you take that first step.

A Sprig of Ivy

THE HOTTEST TREND IN MENSWEAR IS ALSO ONE OF ITS OLDEST.

BY JOHN JONES

After touring a recent exhibit at The Museum at FIT called Ivy Style, which celebrated the fashion that evolved from the campuses of the Ivy League schools — Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Princeton, U-Penn and Yale — in the early part of the last century, I picked up the accompanying book (also called Ivy Style). In its preface, curator Patricia Mears states that despite the recent recession, apparel brands have been under pressure to produce more collections, more garments per collection and to get into more product categories. The trend doesn’t necessarily mean the items are better… just that there’s more of them. As a result of this overproduction, Mears writes, “I wanted objects that were well made, with real purpose.” She found that designers and other fashion cognoscenti were all returning to the Ivy heritage for “a look that transcends and endures….”

In fact, she goes on to differentiate “preppy” from “Ivy” and to show that much of what we take for granted as conservative, classic dressing was, at the time, anti-establishment and revolutionary.

Mears shows that “no other university defined Ivy Style as fervently and as beautifully as Princeton in the 1920s and 1930s.” Due in part to its somewhat isolated location, sportswear — clothes literally worn to play sports — became “around-the-clock attire.” Clothes that we might describe as classic or even stuffy, like tweed suits or white bucks, actually evolved from golf and tennis attire of the time. “Princetonians were also credited with introducing the sport jacket,” appropriating Norfolk hunting jackets by updating the construction and wearing them with unmatched trousers.

The relaxed style was then broadcast to the world by the most closely watched celebrity of the day, Prince Edward of York (the Duke of Windsor). Eschewing the formality of court dress that his great-grandmother, Queen Victoria, would have demanded, the Prince became fascinated with this sportive style and elevated it to a whole new level (the subject of an essay in the book by Dr. Peter McNeil, a professor of design history at the University of Technology, Sydney). Particularly after abdicating the throne of England, he popularized wearing relaxed, informal clothes in public settings, including short-sleeved knits, bright colors and tartans… clothing we see today even in office settings.

The Ivy Style exhibit bravely showed how modern brands have been influenced by the movement, from Michael Bastian’s trim, preppy looks to Thom Browne’s cutting-edge parodies and, of course, Ralph Lauren’s entire oeuvre. But perhaps to get the best look at the future of men’s fashion, we should return to the college campus. Maybe one day we’ll all be wearing compression-fit T-shirts and drawstring sweatpants to work. On the other hand, if we look to royals like Prince Harry for inspiration, we may be headed to the office completely nude.

Radical Conformists by Patricia Mears is published by Yale University Press and The Fashion Institute of Technology.

Images courtesy of FIT.