If gently pressed, you could pretty much tell anyone, anything. You could tell them what you wanted in life. You could tell them what you wanted this decade, this year, this month, this week, this day. Today. I guarantee with minimal coercion you could tell them, with eerie specificity, what you wanted and all of the weird, compromising, morally questionable steps you’d take to get it. For myself, I’ll freely share. These past summer months have been laser-focused on wanting - no, scratch that - NEEDING one particular item in my possession. After months of feverishly foaming at the mouth amidst late-night Internet crawls, thrift shop rummages and fanboy fistfights, I got what I wanted.
In 1965, photographer Teruyoshi Hayashida traveled from the fashionable Aoyama District of Tokyo to visit and document American Ivy League college students in their natural attire, their natural habitat. He took his findings back home and published the bible on collegiate American preppy fashion, Take Ivy. This closely guarded tome of classic American fashion spent the past 45 years in various states of obscurity, sometimes fetching upwards of $2000 dollars for an original copy at auction. This is what I wanted.
Luckily last night, 24-hours ahead of the books scheduled US re-release, I got it.
|The "Ivy Look" circa 1965|
The details of my premature acquisition of Take Ivy are surely of no interest to readers (psst! Email me!), but what is of note is the level of interest its stateside re-release is garnering. And it is a lot of interest. More than I’d originally assessed. Which got me thinking:
“Why does half-century old fashion book of seemingly unremarkable images of campus life and the attire of male college students matter to anyone?”
I investigated. I rushed my book home, cracked the spine, dove in. 15 minutes in, it hit me. It all made sense. “Aha!” Take Ivy matters because it’s a part of our societal narrative. It matters because we’re looking for answers to who we are. The growing interest surrounding its re-release is not solely rooted in the fashion worlds obsession with all things Americana, but instead rooted in a collective hunt for something substantial. A hunt for a visual path, a picture story, ‘a trail of crumbs’ informing our identity, where we came from and how we got here. An existential lightning rod giving backhanded guidance.
Truth is, for a holy grail of fashion, Take Ivy never really had much to do with fashion. That’d be a bore. 45 years behind a language barrier, incubated by exclusivity, a rarely seen and oft overlooked vision of undetermined future is just the beginning to the books significance today. A look back gives insight to issues of gender, class, elitism, race, heritage, pageantry, nationalism and how that miasma of influence so heavily weighs in on societal identity half a century later.
For anyone thinking the 1960’s were all about hippie idealism, experimental drug use and social upheaval, take note. Better yet, Take Ivy.
Take Ivy is published by powerHouse Books