Ever since its wide acceptance within mainstream social media, streetwear has become a linchpin for youth culture nearing a decade. It feels like it was only yesterday when Kanye West started wearing chelsea boots with Haider Ackermann pieces, and every single H&M followed this aesthetic down to creating a blatant rip off of said sweatshirt. Due to its versatile ambiguity, streetwear has been through a plethora of different trends within the last year, ranging from chunky/anti-fashion sneakers, baggy work pants, to tactical chest rigs and translucent shoes.
Fast forward to 2019. As 2018 has come to an end, the fashion community has been slowly doing away with the “anti-fashion but fashion” trend. Popularized by brands like Vetements, Balenciaga, MISBHV, Gosha Rubchinskiy, and Martine Rose, this aesthetic emphasizes utilizing larger silhouettes to create a fashionable look while also being incredibly outlandish and out of the norm. Most of these brands’ influences came from specific movements within an era of time, like 90’s grunge punk and grunge rock, skateboarding, or Post-Soviet Russian youth.
Of course, when one trend dies, another must to complete the cyclical nature of fashion. Streetwear has been popularized by almost every major trend within the last 3 decades. Everyone has partook in the streetwear conversation, from luxury fashion houses, to athletic and technical fabric companies, to workwear and American heritage brands, and, hell, even restaurants, streetwear has made its mark all over the world. But, ask yourself: what’s the one area that hasn’t really had a massive dive into the street fashion market?
Ivy League/Preppy style.
“The biggest message for menswear is that it’s time to clean up and grow up a bit. Streetwear has gripped our attention for a long time now and we’re sensing a shift away from that sporty vibe which ushers in smarter pieces, not least tailoring.
— Nick Paget, Senior Menswear Editor at WGSN via Highsnobiety
(Note: For the sake of content, I’m going to just use Ivy League instead of having to put Ivy League/Prep everytime. They’re relatively interchangeable words, so it isn’t that big of a deal, but still, I want to clarify that.)
A short rundown: The Ivy League/Prep style was formed from the popular Ivy League subculture that took places during the 1950s around the Northeastern universities around the United States. It was said that the aesthetic drew influences from American and British upper class’ casual attire around the 1920s, deriving from activities that would take place in on an Ivy League campus such as water polo, rugby, or hunting. Summer attire included casual shirting such as polos, brenton shirts, chino shorts, and boat shoes, oxfords, or penny loafers to finish off the look, whilst in the fall and winter months, students began to transition into college blazers, cable knit Aran sweaters, colorful oxford shirts, and corduroy trousers to stay warm.
Now, this is just to give you a general idea of what the style is. For more visual history of Ivy League style, Take Ivy by Teruyoshi Hayashida would definitely make a great pick up, as it conveys the peak of Ivy League in the mid 1960’s. If you’re interested in the revival of Ivy League pertaining to its transition into the the Japanese market, Ametora by W. David Marx might be more up your alley, as Marx emphasizes the dialogue between American heritage styles and Japanese consumers through Japan’s obsession with Americana and Ivy League styles.
Now, you might think I’m reaching here, but hear me out: Ivy League style has never really made its way to the limelight of streetwear due to what I believe would be the overall assumption that it has no place within the fashion sub-genre. While this may be somewhat true due to the Victorian and conservative nature derived from the premise of Ivy League style, the perception has changed drastically over the years. With brands having begun to delve within the collegiate approach for what looks to be one of the latest iterations of streetwear. For example, albeit broad and sometimes outlandish, Acne Studios has actually always been conveying certain parts of this aesthetic from time to time through some of their lookbook stylings and individual pieces, yet not to the full extent of a dedicated brand.
Hell, even Palace Skateboards went as far as to have a collaboration with the legendary fashion house Ralph Lauren for a very outlandish, yet skate inspired take on prep.
Since we’re talking specifically about streetwear though, there are numerous brands that come to mind that transmit a preppy streetwear vibe done right. BEAMS+, Rowing Blazers, and Noah NYC, are brands that emphasize taking the youthfulness of Ivy League styling and sprinkling a myriad of streetwear influence within them. What makes these brands so great is that they all have a similar basis in mind, yet their influences are so vastly different that they all stand out in a certain way.
BEAMS+, the famous Japanese brand founded by Etsuzo Shitara, focused on emphasizing the Japanese take on Ivy League style while exploring a slew of Japanese fabrics coupled with compelling styling and curious tailoring. On the other hand, Noah NYC conveys preppy style with punk and skate culture incorporated as the foundation. Ex-Supreme creative director Brandon Babenzien has done an excellent job being able to create an image for a brand that has very strong beliefs in being ethical and culturally aware, while not being afraid to speak on his political beliefs.
Finally, you have Rowing Blazers, the odd one out of the three. Started by Dr. Jack Carlson, an ex-World Champion rowing coxwain, author, and Doctor of Philosophy, Rowing Blazers emphasizes rowing culture through their clothing. From rowing blazers using vintage crew patterns, to vintage-style rugby shirts, Carlson’s brand has definitely name for itself within the past 2 years, even collaborating with brands such as J. Crew and Noah.
With a range of extensive fabrics, colorful palettes, and handsome tailoring, these brands are the forefront of display a new look into how Ivy League can be taken into the 21st century. Streetwear