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The Crack Magazine

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Buttoning Down And Speaking Up

‘Black Ivy: A Revolt in Style’ is a new book that charts a period in American history when Black men across the country adopted the clothing of a privileged elite to make it their own.

I’ve loved the Ivy League look ever since I became enraptured by Dexy’s Midnight Runner’s classic 1985 album ‘Don’t Stand Me Down’. The sleeve depicts the band clad in blazers and polo shirts and has them rocking more plaid than a kilt maker’s ceilidh. It was a look that first came to prominence in 1950s America, particularly on college campuses (especially those of the Ivy League), and was characterised by smart casual attire that included button down shirts, cardigans, loafers and chinos. It’s a look that still looks chic today, but what hasn’t been documented – up until now – is how Black men originally lent it a certain cachet. ‘Black Ivy: A Revolt in Style’ shows how Black men took the look and made it cool, edgy and unpredictable in ways that continue to influence modern menswear. Through these images, we can see, in the words of Jason Jules, how “the classic Ivy wardrobe was comprehensively raided and then remixed away from its elitist confines and into something heavily coded and intentionally revolutionary.” RM

Black Ivy: A Revolt in Style is published by Reel Art Press.

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