IF the US had a Harvard-Yale rivalry, and then summering in Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard, we had Ateneo-La Salle basketball brawls and summering (“to summer” is a verb, trust me) in Calatagan or Baguio. It is the Philippines version of the Ivy League lifestyle. Both countries’ elites have the Ivy style in common.
High-end men’s haberdashery The Signet Store held a symposium last week highlighting the finer points of Ivy style, and how it arrived in the Philippines.
For some of us, our introduction to that world of Lacoste shirts and boat shoes came through Lisa Birnbach’s tongue-in-cheek WASP bible, The Official Preppy Handbook. Of course, some references were lost in the ocean crossing, and we had to make do with what we had. Ivy style enthusiast Jericho de Guzman (@pinoyprep on Instagram) acknowledged the book, but also his older brothers’ subscriptions to GQ magazine for his style. He reminisced about wearing preppy clothes in the 1980s: “If you wanted to go preppy or Ivy, you had to travel abroad, to the States, to see them.”
It’s never as simple as just nazy blazers (make the wrong move and it’s less JFK, more Miami Vice). The Official Preppy Handbook says, “Amateur historians have speculated that Preppies all dress alike because they got in the habit from wearing school uniforms. Not so. Preppies dress alike because their wardrobes are formed according to fundamental principles they absorb from their parents and their peers.” These include: conservatism (with a small “c”; apolitical), neatness, attention to detail, practicality quality, natural fibers, anglophilia, specific color blindness (pink and green), the sporting look, and androgyny.
But are preppy and Ivy the same?
Monchet Olives, founder of abanico (hand fan) company Monchet y Compania and stylish Rockwell tito, remarked the distinction between preppy and Ivy: “Preppy is really the sportswear of Ivy,” citing US President John F. Kennedy in Hyannis Port as an example. “The preppy style is associated with that type of dressed-down, as opposed to Ivy style, which is more professorial, Mr. Robinson-type dress. The tweed jacket. The pipe. The tie. The button-down. A pair of flannel slacks and weejuns.”
Ivy style can be traced back to the 1920s fashions of college students in the Ivy League, while their younger relatives gave it a louder revival via the preppy (or preparatory school) look in the late 1970s and ’80s. As for the Philippines, it arrived here via the Commonwealth period (think seersucker suits). “That’s when the americana (blazer) became part and parcel of our look,” said Mr. Olives.
Anton Miranda, chef, writer, and stylist, summarized the tenets that make up preppy or Ivy styling. “You don’t wear Ivy to flaunt. You wear preppy or Ivy because it’s good quality. You will repeat outfits with these pieces because they’re just that good. They’re the hand-me-downs from your family.”
The speakers gave their opinions on pieces that form the backbone of an Ivy closet. Mr. Olives praises the olive-green Barbour jackets, designed for outdoorsy activities like hiking and fishing. “If there is an investment piece… that would be a Barbour jacket.”
Mr. Miranda, meanwhile, talked about the OCBD (that’s oxford cloth button-down). They come in many colors, preferably pastels and whites, and feel like a handshake from a bank trustee when worn right. “You want them to be a bit balloony. You want the sleeves to fall a little bit below the shoulder. You want it to have length to cuff your sleeves.” His preferred brands are J. Press, L.L Bean, and Ralph Lauren. For beginners, he cites Topman, Zara, and H&M, which he wore when he first started experimenting with preppy and Ivy as a youth. Mr. De Guzman, meanwhile, suggests Uniqlo for a look for less.
Mr. Olives talked about what wearing preppy or Ivy meant. “What you wear is a matter of your taste. This Ivy life or the prep life is really a matter of lifestyle.”
“Dressing is a lifestyle. If not, it’s all fashion. Fashion is big labels. And wanting to be [in] the left-to-right (as in society photos),” he said. To be Preppie or Ivy means “You’re under the radar, but you are style.”
Mr. Miranda said that behind the tailoring is a life of fun. “Ivy style is about leisure. You have the time to afford leisurely activities.”
To stock up on preppy and Ivy essentials, The Signet Store’s website is having a flash sale beginning midnight on April 5 and ending at 11 p.m. on April 6. Visit thesignetstore.com for more details. — Joseph L. Garcia