Ivy style is often thought of as a phenomenon of the 1940s and 50s. However, many of its elements were incorporated into the wardrobes of young men decades earlier. The most famous source for clothing that begat Ivy style was the venerated firm Brooks Brothers. Founded in 1818, Brooks Brothers was both a manufacturer and a retailer of ready-to-wear and custom clothes for men and boys. At a time when all clothes were handmade, such an industrial approach was groundbreaking.
Brooks Brothers pioneered the famous, unstructured, and softly draped sack suit; it also adapted and modified clothing items from the Englishman’s wardrobe in order to create versions that have become key to Ivy style, such as button-down Oxford cloth shirts and Shetland sweaters.
So prevalent was the influence of Brooks Brothers on stylish Ivy Leaguers that the firm was lauded in literary works, such as F. Scott Fitzgerald’s first novel, This Side of Paradise. A fictional account of Fitzgerald’s undergraduate years at Princeton, the novel accurately recounts the many elements that constituted the school’s unique cultural environment—including clothing, especially clothing from Brooks Brothers.