A Reflection on Black Ivy
by Michael Won·
‘Black History Month’, since its preliminary conception by Carter G. Woodson and the ‘Association for the Study of Negro Life and History’ in 1926, has always been about a more truthful re-membering and retelling of American history - a history not written about in our country’s textbooks.
The task to truthfully re-tell American history remains entirely relevant in the 21st century, and ‘Black Ivy: A Revolt in Style’ is a premiere example of this much needed narration within the world of fashion.
Within this text, Jason Jules documents a span of time in American history when Black men dawned themselves with ivy league clothing - a symbol of the white elite - as a means for political and social transformation during the 50’s and 60’s.
The oxford button down, chino trouser, penny loafer and tweed sport coat - all staples within an ivy wardrobe.
Jules is quick to emphasize that ‘Black ivy’ was not a plea for acceptance within a white America, but rather, it was a deeply conscious and strategic interrogation of respectability, ownership, and power, all with political and social ends.
To highlight this point even further, in an interview with the New York Times, Jules states, “I’ll outdress you and outstyle you for the simple reason that, unless I’m using your language, I’m invisible.”
Jules is communicating the presence of a persistent and subversive energy here. An energy that says, “I’ll take your language, and enunciate and articulate it better than even you can.”
After reading this masterfully curated book, it becomes overwhelmingly clear that the relevance of ivy clothing in the present day is due in large part to the interruptions made by Black ivyists in the 50’s and 60’s.
This text not only offers us a truthful documentation of a significant moment in American history, but also charges us with the task of looking at fashion and footwear - the small ecosystem we exist within - differently.
These items that we adorn our bodies with are always communicating something. Whether it be a message of status, belonging, exclusion or subversion, these garments have the capacity to do so much more than we often give them credit for.
Looking ‘good’ is cool, but I think looking ‘good’ while doing ‘good’ is even cooler.
Here, you’ll find a collection of styles inspired by this text with a contemporized catalog of brands reflective of what we carry.