What Did Black People Wear In The 60s

What Did Black People Wear In The 60s – It’s a rare occurrence when a volume comes along that demystifies our understanding of fashion as effectively as “Black Ivy: A Revolt in Style,” which will be published in the United States in December. Many of the images assembled in the coffee-table volume may be familiar — including iconic documents from the Civil Rights Movement and magazine illustrations featuring literary icons like James Baldwin and influential jazz album covers from the heyday of Blue Note Records — but to Jason, it wasn’t. Jules assembled them in one place and under a rubric such that a clear theme and thesis emerged.

According to Mr. Jules, the adoption by generations of black men of a synthetic code that originated among white Ivy League elites may have been a natural turn in the evolutionary arc of early menswear. Yet it was also a conscious development, one with a strategic agenda that extended well beyond the obvious goal of looking good.

What Did Black People Wear In The 60s

What Did Black People Wear In The 60s

In two recent telephone conversations from Paraguay and London, where he has homes, Mr. Jules, a fashion insider who thinks of Steve Urkel as a preppy-nerdy character on the 90s sitcom “Family Matters,” talked about the journey, his style paragon. Which deepened his understanding of the Black Ivy style.

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Guy Trebe: Jason Jules, you have a wild resume, starting with your introduction to magazine writing when you sent a stick-figure fashion feature you drew in grad school to i-D and they published it.

Since you P.R. and has promoted clubs, worked with Jay Kay of Soul II Soul and Jamiroquai, consulted for brands like Levi’s and Wrangler, and is a ubiquitous presence on menswear style blogs, Instagram and Tumblr.

I think of you primarily as a stylist, yet here you come with a provocative book that examines the historical relationship of black men to what is perceived as the artificial uniform of the white ivy elite. Why did you get there?

Jason Jules: I’ve always been into that particular style and look, even before I knew it was called Ivy. When I was 4 or 5 years old, I was watching a Fred Astaire film — there was a whole series on British television at the time — and I was sitting almost with my nose in front of the screen.

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When we went shopping later, I told my mother I wanted to dress up like Alistair, and she had no clue what I was talking about. Who is Alistair? I was very prescient as a child — still am — and I got the idea that Fred Astaire was Alistair.

GT: I hope things clear up for him. However, I’m not sure how that goes towards explaining your journey to understanding the Black Ivy genre.

JJ: For me, the realization of Black Ivy came organically. As I grew older, I began to draw connections between style and its contexts and began to understand how clothing can have meaning, how things can be adapted and redefined to serve a purpose or agenda.

What Did Black People Wear In The 60s

JJ: Yes and no. There are clear parallels between the ivy style’s peak in the 60s when it dominated menswear and the rise of the civil rights movement. When I began my research I had few preconceived notions, but as I progressed, I began to notice how key activists in the movement seemed to be invested in some version of the Ivy style. I felt it was not just about fashion. In fact it had very little to do with fashion.

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J. It makes perfect sense to adopt that style. I am not suggesting that anyone was so gullible as to believe that dressing was what it was. Still, you can see in this adoption of a very traditional uniform associated with Harvard or Yale—a look steeped in heritage and history and having these obvious modernist connections—a strategy that can be attractive to activists.

GT Would you say the optics did double duty? The style had a fashion base and a political goal.

JJ: It was both. Of course, people wanted to look good. But Ivy style hugs had to do with wanting to be seen as equals and not letting certain prejudices and barriers stop you from doing it. I think rockabilly is a bit like dressing rockabilly to go to a club. There was also an implicit challenge to assumptions about who owned a particular style.

J. And it is cold, very cold.

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It is, in a way, similar to the Ivy League style of how gay activists dressed conservatively, because on the one hand there was a real need to pass, and yet the act of dressing that way was carried out with a sense of irony. It was as if they were saying: “You think of what you have as valuable and valid. Let me take it and show you how it’s really done.”

GT: Funnily enough, that’s the basic premise of being popular. Some people misunderstand it and think of it as imitation. But if you’ve spent any time around ball kids — and I have a lot — you see it for the ultra-modern critique that it is.

JJ: Black Ivy Guys don’t necessarily criticize. Yet at the same time, his adoption of the ivy style was not comfortable for the dominant culture. It contained the ingredients, “I will outshine you and outstyle you for the simple reason that I am invisible until I use your language.” There is always the question of how one makes oneself visible.

What Did Black People Wear In The 60s

G.T.: That is evident in your choice of artists and writers to feature in the book. Many of them chose, albeit exclusively, to conform to the established dress code. James Baldwin can look freakishly stylish in his ivy gear. But it’s noticeable to you that he chose those things and not, for instance, the more extravagant styles you might have seen on his Iceberg Slim contemporaries.

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May 1965 cover of Ebony, rev. Depicts Martin Luther King, Jr. during a march in Montgomery, Ala..Credit… on reel art press.

JJ: It was a protective color. Photographers, artists, writers believed that there were only clothes they could wear. This is how intellectuals will dress. It’s not like anyone dressed as Baldwin. He chose what he was wearing, and he was using his clothes as a display of belonging and a display of his power.

GT: Don’t you think he just thought he looked hip and cool in his shearling coats, in his Brooks Brothers suits, in his desert boots?

JJ: As these guys grew, so did their style language. I was recently having a super-casual conversation with a friend, a middle-class white guy, and he was basically saying that the reason a black guy would dress like that in the 1960s was because he wanted to emulate a successful white guy. was

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I don’t agree. Before we can fully articulate through language what we aspire to be, we need our clothes to perform the function of making us socially legible. People read each other based on pictures. We create a story about each other from what we see.

An outtake from Art Kane’s famous 1958 Esquire photo of jazz musicians, “A Great Day in Harlem.” From left, Benny Golson, Sonny Rollins and Thelonious Monk. Credit… Art Kane

GT: But the jazz musicians you focus on didn’t have a particular need to be seen through an establishment lens, did they? However check out how Jazman took the Ivy style wholeheartedly. There is a section of the book that we will call the Blue Note Look. The guys were playing crazy new music, and yet some of them were dressed like they worked in an insurance office. The combination is part of what makes the album cover so cool, and certainly central to why the designers built an entire collection based on that look.

What Did Black People Wear In The 60s

J. There is a story about how Miles Davis was hanging out with the Blue Note musicians, though before “Birth of the Cool”. Other musicians convinced him to ditch the modest clothes he wore and get a suit with broad shoulders and peak lapels, the kind of hipster clothes you’d see in Hollywood gangster movies.

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GT: But it didn’t last long. Like Malcolm X, Miles quickly shifted to this other uniform so at odds with his own radical projects. Davies was making radical music and Malcolm radical politics and yet had long dressed in an exaggeratedly conservative fashion.

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