Book Report: Take Ivy

Posted by David Ozanich — 21 Sep 2010

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Making the rounds on the book blogs and reviews lately has been “True Prep”, Lisa Birnbach’s sequel to her knowing 1980 tome “The Official Preppy Handbook” which catalogues all the many things that are considered “preppy” or, by extension, “WASP-y”. I’m not going to get into a cultural dissection of what, exactly, “it all means” - I’ll leave that to these essays in The Atlantic and the New York Times Book Review (where it is reviewed by the sublime Janet Maslin).

What it did get me thinking about was the Japanese photography book “Take Ivy” first published in 1965. It is now commonly acknowledged as the “source material” for countless contemporary designers, most obviously the folks at Ralph Lauren and J. Crew. Guy Trebay describes it nicely:

“Take Ivy,” a slender volume of photographs, commissioned by Kensuke Ishizu, the founder of an Ivy League-inspired clothing line called Van Jacket, was first published in 1965, the yield of a fact-finding trip taken by a Japanese photographer and three writers to Ivy League campuses.


Part style manual for Japanese fans of American “trad” style and, somewhat inadvertently, an ethnographic study, “Take Ivy” went on to become, in the decades since publication, the nearly unattainable center of a passionate cult.

People spent years hunting down rare copies. They traded them online for prices that reached into the thousands. They photocopied and distributed them in design studios like fashion samizdat.


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The good news is that the book is available once again (this time in English!) thanks to powerHouse Books for a measly $24.95 (and less on Amazon). The pictures are a really spectacular chronicle of a certain time and place, a sort of “Love Story” style captured in amber. It really makes me want to pull out the madras and flip up my collar. Below are a few of my favorites.

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