Purchased on eBay: The 1960’s Ivy Suit

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A lot of people don’t like buying clothes from eBay.  Sellers don’t often provide accurate measurements, they don’t accept returns, and sometimes the items are just not what you expected.  However, I don’t believe that this should bar you from trying to buy on eBay. You might be able to find something awesome, like I did with my “new” 1960’s ivy suit.

Buying vintage clothing is the best way to get a fully canvassed suit in a high-quality fabric and construction for less than $1000.  With fusing and polyester suits (signs of a cheaply made garment) coming in at full-force in the late 1960s and early 1970s, you can rest assured that most vintage clothing will be a great investment at a great price. And this suit was no exception.  An Ivy Suit for $100 bucks? It’s a steal.

For those of you who don’t know, an Ivy suit is one of the most classic items of menswear.  The jacket has natural shoulders (with  no padding), a 3 roll 2 button stance (with space between the buttons), medium lapels, and no darts with  fuller cut: the jacket is meant to hang like a “sack”.  Pants were high rise and had a very small taper through the leg with a cuff.  This style, popular in the 1950s and 1960s, defined the dress of university students and professors, particularly ones at the Ivy League schools (hence the name).  It was a huge contrast to the sharkskin suits and skinny lapels that would characterize the typical Mad Men/ Rat Pack era.  It is this classic nature that ensures that the sack suit will always look good, no matter the era.  If tailored well, you wouldn’t know that it was a vintage garment!  It believe an Ivy suit can definitely pass for a modern piece.

I’ve recently fallen in love with the Ivy style thanks to Mark Cho (of the Armoury) and Tailor Caid.  Mr. Yamamoto of Tailor Caid is by far the only tailor that I’ve seen that can replicate the Ivy look of the 1950s to late 1960s.  All of the true details are graciously added onto modern fabrics, which leads to awesome pieces like this purple ivy jacket.  However, nothing beats the classic status of an Ivy style blue suit.

Mr. Carrol wearing a #tailorcaid two button suit in a heavy navy twill.Trunk Show this weekend 🗣🕵 (at The Armoury New York)

Richard Caroll of The Armoury NYC wearing an ivy style navy suit from Tailor Caid.  

Now, I’ve always wanted a blue suit as its the classic staple suit of menswear.  In fact, its the uniform of choice for The Armoury .  A navy suit can ground your outfit to experiment with shirts and ties or even separately as classic staples as a blazer or odd trouser.  Every man should have one and should be the first suit you buy due its versatility.  I do own a linen-wool suit, but due to the casual status of the fabric, I don’t count it as a true versatile suit.

Prior to this purchase I actually didn’t own a full blue wool suit. I do own blue wool rousers, but nothing that completed a full outfit.  Many people, including the reddit sub MaleFashionAdvice, recommend Suit Supply or J. Crew as their suit.  However, once you get as specific as I am, you know that these regular brands won’t do it for you!

For example, while my Suit Supply summer suit looks great, I find that it is a bit too snug in the  thighs; I also don’t like how Suit Supply doesn’t let you buy separates.  As for J. Crew, I’m not a fan of their button stance and lapel size.  Their lapels are way too skinny for my classic style.  Additionally, these brands only offer half-canvassing at their price of $500-600+.  Compare this with Tailor Caid, who has bespoke prices.   I knew that there had to be a way for me to find my quality suit that was classically styled for a cheaper price.  That’s when I decided to look at eBay.  If you like the vintage or classic style suit, why look for modern copies when you can get the real thing?  After searching a few minutes, I finally found it: a three piece ivy suit for $175 with a Best Offer option.

The 3-roll-2 button stance (along with button spacing) were a dead give away on the era of this suit.  I checked all of the measurements against my best fitting jackets and decided to get it.  The shoulders and overall length were right on the money; these are the main measurements that can’t really be changed with tailoring.  The pants length and waist left a little to be desired, but those are easily fixed with a tailor.  I also decided to get the jacket taken in a touch, since a boxy cut flatters no one.

Don’t let the picture fool you; I submitted a best offer of $100 and got the suit for a grand total of $113.45.  I go to my tailor  to make it more suited to my tastes.  Here is a list of what I had done:

  • take in the jacket :
  • lengthen sleeves
  • let out waist
  • let down pants and cuff
  • taper leg (from 8″ to 7.5″)
  • add suspender buttons
  • No changes to the vest

The alterations came out to be $100.  Even at $200~ you’re getting a better quality suit than one you’d get at Macy’s or H&M for about the same price.  I loved the look so much that I decided to wear the suit (sans vest) to my scholarship awarding this past week.

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I decided to wear the suit with the classic accoutrements: button down collar and foulard tie.  It’s entirely inoffensive and works just as great now as it would have back in 1962.  The only difference is that I’m wearing a 1930’s tie, so it’s just a bit wider than the normal ones you’d see back in the era.

I did break the “classic menswear rule” and wear woven derby spectator shoes with my suit.  Some guys will say that you can only wear oxfords (closed laced shoes) with a suit, but I say screw it.  Wear what you want!  These shoes have a bit more personality and “funness” to them, so I let them be the pop in this classic outfit.

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Collar roll with an ivy suit is important!  I wish mine was just a bit larger.

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You can really see the subtle herringbone weave in the jacket.  Note the small stitching on the lapel.  The 1970’s would later exaggerate this detail. 

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High rise pants and the sprezza tie.  Classic Ethan style!

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Classic design, color, and tailoring can work in 1962 or 2016.

 

1960s Ivy Suit, Button Down Collar shirt from Uniqlo, 1930’s foulard tie, Woven AE spectators (eBay) 

This outfit should be a testament to what you can get on eBay.  If you’re the kind of guy who wants something new and unworn, then department stores will work better.  If you want something with quality and some details that you just can’t find anywhere else, than buying vintage on Ebay is the way to go.  All you need to do is look at the measurements and check them against your very best fitting garments.  This can even apply to shirts or pants as well!

Even though this suit was vintage, it can look modern with just a bit of tailoring.  The key is to make sure that your changes aren’t too trendy.  I didn’t make the pants super skinny and I didn’t take the jacket in too much.  The resulting garment is a classic piece that I can wear to a vintage event, a fancy dinner, and work, depending on the accessories and styling.  If I didn’t mention the age of this suit, you probably wouldn’t know it was vintage!

So don’t let eBay scare you when looking for good stuff! There are plenty of details to be had on there.  Always remember to negotiate the price and to check all of the measurements.  Don’t be discouraged if you can’t find something after spending some times searching the website.  “New” things pop up on eBay all the time!  Your next favourite suit could be found on there!

Always a pleasure,

Ethan W.

Street x Sprezza

Photography by Scott E. 

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21 comments

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  2. T · June 28, 2016

    This post (http://www.styleforum.net/t/184515/what-is-a-sack-suit/0_100#post_3302639) is worth a read in regards to: “…and no darts with fuller cut: the jacket is meant to hang like a ‘sack’.”

    Like

  3. Ethan W. · June 28, 2016

    Very interesting stuff! Thanks for sharing.

    Like

  4. sean · August 5, 2016

    hey i am actually have tough time finding high rise pants……so this suit you bought has inseam of 28 and total length of 38 which is a around 10 inch rise, and it wont do a high rise look for me tho. i am around 5’9 and most of my suit trousers are 9 inch rise, and its only a mid rise looking just like every other suit ppl wearing. i am assuming maybe i am slightly taller than you so its gonna be even tougher for me to find trousers that have the high rise look…. thanks for the help

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    • Ethan W. · August 5, 2016

      Vintage high rise pants typically have a longer fly (zipper area) than normal pants! However, to get the full high-rise effect, just hike the pants up as high as they can go. having suspenders really does help since it holds your pants as high as they can go! It takes some getting used to since it may result in a wedgie, but as time goes on, it’ll be great!

      Like

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