Ivy League Pants

Granted the Ivy League pant is more of a men’s style, but women did wear it too and I couldn’t find anything else that starts with I.

AKA: Ivy Style, Vassar Style, cuffed chinos

How to say it: like the schools

Traditional Features: 

body template

  • narrow through the legs
  • flat front
  • cuffs
  • should be cotton or another natural fibre
  • very smooth and simple silhouette


…of the style: The Ivy League Pant is part of a whole look that emerged from Ivy League Colleges in the Eastern United States, particularly Harvard, Yale and Princeton, in the first half of the 20th century.

While the Ivy League look took decades to grow into its own, it began with the introduction of the Brooks Brother No.1 Sack Suit in 1895. The suit consisted of a  3 button, natural shoulder jacket with no darts or waist indicators, and a pair of flat front trousers. To this suit foundation the following pieces were added to complete the Ivy League Look – a cotton button-down Oxford shirt, a Shetland sweater, a camel polo coat, a rep tie, argyle socks and penny loafers.

The pants in this ensemble – the flat front chinos (although there does seem to be some argument that pleated front pants were also acceptable) were cuffed, slim fitting and sometimes had a belted back to give the wearer a simple, smooth silhouette and portray an attitude of nonchalant privilege and the right to be part of the elite group that they were.

Much of the Ivy League Look could be found in the stores of the retailer Brooks Brothers, who obviously recognised this select group of college men as their own consumer group and continuously introduced pieces that would fit in with the look they were trying to exude and their life on campus.

Brooks Brothers also helped bring the look to women in the 1950s. Also called the Vassar look (named for Vassar College, which at the time was the women’s version of the all-male Ivy League Universities), women adopted the Ivy League look as a way of outwardly confirming their right to be a part of the elite, academic circles in which they moved. Dressing in too feminine a way wasn’t ‘in’, so female college students started to wear less make-up and dressed as similarly to the men as they could – even going as far as wearing men’s clothing in smaller sizes.

Brooks Brothers launched a women’s capsule collection in 1949 to take advantage of the new customer base and even provided special customer services for Vassar women returning to college, helping them to select every piece of clothing they needed to fit in. The store gave women (and men) the feeling they were part of a group of young elite who were smart, privileged and had a great future ahead of them – they were the lucky ones.

In the 1960’s the Ivy Style (both for women and men) lost a lot of its popularity as it portrayed an old-school elitism that was not desirable to the new, egalitarian attitudes of the 60s college students.

The Ivy League look eventually morphed into the Preppy Look which is more colourful than its predecessor, but still aims to exude that attitude of casual wealth, nonchalance and privilege. This look became particularly popular in the 1980s and is still around today. In fact brand such as Ralph Lauren and Ralph Lauren have built their success on around this style of dressing.

There are still some hard-core wearers of the Ivy League Style and those that do are true purists, sticking to the strict Ivy League outfit of the early 50s. As for the Ivy League Pant, beyond the puritan retailers still selling it on the East Coast, it doesn’t really exist under that name anymore. However, the cuffed chino is a classic versatile pant and will always have a place in the fashion marketplace.

…of the name: The name comes from the look that was first popularised on the campuses of the Ivy League colleges in the Eastern United States.

For more info on the Ivy League Style try Ivy Style and the Ivy League Look

21st Century Ivy League Pants

Nowadays the Ivy League Pant is better known as a cuffed chino and comes in a more feminine silhouette.

brooks brothers ralph lauren

Brooks Brothers, Ralph Lauren

vince the west is dead

Vince, The West is Dead


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