Black Ivy: A Revolt in Style

Reel Art. Dec. 2021. 224p. ed. by Jason Jules. ISBN 9781909526822. $49.95. DEC ARTS
This volume is a precursor, of sorts, to contemporary images of Black street style, with brief introductions to major cultural figures of the civil rights era. In the mid-20th century, some Black men wore staples of the so-called “Ivy Look” (loafers, Oxford shirts, soft jackets, cardigans, elbow patches, repp ties) to visually assert their equality and demand respect. Editor Jules argues that this “Black Ivy” style, was a “sartorial power grab” that challenged the status quo of who defined style and who was on the margins. He and coauthor Graham Marsh, both British experts on Ivy style, offer evidence for their thesis in photographs of Black actors, authors, musicians, scholars, and activists, captured by well-known photographers of the day. Impeccable with an edge, Black Ivy style defines our historical impressions of Sidney Poitier, Arthur Ashe, Charles White, Jacob Lawrence, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, James Baldwin, Ralph Ellison, and even Malcolm X, among others—and it still looks cool today.
VERDICT Album covers, advertising images, and portrait photographs of iconic Black cultural figures illustrate variations on cool Black Ivy style in this photo-filled homage.
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