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Studying the Ivy League roots of Gant, the princes of prep

Words by Rob Chilton

As Gant prepares to open its largest store in the world in Dubai this autumn, EDGAR looks back on the history of a brand that began in Ivy League colleges 70 years ago

Many stalwarts of menswear began in the halls and quads of American universities in the 1950s: Converse’s Chuck Taylor baseball boots, tan chinos, grey sweatshirts and letterman jackets are iconic pieces from that era that are still wildly popular today.

A key brand that was responsible for this Ivy League look born on America’s east coast was Gant, the princes of prep who this October open their biggest store in the world in The Dubai Mall.

Student style with a sophisticated edge

In 1949, with cultural change sweeping across the United States after WWII, Gant’s casual clothing and its ubiquitous checked shirts were a breath of fresh air and became staples of student style. Opening a hugely successful shop on the Yale University campus near their company HQ in New Haven in Connecticut was a turning point for Gant as students, excited by the bright colours and new fabrics, flocked to buy the revolutionary clothes.

Gant was born on America’s east coast after WWII

Innovations such as shirts with a locker loop on the back – allowing it to be hung in a gym locker – and a back collar button that prevented a tie from slipping down were catnip to a generation of men who wanted to look different from their dads. When, in 1954, Life magazine declared New Haven 'the home of the Ivy League look', Gant’s status as the leading architects of this style movement was solidified. They quickly capitalised and changed the company name to Gant of New Haven.

Menswear from the FW19 range

Today, the classic American brand stays loyal to its collegiate roots with sweatshirts, chinos, rugby shirts and, of course, letterman jackets all present in the upcoming men’s FW19 collection.

An advert from 1981 shows Gant's preppy heritage

Karen Vogele, executive vice president of product and design at GANT, says, “We are bringing the country to the city by mixing the best of yesterday with the relevance of today.” Seventy years old, but Gant is still young at heart like an Ivy League freshman.

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