Harriet Walker: The old boys' club you don't want to be part of

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The Independent Online

In his diaries, Tom Wolfe recalls being taunted for wearing his college scarf to a swanky party thrown by some of the upper-crust gents who ruled his Ivy League campus in the good old days: only the clueless and the aspirational wore such tokenistic garb. Perhaps these are the demographics that Harvard's new clothing line is aimed at. The cool kids certainly aren't going to wear it.

There's obvious cachet in donning the colours of so august an institution as this, even today. But whether such a style statement is still a good idea when it seems to hark back to an elitist, monocultural past is questionable to say the least.The preppy look is big this season, but the old boys' club isn't. The clothes themselves don't quite qualify as preppy, because they're so blatantly commercial and spanky, and they sit rather too close to the chinos and blazers image that the college should be trying to shake off. The Upper East Side prices won't help either.

Profits from the Harvard Yard brand will be ploughed into bursaries and financial aid, the spokesmen claim. It is an admirable aim, but it's liable to reinforce an identity that those students who benefit won't be interested in. To them, Harvard will still be about the clothes you wear, the gloss, the labels and the loafers, rather than individual merit.

To those thinking of buying a Harvard look, the words "silk" and "sow's ear" spring to mind. You won't look big, and you certainly won't look clever.