Maybe it's in part because I was so disappointed by Preppy: Cultivating Ivy Style that "The Ivy Look," which arrived in the same box, seemed so rewarding. "The Ivy Style" is an entertainingly written and well-informed book, but it's also very much affected by who its authors are and where they come from. It's important to understand that in order to really get the most out of this "pocket guide."
One of my criticisms of "Preppy" was that it relied so heavily on commercial advertising for its illustrations. "Ivy Look," too, is packed full of ad images, as at least one other reviewer has pointed out. So why not rip this book too? The answer is in the second paragraph of the Foreword: "It seems entirely appropriate that the authors came to learn and fall under the spell of the Ivy look through exposure to three quintessential American art forms - cinema, advertising and modern jazz" (p. 12). The "Ivy" Marsh and Gaul are discussing here is not American "Ivy League" style straight from the well, so to speak, but rather a particular English interpretation and expression of "Ivy." More than just a preference for what clothes to wear or, on a deeper level, a "look" with various ethnic, geographic, and sociopolitical signifiers, this English Ivy is a deliberate "lifestyle" choice. That is the explanation for why things like Vespas and Marlboro cigarettes, which don't have any particular Ivy League or preppy association in the States, are lovingly included in "The Ivy Look."
(If the sort of analysis in the above paragraph is of interest to you, I encourage you to find the review of this book on a popular Ivy Style blog. Google "Clothes Mad: The English Ivy Obsession" and read not only the review but as many of the comments as you can stomach. Me, I've reached my daily limit of lit-crit exegesis.)
Once you know more or less where the authors are coming from and take their perspective into account, "The Ivy Look" is a fun and informative read. The prose is as stylish as the clothes and cars, and their recommendations, not only for clothing brands but also movies and jazz albums (if you're into those things, which I am) are well taken. And I was pleased to see how closely my Dockers K-1s resemble the "original 1950s U.S. Army-issue khakis" beautifully shown on pages 116-117. You may not ever use this as a "pocket guide" in the sense of carrying it with you to The Andover Shop or J. Press, and if you're a real devotee of this style, there may not even be much in here that's new (save for the aforementioned induction of Vespas and Jean-Paul Belmondo into "Ivy"). But as a celebration of a particular interpretation of "classic American clothing," I think this has a lot to recommend it.