Ryan O’Neal as Oliver Barrett IV, preppy Harvard student
Boston, Winter 1966
Film: Love Story
Release Date: December 16, 1970
Director: Arthur Hiller
Costume Design: Alice Manougian Martin & Pearl Somner
As Car Week continues, it may not seem like it makes sense to focus on such an exposed car like the vintage MG roadster that appears in Love Story, but Ryan O’Neal bundles up accordingly in his reversible raincoat while behind the wheel with Ali MacGraw by his side.
O’Neal and MacGraw played the star-crossed lovers Oliver and Jenny whose conflicts include their background—he a privileged Harvard student, while she comes from a more working class family—and learning whether or not love means having to say sorry. (Spoiler alert: It doesn’t, in this case.)
After one of her piano recitals at Radcliffe, the two argue about what her assuming that their vast differences will lead to inevitable breakup when he blurts out that he wants to marry her, unable to give much more of a reason than “because,” which Jenny accepts as good enough. Back on the same team, Oliver tears through Massachusetts in his MG to bring an anxious Jenny to the opulent Barrett estate, where she’ll meet his parents (Ray Milland and Katharine Balfour) for the first time.
Jenny: You’re driving like a maniac!
Oliver: This is Boston, everybody drives like a maniac.
Jenny: You’re gonna kill us before your parents can murder us!
What’d He Wear?
Apropos his upbringing and Harvard education, Oliver dresses in the Ivy tradition with his navy blazer, OCBD shirt, and striped ties, and a visit to his conservative father would be no time to buck the older man’s sartorial expectations of his son.
Oliver’s dark navy wool single-breasted blazer follows the classic American sack style, characterized by a boxier fit without darts to shape the jacket. The blazer has a single vent and flat brass shank buttons, with two on the front (positioned at Ryan O’Neal’s natural waistline) and two decorating each cuff. The blazer’s notch lapels, welted breast pockets, and hip pocket flaps are finished with sporty “swelled edges”.
Oliver’s white button-down shirt and striped ties also follow the Ivy tradition. The button-down collar famously originated in 1896 after Brooks Brothers president John E. Brooks witnessed English polo players fastening their shirt collars down while in play, inspiring the accordingly equipped “Original Polo Button-Down Oxford”. As Brooks Brothers emerged as a vanguard of Ivy style through the early 20th century, the Oxford-cloth button-down (OCBD) shirt thus became firmly entrenched as an Ivy staple. (FWIW, the term “button-down shirt” shorthand most appropriately applies to these shirts specifically with a button-down collar; any shirt that buttons up the front, regardless of collar, would be called a “button-up shirt”… thus, Oliver’s white shirt is an example of both.)
Around the same time in the early 20th century, Brooks also played a part in introducing striped neckwear to the American market, reversing the direction of English school and club tie stripes so that wearers in “downhill” direction stripes wouldn’t be accused of stealing valor from across the pond. The first striped tie that Oliver wears with this blazer is dark navy with double sets of closely spaced burgundy bar stripes.
For his visit home, Oliver wears a navy and burgundy balance repp striped tie, again with the stripes in the classic American downhill direction and knotted four-in-hand. This time, the navy in his tie is a slightly lighter shade—closer to true navy—than his dark blazer.
Arguably, the most traditional trousers worn with navy blazers are khaki slacks and gray flannels. Oliver opts for the latter, both for their darker formality befitting the occasion and their warmer seasonality as the bare trees and fallen foliage suggest that it’s winter, or at least late fall.
These are likely the same flat-front trousers we see him wear with other sports coats, including the glen plaid jacket when he meets Jenny’s father, cut with trim legs that taper to cuffed bottoms that neatly break at the top of his black leather cap-toe derbies, with black cotton lisle socks covering the difference.
Oliver also wears a gray scarf made from a soft, luxurious wool—likely cashmere.
Even for a millionaire’s son, an Ivy League dorm room only has limited closet space so Oliver wisely invests in a “two-fer” that’s appropriate for both rainy days and formal evenings. This reversible coat has a black-and-gray herringbone tweed shell that can be reversed to present a khaki water-resistant gabardine.
Coats like this are uniquely designed with two sets of buttons and buttonholes so that the wearer can retain the traditional male left-over-right buttoning system. Oliver’s single-breasted coat has five buttons that match each side: mixed gray on the herringbone side, plain khaki on the raincoat side. The coat also has a Prussian collar, single vent, set-in sleeves with plain cuffs, and vertical-entry side pockets with a large, somewhat slanted welt entry. Similar to modern jackets often marketed as “walkers”, the thigh-length cut makes it suitable for maneuvering in and out of the low seats of his MG.
Especially in an open car on a wintry night in New England, driving gloves would be a must. Oliver wears three-point gloves in walnut-brown leather.
Oliver wears an unidentified gold wristwatch with a round white dial on a dark brown leather strap over his right wrist.
Oliver drives a 1945 MG TC Midget, the first model produced after World War II by British sports car marque MG Cars. The MG featured in Love Story has a black exterior with a burgundy grille and burgundy leather upholstery.
The MG T-Type series originated in 1936 with the TA Midget, the perhaps politically incorrect second half of its moniker continued from the earlier M-Type to refer to its downscaled size. The TA was replaced by the TB Midget, manufactured for only two years before World War II forced production to end following the 1940 model year.
In September 1945, MG relaunched production after the war with the new TC Midget, which retained many characteristics of the pre-war TB, including its general dimensions and the pushrod 1250cc straight-four engine that now generated almost ½ more horsepower due to a slightly higher compression ratio.
Just over 10,000 TC Midgets were manufactured over its four-year production timeline, including many that were exported to the American market though—as seen in Love Story—these retained their English right-hand drive controls.
1945 MG TC Midget
Body Style: 2-door open sports car
Layout: front-engine, rear-wheel-drive (RWD)
Engine: 76 cubic-inch (1.3 L) MG XPAG OHV I4 with dual carbureton
Power: 54.4 bhp (40.6 kW; 55.2 PS) @ 5200 rpm
Torque: 64 lb·ft (87 N·m) @ 2600 rpm
Transmission: 4-speed manual
Wheelbase: 94 inches (2388 mm)
Length: 204 inches (5182 mm)
Width: 56 inches (1422 mm)
Height: 53 inches (1346 mm)
Above stats sourced from Automobile Catalog.
MG naturally followed the TC with the TD Midget, also of some interest to Love Story fans as Wicked Local reports that it was Bud Kreuger’s pristine “autumn red” 1951 TD Midget that was rented by publicist Kathy Rochefort for Ryan O’Neal and Ali MacGraw to drive through the Harvard campus to promote their play Love Letters in February 2016. The promotion capitalized on their appearance in Love Story more than 45 years earlier, right down to O’Neal sporting a Harvard crimson-and-white striped school scarf over his navy blazer while behind the wheel of the MG.
The TD Midget was superseded by the MG TF, which was produced until 1955 when MG formally wrapped the T-Type series and focused on the MGA model.
How to Get the Look
Returning from Harvard, where he’s being educated on his father’s dime, Oliver Barrett IV embraces the preppy traditions of Ivy style in the navy blazer, white OCBD shirt, repp striped tie, and gray flannel trousers that he wears when returning home to introduce his new girlfriend to his parents.
- Dark navy-blue wool single-breasted 2-button sack-cut blazer with notch lapels, welted breast pocket, straight flapped hip pockets, 2-button cuffs, and single vent
- White oxford-cloth cotton shirt with button-down collar and button cuffs
- Navy-and-burgundy “downhill”-striped repp silk tie
- Dark gray flannel trousers with turn-ups/cuffs
- Black leather cap-toe derby shoes
- Black cotton lisle socks
- Khaki gabardine/black-and-gray herringbone tweed reversible single-breasted raincoat with Prussian collar, 5-button front, vertical welted side pockets, set-in sleeves, and single vent
- Gray cashmere woolen scarf
- Walnut-brown leather three-point driving gloves
- Gold wristwatch with round white dial on dark brown leather strap
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the movie.
How can you see me and still love me?