Bringin' Preppy Back

Ah, WASPs.  Apparently there was this guide to being "preppy" called The Official Preppy Handbook back in the heyday of preppy-dom, the Reagan years.  Now there's a 2010 update, True Prep, a tongue-in-cheek but loving compendium of what it takes to be a Wasp.  I read Vanity Fair's substantial excerpt, and it's less of an instruction manual than a checklist; no one is reading this book to become preppy, but plenty of preppies are reading it and laughing their Bluchers off. (Note: practitioners of prep are "preppies" not "preps.")

I have enough social graces (or at least enough liberal friends) to know that I'm supposed to be embarrassed for epitomizing so very much of their WASP rubric, but I also realize there's no sense denying where you come from (not with a last name like "Lee" anyhow).  And the book counts the Obamas as a "preppy," so don't dismiss me yet.

True Prep outlines fundamental tenants of achievable class and style in a world gone (largely) anti-prep.  Among the most relatable (to me):

Appropriate shipboard wear of a blazer
Fashion Rules:
  • Your underwear must not show. Wear a nude-colored strapless bra.  Pull up your pants...
  • Every single one of us no matter the age or gender or sexual preference owns a blue blazer...
  • We do not display our wit through T-shirt slogans... 
  • Clothes can cost any amount, but they must fit. Many a preppy has an item from a vintage shop or a lost-and-found bin....
  • Men, if you made the mistake of buying Tevas or leather sandals, please give them to Goodwill... 
  • You can never go wrong with a trench coat
Logos (as distinct from Fashion):
    Travel in a trench.
  • We believe that the Juicy Couture track suit phenomenon signals the end of civilization as we know it.  Nothing less.
  • Thou shalt not fly first-class...  
  • Thou must take loads of photographs...  
  • During holiday, we always drink at lunch, and of course, we 'walk it off.'  Lunchtime drinking is not an obligation, but, well, yes it is.
  • Preppies realize society's need for enterprise. They go to college with the idea of a career or, should we say, their parents' idea of a career planted firmly in their minds. This is why so many of them go to law school.
      The truth is, today's "preppies" are a far-cry from the Muffys and Bunnies of Connecticut past.  Being preppy in our generation isn't about being rich and racist it's about being well-groomed, well-read, and, well, drunk.  (Just kidding...kind of.)  But the point is, being "preppy" is no longer tied to excluding people.  It's just a style a little bigger than personal fashion choices, a little smaller than a way of life.  As the book explains, it's not about logos or clothes or even boats; you don't have to own a yacht to dress like you're going sailing later.

      It comes so naturally to me.

      For those of you who are still skeptics, I have two words: Kentucky Derby.  The Derby is a fabulous example of a totally preppy party: linen, seersucker, ladies' hats, mens' loafers (no socks), and bourbon, bourbon, bourbon.  For the last four years, my boyfriend (whom I wouldn't necessarily call preppy) has hosted a hugely successful Derby weekend.  His friends come from all over, not just for the bourbon (mostly for the bourbon) but also for the fun of dressing-up (they wouldn't call it that, they're manly men). Why? Because there's something attractive and fun about wearing stylish clothes, losing money on horse races, and paying homage to the genteel Southern side of preppy.

      Well-Prepped Gentlemen: Kentucky Derby 2010
      Co-Ed Preppies: Kentucky Derby 2009
      Next Post »


      Write comments
      August 19, 2010 at 10:24 AM delete

      Although not sure if I'm a prepster, I would have to agree that the Juicy Couture track suit is the end of civilization as we know it. The male equivalent (although I've seen hardcore guidos at airports in JC track suits) is the Ed Hardy shirt. Honestly, I think my sister made the same t-shirts at cheerleading camp with puffy paint and glitter. Just sayin'

      August 19, 2010 at 10:55 AM delete

      First, I'd like to applaud J4's use of the term "prepster" as a non-derogatory synonym of "preppy." Second, this is a great observation. Anything Ed Hardy or remotely Guido/ette hurts the preppy's heart, that spot right beneath our monogrammed handkerchief. This includes gold bracelets, pinky rings, and other extraneous men's fashion pieces. One of the omitted rules from the article read:

      "Men's jewelry should be restricted to a handsome watch, a wedding band if he is American and married, and nothing else."

      On the other hand, cheerleading camp is tres preppy, second only to tennis camp or sailing camp or wisely-investing-your-trust-fund camp. But, your sister already knew that.

      August 23, 2010 at 9:32 PM delete

      Excuse me, J4, I don't know how I feel about you discussing my puffy paint and glitter days. You are just jealous because you went to soccer camp and didn't partake in fighting for a spirit stick.

      On the other hand, I miss derby and all things preppy related from that weekend. SO much seersucker and big hats.


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