Matt Nelson interviewed Lisa Birnbach for Borders a few years back when True Prep was published, a book she co-authored with art director Chip Kidd. Birnbach also edited The Official Preppy Handbook, which was first published in 1980.
Remember the poster Are You A Preppie? It was printed in 1979 by University of Virginia undergrad Tom Shadyac, who went on to film school at UCLA and later directed Ace Ventura: Pet Detective and Evan Almighty. The poster was wildly popular when it came out. I have to wonder whether it might have inspired Lisa Birnbach’s more in-depth anthropological treatment in The Official Preppy Handbook, which appeared one year later.
The layout of the Birnbach’s prep personae is very similar to Shadyac’s sartorial diagram. Birnbach also recognized The University of Virginia as one of the preppiest campuses in America.
The Prep School Years - From The Official Preppy Handbook (1980)
The College Years - From The Official Preppy Handbook (1980)
Elements of the preppy look never seem to change that much and have been appropriated by corporate culture as something of a uniform – khakis and button down shirts are now the norm instead of suits and ties. Nathaniel Elliot Worthington’s “flood level pants” have been a hot trend in men’s fashion for the last few years. The look was generated by prep school students who outgrew their khakis, but continued to wear them anyway. By the time those students arrived at colleges, floods had become a form of preppy rebellion and can be seen all over the pages of T. Hayashida’s 1965 book Take Ivy, a cult classic for devotees of men’s fashion, including Ralph Lauren. It was recently republished by powerHouse Books in Brooklyn, causing a hipster run on thrift stores in search of preppy items to wear around Williamsburg. Hipsters love irony; and what could be more ironic than a hipster wearing a Brooks Brothers button down while spray painting “Yuppie Go Home” on a luxury loft building wall?
In the shot below, Hayashida has captured a group of Dartmouth College students, who have stopped to watch an intramural softball game. Everyone is wearing floods, and the student second from left has gaffing tape on one of his penny loafers. Yes, preppies actually do this!
Flood Wearing Dartmouth College Students (Photo Credit: Take Ivy)
I taped one of my loafers the same way when I was in college because I didn’t want to pay for repairs once a sole had detached from the leather upper. It was a way of being frugal and playful at the same time. Not long ago, I saw a new pair of very expensive Tommy Hilfiger loafers – one of which had a grosgrain band stiched across the top as a reference to the practice of taping. Amazing!
Penny Loafers With Gaffing Tape Reference (Photo Credit: True Prep)
Posted in Comedy, Preppy History, Shoes
Tagged Are You A Preppie?, Brooklyn, Flood Look, Hipsters, Lisa Birnbach, power House Books, Take Ivy, Taped Loafers, The Official Preppy Handbook, Tom Shadyac, Tommy Hilfiger, Williamsburg
With designers like Tommy Hilfiger updating the preppy look for a younger mass market, as in Feast Interruptus with its Vampire Weekend soundtrack, it is no longer the exclusive domain that it once was. You need not have attended an elite prep school to qualify as a preppy. Assimilating the right look and attitudes – conservative clothes, good manners, good sportsmanship, fun loving and carefree disposition and appreciation of traditions – might be enough. Lisa Birnbach makes this point in True Prep, her update of The Official Preppy Handbook published last year. In fact, preppy has become mainstream in America and is now an international trend. ”Whereas once upon a time it seemed unlikely that Europeans would be attracted to our aesthetic,” writes Birnbach, “now they’ve adapted it and made it their own.” A German college student/model in the video below looks right at home in his Nantucket reds, button down, bow tie, blue blazer and Clark’s Desert Boots.
In a new book from Rizzoli, Preppy: Cultivating Ivy Style, Jeffrey Banks and Doria De La Chapelle, take off on the mainstream aspect of this way of dressing: ”Intrinsically American preppy has progressed, reflecting, in its way, the social and educational progress our country has achieved. What started out as an exclusive, white-Protestant, male, clubby way of dressing for the Elite Few has morphed into an inclusive, multi-racial, multi-ethnic, multi-religious, pan-gender, meritocratic way of dressing for the Elite New. Aspirational preppy is the American dream, and it speaks eloquently for us all over the globe.” Nobody does aspirational preppy better than Ralph Lauren.
Keep in mind that preppy clothes can be very expensive at retail. The purpose of my blog is to show you how to find the clothes you’re looking for in excellent condition at bargain prices. Why pay retail when you don’t have to do so?
Posted in Preppy on YouTube
Tagged Aspirational Preppy, Doria De La Chapelle, Feast Interruptus, Inclusive, International, Jeffrey Banks, Lisa Birnbach, Mainstream, Meritocratic, New Preppy, Preppy, Preppy: Cultivating Ivy Style, Ralph Lauren, The Official Preppy Handbook, True Prep, Vampire Weekend