Thank You Notes and Threadbare Rugs

Tad Friend, author of Cheerful Money:  Me, My Family and the Last Days of Wasp Splendor (Little Brown and Company 2009), in an interview with WETA’s Bethanne Patrick on her show The Book Studio, answered the question of what is to endure in Wasp culture, given its decline:

Thank you notes.  That’s about it.  That is the vestigil appendix of…of Waspdom, I think.  Thank you notes.  Uh, and actually, what endures, at least in my family, is furniture from a hundred, two hundred years ago, books from the same era, rugs that are quite threadbare, but are still around.  You don’t…I mean the old sort of joke, slash truism is that, you know, you don’t buy rugs, you have rugs.  You just keep the things that you have.  So until they positively wear out and would be, you know, no one would even want them on eBay, you’re going to keep all those things around.  Uh, so furniture…I mean it’s actually sort of a long tale.  It’s like a long, slow decline.  It’s, you know, the money is mostly gone, but there’s a little bit of land left.   There are a few houses here and there…that are falling down…and some heirlooms, and a sense that you ought to aspire to these old, uh, systems of achievement that are now much harder to achieve because other people have come in, very happily, and are now…are doing way better.  And, we are just kind of looking on in puzzlement from our sort of petting zoos in Bar Harbor  and Jupiter Island and sort of, ‘how did that happen?  Woah.

For related culture and behavior, read my post:  Preppy 10 Commandments – Episcopal Style.

Preppies Protect Yourselves: Join PADL Today!!


Lifetime Members of the Preppy Anti-Defamation Lague (L to R):  John J. Balderdash III, Buffy Balderdash and John J. “Skip” Balderdash IV.

Now is the time to consider joining or renewing your annual membership with PADL:  Preppy Anti-Defamation League.   Summer is go-to-hell season, a time when Nantucket Reds, madras patchwork plaid and other clothes of blinding primary colors, which have been blamed on traffic accidents,  are worn to the consternation of the legible-clothing-wearing general public.  Other than a trust fund, your PADL membership is the best support mummy and daddy can give.


Upper Class Twit of the Year


Monty Python’s Upper Class Twit of the Year Show suggests that the landed gentry – at least in England – have their share of problems, too.  Inbreeding can do awful things to the gene pool, as demonstrated by  contestants  Vivian Smith Smythe Smith, Simon Zinc Trumpet Harris, Nigel Incubator Jones, Gervais Brooke Hamster and Oliver St. John Mollusk.

Real Hunter or Actor Boy Poseur?

I’ll lay odds this clown couldn’t hit the side of a barn with buckshot at 20 yards, and I’d let him saw off the shotgun barrel to be fair.  His hair and cynical demeanor read actor boy poseur or ironic hipster.  He attempts upper class references with the afternoon of shooting in the country theme – drinking a glass of sherry while wearing a tweed jacket that could have come from Richard of [the now defunct] WASP 101.  But he’s edging toward the Bee Gees with his wide open shirt and collar sticking out over his lapels, a completely unconvincing act.

Preppy 10 Commandments – Episcopal Style

Note:  You need not be Episcopalian to follow these blessed commandments,  for we are both traditional and prepumenical.  We welcome all who have been Madrasized into the household of preppiness.  
  1. Thou shalt honor thy mummy and daddy, for they control thine inheritance, and grow not hair upon thy face, for it displeaseth them to look upon it.
  2. Thou shalt not wear unnatural fibers, excepting that it be Polar Fleece, nor shalt thou adorn thy neck or hands with bling.
  3. Thou shalt not wear cargo pants; neither shalt thou wear a fanny pack nor a belt hang down, for such things maketh thee to resemble the heathen.
  4. Thou shalt wear natural shouldered sport coats with the blessed 3/2 roll and cuffed plain front pants, for the Lord despiseth pleats, which are the work of the Devil.
  5. Thou shalt not wear seersucker before Memorial Day nor after Labor Day, for reverence of summer pleaseth the Lord.
  6. Thou shalt not eat meat with a salad fork; neither shalt thou drink water from thy finger bowl, for such things are an abomination.
  7. Thou shalt not add ice to thy Scotch, for it doth please the Lord that the golden nectar shouldst be consumed neat, and uncorrupted.
  8. Thou shalt write thank you notes to those who sendest thee gifts, for good manners are pleasing in the sight of the Lord and encourageth future gifting.
  9. Thou shalt not abide in the realm of NASCAR races, for such things doth attract the Philistines, who wear neither shirt nor shoes, and leadeth thee in the paths of unpreppiness.
  10. Thou shalt neither dwell in a monster mansion nor commit other vulgar displays of wealth; for thou shalt live unseen by the heathen, reveling in the simple joys of popped collars and critter embroidered pants all the days of thy life.  Amen.

Amendment to the 4th Commandment – The Scottish Exception

Though the Lord doth look upon pleated pants for men to be the work of the Devil, His countenance doth look favorably upon pleated kilts worn by those of Scottish descent.  The Lord doth look most favorably upon this practice for family tartans.  Verily, I tell you that His mercy extendeth even unto to young ladies, though they be not of Scottish descent, at boarding schools with dress codes that requireth kilts.

Are You A Preppie?

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.

Prep Persona

Prep Persona (The College Years) From The Official Preppy Handbook

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)

Harvard University – A Trade School for Preppies?


“Not sure what you want to do once you graduate from your exclusive prep school? Let our informational video commercial help you make the right decision for your future. ”

My favorite quotes:

“That trust fund wont last forever.  So why not make the choice today to improve your future for a better tomorrow?”

“Harvard University:  educating the rich since 1636.”

Sartorially Noteworthy:

Narrator:  Sweater tied around the neck over Polo/Lacoste style shirt.  Final scene:   popped collar and khakis on the preppy to the far left, madras shorts on the preppy couple in the back.

Faux Pas (Final Scene):

The two preppies in the back have their shirts untucked.  They’re also wearing sandals, while Sperry Topsiders would have been better.  Preppy to the far right is wearing cargo shorts.   That is very un-preppy.  And what’s up with the pool?  He’s not kidding about the trust fund running out!

Andrew McCarthy and Rob Lowe in Class (1983)

In the decade following publication of The Official Preppy Handbook, Hollywood produced a string of movies with a preppy theme.  Class, starring Andrew McCarthy (Jonathan)  and Rob Lowe (Skip), was one of the first.  It isn’t the best of those (which would be either Dead Poets’ Society or Metropolitan), but it is passable entertainment.  What the movie does especially well is to portray the clothes and mannerisms of preppies from that era.  The basic look hasn’t changed.  You’ll see lots of khakis, button downs layered on top of Lacoste shirts, crew neck sweaters and Sperry Topsiders.  The entire film is available in segments on YouTube.

“Alden, The Pompous Preppy” on Letterman

Needless to say, Alden’s attitude and behavior in this sketch are NOT preppy. He’s a spoiled brat, who lords his daddy’s name over Letterman, is extremely rude and flashes his money around.  Alden is a nouveau arriviste.  A true preppy is well-mannered and polite, gracious, very understated and knows better than to discuss his money in public.  While outlandish colors are part of the preppy culture, Alden is a cliché.  But it’s letterman.  I get it.  The contrasts have to be sharply drawn to be funny, and a rich, drunken preppy looking guy in fire engine red pants (Nantucket Reds) is an easy mark.