Wofford College Fraternity Men (1980s)

Pi Kappa Alpha Fraternity Brothers - Wofford CollegeMy alma mater, Wofford College, was a bastion of natural fibers long before The Official Preppy Handbook was published.  Fraternity men there had worn heathery, crew neck shetland wool sweaters with their cotton button downs and khakis for generations.  They also had a tradition of wearing blue blazers and ties to football games, though the days of the freshman beanie were long gone.  This photograph of Kappa Alpha fraternity brothers with their dates, most of whom attended nearby Converse College (often referred to as “The Convent” because of its strict visitation rules), appeared in the 1988 Bohemian yearbook.  This moment in the stands during a game captures the look of that era.

I was a member of the Pi Kappa Alpha Fraternity (Nu Chapter).  This is the fraternity composite from the spring of 1985.  A large framed and matted version of this print was hung on a wall in the Pike house.

Pi Kappa Alpha Fraternity (1984-1985)

Pi Kappa Alpha Fraternity (1984-1985)

During rush, my fraternity brothers at Wofford did not behave like Doug Neidermeyer and Greg Marmalard of Omega at Faber College.

But the Pikes did behave a lot like the Deltas when throwing a toga party.  Yes, we actually had those, and we did gator!

College Fashionista recently posted this image of a current Wofford student wearing Nantucket Reds, a motif belt (ribbon with South Carolina palmetto and crescent over webbed cotton backing), a white button down with Vineyard Vines bow tie – also with palmetto and crescent – and a pair of Sperry Topsiders.

Wofford College Student

Motif Belt and Nantucket Reds (from College Fashionista)

Frayed motif belt and Nantucket Reds (Photo:  College Fashionista)

Vineyard Vines - SC Bow Tie

Vineyard Vines – SC Bow Tie (Photo:  College Fashionista)

Is Wofford still preppy?  You bet your plaid cotton boxer shorts!  However, the school is much more diverse today, which is a great thing, and the student body is about 1/3 larger than when I was there.  Total enrollment is just over 1,600, and 40% of them belong to a fraternity or sorority.

America’s Best Kept College Secrets has this to say about the school:  “Like Furman and Wake Forest, Wofford attracts a healthy, happy, preppy, active, sporty student body that intends to take up a career as a doctor, lawyer, or corporate chief.  The students are good looking and friendly, and the campus has the feel of a college in which poise and good looks prevail.”

In the 80s, although we did wear jeans and sweatshirts to class from time to time, khakis and button downs or Lacoste shirts were more the norm.  Blue blazers and ties were added for campus events, interviews and, as already mentioned, football games.  Even students who did not pledge a fraternity wore the uniform.  Note the college seal buttons on the student’s blazer to the left (see detail shot).

Blazer-Clad Wofford Students – Fall 1987

Detail - College Seal Buttons on the Blazer

Detail – College Seal Buttons on the Blazer

Founded in 1854, Wofford has long been known for academic excellence and was the first college in South Carolina to receive a charter with Phi Beta Kappa honor society.  Some recent accolades for my alma mater (as listed on the college website):

  • U.S. News & World Report’s 2014 edition of “America’s Best Colleges” ranked Wofford 65th among national liberal arts colleges, and 27th among 40 national liberal arts colleges as “Great Schools, Great Prices.” Wofford also included in the 2014 “Up and Comers” list of 10 liberal arts colleges noted among peers for their “promising and innovative changes in the areas of academics, faculty, student life, campus, or facilities.” (September 2013)
  • Forbes’ “America’s Best Colleges” lists Wofford among the top 120, the highest-rated South Carolina institution (September 2013)
  • The Princeton Review’s 2014 edition of “The Best 378 Colleges” features Wofford among the best undergraduate institutions, and ranked Wofford 19th for “Best Science Lab Facilities, The college also is the only South Carolina institution listed among the 75 “best values” among the top colleges. Wofford also is noted for its “career services” in the publication. (August 2013)
  • Fiske Guide to Colleges 2014 cited Wofford among “Small Colleges and Universities Strong in Business” (August 2013)
  • Forbes magazine ranked Wofford among the top 120 colleges and universities in the country – 119th overall and the highest-ranked South Carolina institution – in the sixth annual rankings of “America’s Top Colleges” in 2013. Wofford was ranked 20th among the Best Colleges in the South and 89th among the Best Private Colleges. (July 2013) In 2010, Forbes ranked Wofford 14th among all the nation’s colleges and universities for women desiring to study science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
Old Main at Wofford College (Built in 1854)

Old Main at Wofford College (Built in 1854)

Wofford’s 170 acre tree-lined campus has been designated as an arboretum.  On a sunny autumn afternoon, while the leaves are changing color, it is an especially beautiful place to be.

Campus of Wofford College - Fall 2013

Campus of Wofford College – Fall 2013

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Thrifting Plus Smart Retail Shopping

Thrifted items can be paired well with items purchased at retail, but it is always best to do your retail shopping with an eye for sales.  This combination features a pair of soft all cotton Bermuda shorts from Covington (thrift:  $4.99) with a grosgrain ribbon belt from J. Press (end of summer retail sale last year:  $29.00), a piqued all cotton polo shirt from Old Navy with a 2-button placket, capped sleeves and ribbed edging (thrift:  $8.00) and a pair of leather Sperry Topsiders (retail sale at Marshall’s:  $39.99).

The wine/navy ribbon belt is really sharp against the light blue shorts, and it looks great with khakis – perhaps the most traditional pairing for this belt.  I am not anti-retail.  I am anti-markup.  When a retailer puts something on sale, it’s closer to the actual value of the item.  That was true of the ribbon belt, which I got for $10.00 off the regular price.  While the store still made a profit, I got a better deal than I would have a week before.

J. Press Grosgrain Ribbon Belt - Wine/Navy

What I like about traditional retailers is that they don’t force you to wear advertising – preferring to keep their labels hidden.  You don’t need to announce to the world where you bought an article of clothing.  The quality of the piece should speak for itself.  J. Press discretely stitches their labels on the inside of their ribbon belts.

Combining thrifted items with smart retail purchases creates huge savings.  It would be a challenge for anyone to tell the difference between old and new at first glance.  If you put colors and materials together wisely, you can achieve a decidedly understated and seemingly effortless preppy look.

Sperry Topsiders - Bought at Marshall's

OK, I know you can see a Sperry name on these shoes. I’m busted for an inconsistency.  Would I prefer that the name not be there?  Certainly.  But this pair was on sale at $40.00 off regular retail at Marshall’s.  I couldn’t pass up the sale.  Actually, Marshall’s has become one of my favorite places to buy shoes.  You can find the classics at ridiculously low prices – at 50% to 60% off retail, sometimes more.  In the past year, I’ve bought Clark’s Desert Boots, black leather cap toe dress shoes and dirty bucks with crepe red soles from Cole Haan and the Sperry Topsiders above.