New Preppy: Mainstream American and International

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?

Über Preppy Band – Vampire Weekend

Vampire Weekend’s 2008 song M79 references bleeding madras: “No excuse to be so callous/Dress yourself in bleeding madras/Charm your way across the Khyber Pass….”  Madras, a lightweight cotton weave usually with a plaid pattern,  is perhaps the most versatile and definitively preppy article of clothing, used for jackets, shorts, pants, shirts and even ties.  On Labor Day, I put away all my madras clothes (and seersucker/poplin) for use next summer.  However, now that it’s October in New York City and still hot (80s all week), I’ve been tempted to bend the sartorial rules a bit and  break out a madras shirt today.

In early madras shirts and pants, the dyes used were not stable and literally bled during washing, yielding slightly different hues that faded with time.  Jackets and ties that had to be dry cleaned maintained their vibrant color.  Below is a vintage (1960s) Gitman Brothers bleeding madras shirt.  The bleeding variety is harder to find these days, as most dyes are stable.  I rarely see madras in thrift stores. Vintage shops are your best bet to find the real deal.  If  you come across a madras piece you like that fits, don’t second guess yourself.  Buy it.  It won’t be on the rack when you come back.

Vintage Gitman Brothers Bleeding Madras Shirt

Vampire Weekend Lead Vocalist Ezra Koenig In A Madras Plaid Shirt

Here is a blast from the past – a shot of me in my college dorm in an actual bleeding madras button down shirt from Gitman Brothers, which I had for years.  I’m also wearing cotton shorts – most likely from Brooks Brothers – and a nautical belt (sailboat motif).   For more on madras, you might want to check out this post from Ivy Style.

For more about Vampire Weekend and the preppy connection, check out this article from Billboard.