What is Preppy Style?

Over the years, Ralph Lauren has become synonymous with preppy style – but what exactly is preppy style, you may ask?

It was originally associated with a privileged elite who had attended Ivy League universities in the States, a clean, classic, somewhat nautical style that went hand in hand with drinking G and T’s on Daddy’s yacht. However, you don’t have to be a Yale graduate to rock the preppy style – it’s pretty much conquered the world since Lisa Birnbach wrote her The Official Preppy Handbook back in 1980, a book written as a parody that people took for reality.

The style originated in the most prestigious American universities (the Ivy League) on the East coast in the 20s. This isn’t the only instance of universities lending their names to garments – one of the classic components of preppy style, the Oxford shirt, was named after the university. It existed alongside three other weaves, the Harvard, the Cambridge and the Yale, although for the record, all three were orignally manufactured in Scotland.

Anyway, early prep style had become recognised as the Ivy Style by the ’40s, and hasn’t changed much in the succeeding years, though we now have a new breed in the prepster, that rare breed of supercool human who effortlessly oscillate between being a preppy AND a hipster.

So what are the essential components of preppy style?

Shirts – Shirts are a staple of the prep’s wardrobe, whether the ubiquitous polo shirt, or an oxford shirt for slightly more formal occasions. In fact, the Oxford shirt was originally a sports shirt too, the buttoned-down collar being designed to make it more streamlined.

Sweaters – Sweaters are an essential component of the prep’s sartorial DNA, wear crew necks for less formal occasions, V-necks for slightly more formal ones, to display your tie, perhaps emblazoned with the logo of your alma mater.

Cable-knit cricket sweaters are a distinctive part of the preppy’s arsenal, and great for keeping you warm – on warmer days, tie it round your waist for that carefree look. The Argyle sweater is intimately associated with golf, and since the golf course is a naturally preppy environment, it’s in.

Blazers – Nothing could be more preppy than the blazer, especially in solid navy. Blazers can be acquired in various materials (as long as they’re not synthetic, natch), including poplin and wool, worsted wool being particularly smooth and lightweight. Gold piping or buttons are optional for the more daring.

Chinos – Chinos are the standard preppy legwear, the cardinal rule being that they must be flat – no pleats accepted. Khaki is the base note, though you could experiment with pastel shades or primary colours.

Shoes – Penny loafers are a classic look; these low, laceless moccasins announce your preppy credentials, whether in leather or suede. The boating shoe is another classic – even if you don’t have access to a yacht. Ideally worn without socks, never with.

Sunglasses – Sunglasses are strictly retro  – Ray-Bans are ideal. Round frames, perhaps in a funky tortoiseshell pattern, will perfect the look.

Ties – Why not accessorise with a bow tie to fully embrace the preppy aesthetic?



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