A Dash of Prep

While I wouldn’t consider myself an authentic prep — I don’t have the lineage or the ivy league schooling — I can’t help but be attracted to the clothes. If I had to describe my ideal style, I would say it’s a mixture of prep, modern and punk, with delusions of haute couture.

Preppy style in America originates as early as 1912 to the late 1940s and 1950s, and derives from the culture and dress of upper class students who attended Northeastern prep schools.

Off the Cuff, a D.C. style blog, sums up the beginnings of the style nicely: “Conformity of dress at school resulted in the basic uniform of coat, tie, button down shirt, grey flannels or chinos and loafers or lace ups. Codes, traditions and sports also helped to nurture a bond and familiarity among budding preps and instilled in them a feeling of belonging.”

In 1980, The Official Preppy Handbook debuted, and while the book poked fun at the preppy lifestyle, it became a cult classic for anyone who wanted in on this style of dress. Off the Cuff calls it, “the rumpled and ironic blending of dress and casual clothes.”

While we typically might think of prep as an all American obsession, its mainstream popularity took off in Japan long before it did in the U.S. Take Ivy, a fashion photography book from the mid 1960s, would define the style of Japanese baby boomers, though the book was hard to come by in the West until recently. Originally commissioned by the founder of a Japanese Ivy League-inspired clothing line, the book features photos of men’s style on the most prestigious American campuses. Take Ivy has its own intriguing story that deserves its own blog post entirely.


Must Haves

Certainly there is no shortage of options for prep style these days. A caution from Washingtonian on not going overboard: “You’re not an extra on Gossip Girl. Pick one or two fun accessories and stick to that.”


Chambray shirt, J.Crew

J.Crew Chambray


Monogram necklace, Neiman Marcus

Neiman Marcus

Infinity scarf, Lilly Pulitzer

Lilly Pulitzer


Sunglasses, Ray Ban

New Wayfarer Classic


Reading List: Take Ivy, True Prep, The Official Preppy Handbook


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