Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Problems with Prep

Oh, when will the trend pass? YWP, I have a feeling you'll appreciate this. Feel free to repost!


  1. I'm afraid I have a few issues with these, Scott. Let's take them in turn:

    1a) Popping collars - I pop my collars, and for good reason. I'm white as a sheet, and I do not tan. I burn. Thus the first reason I pop my collar is to keep the sun off my neck and avoid a sunburn. The second reason I pop my collar has to do with sailing. There are a number of "sheets" (sailing rope) running around at various levels on a boat. On a number of these boats, even smaller ones, you can find sheets that run at neck level, or at a level that could be at neck level when you inevitably stoop over to avoid the boom. Thus many of those with a sailing background got into the habit of popping collars because that way, should you catch your neck, the collar will protect you from rope burn, and let me assure you, with nylon sailing line, such burns HURT.

    Rolling chinos as opposed to simply cuffing them? That we can agree on.

    2) I reference TOPH largely because I recognise my readership often will get such references. That being said, I've never owned a copy, and have only read some of the articles. What I have read is amusing for individuals who have lived parts of the life that is described in the articles. It is a tongue-in-cheek satire, but those that need to use it as a "how-to-guide" are probably missing the point. This does not in any way undermine that value of TOPH as parody... True Prep does that entirely by itself.

    3) You will need to be far more descriptive. What do you mean by "Nantucket Lifestyle?"

    4) This is not the fault of those that come from prep backgrounds, nor those who have adopted aspects of the prep style or prep lifestyle on their own and with an authentic desire to do so. I fault designers, labels, and big box stores for using the aspirational nature of the prep lifestyle to market shoddy, cheap, nondurable goods. I think Ralph Lauren has managed to rise above it, and given how much you own of Ralph, I would say you agree.

    I am greatly displeased by Tommy Hilfiger, and I recognise with sadness that Brooks Brothers, Vineyard Vines, LL Bean, and others are starting to, unfortunately, lower themselves in pursuit of "preppy profit." Combined with public high school 'preppy' brands like A&F, Aeropostle, and American Eagle Outfitters, this definitely gives the impression that prep is played out or dead. It isn't, because all of these profit driven ventures are the opposite of prep.

    While I agree with your sentiment about hoping the trend will pass, that does not mean prep should (or will!) pass, as long as there are those left with the same commitment to value, longevity, tradition, style, and practicality that originally made prep something to aspire to in the first place.

  2. I have no problem whatsoever with the "preppy" lifestyle when you're raised in it, when you actually attend prep school, when you come into in naturally. This is just a satirical shot about the preppy TREND that's come about in the past two years. In fact, I think we can both agree that the preppy trend, frustrating as it may be for some of us, has done far more good than harm. I'm seeing many people in their teens and twenties dress much better. Clothes fit, you see polos instead of graphic tees, chinos instead of shredded jeans. So, moving on to your points...

    1. I've no issue with collar popping for the practical applications you mentioned. I hate to see it done for the sake of fashion. For example, I was shopping at American Eagle recently (and reluctantly) for a young cousin's birthday. Several of the male associates were wearing two layers of polos, with both collars popped. All I could do was shake my head. I feel the same way about chinos and jeans. If you're wading, go for it! Otherwise, forget it.

    2. I love the Official Preppy Handbook. It's a brilliant piece of satire. I feel there are those who take it too seriously and quote it like scripture. I purchased True Prep hoping for the same wit found in the original, only to be greatly disappointed.

    3. I believe one's style should be rooted in daily utility. Going back to the first topic, there are those who dress as if ready to step on to a sailboat when the only body of water nearby is a filled bathtub. I feel Nantucket, and in general a New England coastal atmosphere have been at the heart of the misguided preppy trend. The way you dress should be inspired by your location and weather (among other things), and certainly not by a misconceived lifestyle to which you suddenly aspire.

    4. I agree. I agree. I agree. I don't like to define myself by the terms WASP/ivy/trad/prep, because I'm more than any of that.

    I'm no WASP, I'm Antiochian Orthodox Christian and primarily Lebanese.
    I've no connection to Ivy League schools, though I attended two colleges with great histories.
    I suppose I dress traditionally by today's horrid fashion standards.
    I didn't attend a single prep school, though I did attend my state's top public schools.

    That being said, I concur prep is a lifestyle and an attitude, not just a way of dressing. Many of my friends call me preppy, and though it's not something with which I directly identify, I understand it. My style, my values, my traditions won't be changing any time soon, as the fashion wave moves on from prep to something else.

  3. Well then...

    3) Of course it should be rooted in daily utility. That being said, and you have to realise, in the United States, I live in an area with lakes all over, and I grew up sailing in lakes and buttes, not in the ocean. In college I sailed Lake Travis in Austin, although of course I love sailing the sea coast. Sydney was exceptional, and the Cruising Yacht Club of Australia is amazing. Thus, it is not unusual for me, when I want to be comfortable in general, for me to wear the same clothes around campus or the house that I would wear sailing. I also live 40 minutes from the Sea of Japan in Kyoto, and I travel each summer to some island, Guam, Taiwan, etc.

    I grant that for so many, boat shoes and popped collars are affectations, in fact, you know in my "The Care and Feeding of a Boat Shoe" I complained bitterly about how boat shoes are everywhere, worn by individuals who have never set foot on a deck. Now, if I am walking around a mall, and so is one of these affectation folks, how can you tell us apart? And at the end of the day, even while I may grouse and grumble from time to time, boat shoes and popped collar polos are just clothes, do I really have the right to stomp around saying, "Well, I'm known to take out a J24 now and again, but you, you've never even been on a boat. You don't deserve to wear boat shoes or pop your collar..." and likewise, if they're practical for me to wear when I need to be comfortable, why should I have to put up with a, "well you're not on a boat at the moment..." comment from someone else? I'd tell them to piss off.

    1. I agree, once again. I'm around the water each summer, therefore wearing boat shoes on a daily basis. Overall, I feel you should wear what you like, what makes you comfortable (while respecting the ideas of fit and formality). My problem is with those who dress a certain way because an ad campaign, a company, a magazine tells them to do so.

      Though I admire Polo's ad campaigns from a professional standpoint, the ads don't dictate my style choices. My biggest style influence is family.

  4. I think its hilarious, Scott. Your observations and ability to keep your differentiations light and always funny has never disappointed your readers... myself included.

    1. Thanks for the kind words. Greatly appreciated, as always.