Monday, October 5, 2009

The Updated Preppy Handbook: A Preppy Primer

The original Official Preppy Handbook, published in 1980, was written by a group of recent ivy-league graduates. A tongue-in-cheek guide written by the Preppy, for the preppy, it served as a style guide to a generation coming of age. As noted by one of the original Handbook’s co-authors in a 2005 New York Times piece, the popularity of preppy clothing has increased greatly in the last three decades. To some, Preppy remains a lifestyle and an ethos, not merely a polo shirt. This guide is intended as an homage to true Prep, not the Izod-and-Wayfarer-clad excess of the ‘80s, the Abercrombie-and-Fitch-sporting shopping mall culture of the ‘90s, or the self-conscious designer prep of the ‘00s. True Prep is classic, timeless and always in good taste. It is not flashy, showy, obnoxious or ostentatious; it is reserved, understated, simple and functional. True Prep is about continuity, tradition and grace.

Each of the authors was raised in a Northeastern preppy enclave and educated at an institution named in the original Preppy Handbook. We admit, however, that we are not immune to the lure of things that sparkle, the thrill of a beautiful dress or the ladylike feeling that comes from donning a decidedly-un-Preppy high heel on occasion. As children of the ‘80s, we were raised without a mold to cling to, and we have each defied expectations in some way. Yet we cling to the time-honored traditions of the Prep – quality above quantity, old above new, and functional over fussy – because they are in our blood and because they are, sometimes, our only compass as we navigate modern life.

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