October 24, 2005

The preppy look -- what does it mean?

Here's NYT op-ed about the preppy look:
[T]hat craving for order may have been what made the preppy world look interesting in the summer of 1980, when a group of glib Ivy Leaguers (including me) put together the book as a tongue-in-cheek guide to one of America's obscure little subcultures.
Hey, we were just talking about "The Preppy Handbook" here last week!

Anyway, you might think from that excerpt that the piece would end with a pithy political observation about how today is like 1980. But no:
And now [preppies are] back. It makes sense, I suppose, from a fashion point of view. We just got through the hippie phase and preppy was due to be recycled. The alligator shirts and wood-framed handbags are a pure fashion revival, though, with little reference to the original subculture that spawned them.
Maybe sometimes fashion is just fashion, and it doesn't mean a damned thing. And we're not even going to amuse ourselves by reading meaning into it?

That's kind of a new idea, isn't it?

I wonder what that means about what our culture is coming to?

14 comments:

Matt Brown said...

Does it mean that we live in a post-postmodern society, or a post-post-postmodern society? Maybe it's prep-postmodern.

Mark Kaplan said...

The new series of Ameriprise television commercials is an attempt to capture the "hippy to preppy" cultural phenomonenon. It's complete with Steve Winwood music.

bill said...

Wasn't it Freud who said, "Sometimes an upturned collar is just an upturned collar"?

Bruce Hayden said...

My daughter was surprised to discover how easy the upturned collar thing is. You just have to drip dry your knit shirts with the collars turned up - which is how they often come out of the washing machine.

I accidently found myself with that look a couple of years ago, and now consciously turn those collars down when hanging them up to dry.

PatCA said...

Sometimes fashion is just fashion.

I wonder what it means, though, when the anti-wr protestors of today wear tie-dye shirts and peace symbol jewelry, have long lanky hair, strum acoustic guitars with '60s anthems. So is politics fashion, too?

Neil said...

It all just means that the 20-year recycle period continues. "Happy Days" and the 50's in the 1970's. The 60's in the 80's. Disco in the 90's. So, now it's time for Reagan era preppyiness. That means in about 10 years, the Macarena should be back.

SippicanCottage said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
tefta said...

Dare we hope that those enormous pants the kids are wearing that slip down dangerously low on their hips, will be a thing of the past?

Ron said...

Wake me up when impossibly short skirts are back in fashion...until then, le plus ca change...

Ann Althouse said...

Tefta: If so, expect them to come back, round about 2025.

John(classic) said...

I have done very well for 40 years by never throwing anything out. Just wait for it to be fashionable again.

As I am retired this does cause the occasional quandary. When told on rare occasion to wear a tie a quick trip to google images to determine whether I should select a wide or narrow one is sometimes needed.

Sadly, I have not been able to use the knit ties from prep school, 1965. But I am sure if I live long enough...

Use is also limited because I am not a preppy dresser. Some time back I built a back deck. The best outfit for this rough work was a pair of old bib overalls in a classic "mattress tick" striped denim herringbone. To put it bluntly, it avoid's plumber's crack.

I have a beard and a damaged short term memory. So as I worked I also wrote down a list of needed purchases on a scrap piece of 2x12 as they became apparent. That piece of scrap momentarily mislaid, I started a second until I found the first agin. I then took both pieces of scrap and set off to Home Depot.

There I walked up to one of those hard to find but helpful employees, and "opening" the two wooden scraps proceeded to ask him where I would find some things on the lists.

A passerby declaimed, "My gosh! It's Moses come down from the mountain with the missing commandments."

The clerk and I looked at one another, fighting for control, and then started laughing--loud guffaws that attracted even more attention.

Needless to say "Moses" got excellent service with a continually reappearing smile..and occasional giggle.

knoxgirl said...

"we may be running out of past."

I'm looking forward to it... time to come up with something new already!

Look for flannel shirts, ripped jeans, and "heroine chic" next.

Nancy said...

I recall the colors pink and green being very preppy. If you've kept your eye on the handbag industry, you could have predicted the preppy comeback a few years ago--lots of pink and green leather purses. My old boss on Seventh Ave. told me that the leather industry--because leather takes longer to manufacture, and thus has an earlier buying season--sets what colors the fabric industry will choose.

Ruth Anne Adams said...

I was first acquainted with The Preppy Handbook in my freshman year in college [1981]. I was a rural smalltown girl who felt woefully ill-equipped to deal with the trust fund babies I encountered at college. These suburbanites sported shiny rain slickers and silly looking duck boots. One prep-school fellow, Butchie, smelled like he swam in "Polo". I didn't understand it, but still aspired to it. I was highly impressionable during those early 80s. Now I just buy Land's End and Eddie Bauer.

Classic is, well, classic.

Nancy--Thanks for the fashion insight.