October 18, 2005

"The Preppy Handbook."

For some reason, I was just thinking about "The Preppy Handbook," which came out a quarter century ago. Do people still read it? Checking Amazon, I see they do. There are many five-star reviews from within the last year (even though you can't actually buy the book on Amazon). An example:
This book written in 1980 says that the Preppy outlook is timeless. As a non-prep, I can't vouch for all the features, but as for clothes and jobs it still holds true. Putting aside all the details in this book (which are many) is a certain "je n'est ce what the f*ck" unique to the preppy worldview that this author has revealed.

As for clothes, J.Crew 25 years later still features the same Fair Isle sweaters, the hot pink and lime green striped grosgrain belts, the loud print skirts (small prints are considered "ditsy"), and the embroidered repeating motifs on pants. All of these things that I just thought were... ugly, actually are quintessential preppy style.


Robert said...

I still have my madras jacket around somewhere. And I never stopped wearing chinos.

katiebakes said...

Oh, people definitely still read it. I believe it's out of print these days, but I was given a copy as a birthday present from an ex boyfriend. Great gift!!

I am sure the book picked up some extra recognition with the recent "trendiness" of the preppy look.

It's kind of crazy how timeless the book seems. Wasn't it published almost 20 years ago? Nearly every description reminds me of a friend, family member, custom, or place.

Jeff said...

I read an interview with a few (black) guys in a hip-hop crew. They were all middle-class and had grown up somewhwere that wasn't too diverse.

They mentioned how fond they had been of the "Preppie Handbook" when they were in high school!
They used it as a style handbook, learning how to sport their interpretation of the preppie look.
This would have been in the late 80's early 90's, I think.

Bruce Hayden said...

At least in Denver, the prep school kids today don't dress all that differently than do the public school kids - while they did back when I was in high school. Indeed,when I was at college, it was fairly easy to pick out the preppies from the rest of us. But then, most of the prep schools then were still requiring uniforms of sorts (i.e. coat and tie for boys).

At these prep schools, you seem to get almost as much Goth as you get traditional preppy. The bulk though seem to wear just somewhat more conservative and modest wear than their public school peers. No tummy or tits visible on the girls and skirts not too short. That sort of thing. Some loosening up after school, but not as much as you might expect. But overall, modest and clean.

The big place where there does seem to be a difference though is in fitness. Fat preppies are few and far between, due to mandatory athletics. A group of preppie girls looks more like an athletic team than almost anything else - except that the give away is their average range of heights.

vbspurs said...

Oh I am sorry this thread didn't take off as much as others.

The Preppy Handbook, when I first saw it, caused me endless mirth.

It relates to a specific kind of American British-copy-cattism, which I thought went out with Katharine Hepburn (Bryn Mawr, '28) in the Philadelphia Story.

I can't tell you how many times I chuckled at the drawings, especially of the "Types" Preppies would become as they aged.

From the sketches of the little tykes with their Steiff bears and woody wagons, to the young professionals with their grosgrain Lacrosse watches, to finally, flushed with worldly success, the slicked-backed country club husband and wife duo, sipping the tipple of choice for all Preppies -- the Bloody Mary.

And don't forget the Prep Hall of Fame:

George Bush Sr -- Andover 1940s
Queen Noor -- Concord 1970s
Jacqueline Kennedy -- Miss Porters 1940s

And one particular entry for McGeorge Bundy, famously the NSA for President Kennedy, I'll never forget.

"The ultimate prep name -- one which sounds preppy either with McGeorge or Bundy in front"


Nice post idea, Ann!


Mad said...

Pardon. I believe you meant to write "je ne sais what the fuck." Je, n'est, and ce are French words, but together they mean something like "I isn't this."

rob robbins said...

This brought back wonderful memories of my high school days. I read this book front to back, time and time again. It has been a guide to my life. There is nothing wrong with clothing from Brooks Brothers, JOS A Banks, Ralph Lauren, ect.. Its more a way of dressing and conducting yourself for life. I'd like to have another copy!

Charlie said...

Wasn't satire the original intent of the author(s)?