Preppy clothing’s roots can be traced back to the private universities of the early 1900s in the Northeastern United States. More specifically, it was considered as a uniquely Ivy League way to dress. Those who attended Ivy League schools were usually quite affluent and had grown up with old money. As a result, this style of clothing reflected popular upper class activities in New England at the time, such as rowing, golf, polo, and sailing. Historically, the style is associated with being well-educated and having a high income, but things have changed over the years and now people from all walks of life are welcomed to enjoy these clothes.
What is Preppy Clothing?
Preppy clothing is exactly what you would expect to see when a group of Ivy Leaguers board a yacht on Martha's Vineyard. The look is meant to show affluence, while staying comfortable. Men who dress in preppy clothing might wear things like crew-neck sweaters, button down shirts, boat shoes, Nantucket Reds, and argyle sweaters. You might also see varsity jackets or crested blazers. Women, on the other hand, might wear grosgrain belts, seersucker or madras dresses, pearl earrings, and penny loafers.
Making Preppy Famous
Despite its roots going back to the early 20th century, preppy clothing didn’t become part of mainstream culture until the 1950s. Around this time, cultural icons like Grace Kelly, Steve McQueen, John F. Kennedy, Audrey Hepburn, Paul Newman, and Jacqueline Kennedy adopted the style. Once the style started gaining mainstream acceptance, it was no longer reserved for Ivy League graduates, as anyone could wear these clothes if they enjoyed the look.
Modern fictional television characters like Zack Morris on “Saved By the Bell” and Carlton Banks on “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” have embraced preppy clothing and culture in the years since. Both of these characters were often mocked for their wardrobes, perhaps because of the style’s link to high society or because the characters were based in California, where preppy clothing is less prevalent.
Brand Name Preppy Designers
Today, preppy style is championed by large designers like Ralph Lauren, J. Crew, LL Bean, and Brooks Brothers. However, there are a number of young boutique preppy brands including Kiel James Patrick, Category 5, Smathers & Branson and of course, Nantucket Brand Clothing Company, as both a brand specializing in American-made seersucker and madras clothing, as well as a marketplace for finding new boutique preppy brands. To find the latest in boutique preppy clothing, as well as nautical decor, sign up for our email list, or browse our shop today.