I like cardigans—a lot. And I have a particular weakness for the camel-coloured wool variety. My penny loafer collection is gaining ground. I find argyle bowties to be the perfect accessory. It’s time to come clean: My name is Jenny and my wardrobe is heavily under the influence of prep. And while pearls may not win any attention in a crowded bar, Jeffrey Banks and Doria de la Chapelle’s Preppy: Cultivating Ivy Style helped me feel more loving towards the boring (I mean classic) garments that have overrun my closet. Their book explores the roots and history of the classic collegiate look and its evolution into a clean-cut staple that’s, well, kind of everywhere.
The book has the basics to share: prep was born and bred in the early 1900s by Ivy League boys on the East Coast who paired athletic clothes with refined classics and emblems of their school pride (pins, ribbons, badges). To be a true prep, conformity was key, and often membership to the exclusive clubs came down to getting the details just so, like the roll of a cuff or the colour and print of your necktie. By the 1930s, the style was adopted by women and quickly spread to the leisure loving upper class who wore kooky, clean-cut frocks to Palm Beach and the golf course. In the book Thrift Score, Al Hoff perfectly describes some of prep’s most iconic looks, when she suggests throwing a preppy themed party where attendees should don “blazers, madras shorts, polo shirts (Lacoste only please, Ralph Lauren is an interloper), green belts with whales, monogrammed crewneck sweaters with a pattern of little ducks,” and anything nautical.