It’s sort of a running joke that I have a tendency to dress like the type of guys I find myself attracted to — collared shirts under crewneck knits, loafers, blazers, a pocket square. I’m sorry to tell you that I actually wear my sweaters tied around my shoulders, and it’s not in an ironic way at all.
My inspiration stems from a combination of a romanticization of what I imagine my grandfather wore during his pre-war Yale days (I know, I know, Douche Bag Jar) and the uniformed boys of the Dead Poets Society. I look to old photographs of JFK too — his wife got the style accolades but this dude could dress. Surely there are designers known for their “preppy” aesthetic, but until recently, Jil Sander’s 2012 pre-fall collection was the only real fashion that served as my wardrobe’s muse. (Even then, the faux-collegiate “Js” were too obvious for my liking. No offense, Raf. You still rule.)
You can imagine my joy, then, when this Spring 2014 season, hints of a new prep began creeping in. This kind was a bit less obvious when compared to the standard pearls and twinsets. It was a modern take on the old classics, a nod to — but not full out pointing at — that old fashioned idea of a stereotypical WASP.
But it was there: Organic by John Patrick lead the way with his modest hem lengths and buttoned-up shirts. The flats kept it easy, approachable, preppy.
My next spotting was at Creatures of the Wind, where an updated take on a non-white tennis knit was shown over a polo and tucked into a skirt. This skirt, by the way, resembled the type of print typically reserved for wallpapered dining halls of very old-American clubhouses.
Then came a trio of modernized cricket sweaters at Rag & Bone, and at this point my prep-hunting felt a bit like bird watching: I began sitting at every show with a pair of proverbial binoculars (but how Lauren Hutton of me would it have been if I had ACTUAL binoculars), squinting my eyes in the hope of another sighting for prep.
I waited patiently through ’90s reruns, nodded politely at the space age and smiled approvingly at the weird. A case could be made for Karen Walker’s baggy sweaters, or Lacoste’s sportswear or even the bleached khaki at Reed Krakoff, but it wasn’t until Michael Kors that I felt myself perk back up again. His trench coats and trousers were enough to send me on a Pinning frenzy — to which I’ve created a board titled “HOW I WANT TO DRESS RIGHT NOW AND ALWAYS.”
Purists believe that true preppiness delineates a lifestyle, not one’s outfit choice; you’re preppy because you grew up in a coastal New England town and attended boarding school somewhere in Vermont, you learned to ski before you could walk and sailing comes as naturally as breathing. But where many mistake “preppy” as a synonym for rich (which is hard to argue considering it’s deep-rooted in old money) the clothing, you’ll notice, is never ostentatious. It’s always classic, like Organic, and sporty, per Rag & Bone.
The fun in fashion is that it allows us to be whoever we want. So if your last name doesn’t include the prefix ‘von’ and you grew up in a household closer to Detroit than Greenwich, you can still dress like a boy named Knox, wearing an outfit entirely inspired by the boarding school you didn’t attend — or, you know, Jil Sander resort.
Oh these old shoes, Muffy? Why, they’re Tabitha Simmons for Creatures of the Wind.