The initial preppy style actually started around 1910-1912 before becoming popularly known as Ivy Style in the mid-1940s.
One of the first and most iconic preppy brands, J. Press, began to develop fashions that were sold exclusively to the various Northeastern collegiate and many believe that it was that J.Press that helped to shape the preppy subculture we know today. By the mid-twentieth century, the two most iconic preppy haberdasheries had developed storefronts on campus at Harvard, Princeton, and Yale. It was Brooks Brothers and J.Press that started the trends, giving affluent Ivy League students onsite shopping, which resulted in much of the campus wearing their clothing.
With the popularity of traditional New England activities such as sailing, fencing, rowing, tennis, golf, and polo, many of the fashions that were designed for sale on campus were reflective of these leisurely pastimes. Since much of the clothing sold were influenced by these activities, it stood to reason that students on campus began wearing the clothing to those respective events, matches and games. Since students often spent much of their off-campus time together, many of them traveled with their families to Palm Beach, Florida, which really became the quintessential preppy vacation hotspot. It was here that many of the companies outfitting these Ivy Leaguers were inspired to begin using the bright colors found in Palm Beach in their clothing, a contributing factor to why preps are so well known today for wearing such brightly colored attire. By the 1980s, preppy style was in a class of its own with dozens of companies opening up shop to cater to a wealthy clientele who treated clothes with a passion hardly seen in America before.
Preppy style is more than just fashion, it’s a lifestyle and an entire subculture. It’s widely adopted in America and other parts of the world and the information available on it is so vast it has managed to fill entire books. We’re going to continue this series in an effort to talk about the entirety of the culture, including reviewing specific products and companies that have become synonymous with the culture itself. If you are interested in learning more about it, I wholeheartedly recommend the “bible” being the books True Prep and The Official Preppy Handbook, both of which are written by the famous and incredible author Lisa Birnbach. They are very tongue-in-cheek, but offer a great glimpse into the “old new world” as she calls it. Stay tuned for our next article in this series where we’ll talk a little about the cultural side of being a prep.