A year-and-a-half ago, before he was christened The Millennial Fogey, Daniel Greenwood wrote a piece for Ivy Style called “What Now? The Uncertain Future Of Neo-Prep.”
Now those in the towns that border Tradsville are starting to wonder the same thing.
Yesterday Put This On posted a long piece called “Whatever Happened To Prep?” The opening paragraph sets the scene:
In the mid-2000s, prep seemed ascendant. J. Crew sales were booming – critter shorts and tiny-collared OCBDs abounded. Grosgrain enthusiast Thom Browne won a CFDA award and got his own line at Brooks Brothers. Ralph Lauren launched an over-the-top youthful prep brand allegedly named after Ralph’s dog: Rugby. Vampire Weekend crooned about Cape Cod. Old prep labels like Gant were resurrected, and Barneys stocked new, prep-riffing labels like Band of Outsiders and Benjamin Bixby (well, they still have Band). The author of the Official Preppy Handbook was writing a sequel. Your favorite menswear bloggers were fiddling with Blogspot interfaces.
There’s no denying that the winds of fashion have changed, as they always do, and this is perhaps the right time to acknowledge the changes within Tradsville. Most of the hobby blogs have ceased; the Film Noir Buff Talk Ivy forum is quieter, with Ivy’s most infamous Internet troll now largely silent; and the Ivy Trendwatch category that monitored the publication of “Take Ivy” and the MFIT exhibit now rarely gets a new entry.
It’s somewhat ironic, then, that Ivy-Style.com’s own evolution has been to become more news-driven. While nostalgic images may have been a driving force for the first couple of years, today we find more fodder in what’s happening in the world around us — the clothes to wear, the people who wear them, and the endless fascination of social and temporal context. I think there’s a greater sense of immediacy in the site these days, even as the latest fashion moment winds down.
I spoke with Put This On’s reporter for nearly an hour. Fortunately he used my remarks about preppy-Ivy-trad being perennial. From the piece:
Prep has died many deaths. Counterculture killed the Ivy League look. Anti-yuppie sentiment killed prep. Rick Owens killed Rugby? But, as Williams told me, no matter what the style of the day is, “there will still be business for Ralph Lauren.” There will always be a prep flame burning in the window of a vaguely gothic building in Connecticut, and there will always be aspirants eager to learn everything about prep and then defend its borders, unasked. And despite indicators that prep is at an ebb, Vineyard Vines seems to be doing remarkably well.
“What remains, what has always remained, is this perennial style that goes back 100 years… This clothing will never go away,” said Chensvold. “There’s a new Polo flagship on 5th Avenue for all the tourists to see. It’s the same clothing. In fact, the uniform for associates when they opened was brushed shetland sweaters in all kids of bright colors you’d associate with preppy history.”
“Now that the fashion fascination is gone, what may remain is more true. Maybe there will be a rediscovery of the more sober side of things.”
It’s also worth acknowledging now, six-and-a-half years after launching this site, that I’ve had an absolute blast informing and entertaining you all — as well as being informed and entertained in turn. I’ve no immediate plans to retire (or get run over by another car), and regardless it is my wish that this ship always have a captain.
Soft shoulders and hard bop forever. — CHRISTIAN CHENSVOLD
Addendum: This t-shirt, seen last week at the Pop-Up Flea trade show, neatly summarizes the fashion industry’s exploitive nature. It was in the booth for Mark McNairy, who created it several years ago, ahead of the curve.
Christian, what do you think of the timeline PTO gives to the resurgence of prep? He threw out 2002 as a date (madras shorts) and 2005 (hard to find a slim fit ocbd)? Prep as a fashion was not ascendant where I was living during this period–Denver, CO and Burlington, VT. I became aware of its resurgence around 2009-10. Maybe I am just ignorant.
I’m not sure how you’d draw a timeline and what you’d peg it on. When you’re dealing with zeitgeisty stuff, there are typically multiple things happening at once. Andy’s Trad Forum begins in 2006 I believe, and RL Rugby was founded in late 2004. Around 2005 or so I was doing some copywriting for MAGIC International, which produces the fashion industry’s largest trade show, and I remember my editor talking about preppy making a comeback, including the brand Lacoste.
I also recall 2010 being “peak prep” in terms of media saturation. I like the conclusion of that article that argues that mainstays of trad/prep clothing like OCBD’s, shetlands, repp ties,etc., will most likely stick around and keep being produced by other companies even though the prep-trend is on the way out. I was introduced to this style and its history around 2010 (I did grow up with it but never put a name to it), and gravitated to its functionality and timelessness. I wouldn’t say it’s “basic” as one commentator puts out, but for me it strikes the perfect balance between stylish (the collar roll, grosgrain, and tie width acting as quiet signifiers that you know what’s up) and comfortable without being “look at me!!” the way a slim fit suit with functional cuff buttons, hacking pockets, and double monk shoes is. I also don’t have the desire or money to chase trends, and I’ll walk around naked before someone convinces me you can wear sweatpants in even a slightly formal setting. The aspirational / elitist bent of prep/trad/ivy I never got, but I think the clothes are here to stay.
Dressing neatly, presentably, and with classic panache is NEVER out of style. Now, pass my G&T over here, please.
Heinz-Ulrich von B.
The Wikipedia entry for RL Rugby says, “The [RL Rugby] brand specialized in Preppy/Rugby inspired lifestyle apparel for male and female clientele ages 16 through 25.” Since RL Rugby’s life began in 2004 and died in 2013, perhaps the market of the 16-25 year old cohort simply aged out. Less trendy trad hopefully will continue to live on.
Lacoste was mentioned above. This year, they reached back into time and produced a partially wooden tennis racquet (and, of course, a line of clothing to go with it). Kind of the reverse approach of RL Rugby. They seem to be trying to keep tradition alive.
A few weeks ago I wrote an essay on how ugly sporting goods equipment and footwear has become. I mention that beautiful Lacoste racquet, which I’d seen recently at a Lacoste media preview.
Unable to place the essay anywhere, I’d been meaning to just post it at the now-hibernating Golf Style site. You gave me the excuse to do just that, so here it is:
Wow, maybe the trend really is away from piling on the GTH and a rediscovery of a sober side of things:
You get MTM from Fred Castleberry (re-reading what I just wrote. Considering. And leaving it), you know he’s taking 6″ off the final product in all areas whether you want it or not. Caveat emptor.
Glad to give you an excuse–it’s a good article. I like your idea of getting Apple to open a sports division.
The death of Prep will not be mourned. Long live Trad/Ivy!
Lets be honest, if Prep is dying, IVY is already decomposed.
On a separate note, the PTO article was fantastic. Great job.
This is a sincere question. Is the article taking about the trend of prep dying for 18-24/25-34 year olds or is it bigger than that? I also thought it was weird that the word “trad” was never even mentioned. Not that I think it should be, but interesting that it wasn’t.
Christian, I enjoyed your contribution. I am glad that you were included.
I’m not too sure what you guys are talking about, “prep is dead.” It may be the people I hang out around and where in Manhattan I live but I today more so than any other point in my life see penny loafers being worn, OCBDs being worn to the office on Friday’s and on weekends, khakis and nantucket reds in the summer, tortoise glasses and tortoise wayfarers are common staple, in the winter camel hair jackets were so plentiful you had to have your monogram stitched on the inner pocket. Wingtips are hitting the shelves again, Cartier tanks and NATO bands are probably the more common watches of choice. Haircuts look more like a 1950s Greenwich Country Day year book photo than ever.
In fact at Club Monaco the other day they were selling Bass Weejuns! And that is no joke.
Regardless of that, I do see a lot of this hipster trash now, top knot haircuts, tattoos, super skinny pants, greasy hair, liberal politics (that make Bernie Sanders cringe), boots in the summer etc. But that is only in parts.
My family has a house in Southampton and Nantucket, while Southampton has a lot of foo foo nuevo there are still a lot of old money WASPs and preps, mainly at the Country Clubs. Nantucket will never change. When we’re in Newport you have super prep or super I don’t know how to describe it. Where I grew up (Greenwich) has changed a bit (not as WASPy more hedge fund managers) but the clothing style has largely stayed the same. In fact the European hunting store is still open and frequented.
My point being there may be down years (and politics strongly reflect clothing trends) but prep will never go.
I agree. I would assume by “The end of Prep”, it is the fashion industries roll in promoting their notion of neo-prep.
I hope that the media attention to classic clothing, natural fibers, and in general quality will stick as clothing guide for younger guys. I was in highschool in during the 80’s and we had access to a lot of great clothing. Then this awful trend called “business casual” came about. Business casual brought us things like disrespect for the necktie and clothing made out of recycled plastic drink bottles. I think that one big barrier to bringing classic quality back to stay is the fact that you have to pay such a premium for good clothing. Our predecessors dressed better but they had greater access to good clothing. Acquiring good clothing for today’s consumer sometimes takes to much effort.
@ Roger C. Russell II
I wondered whether you were right about good clothing costing less way back when (given that you’re point of reference is 1980s and mine 1960s). So I tested it out.
I googled “value dollar 1970”; came up with a calculator; and typed in $65.00, which is what I paid for a very nice pair of cordovan leather boots at the Johnston & Murphy store on Fifth Ave. That’s $404 in today’s currency. So, yes. Today they would cost at least double. And Johnston & Murphy doesn’t sell that kind of quality anymore either.
“your” not “you’re.”
“…the more sober side of things…”
Prep/Trad is style, Prep(py) is/was fashion.
IVY/Trad is style, Prep(py) is/was fashion.
I like that summary, Minimalist. Succinct and accurate. Très…minimalist!
Bruce Boyer quote from the article above…
As Bruce Boyer told me, “Since the Ivy look no longer has any authenticity on campus (or anywhere else), why should we expect it to be more than a costume of choice by a few, like any other costume?”
Bruce says “IVY” is a costume, you say it’s style.
“this perennial style that goes back 100 years… This clothing will never go away,” said Chensvold.”
And in 1825 John Jacob Astor, being told that the value of beaver pelts his company harvested from the American West was falling because men were not as partial to Beaver top hats as they used to be said: “This perennial style goes back more than 100 years… This clothing will never go away. In fact, I believe the tri-corner hat style of the 1770s is about to make a comeback.”
I would not dream of disagreeing with Bruce Boyer about anything at all, but I would argue that those who choose Ivy do so out of a sense of loyalty to tradition, while those who choose Prep(py) have simply never grown up.
By the way, as long as a mainstream clothier like Lands’ End still carries navy blazers, OCBD shirts, khakis, reppe stripe ties, and penny loafers, how can one claim that Ivy is decomposed?
Ivy/Trad is is conservative and repetitive.
Therein lies the secret of its charm and its ability to survive.
D. Calvert Greenwood referred to “true preppy style” as “clothing that could be described as Ivy style weekend wear”. As far as I recollect, during the heyday our weekend wear simply meant our weekday wear minus our neckties.
I salute you, Christian, for making this a blog not just about nostalgia but about, as you say, what’s alive around us. I thought the PTO article was very well done — and echoes my own squeamish-ness about an appreciation of the style without an appreciation of the snobbery and the elitism and (dare we say it) implicit racial codes that have gone with it. (Here in the South it’s an even murkier heritage.) But I still love the style nonetheless, and I’m glad this blog pays it loving tribute. Keep up the good work.
“By the way, as long as a mainstream clothier like Lands’ End still carries navy blazers, OCBD shirts, khakis, reppe stripe ties, and penny loafers, how can one claim that Ivy is decomposed?”
Sounds kind preppy to me… haha
On point to consider and not mentioned is that the country was much more conservative during most of the 2000s. Bush came into office in 2001 and remained there until the end of 2008. After that, though, the country seemed to have had enough of conservative presidents and may have been freighted by the Tea Party, which got vocal around 2007/2008. In any event, Obama was elected–not your prep president. As the country became less conservative towards the end of the decade, maybe it had enough of preppy fashion as well.
In the South, I see no sign of a retreat from Ivy/Prep. There have never been more bow ties and navy blazers.
The South is a more conservative place, however. The North East created Ivy through its conservative, elite schools. The South holds on to Ivy through its conservative, elite churches and social hierarchy. As long as the church is the center of Southern society, there will always be a tendency to lean towards a conservative type of clothing style. And since there is no new style that represents that ethos, Ivy will continue here and evolve rather than be replaced.
@ MCH I could not agree with you more. I have a friend who went to school in Georgia and they dressed no different than I see of my grandparents.
I also frequent Charleston on my off time, and it is a prep haven.
Only preppy when the shirts, ties, trousers and sometimes even the blazers are in nursery school/Crayola colors.
Preppy is distorted Ivy, in a manner of speaking
@ D.P.S. IV Yes, I feel it is more apparent on the East coast of Virginia, the Carolinas, and Georgia, but it has permeated throughout the South through its university systems. I say this because the more educated a church congregation, the more Ivy its members tend to be. Mainline Protestants, even in my small rural community, lean Ivy whereas Evangelical Protestants do not.
With the decline of the Mainline Protestants, however, the future is uncertain. I see some Evangelicals (especially Southern Baptists) beginning to dress Preppy thanks to the fraternities, but I do not know if it will stick.
You can tell how young some posters are by their reference to LL Bean and Lands End or even Abercrombie & Fitch being traditional purveyors of Ivy style. They hopped on the bandwagon long after RL started the revival. Till the 70s they were gear shops, sailing, hunting and safari.At a lower price point they do somethings almost well.
I’m 64, anyone want to guess how many times Ivy had been pronounced dead in my lifetime? My advise is to never throw anything out and stick with your look, every decade or so you’ll be the best dressed guy in your neighborhood. Guys will asking you for advice.
Play the long game.
I have to disagree. Khaki’s in khaki or stone, and solid blue or white OCBD are the foundation of a classic preppy wardrobe. You all have been around long enough to remember preps before the latest neo-prep movement. I think you all remember that classic university “IVY” is preppy kids a few years older. There’s this notion that they’re far removed and it just isn’t true.
What does it mean that Ivy no longer “has any authenticity” on campus or anywhere else?
The “costume of choice” stuff makes sense, but only a wee bit. Context. Boyer’s a small town PA guy, right? I don’t doubt that outside of the Mainline and Bucks County and a few private school fraternity houses, PA is as much a sartorial wasteland (from an Ivy perspective) as, say, Iowa. Context and culture. That said, I’d be fine with being wrong.
We keep returning to the South, don’t we? Particularly the richer suburbs of the bigger cities. Where preppies live and thrive.
All of this said, there’s a powerful 60s nostalgia among a subset of the hipster set. I get it. People just plain looked better back in those days.
I believe Prepdom, like Rock ’n Roll, will never die.
No, Prep is not dead and never will be – not totally — although it may shrink to the endangered species list with fewer and fewer breeding pairs.
Obviously, it’s an idea, a concept of how to live with grace and style, and an attempt to hold on to values and traditions that have proven worthy of maintaining (and defending). It might be asked: if one were to suddenly abolish everything inherent in the word “preppy”, then what would take its place? And would this alternative be superior, and if so how?
Yes, the people known as Preppies are mortal and die as John Knowles has his prep school hero do in, “A Separate Peace:”
“I did not cry then or ever about Finny. I did not cry even when I stood watching him being lowered into his family’s strait-laced burial ground outside Boston.”
Or like Kip, the older preppy in Robert Reichardt’s, “The Preppy and The Trout,” as he asks the narrator with his dying breath:
“How long will preppies be around?”
“Centuries, I guess. Maybe forever. As long as there is madras in the world.”
So be reassured. All it takes is enough intelligent, discerning individuals out there to assure that the so-called prep world will continue rumbling down its pink and green path into eternity.
I have held my tongue because I know so many people will not make the same conection. However, all of the temporary preps are losing motivation with the ending of Mad Men. I think that it is obvious one branch of industry such as fashion would feed off of another such aside television.
Yet on a more permanent note. I live in Memphis TN., and attended an all boys Catholic high school. I graduated in 1986. Our dress code was strict, blue blazers, khaki pants, ocbd’s, weejuns and neckties was the common look on campus.
Even on weekends we dressed the same minus the tie and blazer. I did not own a pair of jeans until I was in my late twenties. I still see a lot of present students from my old school at church and around town. Things look pretty much the same today. Perhaps there is hope for the future. I would have to describe our look as trad with prep influence.
@ MAC is that in reference to Lands End because my parents, grandparents, etc all have worn LL Bean and wear to this day. Bean Boots are essential as are there fishing sweaters. You may not want to tell HW Bush LL Bean is a modern company… /and no on said a thing about AnF
Shrinkage isn’t a fear. The problem with Brooks is that at some point the owners were not satisfied with their niche and went “mall” and outlet. They must diversify and cheapen in order to attract enough customers to fill their stores. Polo is large enough to continue to sell certain authentic items you’d never see in Brooks — a cricket/tennis sweater for instance. A women’s wear retailer once told me traditional clothing stores don’t work as there is not enough replacement business. Obviously a store such as J. Press works with a handful of stores and mail-order. Barely. Cost isn’t a great issue when buying a blue blazer that will last for years. It is when purchasing a trendy item. I don’t worry so long as Press, Mercer and Sons, Murray’s, and Alden survive. And Christian has an audience.
“The problem with Brooks is that at some point the owners were not satisfied with their niche and went “mall” and outlet.” That may be true. Alternatively, BB was losing market share and felt they had to do that to survive. Either way, they made the change. Isn’t that the rub, though? This style wants to stay the same while everything else about it is changing all the time?
Maybe not quite a cricket sweater, but close: http://www.brooksbrothers.com/Cricket-Vest/MS00459,default,pd.html
I do hope Press, Mercer, et al do stay in business, too.
@Christian & @JGH
Interesting question about the timeline of events, and how long this most recent trend had lasted. I was in high school from 2001-2005, and the prevalent look amongst guys who cared about their appearance at the time was undoubtedly of preppy persuasion: a lot of polos and oxford shirts, a preference for khaki shorts and pants over denim, and an occasional crew neck sweater here and there. It seems like, to me (and I know this statement will probably make many comment-leavers here cringe), that the beginning and end of the Rugby line seems to pretty well bookend the resurgence; 2004-2013, with the peak being from 2008-2012.
I’d be curious to know, from those of you who lived through it, how long the zeitgeist lasted that resulted from The Preppy Handbook? It always seemed to me that it went straight through the 80s and expired along with the decade itself, but I’d be interested to know individual perspectives.
No doubt folks wore the LL Bean Maine Hunting shoes and boots in the northeast, but the boots origins isn’t Ivy. LL bean was the north woods equivalent of Cabela’s. My point was that LE, Bean, A&E and Orvis were outfitters that jumped on the revival. It would be interesting when the Main Hunting Boot first showed up on college campuses. It would also be interesting to know when OCBDs, dress drills, blazers, and pennys showed up in their ll Bean catalogs. I thinking it wasn’t till the 70s, not the heydays of Ivy.
I’m not bad mouthing LL Bean, they’ve got $1000s from me since 1963, but not for Ivy clothing.
My take was that the run was from 1980-87, 87/88 ushered in the Wall Street movie with Flusser FU suits. Guys on the Street didn’t want to be plain ole Bud, they wanted to be Gekko. Armani suits began eating Trad market share as well. Does anyone know what suits JFK Jr. preferred? Looked pretty Armani to me.
If Lands’ End and LL Bean “jumped on the revival”, who started the revival, in your opinion?
It certainly wasn’t Brooks or Press; they weren’t reviving anything, just continuing a tradition.
I bought OCBD shirts and khaki trousers from both LLB and LE in the late 1960s.
Is it helpful to compare/contrast with a likely opposite?
What’s more the opposite of a button downed Oxford shirt, undarted natural shoulder “sack” coat, not overly creased pants, and loafers?
The power suit approach, or ‘casual Friday’ wear (khakis, polo shirt…).
Ivy’s controversial because it remains offensive to both camps. It’s sufficiently casual to turn the stomach of the dress-for-boardroom-success guy who takes his inspiration from CNBC (think Lawrence Kudlow) and too “dressed up” to appeal to the fellow who doesn’t necessarily have to wear a jacket and tie to work.
In the late 60s one could purchase Ivy style clothing at Sears and JC Penny. I thought we were discussing revivals of main streaming of Ivy. Christian posits the heyday ended in 1967, but we hardcore never left it.
I would suggest Ralph Lauren with his original Polo beginning in 1967 and continuing through the 1970s revived it with the help of guys like Bert Pulitzer, it exploded in around 1980.
No disrespect to the venerable Press, Brooks, Andover, etc., but the hrdcore across America didn’t purchase the bulk of their Ivy clothing from them. There were great shops in nearly every college town and large city established soon after WWII.
I studied at Berkeley from 1961-1965.
Even at that hotbed of dissent, all of the men’s clothiers there were Ivy shops. All of them.
@MAC I see what you’re saying now. Thanks for the clarification.
But I think to an extent more than others LL Bean started on the IVY train marketing to wealthy NE families. I could be young, my family loved the boots and to this day.
Time for another piece on polo shirts?
Let me start the ball rolling by asserting that solid navy and solid white are the only acceptable Trad colors.
All others are Preppy.
Hmm, what “Official Trad Handbook” did you read that in?
There’s a guy I’d like to introduce you to who says only black and navy socks are suitable for a gentleman. You two can discuss clothing in silence.
I will say, that without the upswing of “neo-preppy” in the mid part of the decade, I would have never truly discovered that way of dressing. When I first donning the clothing…I just looked god awdul, because everything was to tight and too loud, but then I started to do research. I’ve never looked back…Its a style that will stand with you through all years, and all life events
“And Johnston & Murphy doesn’t sell that kind of quality anymore either.”
To me, this is the saddest line on the page.
I’m not sure if the cost of shoes calculation is useful – was it absolute cost or adjusted? Because if the shoe was $67 but annual salaries were $15,000 for home buyers, then the price of a $400 shoe today is a bargain.
The problem is, today’s $400 shoes won’t last as long as mid-century $67 shoes. No question.
@Saigo-kun: While I agree with the mid-century goods are far superior to todays, the whole price comment is a little off based.
Well $67.00 in 1950 would be $657.71 in todays currency…. Remember that thing called real and nominal inflation?
Also you can not compare the two because of the change in CPI.
Lastly, 150k in 1950 is 147,260.79 in todays USD value.
*15k in 1950
Even in the south after people leave their colleges and fraternity’s most people go with a different style of dress. The bright colored clothes isn’t Add to dictionary in most places, it looks out of place and akward.
preppy is fashion, and that fashion is dead. the rl, tommy, all the kido stores. Go to one of those places and you will find mainly young kids. I don’t live in a rich suburb, but if you drive to somewhere like Malibu, some people dress a little preppy there for sure. but as a whole it seems like “trendy” clothes and mainstream fashion is really catching on with kids who fathers or grandparents where ivy. more and more people are deciding to go with trendy and hip than conservative clothes.
Fashion or trendy clothing is art done on clothing, I’m sure there are artistic people in the world who dress trad/ivy still but for most people they like to express themselves by what they wear, like wearing tattoos.
I also know that British fashion is a thing right now, and if you want to actually look at what minimalist clothing is go look at British fashion. that is real style.