Preppy Style Has Gone Mainstream — Thanks To Vineyard Vines?


Is it 1980, with “The Official Preppy Handbook” atop the best-seller list? Or perhaps it’s eight years later, with Ralph Lauren running epic 18-page narrative ad campaigns in Architectural Digest?

No? Then perhaps the space-time continuum is at 2004, when this time Ralph Lauren introduces Rugby, putting an irreverent twist on preppy classics for a new generation of college kids. Or maybe it’s 2010, when Lisa Birnbach releases her sequel, “True Prep.”

Alas, according to the calendar it’s the first week of 2016, and the only way you’d know it from the New York Observer’s lengthy article on the so-called return of prep is that the story is pegged on Vineyard Vines, who are benighted with the head-scratching headline, “Preppy Style Has Gone Mainstream, Thanks To Vineyard Vines.”

Now no one denies the company’s success, nor its spreading of the khaki-and-bright-colors gospel. At the opening party for its Upper East Side store about a year ago, I asked the company’s PR guy about the secret to the brand’s success, confessing that I couldn’t figure it out. The guy said that consumer love the whimsical sperm whale, which helped make prep style — however watered-down from the backwash of its own blowhole — approachable to the landlocked masses.

But hasn’t RL been doing mainstreaming prep in department stores and outlet malls for 30 years?

The article ends with the following:

Catcher In The Rye’s Holden Caulfield may have been the original rebel prepster, but he would shudder at the thought of a needlepoint belt purchased online, or a pair of workout shorts that weren’t his tennis whites, or a cap that didn’t commemorate his win in the 12-Metre Regatta. Thanks to Vineyard Vines, the preppy landscape has changed for good.

Head over here for the full headscratcher. Just don’t get dandruff on your Shaggy. — CC

25 Comments on "Preppy Style Has Gone Mainstream — Thanks To Vineyard Vines?"

  1. Chewco L.P. (master-feeder) | January 8, 2016 at 7:08 pm |


    I think what the article is purporting is not that Vineyard Vines made Preppy mainstream, but that Vineyard Vines made mainstream Preppy.

    Catch my drift? (Not that I agree with either claim).

  2. Gotta love the self proclamations. VV taking prep mainstream is as credible as T&C’s “Most Prepiest Couples” list!

  3. Their ties were pretty nice when they got started. I’d guess that the market for Vineyard Vines must be the high school and perhaps college crowd and it seems that their products now represent more of a caricature of “prep.”

    Might still buy a tie, but doubt I’ll be packing a Shemp Shirt if I go to Bermuda to watch the Americas Cup next year.

    The two founders are probably laughing all the way to the bank tough…

  4. After a quick perusal I’d describe the VV website as among the most lame and pathetic I’ve encountered. Clearly I’m not the target market.

  5. Slightly off topic, but I’m always a bit bemused when Holden Caulfield is held up as some kind of edgy hero: he was a textbook, by-the-numbers teenage alcoholic. Nothing more or less.

    VV reminds me of Tommy Hilfinger: been done long before, better and cheaper. The couple of times I was in a VV store, I just saw more mallwear

  6. Whimsical ties = Hermes; all others are pretenders. VV was taken very seriously by the HS-Univ crowd, although their parents have started wearing it which usually marks the demise of an aspirational brand that’s nascence was rooted in the HS-Univ market. For instance Lacoste, RL, LL Bean were introduced to the young by the old through closet raiding; vice verse for VV. A middle aged adult wearing VV is akin to them wearing A&F or Hollister.

  7. Vineyard Vines belts have the best buckles of any belts I have ever had. The buckles have a very smooth feel as one buckles one’s belt. My Vineyard Vines belts also have nice little boats, or game birds, or other interesting things on them.

    Some belts from some other makers are as plain as an old shoe and don’t have very good buckles.

  8. Chewco L.P. (master-feeder) | January 9, 2016 at 11:58 am |


    That’s exactly the point I was trying to make. Mainstream-Americana is starting to dress preppy on accident(?)

    Like you say: in the past it was the HS-Univ crowd purposefully adopting the “old closet.” Now it’s the old closet going after brands like VV not knowing it takes its inspiration from preppydom.

    And yes those ties look suspiciously like the Hermes template.

  9. One seriously wonders whether Zachary Weiss has actually read Catcher In The Rye.

  10. I think I own a single belt from VV, so I’m far from an expert on their quality. I recently visited their new KC store and found some items charming, but more preppy pastiche than RL authentic. That’s not to say Ralph doesn’t sell silly and contrived merchandise, but I prefer his slightly “tuned down” approach preppy/trad.

    I would definitely credit RL with “mainstreaming” prep or whatever and if VV encourages better dress or serves as “gateway Ivy,” all the better. My only criticism is that their items feel like costume more than apparel.

  11. James Redhouse | January 9, 2016 at 2:25 pm |


    The name of the book is “The Catcher in The Rye”, not “Catcher in the Rye”.

  12. It was AEV’s appearance on Unabashedly Prep with his door knocker sized whale belt buckle that took preppy mainstream… ok, probably not.

  13. Henry Contestwinner | January 9, 2016 at 4:44 pm |

    Problems in ¶4:

    “belies”? “it’s”?

    Methinks we need to sharpen the editor’s bleary eyes.

  14. I appreciate what they are doing, but I have never been tempted to purchase anything from them. Vineyard Vines, in my opinion, lacks the heritage and history I prefer. And most of their items come from China and elsewhere in Asia. I don’t know about their quality but they come across as a Polo “wannabe” with a lot more pinks and pastels.

  15. @Henry

    Fixed. Thanks.

  16. Henry Contestwinner | January 9, 2016 at 5:28 pm |

    Thank you, Christian, for allowing me to indulge in one of my favorite pasttimes: nit-picking!

  17. I’m a lousy copy editor so nit-pick typos and other errors to your heart’s delight.

  18. Shep (or is it Ian?) wears Crocs. Nuff said.

  19. After reading Gazza79’s comment about where some Vineyard Vines products are made, I looked at my belts. All my Vineyard Vines belts are made in the USA. As Gazza79 also mentioned pink, one of my Vineyard Vines belts is pink, with little blue lobsters and little white lobsters on it.

  20. Henry Contestwinner | January 11, 2016 at 2:12 pm |

    I just can’t get on board with the “vest and shorts” look, anymore than I could get on board with the “sweater and shorts” look. Are you hot or are you cold?

  21. Vineyard Vines used to make some great products when they were first starting out roughly 10-11 years ago. You used to only be able to find their stuff in and around Boston. I have some VV khakis that have lasted since when I bought them way back when and I wear them quite a bit. They also used to have a nice selection of ties, sweaters, and some other stuff.

  22. I used to get their emails until they sent one in which one of their founders, Shep or Ian (I don’t know the difference),was wearing crocs. I unsubscribed.

  23. @Henry

    Down vest or sweater with khaki shorts and OCBD are great if you live at the beach. That is my standard uniform for the weekends year round-unless the mercury drops below 40 degrees. Ironically, I still get asked why I am so dressed up on the weekend.


    Reading The Catcher in the Rye as a teenager screwed me up in countless ways. I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Franny and Zooey, in my opinion, was even better. I read both books sitting in a beach chair one summer on the north end of Virginia Beach. I discovered cigarettes a couple of weeks before. Having a very convincing fake ID (I was eighteen) being able to pass for twenty one and having a job as a waiter in the evenings gave me plenty of time to read, smoke, drink, work on my tan and see great looking girls. Great times. I believe The Breakfast Club was playing in the theaters. I tried watching it a few years ago (God-awful!)


  24. Henry Contestwinner | January 13, 2016 at 12:19 am |

    Will Sacksuit,

    I live and work at the beach (well, in a seaside community that has beaches). I still don’t find the combination to make any sense, though I will admit to wearing sweatshirts and shorts when I lived in Hawaii, but only when the temperature dipped below 70° F—brrrrr!

  25. @Henry

    Manly! ;0P


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