The Shape Of Things To Come


There are multiple meanings in the headline above.

For starters, there’s the coming winter weather, which will require coats like the one pictured above, which is coming to a retailer near you. It’s a toggle coat in rugby stripes and is either brilliant or monstrous, depending on whether or not you take your whisky straight.

As far as “shape” goes, the coat looks to provide the soft, robe-like feeling you get from a polo coat.

And finally, the item above — made by Tommy Hilfiger and snapped last week at the Fifth Avenue store — signals the end of our string of “cool Ivy” posts and the start of neo-prep. Tomorrow, contributing writer Daniel Greenwood will present an extensive survey of the neo-prep landscape, from the opening of York Street to the closing of Rugby. Here’s a preview:

The Punk-Prep cultural moment seems to have reached its high water mark from 2010 to 2011. Perhaps the most glaring example of the existence of this PunkPrep subset was 2010’s collaboration between J. Press and, mind boggling as it may seem, Urban Outfitters.

Books published during these years included the re-released “Take Ivy,” “Hollywood And The Ivy Look,” “Preppy: Cultivating Ivy Style,” and Lisa Birnbach’s return to prepdom with “True Prep,” among many other writings both in print and on the Internet. In the spring of 2011, Tommy Hilfiger’s namesake brand emarked on what was billed a “Prep World Tour,” setting up temporary shops in public spaces across the world’s capitals in miniature faux-New England cottages.

After some setbacks in various American locales, Rugby Ralph Lauren opened a store in London in the fall of 2011.  Punk-preppy blogs, foremost among them Unabashedly Prep, reflected an active (if not overwhelming) population of young adults interested in taking preppy staples and wearing them in ways that felt current, items of clothing that were steeped in heritage (not always fully appreciated or understood), worn alongside neon sneakers that would pass muster at any ecstasy-soaked Röyksopp (for the fogeys: a Norwegian electronic “music” duo) concert.

Stay tuned for pink and green skulls and crossbones. — CC

49 Comments on "The Shape Of Things To Come"

  1. This jacket is a mess (as is the styling of it on the patent black mannequin).

    Is Hilfiger paying you?

  2. Good lord, AEV, the post was live for like 20 seconds. At least we took care of the Fred reference for you.

  3. I don’t follow – I commented too quickly? Sorry?

    Is Hilfiger paying you?

  4. Paying me for what? To say that some people might find that monstrous?

  5. Jesus – c’mon. Are they paying you as a sponsor? Are they paying you to profile their products (the tie last week, this jacket…)? Are they gifting you product(s), with a wink and a quid pro quo?

    I think we all know how this blog twilight zone works – just trying to understand what your commecial relationship might be with Hilfiger…

  6. I don’t understand the “punk” association at all. There’s nothing punk, or counter-culture, or boundary pushing, or creative, about neo-prep. In fact, in most ways, this monstrous trend is the opposite of punk…..

    Should be an interesting thread indeed.

  7. is this another ironic post, like the ivy aesthetic one?

  8. @AEV

    Pure coincidence regarding the Tommy tie and this coat.

    In regards to the quid-pro-quo twilight zone of blogs, I’d advise you to note the difference between myself and amateur bloggers who don’t come from a journalism background. I try to keep the church and state as separate as possible, while still aware that I’m a publisher and this is a business. It’s a tightrope and often no fun, as I’m an editor by temperament, not a publisher.

    But I’m thankful you brought this up in your always-delightful way, as I’ve never addressed this before. So here’s my policy:

    I do not accept goods or payment in exchange for publicity. I run images and stories I feel are newsworthy, whether the news is good or bad, and it will be good or bad to different readers.

    However, certain companies do occasionally give me something as a way of saying thanks for the coverage. This kind gesture, of course, is hardly necessary as I would have done the coverage anyway. Such gifts are rare and small and anyone reading this who’s inclined to bitter jealousy should probably direct it at his coworkers who get invited on the boss’ yacht and then get a promotion and not waste precious bile on a blogger who gets a shirt every once in a while.

    Companies ask me almost daily whether they can send me something free to “review” (and keep). Just last week some shopping company wanted to give me a $250 gift certificate to Brooks Brothers to review their shopping experience. AmEx was also tied in somehow. I tried to work out a way to give it away to you readers, perhaps securing multiple ones, but they wouldn’t go for it and I refused the card.

    Every time I get these kinds of overtures I always put you guys ahead of me. That’s why I believe we were one of the first sites to really push with giveaways, and Henry won quite a bounty for the 10,000th comment giveaway. I set up the giveaway for you guys, not so I could get something for myself.

    One of the things we learn early in publishing is that you have to put the reader first. I don’t run navel-gazing minutiae about my daily life, tales of former amorous glory, nor base the blog on “selfies” (the word of the year, so quotation marks won’t be necessary). I present you with news, information, analysis and entertainment.

    I sell display advertising on the site, but I believe if you look objectively and compare us to some of the Savile Row bloggers or some of the fellow prep ones, or ASW where content can consist of items newly arrived in the online shop, is one of the least commercially driven sites as far as content goes.

    That said, I am planning a holiday gift guide, our first, as I recall, in our five years.

    I’m well aware there are curmudgeons and conspiracy theorists and every other sort of malcontent out there who think everything’s rigged and corrupt. “A man believes what he wants to believe,” as the saying goes.

    But there it is, from my keyboard to your eyes.

  9. I appreciate that. Thank you. I hope you understand, from a readers’ perspective, how useful such clarifications can be.

  10. Is AEV a troll built to lure the lurking, non-commenting readers into the comment section? As much as i dislike his comments, i still end up reading them all…

  11. I do hope that when the piece is published people understand that “Punk-Prep” as a fashion moment was really neither, but its own beast that used both items of clothing and lexicons purloined from both.

  12. @TCM. No – but, be careful with your use of “…” – people will be forced to assume that your comments are actually mine, written under your intials.

  13. Just landed in my inbox:

    “Hope everything is going well! One of my menswear brands, [XXXXX], would like to gift you a few pieces. What’s the best address to have the pieces sent to?”

    Look how overt it is. And I’m sure most of the time it works.

  14. I assume you had them forwarded to Fred in Brooklyn.

  15. @AEV-

    It was your use of the “dash” remember?


    Where/when was the term “punk-prep” coined? I don’t see the correlation. Punky Brewster maybe.

  16. “The Official Preppy Handbook” has a page on the punk-prep connection, so there is historical precedent. I believe DCG uses it to refer to the skull and crossbones stuff Rugby did a lot of, and the general irreverent attitude that guided Rugby through at least part of its existence. I was encouraged to take this tone/POV in some of the posts I did for the Rugby blog.

  17. 1. The (original) Preppy Handbook was pure satire
    2. The very brief piece on the punk-prep conenction contained therein described (and pictured) a (satirical) phenonmenon that is/was nothing like Rugby, Fred Egan Castleberry, Gant Rugger, or York Street
    3. The Skull and Crossbones motif was used for years by retailers like J. Press and Chipp….decades before Rugby aped it
    4. I think it’s safe to assume that if such a thing as punk-preps existed in the 70s/80s, they wouldn’t have had blogs (plus 10 other public platforms) where they posted pictures of themselves in gifted, trendy clothing

  18. To clarify, the preppy handbook is irreverent and spot-on:

    In black/white, either/or discussions online some people will dismiss it offhandedly as “satire” in a way of saying it’s invalid, inaccurate or irrelevant. These are probably the same people who were extremely confused in school by Swift’s “Modest Proposal.”

    There are also people out there who still don’t understand why their browser isn’t redirecting them to

  19. I personally met Ms. Birnbach at a book signing event and asked her, point blank, if it was satire. She replied, “Yes, of course…” – as if anyone who took it seriously was an idiot.

    I get the sense that she struggles with that fact as an author….especially one who tried to take advatage of the neo prep moment and write/sell a sequel…

    Regardless, my larger point is that the “punk-prep” profiled in the book is nothing at all like the neo-prep of today – it just isn’t.

  20. That’s hysterical that you didn’t trust your own exegesis of the tome and had to actually ask the author — and believed her!

  21. It was in the context of a larger, group conversation – at the time of the release of her last book – where a bunch of Georgetown students were asking her specific questions about the original one that made it clear they all took it way, way too seriously. I asked her the question to make a point and save the room for any more overwrought analysis…

    To be honest, I’ve never owned a copy of the book….though many of my friends did/do.

  22. @CC – I suppose Ms. Birnbach could have been engaging me in some sort of ironic verbal double-cross, but I think her (and most professional reviewers’) take on the book’s underpinnings has been clear for some time:

    NYTimes, 4/2010:

    “Ms. Birnbach, 52, insists that the first book was intended to gently mock prep-school culture. She says she was surprised by how many people took it so seriously.”

    Harvard Crimson, 4/1981:

    “…Although the “handbook” is a satirical attack at the preppy lifestyle. Birnbach said she is really “pro-preppy.” She feels, however, that the preppies “have to laugh at themselves.”

    LATimes, 8/1988:

    “Reviewers hailed Lisa Birnbach’s “acerbic” wit when she published “The Preppy Handbook,” her guide to ivy college culture, in 1983. But Birnbach’s biting tone actually conceals considerable affection for her subject, illustrating how subtle the spoof can be as an art form. By making fun of certain character traits, satire welcomes them into our culture; to laugh knowingly at a cartoon or character sketch, in other words, is to participate in an act of inclusion.”

    And so on. When I say it was pure satire, I don’t at all mean that’s invalid/inaccurate. I simply mean it’s satire – and not to be taken, as Birnbach says, “so seriously” (e.g. referencing it, as you did, as historical proof that the term ‘punk-prep’ has some sort of current day applicability or relevance…).

  23. I don’t understand that coat, Christian. Perhaps you could explain it for me?

  24. P.S. @AEV I have read your many comments and conclude that you seem to be a sensible fellow; how many angels do you think fit on a pin head?

  25. It is amusing reading the opinions of commenters who may not have even been born when the Preppy Handbook was published or when punk rock took off.

    Was there a prep-punk connection in 1980? Probably so. I will give you one example – Henry Rollins went to Bullis Prep. Both preppy and punk rock were big trends at the time, probably like jazz and Ivy in the 1960’s. But punk rock had little to do with neon sneakers and I do not remember seeing any skull and crossbone symbols. I think McNairy invented that.

    There was also a strong preppy beach-music connection, a Grateful Dead connection, and according to Whit Stillman, a disco connection as well, so I am not sure what any of this means, but I look forward to reading the article.

  26. @Redcoat – First off, are you a tory? I believe Nov 25th is Evacuation Day, I will be sure to celebrate your absence. Secondly, what is there to explain – it’s a preposterous coat that reeks of try-hard neo-prepdom. They aren’t using rope to hold the toggles is one big distinction from the traditional duffle coat. I know Rugby used to make one in a similar aesthetic, but it was actually much more ugly than this. Here’s one still on eBay:

    As a disclaimer, I was a fan of Rugby, I found some novelties fun but was mostly a fan because they had things in my size, and specifically the Caruso suits. The above is just an example of some the horrible things they made that eventually led to their demise.

  27. The first time I was ever told that I looked like a preppy was at the office where I was working in ’88-’89. I was horrified to be accused of such a thing. I pointed out, indignantly, that I was wearing combat boots. The woman who had made the accusation clarified that if she had seen me on the Harvard campus (from which she had just graduated at the time) she would have assumed I had attended Phillips, or St. Grottlesex, or some such. Thus, she was using the term “preppy” in the most literal sense, and not in any figurative fashion-industry sense. And she explained that my outfit (which I don’t fully remember, but there was a sweater and tie involved, in addition to the aforementioned boots) would have been typical for the actual prep-school boys from her days at Harvard, and that they would always try to “mix things up.” Thus, even in the mid-80s, when people all over the country were taking Ms. Birnbach’s book as an instruction manual, the actual recent prep school grads were apparently walking around in combat boots, and I had unwittingly ended up looking as if I were one of them.

  28. I’d much rather see kids on college campuses walking around in these coats than in sweats and pajamas any day. Luckily, I attend a school where Barbours, Pea Coats, and (traditionally colored) duffle coats are the norm.

    I do agree with @cameron that most prep school kids mix things up in their attire. The former Choate, St. Andrews, Kent, etc. kids I see today generally avoid going “full prep” by mixing athletic/military-inspired pieces with traditionally “prep” options, i.e. khakis and ocbd with timberland/combat boots; Shetland sweaters paired with athletic outerwear, T-shirts, jeans, and top-siders with pea coats, etc.

  29. Christian,

    I’d request a gifted bottle of Advil to aide the massive headache you must get from reading the comments section.

  30. Okay, I see, you have to buy the scarf, too, because the idiot coat doesn’t close all the way. Good marketing, as I’m sure the cognoscenti will buy one that fits like that.

    When I was in my small-town/rural public high school in NC, mid-60s, what was probably prep was referred to as “fratty”, and the beach-music connection was solid.

    For those not from the Virginia Beach-to-Grand Strand area, beach music is not Beach Boys ,but a sub-genre of doo-wop, R&B, small dash of Motown…hard to explain, but anyone from there can pick it out

  31. “Punk Prep”!
    Fashion industry is fantastic!!
    Fron Pee Wee Herman silhouette to punk prep!
    Thanks Lord for our Sicilian (affordable) tailors that dress me as my dad, in a 1955 Italian classic style.

  32. For readers from the other side of the Atlantic: there’s a large overlap between what’s known as beach music (a.k.a. “Carolina beach music”, and what’s known in the UK as “northern soul”. While the northern soul DJ’s tend to focus on songs that weren’t hits when they were released (not hits in the UK, at any rate – some northern soul classics did pretty well as regional hits in the US – back when there was such a thing as a regional hit), beach music DJs have no qualms about playing songs that were massive hits in the 60s and early 70s. Also, while the northern soul DJs tend to favor almost all up-tempo songs, the beach music DJs once again are more permissive – happily playing slower tunes as well.

    I’ve seen some interesting reactions from Brits when they’ve heard people from the Carolinas refer to certain songs as music “for shagging”. Shagging is a kind of dance . .

  33. 1. I took TOPH as an instruction manual back then, and I still do. Anybody who examines the book carefully will see that although itmis heavily sprinkled with humor, it is full of serious, accurate descriptions of preppy/ivy style at the time.

    2. Is that jacket in the photo two sizes too small, or only one?

  34. İtmis = it is

    I hate iPhone keyboards.

  35. The ultimate satire from the handbook was that people actually did use it as an instruction manual and dressed accordingly. The clear mark that some poor village had lost it’s idiot.

  36. “Richard” displayed it prominently and non-ironically in his home.

  37. TOPH opened up a window on the world of people who knew how to dress properly for those of us who lived in “villages” like Los Angeles.

  38. Why would you want a style that didn’t reflect your honest life? Pretty shallow and well pathetic LA would be an anomoly as ieverything is either a carricuture or costume already…

    Christian drives the point home with a Richard reference. Awesome.

  39. It would be interesting to have seen the point of sale footprint for TOPH back in the day. I would bet that it was overwhelmingly purchased and read by the very demographic LB was writing about. I doubt anyone outside of the tribe “got it” or “wanted it.”.

    However, Gatsby and Tom Buchanan come to mind. One wanted to be it, the other was it. To Buchanan would have loved the TOPH humor. Gatsby, on the other hand, would have used it as an instructional manual to be emulated.

    Was Gatsby a neo-prep?

  40. fred astaire | November 21, 2013 at 3:11 pm |

    Why would anyone buy a winter coat that didn’t close and assist in keeping you warm–the reason for wearing a winter coat in the first place???


  41. @M Arthur, that’s an odd bit of hypothesizing for someone who appears to have love and respect for the work of one Fred Egan Castleberry (how’s your bomber jacket looking this season?).

    Fred, a small town TX native who attended a no-name TX Baptist college and who spent the balance of his adult life dressed in Abercrombie, hoodies, graphic T-shirts, and flip flops, is now an expert on all things ‘prep’. He’s also frequently references TPH and has profiled it and its off shoots numerous times. So, unless you consider ‘Egan’ to be ‘part of the tribe’, I think I’ll use him as my case in point….

  42. Paste all of AEV’s comments together and you’ve got “Fred, The Unauthorized Biography.”

  43. @E

    The vast majority of people who adhered to Ivy Style adopted it because it represented something they aspired to. That is as true today as it was then.

  44. @AEV
    There is no greater love and respect for FEC than to engage him for a personal photo shoot. No?

  45. @M Arthur – No. As has been stated numerous times, I allowed Fred to photograph me to shut him – and his fans (e.g. you) – up. Based on the comments associated with my 5 photos (and the precipitous decline in his blog comments/traffic in general), it worked.

    I’d love to see some shots of you in your bomber jacket.

  46. “@E

    The vast majority of people who adhered to Ivy Style adopted it because it represented something they aspired to. That is as true today as it was then. ”

    Chump speak at it’s finest. It wasn’t aspirational to the the original folks who created the style as they already came from old money to begin with. It’s not very aspirational outside a select group of people today. People just don’t care enough for that argument to be made. They are too self centered or ignorant or just don’t care. The small population that aspires to live that lifestyle would be the AAAC Trad forum and they seem too pre-occupyied in defining every single piece of minutia as being either trad or not . Hats off to the brits who properly view the style as just clothes. Really, that’s all they are today to most people. One can argue historical associations concerning culture…

  47. Scotch & Soda | November 26, 2013 at 8:14 pm |

    Pure bunk. This is off-the-charts atrocious. Mid-80’s acid trip aesthetic with an ecstasy tab chaser on the tongue of good taste.

  48. Dusty Wilson | November 30, 2013 at 1:30 pm |

    E wrote:

    ” Hats off to the brits who properly view the style as just clothes. .”

    I honestly wish I knew who these ‘Brits’ were who have a ‘proper’ perspective on the style. If you mean the bunch of semi-literates over at FNB Talk Ivy, you’ve got to kidding. Their current credo seems to be:

    “Ivy is floppy,sloppy this is why we all love it.”

    This is what happens when people with no,organic link to the look start to call the shots.

  49. Well, I can’t say that I’m a great fan of jackets but I think this one is unique. I like the combination of colors. It is not a common trend that is why it is quite attractive. Besides, it is made by Tommy Hilfiger.

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