Most of the best definitions of preppy have emphasized Northern or New England birthrite preppies, but let's not forget about Southern preppies, as in folks living in Mountain Brook, Alabama, or the West End, Virginia, or the Garden District in Louisiana, or Buckhead, Georgia, or Belle Meade, Tennessee (if you've never heard of these Old Guard, old-money, preppy southern suburbs, than you're not a birthrite prep). Southern preppies wear most of the same classic clothes and styles as their northern cousins, including Lacoste, Lilly, L.L. Bean, Vineyard vines, Topsiders, Brooks Brothers, tevas, Polo, and especially Patagonia (shorts and fleece are key for guys). And the more monograms, the better. Girls love grosgrain and totes from Vineyard Vines and Bean. They also like outerwear by Barbour, Cole-Haan bit loafers, and wallobies by Clark. Southern preppy girls have straight, shoulder length hair. Their preppy mothers and grandmothers may have stiff, helmut hairstyles that haven't changed in decades. Preppy guys have longish, shaggy, wind blown hair. So do their daddies. They look so much alike. Preppy Southerners would attend day schools such as Altamont or Westminster or Harpeth Hall or boarding schools such as Woodberry Forest or Baylor or Foxcroft or Madiera, rather than a New England prep school. For college, they may attend state schools such as Bama or UVA or UNC or private colleges such as Vanderbilt or W&L or Hamden-Sydney (the preppiest school in the country according to Lisa Birnbach). And they will almost always join a fraternity or sorority. Preppy families live in historic or historic looking houses in nice, woodsy neighborhoods, that are comfortable in size but never ostentatious (no electronic gates!) Inside, family antiques, silver, china and portraits are found and all rooms are always used. It is an elegant yet comfortable environment. Southern preppies and their families belong to private town clubs and country clubs such as the Piedmont Driving Club of Atlanta, the Commonwealth Club of Richmond, and the Mountain Brook Club of Birmingham. Southern preppy families don't emphasize cars as status, but typically drive volvo wagons, mercedes sedans, Jeep Cherokees, Hondas, and sometimes SUVs (although they feel guilty about them!). It is more important to have money in the bank than in the driveway! Southern preppies enjoy sports such as tennis, sailing, soccer, lacrosse, and golf, but also quail hunting (in season) and attend Steeplechases in Virginia, Tennessee and Georgia. And they love to watch and attend college football games in fall. Tailgate parties! While some southern preppies journey northwards to summer on Martha's Vineyard or in Maine, most old southern families summer on Sea Island or St. Simmons's Island in Georgia, the mountain towns of Linville and Highlands in North Carolina, or the north Georgia lakes of Lake Rabun and Lake Burton. Southern preppies believe strongly in giving back to the community and are active members of their church, sit on symphony and museum boards, volunteer at children's hospitals, and run historic preservation societies. In fact, most old-family southern debutantes are required to participate in volunteer work during their debut season. Old-family, southern debutante balls are still important and traditional rites of passage for southern preppy girls as debs and preppy boys as escorts or marshalls. All southern preppies seem to know one another and have a large group of friends and acquaintances. Southern preppies have large, extended families and lots of cousins. They always go to the family country place for Thanksgiving and play football and ride horses. Preppy as a fashion trend may come and go, by preppy as a lifestyle will always continue and exist, and probably more so in the South than elsewhere. Remember: the Virginia colonies were settled by England before Massachusetts and the rest of New England. And Virginia is very prep.
Kappa Sigma at Hampden-Sydney is full of blond, shaggy hair guys who play lacrosse and are from Buckhead.
September 22, 2004