As a public school teacher, I can speak to this topic with
some authority. The term "preppy" originally described members of old-money patrician
traditional ties to private bording schools. They
live on the East Coast or in the South, and they
can afford to "summer" places.
At their best
, true preps
preserve the best
traditions of Western Civilization. They
try to be honest, humble, brave, principled
and public-spirited. They
wear simple, elegant, well-made clothing, and they
wear it until it falls apart. The manufacturer is unimportant; true preps
respect good craftsmanship, not expensive pricing. Although they
wear the Classic American Wardrobe, they
realize that they
did not invent it (except for boat shoes... your grandfathers DID invent boat shoes), and they have
no exclusive claim to it.
Classic preps with
noteworthy ancestors see their forebears as people to be lived
up to, rather than people to be bragged about. They
recognize their privileged status, and they work
to become worthy of it.
Classic preps work
hard to develop both
mind and body; achievement in both
the classroom and on the athletic
field are highly valued.
At their worst, preps
are snobs. They take
pride in money they
didn't earn, power they
don't deserve, and people they
don't value. When they
die they leave
of gin and tonic, a garage full of fine automobiles, a fantastic wardrobe, and a wasted life. It is good to appear
in their will, but bad to appear
in their presence.
Nowadays, though, the term commonly describes the upper strata of "popular" kids in many American highschools. I would argue that since this group
vastly outnumbers traditional preppies, they perhaps have
staked a greater claim to the word.