"Prep" is short for "preparatory." But unless you are doing "kitchen prep" before making a meal or getting ready for a test, the word usually refers to people who look like they could belong to the elite world of American preparatory schools.
The old-time New England prep schools--Andover, Phillips Exeter, Hotchkiss, etc.-- modeled themselves on English "public" schools like Eton (where Prince William graduated and Prince Harry still studies). The idea was to prepare the children of wealthy, WASP (white Anglo-Saxon Protestant) families for top colleges and life in the upper crust of society.
At this point, you don't have to be a WASP or travel to New England to go to prep school, and you certainly don't need to go to "prep" school to be labeled a "prep." Nowadays, it's more about how you look: understated but classic, wearing khakis maybe, and always lots of cotton. "Preppy" fashion is famously low-key because it is inspired by a class of people who don't care to flaunt their wealth. (Except for the not-so-subtle message of wearing clothes that suggest constant skiing, tennis and sailing--and the occasional loud plaid or hot pink.)
When the term "preppy" developed in the 1960s, it was with a mix of awe and annoyance. What was not to like about the clean-cut looks and the tastes of the "old money" prep-school crowd? But they were so insular, so spoiled...
Preppy pride soared in the conservative '80s, when Lisa Birnbach published "The Official Preppy Handbook," which extolled the joys of living among the best and brightest while dressed in navy blue and kelly green. Birnbach was kind of kidding, but a backlash followed with books like "101 Uses for a Dead Preppie" and the "I Hate Preppies Handbook."
Preps and their trappings have made a lot of enemies along the way. "The Catcher in the Rye"'s Holden Caulfield railed against the "fakes" at his New England prep school and ran away to the less stifling confines of New York City. Hip-hop's embrace of Tommy Hilfiger and other preppy brands has always been part poking fun at the status quo, part appreciation of the quality.
Meanwhile, there always seems to be a preppy fashion moment around the corner...
~ This definition curtisey of the good people at www.gurl.com !
"Preppy clothing involves alot of cotton and kahki."
Prices shown in USD.
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