Essential Reading: The Official Preppy Handbook

Sundar J.M. Brown, Editor... and Certified Preppy

by Sundar J.M. Brown





The Official Preppy Handbook. Jonathan Roberts (Author), Carol McD. Wallace (Author), Mason Wiley (Author), Lisa Birnbach (Author);  Oliver Williams (Editor), Robin Holland (Illustrator)

Front Cover

The Official Preppy Handbook was a spot-on parody when it first debuted in 1980, but also a thoroughly accurate, and even useful field guide, to the Northeastern Hemisphere’s American preppy lifestyle. Almost 25 years later, it still holds up as both humorous and utilitarian. Contemporary news items suggest it may even be timely again; a recent article in the New York Times suggested that teen fashion trends are turning away from the overexposed grunge and punk trends, looking instead to madras plaids, chinos, polo shirts (popped collar of course) and rep ties as a means of daily wardrobe.

Suffice it to say that, while classicism dies hard, it is also rather easy to up-end. The price of traditional quality is that it is often sacrificed at the hands of marketing executives who manage to convince the lower classes that they too can, “rise the occasion of upper class life” by, “dressing the part”. Most unfortunate, for those innocent victims of American Eagle, The Gap, Hollister, Abercrombie & Fitch and Old Navy is that the “fashions” produced by those stores fall far short of authentic preppy style. Worse still, they are horribly cheap imitations which only serve to lower the existing social strata of those poor plebeians.

Rear Cover

For the uninitiated, please note that the following brands are officially acceptable as authentic preppy wear:

  • L.L. Bean
  • Brooks Brothers
  • Lilly Pulitzer
  • J. Crew
  • Hickey Freeman
  • Ralph Lauren Polo
  • Paul Stuart
  • Vineyard Vines
  • Sperry Topsiders

Please also note that, unless you come from a very specific cultural, social and economic background, even dressing in those brands won’t help you. You either have it or you don’t.

Lisa Birnbach and company, call your publicists.  The time has arrived for a re-release targeting today’s rising BMOCs.

The Official Preppy Handbook on

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