Step aside streetwear, preppy style is back with a vengeance | Fashion

Loafers, blazers, argyle and rugby shirts might sound more like classic boomer wardrobe staples, but with the preppy look back in fashion they are also increasingly likely to be found on 20-somethings this autumn.

In fact, the preppy look is threatening to oust the streetwear that has dominated young people’s style for the past decade. The luxury resale site The Real Real reports that searches for the streetwear brands Vetements and Yeezy are down 24 and 25% respectively, while searches for the classic preppy brand Ralph Lauren are up by 238%. Depop, meanwhile, has recorded a 57% increase in searches for “prep” or “preppy” since June, with searches for Ralph Lauren up by 29%.

“With the ‘classic’ streetwear look of hoodies, graphic tees etc going so mainstream, there is a counteraction in these style circles to draw from more formal styles to stand out,” said Depop’s senior cultural trend researcher, Michael Ford. “It’s now more shocking to see a Gen Z or millennial in a well-tailored suit than with tattoos on their face.”

Luna and Monet in Gossip Girl.
Luna and Monet in Gossip Girl. Photograph: Production/BBC/Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc

Preppy style dates back more than 100 years and is indelibly associated with the US north-east coast elite, whose children attended preparatory or “prep” schools and Ivy League colleges. It became more popular from the 1960s and peaked in the early 1980s when Lisa Birnbach’s 1980 bestseller The Official Preppy Handbook introduced – and parodied – the lifestyle and aesthetic for a wider audience.

It is this era that the current preppy revival harks back to, and there is a fascination with preppy as the look of “old money”. Tik Tok videos with the hashtag #oldmoneyaesthetic have 33m views, with preppy favourites such as pleated skirts, argyle and plaid dominating. Some creators have called the trend out as problematic because of its associations with a white privileged ruling class. @deadhollywood called the old money aesthetic “the peak of white supremacist fashion, not rednecks in camo”.

Rowing Blazers was founded in 2017 by Jack Carlson. He fits the traditional preppy profile – he is an Oxford-educated former rower for the US Olympic team – but he is determined to bring a different take on preppy, which he calls a “loaded term”.

Rowing Blazers Lookbook Summer 2021.
Rowing Blazers Lookbook Summer 2021. Photograph: Rowing Blazers

“The trick is taking the good and leaving the bad because I think there is baggage associated with all that,” he said. “That’s not really the energy that we want at all.” Carlson describes Rowing Blazers as “very inclusive and very irreverent, sometimes even ironic”.

The preppy trend is bolstered by box sets this season. Gossip Girl, the 00s series that takes places at a private school in Manhattan, has been relaunched for Gen Z, with the main characters wearing blazers and plaid. It is now available to watch on BBC iPlayer.

The third series of Sex Education comes to Netflix next month, and brings a British take on preppy. A collaboration with H&M, out now, includes preppy staples. They have been reworked in a Gen Z silhouette, with cropped polo shirts, oversized plaid trousers and longline sweater vests the highlights.

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