RetroProgressive – Old school style

Do you remember the ‘old school’ days of the late 1970s when college blazers were worn with pride, and occasionally even customized with unique badges and embellishment?

Such fashions were part of a craze for ‘uniform’ dressing that inspired a media-led lifestyle, popularized by The USA’s Official Preppy Handbook, published in 1980, and the subsequent Sloane Ranger Handbook in the UK.

The Official Preppy Handbook was all about wearing sportswear, making it easier to go from sporting events to social occasions without changing. The navy blue blazer became the main wardrobe staple, for both men and women – teamed up with a crisp, striped shirt and a silk scarf/cravat or tie.

The publication of the implicit (though hitherto unmentioned) ‘preppy’ dress code spawned a generation of wannabe preppies. They followed strict preppy rules, so knew it wasn’t de rigueur to wear sneakers with a suit, let alone display a piercing, or a tattoo (even if they’d accidentally acquired one in a war).

The UK’s Sloane Ranger style was much more influenced by provenance, “The right suits are dateless.” It was the done thing to inherit rather than buy a dinner jacket. Clothing and accessories looked more authentic if they appeared slightly frayed at the edges. Sloane style reeked of class and character, rather than logo and label.

As we’re currently experiencing something of a 1980s revival, including the reappearance of preppy style, I wonder if this will generate its own new set of rules? Has preppy style finally evolved beyond the ‘old school’? Can preppy ever be truly progressive?

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About Author Profile: Susan Muncey

Trend consultant Susan Muncey, is Editor of Visuology Magazine. In 2008, she founded online curiosity shop, She writes on style and trends for several blogs, including, and The Dabbler. She previously owned cult West London boutique, Fashion Gallery, one of the first concept stores in the world. Susan graduated in geography from Cambridge University and is also an Associate Member of the CFA Institute. She lives in London with her husband.

8 thoughts on “RetroProgressive – Old school style

    November 20, 2010 at 11:03

    Poor Rod – to go from that (top) to that (bottom)! Shows you have to be careful with this look (and preferably tall, with age-appopriate hair)

    November 20, 2010 at 14:09

    Yes Nige, interesting that Rod’s essential style hasn’t changed that much over the years: He’s been pretty loyal to the sporty, pseudo-preppy look, even though he’s had a succession of wives and aged quite a bit. His penchant for Amazonian blondes is curious – but guess I shouldn’t criticise a man who looks up to women.

    November 20, 2010 at 16:48

    At halftime in the England rugby match today was a quite extraordinary ad for a whisky called Chivas Regency…

    Is that aimed at the ‘preppy’ market, or phoney sloanes, or what?

    November 20, 2010 at 16:50

    Never mind the preppy bloke, get a load of that leopard print dress.

    I love leopard print clothes but it’s really hard to find them that aren’t in nylon or polyester. Wear them and you exude enough static to electrocute a wildebeest. I have one leopard print top in viscose which I’ve worn to shreds. I think I must have bought in the eighties in the House of Fraser – it must have gone up market for a short while.

    November 20, 2010 at 17:50

    Broadly speaking the high street fashion industry treats the male of the species as an appendage, an add-on, also was there whilst the ladies, wimmen and burdz are saturated with schmutter of all shapes, cut and colour and can on most occasions look very well scrubbed up, we blokes are cast the crumbs and tend to look scruffy, daft, plain silly, mutton dressed as lamb. With the notable exceptions of G.Armani, Hugo Boss and P.Smith there is bugger all to choose from unless you are A..stinking rich or B…a tranny. Even ‘ole Giorgio has gone off the boil and has his stuff made in the Mekong delta or wherever, as for PSJ, all for the young ‘uns now.
    That being said and as the above ho-ho Henrys look a bit Patrick McGoohanish, quite acceptable really Susan.

    November 20, 2010 at 18:48

    Brit, I’m not a whisky drinker, so can’t vouch for the taste of the stuff, nor its authenticity, but ‘chivalry’ rather suits the brand from my experience. A kilt-wearing Scottish fund manger once rescued me from a very awkward situation. His nickname was Chivas Regal. Surely the hoorays must have lots of honorary-preppy, off-piste kilt-wearing cousins? And those Sloanes do get around a bit.

    Malty, I’m sorry you chaps don’t get the opportunity to dress up so often, but you seem to manage to sparkle in other ways. I see what you mean about Patrick McGoohan, but I’m sure he had nicely polished shoes, in addition to the crisp preppy jacket. There’s no need for any man to look scruffy, though apparently the average British man spends less than £2.50 a year on skincare, despite the likes of David Beckham and Pierce Brosnan regularly appearing in ads to promote products for men. What a waste of money.

    Rosie! At last, a female voice from the cyber-ether. I know just what you mean. They probably weren’t around in the ‘80s, but those Betsy Johnson/Wheels and Doll Baby sorts of fabrics are super-static and dead nasty. Excuse the northernism, but I was thinking in the mind of Cheryl Cole. Don’t get so many men in leopardskin. Apart from Mr Stringfellow…Now there’s mutton dressed up as lamb..

    November 21, 2010 at 16:54

    Mutton dressed as spam more like!

    November 21, 2010 at 18:07

    Brit – great comment, even better second time round. The gallantry of drinking, eh? And all dressed up in Regency style… Anything to do with the Bullingdon Club?

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