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?