How to Get the “Preppy” Look

Once upon a time, “preppy” was a derogatory term. But the days of A.C. Slater nicknaming Zach Morris “preppy” are gone, and in their wake is a revival of what many dub the “preppy” style.

What exactly is the preppy style? It’s a fashion movement with roots in New England and the Ivy League, a style that hints at sophistication and good etiquette.

But when it comes to actually taking a vague term like “preppy” and putting actual items in your closet, it’s a little difficult to define. So let’s take a look at what steps you can take to up your style and develop a subtle “preppy” look that people will enjoy.

Traditional Preppy Touches

There are some obvious trademarks of the preppy look that are easy to put in your closet, one item at a time:

  • Polo shirts are generally preferred over T-shirts, as the collar adds something a little more formal to the casual look.
  • Sweaters are traditional as well, including everything from sweater vests to Fisherman sweaters, tying the weather of New England into the fabric of the style itself. Cardigans are another familiar favorite.
  • Blazers are typical, especially the versatile navy blazer. Pairing them with light pants is highly appropriate for summer events like weddings.
  • Patterned shorts are quick becoming a hallmark of preppy style.
  • Collars are generally preferred. Putting a button-down shirt under a sweatshirt, for example, “preps” up the look.
  • Shoes are important too: boat shoes definitely show the influence of the New England coast, and Bean Boots in the winter are essential for keeping the cold air out.

Of course, knowing a list of items and putting them together for an effective preppy look are two entirely different things.

Putting an Outfit Together

In the summertime, one of the best ways to ensure that you get a “preppy” standout look is to utilize patterned shorts like madras. These shorts have a way of standing out in and of themselves, so a simple look might be to pair it with a solid white polo. A pair of blue boat shoes would fit in nicely for a preppy look.

When it comes to pants, you can do just as much standing out even without the patterns. For example, this pair of Military Twill pants in Charleston Brick features a light, classically “preppy” color that can provide a solid contrast if you have a striped shirt to wear.

You might notice a trend here: when it comes to prep, it’s a good idea to highlight one item of clothing that’s a little “flashier” than everything else: it can be as subtle as a light color on your pants or patterns on your shorts. The key is to temper that flash with a subtle, slightly formal look, usually with a polo or button-down shirt. Adding a navy blazer is a versatile way to complete a “preppy” outfit if you’re just starting out.

You might not be “preppy” by A.C. Slater’s standards by following this guide, but you’ll do a lot to improve your style. Shop all the preppy styles today from Vintage 1946.