Photo by Salt Water New England

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Community Question: What is the Difference Between Trad and Preppy?


A reader question:  What is the difference between "Trad" and "Preppy"?

Photo by my Father.  "John Killam Murphy, Yale, Class of '1897.  B. Phil. 1898, of Killam's Point, Branford. Died in 1969. A beloved figure in local sailing circles, member of the Cruising Club of America, served in three wars Spanish-American, World Wars I and II. Papers are at Yale Library." (Hearthstone Farms)

97 comments:

  1. I consider myself neither preppy nor trad, but perhaps an outsider's perspective would be useful, so here's my take:

    To the extent that there is a difference, I think it's less about the clothing and more about the attitude. Trad is conservative in every way, to the point of being self-effacing. Preppy, on the other hand, is more... let's say self-confident. Just about anyone can pull off trad; that's part of its appeal. But you can spot a preppy - a REAL preppy - a (nautical) mile away.

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  2. Trad is a matter of dignity; preppy has come to be associated with ostentation.

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  3. Sometimes, I think the definition of what is preppy, who is preppy, et al, gets muddied by the concept of "traditional".
    I am a life long southerner. Attended southern prep schools. Nope, not Yale or any other yankee place. So, am I preppy or merely traditional? Does preppy embrace traditional? Is traditional an aspect of preppy?
    I have and would fit in in an eastern preppy world. How would others define me? I guess each of us is free to make their own definition of the terms preppy and traditional.

    I hope I have made it all crystal clear!! : )

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  4. My daughter calls the way I dress and the things I like "classic". She bought the OPH for me when it first came out with the comment: "I don't know why I bought you this, you do and dress like everything that's in this book". I guess that is why I follow your blog. I never cared for things that were "trendy" only the tried and true, the "old school", understated "old money" look. Quality not quantity. For me that is "Preppy".

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    1. Perfect answer! I agree one hundred percent!

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  5. "Trad" = "Prep" grown up...

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  6. I second what Katahdin said. Also since it came up in the post, I've been wondering how Columbia in NYC fits into the whole Ivy/Trad/Prep paradigm - any differences in culture or dress? Or type of person?

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    1. I know this question is from 2013, but will respond.

      I applied and was accepted to Columbia Grammar & Prep but ended up going to Birch Wathen-Lenox which was simply "The Lenox School" when I attended in the 70s and 80s before it merged with Birch Wathen. Uniforms were worn until seventh grade. Because preppy was the popular style of the 80s many of my classmates and the students of other private schools dressed that way but many did not. Being "alternative" and edgy was very cool then as well. Another thing of note is that even though "prep" was in Columbia's name I never once heard anyone refer to NYC private schools as "prep" schools back then.

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  7. I think "preppy" may have far more to do with manners and mannerisms, in speech, etiquette, taste, and education, than anything else. A preppy seems to be a preppy however he dresses.

    Trad, on the other hand, suggests a conscious emulating of styles that conform from one generation to the next, whatever the cultural milieu.

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  8. In my opinion, Preppy and trad are the same thing. I am preppy becuase of how I was raised and the clothing I prefer to wear.

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  9. I would second what Anon. 8:51 says. Having never even heard the word "Trad" until I began reading style blogs, I tend to think of it as a kind of cultural role-playing, whereas a preppy is one who has grown up in that culture and therefore wears both the look and the mannerisms unconsciously.
    That's why it's almost impossible to fake it.

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  10. I think Trad today has taken over the look of the more conservative preppy but not necessarily the life style. Other regions have tried to take over the of lighter side preppy attire, but also not the life style. I believe it was all the same back in the day.

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  11. To me, Trad is more about a style of dress whereas preppy is more about a lifestyle. Of course preppy has been distorted to mean all sorts of things in recent years...especially as it relates to fashion. But the preppiest families I knew growing up spent exactly zero time thinking about what to wear. The sole of your Docksiders are coming off at the toe? Wrap some duct tape around that sucker and keep going. Somehow preppy has become this studied, practiced exercise in affected mimicry. It baffles me.

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    1. I like what you've said, though I see it in reverse. I hate the word 'preppy'. I am from an old money, lower mid-west family and from a small town. There were no 'prep' schools and my parents wouldn't have dreamed of sending me away, anyway. However, I grew up very traditional (we were the only one of our kind in this town). As my mother I became a DAR, Colonial Dame, Jamestowne Society and other lineage societies. After high school I attended an all-girls Finishing School. To me, 'Trad' refers to families like mine and while preppy does - or at least is suppose to refer to those who attended 'prep school' it seems to be more of a 'style', while to me 'trad' is a legacy and a lifestyle.

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  12. There have been several posts on this blog highlighting standards & essentials of prep style (OCBDs, tweed jackets, etc.).

    What would be some examples (including brands) of trad style?

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  13. My thoughts when I think Trad vs Preppy....... Trad seems to be the more "business" version of Preppy, more conservative for the workplace and/or professional dealings. Most Trads I have known exhibit a Preppy mindset and way of life. Preppy is what Trads are during their "downtime." Love those pictures! --Holly in PA

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  14. I agree with Lafcadio.

    I'd go on to say that trad clothing can count as preppy, but that much preppy clothing is not trad. Many of the brightly colored items in red, pink or green are not trad. Clothing with pictures of whales or ducks are not trad. Anything cutesy-poo is not trad. Trad clothing does not scream "Ooh, look at me!" but some preppy clothing does.

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  15. Another Southerner here -- I attended a College Preparatory High School, followed by undergrad at Tulane, then a graduate degree. I am a member of several private, male-only clubs; I consider it bad protocol to disclose which ones.

    I never classified myself a truly preppy (though others may have; I'm not sure)and I had never heard the term "Trad" at all. I started reading blogs such as this and fashion forums when I realized that I was an adult with a real job, but I still dressed as if I was in college. this was around the same time that I began being proposed for the membership of the aforementioned clubs. I decided it was time to start dressing like a "grown up" and looked to such websites as the "Ask Andy Trad Forum" merely as a way of dressing like an adult, but in a way that was in keeping with the social circle in which I have found myself. Since then, I have stuck with them, as I have become interested in the value of quality clothing. I think this has coincided with a transition from a "preppy" style to more of a "trad" style, if that is how you would like to classify it.

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  16. Trad is polo shirts in navy or white. Preppy is bright crayola colors.Trad is OCBD shirts in solid white, solid blue, or white with blue candy stripes. Preppy is OCBDs in yellow, pink, etc. Trad is plain toe bluchers or wingtips in black or burgundyi as well as penny loafers. Preppy is bit loafers. Trad is solid navy, navy with small white figures, or regimental stripes. Preppy is Technicolor ties with critters. Trad is khaki chinos. Preppy is brick-colored whatevers. Trad is high-waisted long-rise trousers, Preppy in short-rise. Trad is adult. Preppy is nursery school

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  17. There's this whole idea that if you wear Lilly or L. L. Bean, you'll look preppy. But if you think about what preppy really means--i.e., a student at a private college preparatory school--then you understand the underlying spirit of the look.

    If you go to prep school, your family expects you to go to college. They expect that because your parents and grandparents went to college. Your family can afford to pay for not just college, but a prep school that costs $15- to $50K a year in tuition and room and board. So obviously, your family has some money, but they're not spending it on flashy cars, gaudy jewelry, and redecorating the house every other year. No, the money is going towards things that last, like tuition and Harris tweed.

    That's the difference between "preppy" and "trad." A person who dresses "trad" might get tired of the look and move on. A preppy would find the very idea anathema.

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    1. This is my take as one who moved here in the 80s, worked at Bean for two holiday seasons and lived a block away in Freeport in the early 90s with easily 80% of my clothing purchased there until about ten years ago. Now I just mostly buy their totes and a few other items that I usually end up returning right away. Something many people don't realize is that L.L.Bean wasn't marketed as a "preppy" brand in Maine until maybe the 1980s where my guess is (and I hope others will chime in) it was an accidental fashion success. Even then it was never considered preppy or statement clothing by most Mainers who wore it. It was well made right here in the USA, smart, simple, functional, subtly stylish but more often considered frumpy for the ladies (thus the creation [and failure of] "Freeport Studio" in 1999. It has been a staple that crossed economic classes and you could not label one as “preppy” because they wore it. Sometimes I think people expect to see a bunch of “preppies” at the flagship store in Freeport. You’ll see a bunch of tourists but you’ll mostly see hunters and locals shopping for (in my opinion what was once sensible), “conservative” clothing that would (have at one time) last for decades. My husband, who has worked in a boat yard since the 1990s, still buys their plaid shirts as do many Mainers on the working waterfront.

      Preppy co-opted Maine style.

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    2. So, going back to the original question, does "trad" = Maine style?

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    3. No. I made no mention of trad. I am addressing L.L.Bean = preppy and vice versa specifically in response to the comment above. I wasn't addressing the original question of the post.

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    4. Dear Poppy Buxom, I took a look at your blogs. Why did I not know about them when they were active?

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  18. From an outsider's perspective--outside New England, preparatory school, the Ivy League, WASP-dom--Trad is Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn. Trad is good taste without obvious markers belonging to any particular group, if any affiliation is suggested, the Trad dresser comes across as a member at large, more so than religious attendee. Somehow the effort of being so well-done in your dress transcends the particularly prep desire for conformity, and yet it is a universally appreciated way of dressing. Trad is adult, subtly artful, and a little sexy, whereas prep is eternally youthful, slightly garish, and cute. Again, these are an outsider's observations.

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    1. Small, but important correction. Miss Hepburn spelled her name, Katharine.

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  19. The word trad does not have much meaning for me. I think a bunch of people interested in preppy clothing got together and decided to call themselves trad instead as they did not like some of (what they see as) the negative social and cultural implications/commotations of "preppy." Silly, really.

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  20. Trad is what preppy used to be. Men who wore J. Press and Brooks Brothers were considered preppy. But preppy has become a term connoting Vineyard Vines and pastels-only loving people. I consider a lot of Ralph Lauren stuff preppy, as opposed to trad. In today's terms, I consider J. Press, O'Connell's, Brooks Brothers' basic stuff and some of L.L Bean to be trad. Tradsters (those whom we would have called preppies 60 years ago) can do the pastel and GTH (pardon my implied French) thing, but they're not limited to that or obsessed with it like moderns preps. Wool slacks, wingtips, loafers and shetland sweaters are requisite for tradsters, but modern preps wants some bright chinos, boat shoes and yellow ocbd's for most occasions. A tradster wears his Nanny reds and docksides when it's appropriate: when he's on his sailboat. That's another distinction between tradster and the modern prep: the trad folks will have something for functionality and quality like shetland crewnecks and 8-wale cords; the preppy folks will have stuff because they think that they look good in it. Most of the time their clothes don't even have the verisimilitude of functionality. That's why they own only cotton (not that cotton is bad, but a sweater collection of cotton exclusively is missing the point of sweaters) sweaters and "fashionable" cords that don't keep them warm. Now, I'm not insulting everyone who has been called a prep because what used to be prep is what I've been referencing as trad.

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  21. Trad to me is trying to keep a style, from a moment in history alive... 1950-1965, it's very objective, very ridged.

    Preppy to me is keeping cultural, sporting, family, traditions alive via a particular range of attire.

    Basically, Trad is 98% based upon attire, where being a prep, the clothing is not the focus, but the result of...

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  22. Thank you Muffy for properly IDing the place of the trad/prep debate.

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but the term "trad" is an internet forum term for a style of dressing. In that sense, the term's scope is a lot more limited than "prep", which connotes a way of living, working, and socializing.

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  23. Strolling vs. strutting

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  24. Someone who is "trad" is an old "preppy".

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  25. Somewhere towards the bottom on the beautiful Tumblr page, Muffy has a quote about Robin Hood and a lunch box worth revisiting...
    It seems to me that the majority of the "being text book Preppy" concerns I read about in almost every blog, concentrate on very, very specific 'uniform parts' such as the correct shirt, shoes and khaki pants, if one wants to be "it"? However, doesn't it all, at the end of the day, more come down to appreciating and living the TRADitional values?

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  26. I see preppy as a subset of trad. Preppy is a bit tongue in cheek. I mean, who intentionally wears pink and green, unless they're having just a bit of chuckle? Or really bold madras pants? Whereas, trad would be navy and khaki, or white trousers and a crisp colored shirt.

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  27. I appreciate what RPV has said.  But to settle this debate I have ventured into the closet of our summer cottage and retrieved the semi-moldy box that contains the answer to our riddle.  After removing the photo albums from the coffee table and dusting off the box, before me sits a OUIJA board.  My fingers lightly resting on the planchette, my heart is racing in anticipation of the answer.  A cold chill runs down my spine and a draft can be felt sweeping thru the room.  The pointer begins to slowly slide upward and slightly to the left.  Stopping on the letter "F."  What can that mean?  Perhaps it is about to remind us of the importance of "family" and what that means in our lives.  Or perhaps it is to remind us of  "friends" who formed our pleasant memories of prep school and summers at camp.   Wait, this is most certainly a nod towards "trad" values.  This has to stand for the "F" in William F. Buckley.  But, he went to St. Paul and Yale... is he preppy or trad?  This is still too confusing.  Let's press on.  I sit and wait for the spirits to guide us.  Slowly our hands slide slightly to the left and come to rest on the letter "E."  Now we have made progress.  This is most certainly a reference to Exeter and the importance of preppy traditions.  Still confusing!  A shutter bangs against the window, and a cold breeze extinguishes a candle in the room.  My hands are pulled downward to the letter "R," before this registers I am pulled up and to the right... up and to the right!  My heart is pounding in my chest!  The answer is before us...  F-E-R-D is the answer!  If only we hadn't so cruelly cast him into the nether regions of Purgatory!  Perhaps if we ask nicely and chant together, he can be summoned forth to answer that which befuddles us.  What say ye?

    Tom

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  28. One is Fall, the other is Spring.

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  29. Understated elegance vs. Conspicuous consumption

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  30. A moniker such as 'S. Dillon Ripley' certainly has a trad ring to it. And even though my father did this too, it reminds me of the line, "Never trust a man who parts his name on the left."

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  31. I think you can be trad without being preppy, if "trad" can be used to described a person with quiet good manners, a preference for classic clothing, a decent education or at least good critical-thinking skills, a preference for a quite lifestyle and a good strong sense of ethics. There are more descriptors I could use, but basically a trad is someone with good taste and good manners who tries to do the right thing and feels a sense of obligation to others and to the world.

    I am not sure "preppies" fall into that description. Pink pants with whales on them cannot possibly be considered quiet, only amusing.

    Really, it doesn't matter. What matters is that sense of obligation and decency.

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  32. There are only a few dozen vendors (outside of Great Britain, maybe) that still sell clothing that is authentically Trad or Preppy by any definition. That is because hardly anyone buys this stuff anymore. In another decade or so few of these vendors will be left. Yes, this points to the very end of a storied civilization of mannered discernment, the last wheeze of true WASP hegemony, etc., etc., whatever.

    So I suggest that everyone stock up big-time on everything they might ever want to wear, in sizes that fit now and others that will fit in the future, unto death. Check of eBay for NOS Cavanagh fedoras and tweed overcoats from Chipp. Get some cordovan shoes before the EU bans the export of horse butts. Run the market on six-ply pelvic cashmere yarn. Enjoy! And remember, when you die you can't take all your clothes with you.

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  33. Katahdin has it right. Trad is a Japanese loan-word (トラッド) to describe "Ivy League", which was an older generation's preppy.

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  34. A bit late to this thread, but I'd like to add my 2 cents.

    I have no idea what "TRAD is" and though it might have been in use prior to the mid to late 1950s,that's when I first became aw2are of the term "prepy". It used to be just how upper middle and wealthy people, from "old money" lived and dressed.

    When the PHB came out, I bought and read it, since I had gone to boarding school and was curious as to what was in it. Well, I laughed my socks off, because so very much of it was me, to a large extent. There were some things that should have been included, which weren't and what was written about some of the schools, especially the private day school my child was attending ( she left after graduating from 8th grade and went to boarding school ) were wrong.

    I believe that "preppy" is a term that has been turned inside out now, missused, and abused. Some bloggers ( not Muffy ! )and posters bludgeon their readers over their heads with pretentious, supercilious, "I'M BETTER THAN THOU" guff; whilst others are just downright silly.

    A few set themselves up as the only arbiter of what is and what is not "preppy". A lot of that is usually pretty funny/laughable.

    JCC is correct, Ivy League really used to be what "preppy" became in the 1950s.

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  35. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Trad and Prep are one in the same.

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  36. I don't like either term.

    Preppy implies the camp version of this look that was made fun of in the Official Preppy Handbook. It lives on in that horrble clown look commonly adopted in the South.

    Trad is an Internet creation. The groupthink triage of what's ok and what's not has resulted in a camp look of its own that you see on a certain Trad menswear forum.

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    1. There IS a reason Southern people -- especially women -- have a reputation for being better looking.

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  37. The wrong people have hijacked "preppy" and driven it into the ground.

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  38. I've seen some clownish preppies in NJ, it's not just the South. Ralph Lauren has really spread his mess everywhere.

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  39. Can someone elucidate why RL (or VV, or ST, or whatever other brand you dislike) is perceived as a perversion of preppy or "trad"?

    I don't quite get it. Sure, some of the more "extreme" articles -- e.g., out of place, useless, imitation sportswear; gaudy look-at-me costumery -- subverts cleaner prep style. But most of these brands produce decent clothes, too.

    It seems that perversion of prep lies in the wearer, and the wearer's attitude, not in the label itself. But perhaps this is a minority view?

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  40. With apologies to the Supreme Court, I cannot define tradition, but I know it when I see it.

    Preppy on the other had is divided into 2 camps: Style and Trend.

    Most can, and have in comments above, identify elements of both.

    For my money, trend is best to be avoided.

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  41. @Brice, personally my aversion is to wearing a logo on my shirt. I am not a NASCAR race car and prefer not having an STP sticker on my clothing.

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  42. @Brice - Some companies want smart, long term customers, and others want not-so-bright, short term customers. Those companies that want dimmer customers produce expensive, low quality items while spending HUGE amounts on elaborate marketing campaigns that REEK to the smarter customers.
    Imagine coming back from spending two years in Paris, and watching Burger King advertising selling “authentic French cuisine” with American actors wearing cheesy berets in front of a fake Eiffel Tower while saying “Zis ees a deelicious kwasant, no?” “Ah, oui. Tres delicious,” while selling mass produced, starchy rolls in the shape of croissant.
    This may attract mall rats, but turns the stomach of anyone with real experience.
    Ralph Lauren, LL Bean, and even smaller vendors (one I won’t mention by name from Rhode Island) have a few good items still, from better days. But now they are putting so much energy into selling so hard, while caring so little about quality, and all of their new products are so bad (and every week replacing good products with bad), that it really becomes physically repellent.
    Someone here mentioned Vermont Maple Syrup. If the brand is not managed, hucksters sell sugar water as authentic Vermont-inspired maple syrup at a higher price point than generic syrup, spend a ton of money on advertising their version, make some money, put the real Vermont Maple Syrup producers out of business, kill the market for Vermont Maple Syrup, and then move on to kill another market. But if the brand is well managed, and only real Vermont Maple Syrup can use that brand, the consumers and real producers win, while the hucksters have to extract from a different market.
    If you like authentic, classic clothes items, especially when there is no authority over such terms as “prep’ or “trad”, and hucksters try to pollute the market with crazy over advertising and producing expensive junk, you should get very mad.

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  43. How many vendors, big and small, take language and ideas for visuals from this very blog to sell things that are the opposite of what this blog stands for?

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  44. Trad, unlike Preppy, has nothing to do with jazz, tennis, golf, or surfing.

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  45. Trad is never GTH or in-your-face.

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  46. To see how the term preppy has been over-exposed and changed (not in a good way), one need only go to Pinterest and search "preppy". Some of the outfits on that site make the Kartrashdians look "trad" . . . Safe and Happy 4th everyone! cheers

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  47. Trad is universal, you can see trad in London, New York, LA and Munich. Preppy is a NE subculture, you can try and emulate it but the characteristics are unique to the NE. Preppy often looks garish outside its natural environs.

    I attended a wedding of a Andover preppy on the continent. His sister was dressed in all her bright pink and green glory. While I recognised her as preppy I'm pretty sure the majority of attendees who were trad thought she must have been somewhat deranged.

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  48. Anonymous 6:46am ....While I think of New England as both very traditional and with a preppy contingent, I think you would find people all over the US who feel they are Preppy. Having said that, I think once you get further south than Virginia...it is an entirely different world down south. Everything seems to be totally OTT when they try Prep....like they are trying to hard....if that makes any sense. Their "preppy: style of clothing doesn't seem utilitarian. Obviously, as a New Englander, I admit to being biased. I prefer a more toned down, authentic version of Preppy. When I think trad, I think England....and New England.

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  49. Binker... I agree about the South being different than NE. The South has different influences such as French Cajun Spanish and African cultures. It's not pure English. I live in horse country and we're very "tweedy" here so I hardly every see bright colors but when I go to racetracks down south the women are wearing brighter colors and more feminine lines with a lot more makeup than we'd see in KY. I think their idea of prep is just classic feminine and colorful, imagine Grace Kelly. I think that best describes the women I see when I go down south of course I don't know how the media portrays the Southern Belle so you might not be getting the whole picture if your just relying on TV to study people.

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  50. Rachel - While most cultures want to claim Grace Kelly as their own, and I can see why, she was a northerner (well, close enough in Philadelphia), not a southerner. When I think southern women I still think more of the less retrained Paula Deen or Calista Gingrich.

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    1. Ugh..please. Calista (who happens to be an acquaintance) is NOT southern. She is from Wisconsin.

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  51. Although I'm not a "suth-ruhn-er," I have lived in various places in what is considered the South (Georgia, the northern part of Florida, Texas, Louisana, and Virginia) and have spent time in other parts. I have always found it interesting to observe some of the more genteel ladies of all ages in the region. There seems to be more emphasis on femininity--both in appearance and "traditional" behavior. Back in the early 1980's, I was walking past one of the gracious old homes on St. Charles in New Orleans, and there was a gathering of young people out on the "sweeping" front porch/veranda. It was a lovely sight with the young men in their blue blazers and Haspel suits and the ladies in nice dresses. This was no keg party. It looked very polite, somewhat colorful (not garish), and that scene has obviously remained in my memory in a very photographic way. Then, I have observed an OTT deb party in the Highland Park area of Dallas--lots of hair and makeup, sexy dresses, and loud men. That's not to say that all of Dallas is one way and all of New Orleans another. I know better. I'm just saying that there is a bit of both OTT and true gentility all over the South.

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  52. A Muse is a Muse where ever she's from. Grace Kelly was never a WASP technically, being an Irish-Ameican Catholic but that doesn't stop anyone from admiring her, she has universal appeal even to this day. Hitchcock knew the appeal of the cool blonde siren. Men love them and if there's anything a Southern women loves it's attracting the attention of men. I think that may be the difference between NE women and Southern women. NE women are not flirts and Southern women are huge flirts.

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  53. I should also say I think NE women are too practical and level headed to be so overtly flirtatious as their southern sisters. My Alabama grandmother was a huge flirt well into her 90's. I on the other hand couldn't flirt to save my life. I love the straight forwardness of the NE woman, although the Belle is quite something to watch in her natural habitat.

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  54. @Rachel: That has also been my observation about the belle behavior--much more flirtatious than NE women. They definitely know how to flirt and flatter their male species and are interesting to watch. A friend of mine said the belle behavior is both amazing and appalling. I don't think their methods are something a non-Southern woman can emulate. It's something that is passed down and practiced forevah.

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    1. We prefer the word 'charming' to flirtatious. And we charm everyone - male and female.

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  55. @Rachel and @anonymous9:43am ...I think Paula Deen is an unfair stereotype of the South, yet, I don't believe one thinks Southern when they think of Grace Kelly (who was born in Philadelphia). If she wasn't born in Philly, I would think she personified an earlier generation of Boston Brahmin. I think the South is trad in it's own cultural traditions...but, those traditions, to a New Englander like myself, often "feel" OTT...like preppy on steroids. While it isn't my cup of tea, I can totally understand why someone from the South would fiercely defend their trad'itions and why they would consider themselves to be preppy. I have travelled in some parts of the South and the people are very gracious. I guess I see the difference most often when the tomboy comes out in me ...the part of me which prefers simple, classic styles, not very much make up, a blunt cut hair style, utilitarian clothing, and, on occasion, men's shirts. Having said that, I wear pearls with my men's shirts ;). There are very few days where I don't wear pearls in some form, and, I loved seeing Marion Bartoli wearing her pearl bracelet, while being interviewed just after winning the title at Wimbledon. Be it in the South, in New England, in France, or wherever....pearls always seem both "trad" and "preppy" to me.

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  56. @binker: Yes, Paula D. is an unfair stereotype. I must admit that I have always enjoyed that certain type of southern graciousness and have appreciated and never forgotten my personal experiences with it. Some like to say that it isn't sincere. Well, I don't care. Charming, welcoming, warm, and helpful is nice. It just is, and it feels good. As New Communications said, there is something rather "beguiling and charming" about some southern women in their interactions with men. They will look them in the eye and devote their full attention to what he is saying even if it is full on boring, and they will seem to be very interested and enchanted and certainly polite. I think it comes down to their own special brand of southern femininity in everything they do. Again, I realize that I am generalizing, but I am writing about a specific type of southern woman. I can't help but find her fascinating. They are not so inclined to wear khaki pants, but always pearls.

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    1. I'm listening to everyone talk about the southern lady, and as one I'd like to say something: In the south, most women are charming, courteous, and have been taught to have the decency to give every single person your undivided attention. This is taught, regardless of your social class. However, when I lived and traveled up north I found that this same behavior was only relegated to women of a certain class. So, with the fact that we wear a bit more makeup aside, I find that really sad. While being a 'belle' is synonymous with the south, you have your own version of a 'belle', but only in upper echelons of society.

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  57. I think the charm some people have is simply the ability to give a person your full undivided attention. Sincere kindness is something we all should work for regardless of where we're from, a little Noblesse Oblige wouldn't hurt.

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  58. Before I met my husband, I thought all men from NY were like Joey from Friends. Just as that is (obviously) not the case, all southern women are not Paula Deen clones. And, as is the case up north, there are big differences between upper vs. middle vs. lower class southerners. My personal opinion is that the differences between northerners and southerners become less pronounced as you move from working to upper class. An old money WASP is, at the core, kind of the same wherever you go.

    As for the belles...when I first moved to NY (which, I know, is not NE) I found it very refreshing that people were so blunt and I felt like I always knew where I stood with everyone. I've never really been the perky, cute, charming brand of southern woman and I was pretty tired of dealing with them. However, after a few years I just wanted everyone who had an issue with me to smile to my face and stab me in the back because it really gets exhausting to be confronted about EVERYTHING. ("I'm so sorry I don't have the beer you like, do you really have to tell me about it?"). Sometimes a little hypocrisy on inconsequential things makes life a lot more pleasant. Just smile and be pleasant even if you think I am the most boring/stupid/tacky person you have ever met and talk about me on the way home. But anyway...the belles are a different breed but I think the southern "lady" is a stereotype the northern woman may understand a bit more (the old Scarlett O'Hara vs Melanie Wilkes comparison).

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  59. LG.....That's a perfect comparison Melanie and Scarlett. I've met some lovely Melanie's up north, they may sound a little different but they are true ladies. I'm afraid though that the older I get the more I become Julia Sugarbaker. I might have a sweet southern accent but there's a little kick at the end.

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  60. I can appreciate a true southern gentleman with beautiful manners. I have met those too. The frat boy type (whether preppy, trad, and no matter what region they are from) is way too noisy and "ain't we got fun--burp--for me. I'm far beyond that age, but some of them never grow out of it. I see it around where I live on alumni weekends and such.

    I spent quite a few years in Fairfield County, CT and NYC. I did get worn out with the in-your-face blunt complaints and such. It can just wear you out and make you want to run for cover to a place of honey-dripping "bless your hearts."

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  61. Traditional ( I cant say the other t word) dressing today means dressing like someone in the fifties..1950's...not 1850's or 1750's. Why are the 1850's not T***? Because T*** man is a Modern Man, streamlined and sensible...the fabric version of Johnson's Glass House....and somehow American...versus the Anglophiliatica that preceded it. J Lindsay and J Kerry dressed like they were of their time. No surprise. We fantasize that Kerry or whoever at the same age would today somehow rise above the common, resist the current strident offerings and dress himself exactly like we see in the picture. Like everybody else in the picture. The only thing that separates young Kerry today from standing topless outside Hollister with zinc oxide on his nose is...the parents. Parents are T***. That is the diff. Family is T***. In America we struggle with Traditional because our DNA is to resist the Man. F the Man. Tradition is The Man. The Man is England. We are conflicted. Philosophicallatically speaking, its more American to be from California and dress like Duck Commander....than to creep around New England in whale pants. Who is more trustworthy? The T*** or the P***? Can either of these visual expressions be authentic?

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  62. @Rachel An Irish Catholic can be preppy, but they can't be WASPy. There is a difference.

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  63. First time I've heard the term trad.

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  64. My opinion - Preppy is more about fashion and Traditional is a way of life no matter what the fashions are.

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  65. Both used to be called "Ivy League", never "Ivy".
    The umbrella term "Ivy League" is so encompassing that it fails to distinguish between the understated and the gaudy.While there may be some lack of agreement as to the denotation (and connotation) of "preppy" and "Trad" ( evinced in the comments above), I find both words useful. Terminological exactitude belongs to the realm of science.

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    1. You may note that I used the term "ivy" instead of Ivy League. But you must realize that my memory of things of sixty years ago is a little hazy.

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    2. Science, law, engineering, finance, economics and diplomacy.

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  66. When I was a few decades younger, the only terms I heard were "collegiate" and sometimes "ivy." But I think I heard the term "old-fashioned" more.

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  67. In my experience these terms are easier to define if aligned with certain cohorts. My father, a member of the generation that fought in WWII, was the generation that broke with the traditions of his father, ditching the three piece dark suits and starched collars for OCBDs and odd jackets with natural shoulders. In the summer he often wore Madras trousers but never patchwork or GTH. That was the first cohort of Trad, although it predated such monikers, and to me it looked like Norman Hilton ads.

    The next discernibly different cohort was in school in the fifties, and I associate it with the term Ivy League. We all know it by its style that began to show more casual flare with things like Madras jackets and Adler white socks.

    Then came my generation, the students of the early sixties, and we began to embrace the improbable colors that signaled the arrival of prep, but Ali MacGraw had not yet christened us with that label. We had begun to embrace GTH pants, patchwork Madras (thank you, Chipp), garish colors especially in the summer (remember Jams?), the no socks look, and so on. We were the first preppy wave,and the subsequent waves of preps have built on it embracing an increasingly more casual streak made possible by changing dress codes. The new wave has glommed onto its brands (VV, Filson, etc.) just as we glommed onto ours (Weejuns, Gant). Their clothing is stuff that my generation might not pick but will wear and feel good doing it. My son in law was here this weekend in a long sleeved VV shirt that looked like a Madras button down but was actually a high tech fishing shirt, khaki Orvis shorts, and sockless Rancourt mocs. I was wearing Nanny greens, sockless Maliseets, and a navy O'Connell's polo. We would have been fine swapping.

    The Trad look lingers in pockets. The best examples I see are in Board rooms and legislatures. The Ivy League cohort has largely vanished. The prep ethos is alive and well, and more and more people are embracing select bits of it, a nice egalitarian trend that I hope will ensure that I can always find the kind of clothes in which I am happy.

    And so as we see the creation of the newest cohort these labels are all but vanishing, and I think that is a fine thing in our diverse country.

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  68. I agree with Katahdin!!

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  69. Tim Irvine,

    I'm trying to figure out which group I belong to--certainly not prep(py).
    I wear tweed jackets, navy blazers, grey flannels, chinos,OCBD shirts (only blue or white, polo shirts (only navy)and penny loafers. Have done so since I was an undergrad in the early 60s. I have never worn (and never will wear) GTH anything, or madras anything. I see some moribund professors and some customers at Cable Car Clothiers dressed like mirror images of myself. Anyone else out there who favors this style? If so, what do you call it?

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    1. Sounds Ivy League to me.

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    2. Anonymous, I refer to my own style as traditional conservative. I'm not preppy as that always seemed too exclusive trendy to me and I'm not trendy at all. I prefer to dress in a way that is respectful and appropriate for the situation and the people around me. I don't dress to impress or draw attention to myself. I've worn the same traditional styles since I was a child ( I'm female) and rarely ever pay attention to current fashion except to complain. My grandmother was a fashion model and she had exquisite taste but hated trendy clothing. For every day fashion, she taught me to wear practical quality clothing that fit well. White shirts,turtlenecks, blazers, loafers/slip on shoes, scarves, pearl necklaces and a ladies watch. I always had quality basic clothing but would accessorize with colorful printed scarves- that is, properly sized scarves and not the rugs most wear around their necks today. I've never had anyone tell me that I looked frumpy or dated but people often tell me that I always appear well-dressed even in a dark navy sweatshirt and jeans when washing my car. I'm glad that I held on to my clothing all these years because it is extremely difficult to find clothing that suits my practical taste.

      In my opinion, most fashion today is super tacky and the women's stringy shaggy hair styles and men's unkempt over-grown beards make it all worse. I can't find a stylist that knows how to cut a precise blunt edge anymore. They always resort to the lazy point-cutting method to create the trendy choppy and shaggy split-end look. I can do just as well at home with a mirror and my gardening shears!

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    3. That's Trad.

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  70. How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?

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    1. I think Dylan answered that one, but I forgot the number.

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  71. I enjoy the aesthetics of Trad and Preppy, the beauty of New England lifestyle, outdoorsyness (helped by close proximity and easy to enjoying yourself in nature, a lad back attitude, ideas of conservationship and outdoor stewardship, but I do not enjoy the parts of Trad and Preppy that are grounded in needless exclusivity, patronizing snobbery, anti-diversity, conservation to the point of stupidity, and looking down on folks in other parts of the country (even when they themselves have to contact or personal point of reference). That being said, I do enjoy many of the other ideas, which are also crossover general ideas.

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  72. Some of this is starting to sound like the difference between a violin and a fiddle.

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  73. I think both "trad" and "preppy" are conservative in their outlooks, but to me "trad" has a reactionary essential element to it that preppy just doesn't encompass.

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  74. I like to think of it as "never in style and never out of style." This past Sunday I noticed a framed set of side by side photos - the first, a photo of me taken in the fall of 1963 as I'm about to head to college standing by my newly acquired used red Ford Fairlane and I'm wearing a pink OCB shirt, khaki shorts and Weejuns. The second photo is of my son in the fall of 2004 as he is about to head to college in his newly acquired used red Volvo. The point is that I realized on Sunday that I was then wearing a pink OCB shirt, khaki shorts and Weejuns. Not much progress.

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  75. Never a fan of labels, but it is interesting to have watched "preppy" go from the attire of prep school attendees to one of the misused descriptors of our time.

    I won't venture to offer a definition, rather I'll quote Justice Potter Stewart, "I shall not today attempt further to define...But, I know it when I see it."

    If forced to claim a position on the spectrum, I'm closer to Swamp Yankee than Boston Brahmin, and closer to Little Compton than Darien.

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  76. I am finding, as of late, “Preppy” now encompasses a contrived manor or dress to which one artificially subscribes as opposed to the genuine lifestyle of those who actually grew up in that milieu. Thus, I prefer the term “Trad”, which encompasses all things traditional, hence a little less contrived than “Preppy” especially for those who were never prep school grads!

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  77. I have completely stopped using the word "preppy" because it is so misunderstood. I also don't use the word "trad" because I think it sounds trendy, even though I know it means traditional.

    I prefer the word "classic." Or simply "traditional."

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