Photo by Salt Water New England

Monday, October 14, 2019

Reader Question: Can Anyone be Preppy or Ivy?


Reader question for the community:
Thank you for all of the ideas.  I did not read the original Daily Prep blog so I hope this has not already been answered, but my question is,  do people here think anyone can adopt a preppy style?  Can anyone now be Ivy?  I find this all rather fascinating.  Is it like learning to speak a foreign language?  A lot of Instagram sites are fun but they leave me more aware of what they are missing than what they got right.  

35 comments:

  1. You have to be born into it. Some people try to copy the style of dress, although they never seem to get it quite right. But it's so much more than just the clothes. If you're not brought up in it from a very young age, you'll never really get it.

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    1. I have to stop and think about this one for a while, you are either born WASPY or your not. It's really not something you acquire as you go along as much as some people do try.
      Arthur E. Lloyd III

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  2. I'm sure others will have more substantial things to say about this than I do, but:

    I think of Ms. Aldrich's blog as expressing not so much a style as an attitude or even a philosophy of life. It's an approach that values durability, honesty, integrity, intelligence, quality, respectfulness, simplicity, sustainability, and tradition. Plenty of people on social media label themselves "preppy" who exhibit none of these virtues. Conversely, some people on and off social media possess all of these qualities even though they didn't attend an Ivy League school and might never have heard of Nantucket Reds.

    I would say yes, anyone can aspire to (and probably should aspire to) the values and virtues of Salt Water New England. But they have little to do with the clothes and accessories one possesses (so long as they are sturdy, understanded, and well tailored!).

    As for labels like Preppy, Ivy, and Trad, they can be misleading because (historically speaking) the last thing that the New England WASP Establishment worried about was "lifestyle." It's impossible for me to imagine my coastal New England parents and grandparents buying clothes or consumer items to mimic some so-called style. Who needs a lifestyle when you have a life?

    I would say that if you're wearing clean and tasteful clothes, driving a clean and tasteful car, watching your manners, and treating other people with respect, you are already Preppy in the only sense that's worth worrying about.

    I hope that helps answer your question!

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    1. Brilliant, Matt! I fashioned an entire statement/answer in my mind, and then just went back and re-read yours. I mentally deleted everything I was thinking to write, and now I just say...reference Matt!

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    2. You really nailed it.
      MaryAnne

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    3. It used to be that young men and women who had social ambitions but little in the way of gentle birth learned the rules from Amy Vanderbilt and the like. I wonder if that still happens.

      One can still have a good ancestry (my wife is in Burke's Presidential Families) and still not be a preppie. My wife certainly doesn't consider herself one even though her mother was literally born at a prep school--her parents were both on the staff. There are several prep school and Ivy League connections in the family but I, on the other hand, well, that's another story.

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    4. You said it perfectly! I get tired of the labels "Preppy", "Ivy", and others becoming the focus, instead of a lifestyle and set of values. Thank you!

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    5. Absolutely agree with Matt. I would also add that helping others is an integral value. Particulary by personally helping in the community and not just writing a check.

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  3. GREAT ANSWER Matt!


    Didn't realize there was a so-called label for myself, friends and family until I reached my teen years in the 1960's. It just came naturally among our rural township that we were of high character, that our parents took us to church every Sunday and taught us a strong work ethic. The obtainment of higher education was pursued but without fanfare. We wore durable traditional clothing that wasn't trendy (including hairstyle). We had healthy self-confidence, yet were humble. Both sets of my grandparents would have been considered WASP's (White Anglo-Saxon Protestants); yet they didn't need to label themselves because they lived it through their traditional values, hard work, and love of outdoors!

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  4. In many respects, humans are malleable and will adapt where there is a need or a will. A neighbor friend of mine — who attended a public school and was not at all preppy — enrolled in a prep school just as they were to enter the 8th grade. Somewhat quickly, they adapted the look and attitude of the preppy set. Though I cannot say what they felt or held inside, outwardly, they became a different person and appeared to have remained that way since. They may not know what it is like to have hordes of money or the privilege that comes from have had it for generations. Nevertheless, that does not mean they cannot believe in similar values.

    If one focuses on the “look” of preppy, ivy, or whatever, then one will never understand the values that are traditionally associated with the culture. Regardless of wealth, how one looks, or the schools they attend, the generalized lifestyle is, as Matt said in an earlier comment, rooted in traditions of quality, integrity, and honesty — among others.

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    1. My family came here in 1620. We have never had hoards of money. As my grandfather told me 60 years ago " We got our money by not spending it". It has always stuck with me.

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    2. anonymous at 12:16 - we must be related, although my family didn’t arrive until 1627! The phony preppy label showing ripped jeans and skirts shorter than ever is pathetic. cheers! scotmiss

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  5. Anyone can adopt a clothing style and teach themselves manners, work ethic, etc. but unless you grew up in that life, you are merely adopting it. You are not from it.

    I went to an LA public high school which served a, mostly, well-to-do student body and most of us dressed in what came to be called preppy but this school's population was largely made up of kids from the show business world (some were celebs themselves and many were children of industry people). Point being, it was simply the style in the mid to later 1960's to wear khakis, ocbd shirts and polos, Venetian and penny loafers along with desert boots and wallabes. A lot of blazers and repp ties in my yearbook photos. In looking at the student body, you would have thought we were all going to Phillips or Choate (or close to it, anyway).

    Bottom line, you can adopt the look and manners of the ivy life but unless you grew up in it, you're not a member of it. Frankly, I fall into the latter group as we left the east when I was 7 and went to California. I later left California for Idaho where I live today. When I learned my father's family history, I learned that there was an Ivy connection as my 2nd great-grandfather and his brother both went to Phillips and, later, Dartmouth for one and Harvard from the other and both became physicians. My grandfather and his brother went to Harvard. I duly applied but the letter back was today's equivalent of "LOL".

    So to an outsider, I may look the part and do my best to be true to the traditional life, someone born to it will know I'm simply looking and acting the part but am not from it (even if some of my ancestors were). To them, I'm probably considered a poseur.

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  6. Sure, anyone can "adopt a preppy style." But it IS like learning a foreign language, in the sense that it is difficult to achieve fluency and easy to make mistakes that show you are not a "native." That said, the whole preppy/Ivy class is pretty attenuated at this point, so what's the harm?

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  7. No. Indeed, to ask the question is to answer it. What is called "preppy" is not a "style" nor a "fashion." It is a sensibility.

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  8. A question from a European: Are there still "real" preppies coming through today?

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    1. Yes and no. There are certainly old-money East Coast families who trace their American ancestry back to the early 1600s and whose outlook and way of life has changed minimally during the last century or so: same clothes, same clubs, same friends, same schools, same summer vacations, and so on. You can call them "real" preppies if you like. But no in the sense that these families no longer control the educational, financial, political, and philanthropic institutions of the US the way they once did. And their children are probably as likely to grow dreadlocks and get tattoos as they are to join the Somerset Club. If you're interested, Baltzell's book "The Protest Establishment" charts the migration of "real" preppies from the center to the periphery of American civilization.

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  9. Time to find some new words to seperate the look from the life. A quick trip to the ralph lauren polo shop in manhattan will tell you that the two are not necessarily related.

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  10. I hope so. Otherwise I have been wasting my time for the last 45 years. I could go back to corduroy suits and frye boots. I think Thorsten Veblen has already answered this question.

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  11. To the manor born!

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    1. Manner, not manor, is the correct expression.

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    2. It actually could be either, as a response to the question. "To the manor born" means born with a silver spoon (into a life of wealth & privilege). "To the manner born" refers to innate ability (or proclivity or acclimatization) of any sort.

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  12. something that strikes me here is the amount of snobbery that seeps through on occasion. as if Preppy is mainly only the epitome of buying certain brands and driving certain cars etc.
    and Muffy's blog is so much more than that.
    I grew up with a New England grandmother and mother whose every actions could probably be labeled "preppy" today I suppose. and yet money nor style were ever discussed. my father was a TEXAN! so it was indeed interesting!
    the penchant for self exposure with constant cameras in one's face would be looked upon as silly. "fool's names and fool's faces are always found in public places."
    there are nuances.
    do you sense the difference in the first reply with the rather closed answer to your question... and that of the latter ones... especially those by Matt?
    there is definitely a philosophy of life... encompassing just your style of living!
    the VALUE you put on the best quality you can afford. the wisdom in not always panting after the latest of anything. good taste can always be learned if one is interested.
    the admiration always of simplicity and truth. whether in advertising or public speaking! I suppose it just means be yourself. but be your BEST SELF. with integrity of thought as well as the way you treat others. you will project all the qualities that are valued as a Preppy without worrying about being 'born into it.'

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    1. When I was a child my mother would say "Only fools and funny faces write their names in public places" so, I guess I will continue to post and Anonymous. Have a nice day!

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  13. No wonder the 'elites' are despised for acting superior and condescending: "...it's an approach that values durability, honesty, integrity, intelligence, quality, respectfulness, simplicity, sustainability, and tradition." Those very virtues can be said for the poorest, most ill-educated, proudly straightforward, family and faith loving Americans so often looked down on as hillbilly/yahoo/rednecks. Yikes.

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    1. Although I am from the coal fields of southern West Virginia and have actually lived in a log house with no inside toilet, I am nonetheless a university graduate, as are our two children. Oddly enough, my first job after high school was working on a tobacco farm--near Amherst, Massachusetts. The university our children graduated from is named after their many times great grandfather--on their mother's side.

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  14. Mulling this whole thread... I keep coming back to the fact that I don't require someone else's label of what defines X in order to be X. But that's me. If you want purple hair and tattoo your face, and call yourself preppy, more power to you. However you see yourself, live it to the fullest.

    My husband and I are blessed in 1000 different ways and I try very hard to be grateful for every one of those blessings, most importantly for the blessing of him. I also try to help out a fellow in need as I am able. I feel it a duty to do so during my time on this Earth.

    I'm not perfect. I fail every day at being a as good a person as I can be, but I go to bed each night asking forgiveness, and rise each morning hoping to be a better man.

    I hope this all doesn't sound hokey or condescending to anyone. Please, define yourself as you need or desire. Help your neighbor. Smile and say hello to someone on the street. Revel in the beauty of nature. Be kind.

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  15. Yes, you can be without the pedigree. It is more an attitude than a label. But whatever you do, don't be stodgy or stuffy.

    DJP

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  16. A couple of ways to look at it, I think. Webster's defines "preppy" as being a student or graduate of a preparatory school, secondarily as dressing or behaving like a preppy. Many of the comments above focus on behaving rather than the clothing - fine, but most people focus on the educational background and clothing to define the subculture. i tend to think of the behavioral part as reasonably well off financially, well-educated, conventional and conservative in the way they dress (with some variations), polite and reasonably reserved in teh way they behave (when not too intoxicated - alcohol is often part of the preppy experience).

    Note I say 'they.' i grew up in new england and graduated from an ivy league college, but my family and religious background (family fled Russian religious persecution turn of last century) aren't preppy, and i attended public high school. i like some preppy clothes because they last and don't generally go out of style. Love being outdoors, though the level of winter mountaineering, cycling, and canoeing I do takes it beyond what anyone would consider preppy. a really good gin & tonic is a great thing, but so is single barrel bourbon with a couple of ice cubes. raised three children to be good people. i don't consider myself to be preppy, don't fit the mold, and couldn't care less.

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  17. I think preppy and WASP are not always synonymous. Lot's of WASP are preppies, but all preppies aren't WASP. Many preppies are Catholic or other religions. WASP are protestant. WASP is a culture strongly based on traditions.

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  18. Preppy and Ivy can and can not be mutually exclusive. Preppy is a lifestyle developed from ones upbringing, sensibilty and even from ethnic-religious characteristics (WASP). Ivy refers to the university that one attended and the high level of education that they received. My husband is from eastern europe, graduated from an Ivy and is defineately NOT preppy at all. During his childhood, material items were limited under communism and in the transitional period in the 1990's even food was sometimes scarce. Though what was "preppy"about his upbringing was how his family preserved what they had, keeping things simple, practical and clean. Preppy can be a also a style of dress, which is purely superficial and characteristic of those who want to envelop themselves in something that will make them look "blue blood American or English", something that they associate with class and status so that others think that they have it.

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  19. So you can be preppy and Jewish?

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  20. The most important thing about the so-called preppie world is authenticity. If you can fake that, you got it made.

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