Saturday, September 29, 2012
The Seven Deadly (or at least mildly annoying) Sins of Preppy Dressing
Prep is a mature, timeless, American style with British roots. However, there are seven highly-overlapping areas where many people go against the spirit of the classic Prep aesthetic. Here they are.
1. Cheap construction: Using flimsy material and shoddy stitching; using stiff cardboard-like leather to replace high quality leather in a briefcase, shoes, or a belt; having no extra fabric on a jacket so, for example, the sleeves can’t be let out when passed on to the next generation. Funnily enough, cheap construction may be the cardinal sin. Cheap construction restricts activities, and reuse. Cheap construction keeps clothing from being passed on. And cheap construction on expensive items is morally indefensible.
2. Lazy derivative design: bland knock-offs; tasteless patterns; khakis and oxfords missing key details. Many vendors knock-off their own designs to replace the originals.
3. "Preppy with a twist" or "updated classics": adding trendy details; the sartorial equivalent of fan-fiction.
4. Foppery: looking like someone stepped out of a glossy catalog; wearing impractical items such as high heels on the dock; everything too new; dressing to be seen, not to do anything. A self-test is, would you wear it if no one was looking?
5. Iconography: loudly wearing iconic images or brands; copying the look without copying the passion, such as loving the image of a boat more than being on a boat; showing off a brand of clothing because the brand is popular (but often past its prime).
6. Sycophancy: using clothes to try to ingratiate oneself to a target group. It makes everyone in the target group uncomfortable and embarrassed (it does work, however, to ingratiate oneself to other sycophants who want to ingratiate themselves to the same target group).
7. Reactance/ eclecticism: proudly opposing one set of rules by adhering to another set of rules by people who view themselves as "the type who doesn't follows rules". A meta-trend today is eclecticism. People add elements of preppy with discordant other styles in an attempt to be ironic and individualistic, not realizing how trendy they are actually being. It is the equivalent of putting modern art in Monticello.
Preppy clothes should be perfect for smart, productive people who don't want to have to think about clothing. But while this used to be true, so many vendors have embraced the short-term cashing-out strategy of tricking people and passing off shoddy goods and costumes; so regretfully, more thoughtfulness today is necessary.
All of these points have been better stated in T. S. Eliot's famous dictum: "Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different. The good poet welds his theft into a whole of feeling which is unique, utterly different than that from which it is torn."