Saturday, September 18, 2010

True Prep: further Foundational Preppydom and some neo-architectural rendering as well

Defining Preppy Foundations both traditional and neo is a tall order indeed...

AH, I just put down the latest of all-things-Preppy currently out and about...the book True Prep- It's A Whole New Old World by Lisa Birnbach with Chip Kidd. What an interesting read.

It IS indeed a whole new world out there but I am left to ponder how much of this is actually within traditionalist Prepdom and how much of it really isn't despite being mentioned in print as so? Shades of gray, shades of pink and green and shades of cultural change and political correctness blur defining lines all about us. Overall, in my humble opinion, I found True Prep remaining yes, fairly true to the foundational principles and personal backgrounds that make a Preppy an authentic Preppy.

And as always there are exceptions to the rule. I will never refuse an upgrade to First Class seating on any flight just because my fellow Preppies tend to remain stanch to being in coach according to the authors of True Prep. Especially on the international flight routes I take quite often. Are you kidding: being resigned towards always flying coach??? The difference between being in a sardine-like conditions with one tepid meal served about midnight or... being within my own personal pod where it turns down into a flat bed and I'm being waited on hand and foot plied with champagne, fruit plates and fairly decent meals is an immense difference. Now I'm Preppy enough to not PAY for this but of course...the full amounts for First or Business Class seating but a free pass or nominal upgrade fee...yes, sign me up! And so some Preppies indeed may be spotted at the front of the plane upon occassion.

As well, there are other nuances within the Preppy world and worldview beyond regarding which kind of plane seat to sit in. Take for instance the fact that Northeastern Preppies are a bit different from the Southern Lowcountry Preppies whom I am from and grew up around. A Boston debutante is essentially different from a Savannah debutante despite their commonality of donning a white ballgown, long white kid gloves and conscripting one of their brothers to being suited up into White Tie tux in order to be their post. At the same time, these two debs would instantly spot one another and for the most part understand one another if they ended up being upgraded together into adjoining seats within Business Class on a flight to Paris.

The biggest change it seems within this update of what-is defined as being Preppy for our new century and globalized world is how the Preppy Realm has been expanded out from being a land populated by WASPs, white Anglo-Saxon Protestants, to a more multi-culturalism contexting. On the one hand, I can see this growing desire of today's earnestness towards embracing more people into the Preppy fold and thus define them less from their family backgrounds and generational cultural heritage to defining them much more as to where they went to college, what Prep clothing looks they're sporting and if they vacation on Martha's Vineyard or Hilton Head Island. Perhaps as well, Preppy has actually burst out of its tightly defined, multi-generational private WASP club to be something more like a Chamber of Commerce filled with Brooks Brothers suited men and Tory Burch dressed women from all backgrounds and walks of life who've nicknamed themselves Skip and Mitsey after they purchased the columned Colonial house on the corner and joined the local tennis club? I'm still pondering this and am not totally-sold on it yet... as I said in the previous post, being Preppy isn't about purchasing-it, it's about living within it from the start.

Another question then is if this socio-economic-demographical expansion of inclusion by earnest activity and acquiring thus ultimately relegates being-Preppy to simply being a fad or fashion one manufactures for oneself out of personal style interest and/or getting ahead within the business world, politics, academia, one's neighborhood, book club and such rather than being an authentic lifestyle one lives within from birth to beyond? Can we all really be true to ourselves if we're "costumingly cultivating" our defining looks n' lifestyle? Hmm...

Preppy isn't just wearing a well cut navy blue blazer, going to Harvard and being an attorney with a summer cottage in the Hamptons. Preppy isn't just investing one's paycheck in Lilly Pulitzer and being an ASID certified designer working out of an elegant sunroom filled with potted orchids. Preppy isn't just playing the family-slacker living ski season to ski season somewhere out west. Preppy isn't looking like a Prep to tick off one's decidedly non-Prep family.

Preppy isn't redefining yourself. *Preppy is being defined, partly-defined or heavily influenced by the Preppy Life you were brought up within wherein you just assumed that everyone else in the world lived like that until you went to college and discovered that wasn't necessarily so.*

Just as I enjoy wearing a piece or two of exquisite Navajo jewelry and love listening to the Navajo flute being played and yet fully realize that I can never imagine myself as being an authentic Native American within any definition of that fascinating culture and lifestyle, so I think a young lady within their culture may enjoy wearing pearls and sailing along the salt marshways of our southern lowcountry here but wouldn't imagine herself to be just like me, an authentic Southern Prep Debutante. And thank goodness for our different lives and life experiences....that's what makes living life so interesting....this wide variety of peoples....

America is indeed the land of reinvention however in the realm of Preppydom existing within its borders, it IS what-all you're from that counts in the actuality of having true Prep-authenticity.

In this current day culture where it seems anyone can reinvent themselves with the aberration of Lady Gaga perhaps being the crazed-end mutation of endless cyclic individual mutations going on (and at this point, frankly Star Trek's Borg freaks seem as real a future possibility as anything), HOWEVER... Preppies remain changeless. Preppies remain true unto themselves.

Preppies "just-are" with their hand-me-down clothing, family's summer house, the kid's car that's barely running happening to be an old luxury sedan, several generations' alumni status at good universities, penchants for tennis, tailgating parties featuring good wine and picnic baskets, international travel, cotillion season each December, kilt-wearin' men at weddings and everyone concentrating more on the drinks than the food at any and all gatherings.

Preppy isn't a clothing choice or a series of lifestyle choices..... for true Preppies, Preppy is a given.


  1. Of course I bought the book. I'm just a bit leery of reading it. Worried that it focuses on the labels and all the "haves" one must acquire - rather than then old school persona of the original. This SC deb grew up driving my other's old wood-grained station wagon to our Arrogantly Shabby house at Pawleys. We lived in LL Bean. We used the family silver almost eve Sunday. We just "were" and didn't even know it was a label until the book came out.

    Did you find the book a little narcissistic? Just curious as I am planning on reading it on the plane up to Nantucket this week...

  2. Hi Bevy!

    I sooo agree...and I think that this updated version has gone too "commoditizing Preppy" (attaining it by the purchasing of clothing, university educations, style of houses and choices of vacation spots) thus devolving it into a form of what I'm calling Neo-Preppy as contrasted against what I'm terming Traditional Preppy.

    You and I are definitely Traditional born n' bred Preppies that's for sure :)

    And as I put it in this post, I have no problem with folks taking a bit of Prep style and lifestyling here n' there but to be an authentic Preppy, one must have grown up within this particular lifestyle and really, have had generations of family also doing so.

    I think you'll find it like I did with True Prep...interesting and fairly true to our Preppyrealm but trying to be too inclusive to the point of taking it away from its authentic essence.

    Oh, yes! The wooden-sided station wagon- love it! We had one for years...

    Have a great time up in Nantucket & lemme' know what you think of the book when you finish it :)

    Best as always, Lachlan

  3. True Prep seems like it has "Obama" years written all over it. Gross.

  4. Hi there! It IS much more politically-correct than most Traditional Preppies are that's for sure... ;)

    Best, Lachlan

  5. Thanks so much :) I appreciate hearing this and am so glad that this post has resonnated with readers...

    Best to you, Lachlan