A term originally coined for students at prep schools, this conservative and upper-crust way of dressing became a middle class status symbol in the heart of the 80’s. Fueled by labels like Izod, Duck Head and Bass, preppy teenagers prided themselves on their collections of designer clothes. Fueled by a diet of label lust, young prepsters were on the fast track to yuppiedom, and their clothes helped to advertise to the world that they, too, were upwardly mobile.
With freshly-pressed Duck Head pants (pegged at the ankle, then rolled), Bass weejun penny loafers with obligatory penny, and double Izod shirts with upturned collars, the prepster was the foundation of the “popular crowd.” The look was similar for both boys and girls: a uniform that varied little even in colors (don’t forget that this was the age of Miami Vice, and pastel colors like yellow and pink were popular for boys).
If you didn't have this exact formula, then you missed the boat, and were relegated to the wannabes. And don’t think you could get away with any one of the number of imitators that sought after the Izod alligator’s glory: the fox (JC Penny), horse (Hunter’s Run and Jordache) and the swan (Gloria Vanderbilt) among them. Inferior labels were targeted and scoffed at. The contest was, after all, to see how many alligators you could get, and of course that required a closet full of alligator shirts in all shades.
That challenge lives on today, but not with such fiery convictions. Preppy has never died. It’s evolved slightly, but the requisite polo shirts, khaki pants and penny loafers can be seen on suburbanites every day. Great fashion never dies.