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American Prep: A Curriculum of the Trend

20 Aug 2019

This fall, preppy pieces are evolving as they take inspiration from heritage sportswear: Ivy League looks and utility clothing are now coming together to sit side by side on the bleachers. 


Preppy style is rooted in Ivy League dress codes. The Ivy League is a group of 8 prestigious universities located on the East Coast of the United States that includes Harvard, Princeton, and Yale. During the 1950s, these establishments saw the arrival of the first sportswear, which replaced the schools' traditional suits. The student-athletes of the American elite adopted this new dress code that was shaped by their sports affiliations and was a symbol of excellence.  

Photo credit:

In the 1970s, preppy fashion spread further south into the Hamptons, where it began to incorporate nautical influences. After inspiring the first collections of Ralph Lauren, this style quickly became iconic: it was named preppy as a shortened version of the word "preparatory" in preparatory school student. 


The best-known Ivy League heritage piece is the letterman or varsity letter jacket, which carries the initial of the university as a sign of a sports honor. There are many other iconic pieces, like chino pants, the Harrington jacket, oxford shirts, the polo, and penny loafers.  
Preppy style also shows traces of British high society. Traditional outdoor activities like polo, hunting, rugby, sailing, and golf have left behind many legacies: stripes, check shirts, utility vests, equestrian- and nautical-inspired accessories and clothing, and some typical color palettes.

Famous American brands have evolved along with the popularity of preppy style, including Ralph Lauren, Fred Perry, the iconic Tommy Hilfiger, and the European brand Lacoste.

Photo credit: Ralph Lauren

This Season

For fall 2019, we’re fusing these Ivy League dress codes to create a reimagined and eclectic preppy look. Our key pieces? The rugby polo, turtleneck, and cargo pant

The Rugby Polo

Modeled after the typical uniform for this British sport, this top takes two trends and puts it into one piece: the polo shirt and stripes! This year, we notice the stripes are placed vertically as well as horizontally. Thin or wide, uniform or mixed, they alternate in different primary and secondary colors. A white collar tops it all off. Its finishing touches are fraternity letters and an embroidered coat of arms.

How to wear it: 

With beige, khaki, or even camo cargo pants for a combo that’s completely modern.

The Turtleneck

Treading the line between chic and casual, the turtleneck first made its appearance as a piece of sportswear. It was thicker for the outdoors, lighter for golf, and often worn by sailors. The style was integrated into preppy fashion due to its association with athletic and nautical dress codes. Also, during the 1950s sportswear movement, it began to be worn as a less formal alternative to the tie.

How to wear it:

Thin or thick, coming in smooth, cabled or ribbed knits... the turtleneck can be styled on its own or layered under absolutely anything! Under blazers and cardigans, it looks modern and chic, while under sweaters, T-shirts, and jackets, it gives off a sporty and academic air.

The Cargo Pant

Originally worn by the British armed forces, these utility pants were designed with large pockets for provisions. Later introduced to American cities, it has become a fundamental piece of streetwear.

How to wear it:

Paired with a rugby polo, it creates a causal sporty look. When worn with a checked blazer and a sweater, it adds an urban edge to these preppy pieces. Try them in camo prints to make these pants as modern as possible and call attention to them with a colorful web belt that's a bit too long!

Now, it’s your turn. Test out the Boston Club trend and sport a style that’s simultaneously natty and nonchalant.

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