Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Official Preppy Handbook

In society, fashion is used to assert, affirm and refute power. Prep helps sustain status quo style. In the The Official Preppy Handbook (1980) writer Lisa Birnbach uses semiotics to de-code preppy subculture. Prep is based on economic resources for a life of advantages emphasizing college preparatory education. It is also associated with American aristocracy, WASP subculture, and traditional values expressed through classic outward aesthetics. Because is it largely about socio-economic status, it is promoted in consumer culture as an achievable style that drives many brand visions.

Prep subculture was originally about quality education in the classics and could be recognized by accent, through region and schooling. Now it is the clothing that serves as index.

The Preppy Handbook is based on Britian's Sloan Ranger Handbook and has been followed by the Filthy Rich handbook below and also below a Japanese version.

Historic northeastern prep, the Kennedys, and in LA Robert Evans at home in the 1960's.

Prep is evident in many fashion brands and campaigns.

Brooks Brothers 2006 above & JCrew 2008 below

Italian heritage brand Marina Yachting, 2010

Juergen Teller, Washionton DC, W , 2009

Some suggest prep subculture is increasingly irrelevant. The following ad for alcoholic tea was targeting the American collegiate audience but the product did not succeed.


  1. Within the fashion industry exists a complex hierarchy of power relations. The hierarchy is made up of all the players that live within the fashion world. These include the designers, models, photographers, fashion house owners, magazine editors, graphic designers, marketing and public relations people, advertisers, journalists and more, all the way down to the retailers and consumers. When it comes to fashion and power, who has the power in the fashion industry to decide what is fashionable each season? It is important to predict early on which trends will be popular, because fashion designers, buyers, and marketers need direction to reel in consumer interest. “The ability to forecast fashion trends is necessary because the design, development and production of most garments takes several months, so product concepts are usually initiated anywhere between two weeks and a year prior to going on sale” (Goworek, 31). Taking Promostyl as an archetype of a prestigious trend forecasting agency, one can observe the extent to which a trend forecaster’s vision for Summer 2010 is translated into advertisements, editorials and retail collections.


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  3. Excellent info,post is very informative, i love the post & photos!