Celebrating the Preppy Lifestyle and it's sensibilities


Recently, at a party the hostess asked me what I thought best characterized a male preppy’s wardrobe. I told her I couldn’t speak for everyone and that there were innumerable articles (and several books) on the subject and suggested what I owned personally might provide a general insight.
I informed her that dressing well is tricky --even for us men where our parameters are much more restricted than those of women. It’s easy to get sidetracked, and led into dead-ends. I’ve always tried to dress as simply and correct as possible -- which is, of course, no mean trick. For proof, sit in an airport sometime and count the number of well-dressed men you see parading past (if you can stop staring at the women).
What follows are a series of random probably overly subjective impressions accompanied by some photos. These are clothes that I enjoy wearing and have brought much joy into my life. The preppy garments depicted here are like old friends (Rupert Brooke had it right) although some of these comforting companions are newer and have replaced their earlier counterparts as they’ve either worn out or been distributed to (sometimes grateful) family members
Fortunately, as you know, the list of where a preppy should shop is brief. The list where one should NOT shop could fill a book - if not a public library system.
BROOKS BROTHERS, J. PRESS AND ORVIS: Not much needs to be said here. Stick with these three and you drastically lower your odds of making a faux pas.
LL BEAN? Be selective. Stay with a few sweaters, boots, wool socks, and flannel shirts. Unfortunately, this old company has strayed from the Faith and now could employ the following statement: “Practically all of our products are guaranteed to be made in the People’s Republic of China by slave labor. We stand firmly behind this junk. Not responsible for shoddy quality. Contact Customer Service.”

HEADWEAR: In the summertime, I wear straw Fedora hats such as a white Borsalino with a black band. During the opposite season, I like these toasty wool caps from Vermont Originals -- as well as the tweed cap by Jonathan Richard I picked up in Ireland.

RAINY DAY STUFF: I prefer a Barbour Beaufort jacket in navy for casual damp days; for more formal occasions, I wear a trench coat from Brooks Brothers. For my feet, I slip on LL Bean Gumshoe Thinsulate Boots, or when out in the country green rubber boots (by Hunter of England) to keep me dry. 

DRESS SHIRTS: I’m devoted to Brooks Brothers -- 100% cotton with either button-down or forward point collars. Lightweight Brooks Cool shirts are great for humid, hot days. I buy the non-iron versions because I don’t like supporting the local laundry.
HMS BLAZERS: At present, I own six blazers (four Brooks Brothers [two navy, two striped] and two navy ones by Orvis). The Brooks striped version (Photo with a Brooks white non-iron shirt and Purple Label tie) is referred to as a “regatta jacket” and is probably closer to the original coats worn aboard the 19th Century Royal Navy vessel, which reportedly were of navy and white stripes with brass buttons. Obviously, nothing is more versatile than a blazer.
SNOW SHOES: I clump around in LL Bean shearling-lined boots with their heavy wool Ragg Socks. The apotheosis of warmth and comfort.

UBER-CASUAL SHOES: I like to move around in LL Bean Camp Mocs, Sperry Topsiders in either brown or navy, and Sebago Docksides in the same colors. 

Never any socks above 60 degrees Fahrenheit.
They say nothing in a man’s wardrobe is more telling than his shoes and ties to indicate his level (or lack of) taste and breeding. The old adage of “show me what a man wears on his feet and puts around his neck and I’ll tell you everything about him” still holds. Here are my serious shoes:
DRESS SHOES: I’ve worn Alden cordovan loafers in burgundy for years -- as well as their black dress shoes. They last forever and can even be refurbished by the company. 

The jazzy two-toned Allen-Edmonds “Strawfut”  stems from a classic 1950s model. In brown calf leather and linen, this modern update may not be preppy but looks magnificent with summer suits. Gatsby would approve.

TIES: the introduction of Social Primer reversible bow ties for Brooks Brothers has made a major impact on me the past two years; I’ve collected the ones depicted here. 


Tons of compliments -- even from total strangers on the street. Women, I think, must subliminally associate bow ties with weddings. ?? The other ties shown are from Ralph Lauren’s Purple Label line.

 WINTER SUITS: the navy bead stripe double-breasted suit is by John Cooper Savile Row, London, teamed with a Brooks Brothers Special Order shirt and Churchill dot tie by Ben Silver. All my other suits (mainly Prince of Wales patterns and striped) are by Brooks Special Order. They’ve lasted for decades.

SUMMER SUITS: the same as my winter suits only in a light weight seasonal wool -- Brooks Brothers Special Order again. A blue seersucker suit accompanied by white bucks is brought out to face the dog days.

GO-TO-HELL PANTS AND BEYOND: Three simple rules apply to wearing Go-to-Hell clothing: location, location, location. Country clubs? Yes. Country/Western Bars? No. The former can lead to jovial conviviality, while the latter to a fractured skull in the parking lot. Wear with caution -- and only one at a time.
I only own three items of a Go-to-Hell nature a pair of lime green critter pants with embroidered flies (dear to a fly-fisherman’s heart), a pair of obnoxious electric violet corduroy “supercords” (both by Orvis -- shown here with a Jolly Roger Needlepoint belt by Smathers and Branson), and a bright pink tie (ala The Donald) by Umo Lorenzo of Italy.

the LL Bean Norwegian classic is flanked by a pair of heather Shetland wool crewneck sweaters from Scotland. The hand knit Irish fisherman’s sweater is from the Aran Sweater Market on the island.

HOT SWEATERS: In the cool spring and early fall, I throw on a plain navy cotton sweater by either LL Bean or Brooks Brothers.
The v-neck shown is from the St. Andrews Links golf collection by the latter.

SHORTS: I wear patch madras versions by Cape Madras (Photo shown with a white Lacoste and red swordfish belt from Leather Man Ltd.), solid Bermudas by Brooks Brothers (11” seam), and a pair of Nantucket Red shorts are all I need to keep the irritating heat at bay.
“PREPPY”BODY INK? Unless you make your living throwing harpoons at terrified, fleeing whales, or are a member of an indigenous New Zealand tribe, or you’re patiently awaiting your execution on Death Row, then you shouldn’t have a tattoo. It couldn’t be more un-preppy -- especially for women. Bad, bad, bad.
RALPH LAUREN “BIG PONY” CLOTHING? A Big Mistake. Same goes for his current outrageously expensive Purple Label line. Preppy clothing is never this unnecessary or overly done -- and these two points may serve as litmus tests.
BELTS: My business belts are by Brooks Brothers in either black or dark brown leather. I do own one luxury belt -- an alligator from Ben Silver in Charleston. For casual wear, I prefer theme belts by either Leather Man Ltd. or Smathers and Branson. I realize that, ideally, someone you know should needlepoint a belt especially for you, but none of the doctors and lawyers I’m related to are into that. Anyway, these really are a delight to wear.

CASUAL PANTS: “Dalton” plain front Khakis by Jack Donnelly are my favorites. In three seasons, I also run around a lot in Nantucket Reds. (Photo shows them with Smathers and Branson Needlepoint “Bonefish” and “Grand Slam” belts). During the winter, I wear heavy corduroy “supercords” by Orvis and LL Bean 1912 Flannel Lined Chinos (Photo with navy “sailfish” belt by Leather Man Ltd.) 

TOPCOATS: I have a classic double-breasted camel hair coat from Brooks Brothers and a “mantel” -- a long, navy wool coat with stag horn buttons I purchased in Germany. Euro-prep? No, only kidding.
CASUAL SHIRTS: For summer, I like mesh Lacoste polos, and Brooks Brothers linen or seersucker long sleeved shirts. For cooler conditions, LL Bean Scotch Plaid Flannel shirts are still a good idea.

SWIMWEAR: I’m loyal to the trunks from the French manufacturer Vilbrequin 
after all, a preppy has to be modest, and their designs are colorful and fun. Well made too.
That’s pretty much it -- not an overly large or groundbreaking wardrobe by any means, but one that I find gratifying and a pleasure to own and wear.
Then again, if times really get tough I can always just sell all this and start wearing blue jeans, t-shirts, flip-flops and the type of logo mesh baseball caps they sell at truck stops.

---Robert Reichardt, Fall 2011

Robert Reichardt, is a contributor to The Preppy Times and The Dandy American and the author of "The Preppy and the Trout" and "Karen, The Fuse Lady," a collection of comic plays.

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