Not sure if you heard, but the follow-up to The Official Preppy Handbook —titled True Prep— is out today. When I first learned of the new book I instinctively cringed. Not to be pessimistic, but I just couldn’t see how anything could be as good as the original. Sort of like Wall Street II; the original is a classic and cannot be recreated. So why even try? Then one day this past spring I got invited to a press luncheon at Michael’s (a fancy N.Y. restaurant favored by media bigwigs) for the upcoming release of True Prep and needless to say I was intrigued. But before I tell you about that let’s talk about the original, The Official Preppy Handbook.
When I worked for J. Press we didn’t use the “P” word, we preferred the term “Ivy League style,” but nevertheless a copy of The Official Preppy handbook sat on my desk (as a reference) for years. I’d venture to say it is one of my all time favorite books. I didn’t grow up a prep, but I sure did spend a lot of time working for them in Cleveland’s affluent East Side suburbs (Pepper Pike, Shaker, University Heights, Beachwood, Chagrin, Orange, Gates Mills etc.) and learned to appreciate the odd and frugal ways of preps. I also grew to appreciate their style, and the Preppy Handbook decoded that for me. As a prep-admirer the book was (and still is) perfection. It is just like what the Japanese do with all of their crazy magazines devoted to workwear or motorcycle culture or Americana. Those magazines basically teach people how to emulate a certain lifestyle — just like the Preppy Handbook did. For me the book opened a window into the lives of a very curious group.
When I arrived at Michael’s I didn’t know anyone, so I looked around the room for the person that looked as uncomfortable as I felt and went to talk to him. Before I get into that let me back up, the scene in the room was borderline ridiculous. Everyone was so overly prepped out it was an insane assemblage of pink and green. I was getting nervous as to what I had gotten myself into with all of these crazy preppies. The uncomfortable guy actually worked for the publisher and after a bit of chatting I asked if he could introduce me to the PR so I could say thank you for inviting me. I spoke with the very nice PR lady for a few minutes when she asked if I wanted to meet the author Lisa Birnbach. Wow, I thought. For some reason I never expected to meet her and I have no idea what to ask her. I certainly didn’t want to come off as a super-fan.
As I spoke to Lisa about the book and preps and everything else it started to make sense why, after all these years, she is coming out with a follow-up. True Prep has a sense of humor and it is fun to see how some things have changed and how some haven’t. I was flattered to know that Lisa was aware of ACL’s existence and at the same time I felt slightly rude for my initial apprehension towards the book. But that is sort of my thing — change is bad! Though there are a few style related things in the book that I cannot endorse (which will go unnamed here), I have to say that after reading it with the mindset that the book is not meant to be a “part II,” (it is designed to complement the original) I really liked it. I also must admit that I was wrong about Lisa and True Prep. It is a worthy read and money well spent. But don’t hold your breath about Wall Street II. [True Prep]