Well Prepped

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]

Comments on “Well Prepped

    Ted on September 7, 2010 4:19 PM:

    Got em both. Looking forward the the train ride home.

    evencleveland on September 7, 2010 4:30 PM:

    I will have to check it out – I had the same initial dread response, but if you can be swayed, it must be worth a look.

    I found myself a copy of The Official Preppy Handbook at the formative age of 10, and I was immediately hooked. Drove my poor parents crazy. I flipped through it again recently and was amused at how much my style still is influenced by it, 20 some years later. Fortunately the stuff about pink and green and gatoring didn’t stick.

    jfox on September 7, 2010 5:15 PM:

    read a bit of it this weekend -display family photos on an antique nonworking piano…?? check haha. some great stuff. major stones to pull this off. congrats to Lisa & co.

    Turling on September 7, 2010 5:59 PM:

    At least it has a better cover. If you ever write a book, make it in hardback. And, if you have written a book that everyone knows about but me, nothing new. I’m usually behind, but my apologies nonetheless.

    michael mont. on September 7, 2010 7:17 PM:

    i got an advance review copy in paperback a few weeks ago and it was a massive disappointment. it did not have much of the humor of the original, and for some reason, the many mentions of the obamas seemed unnecessary. this fad of the prep life which has taken over the current trendster scene is guaranteed to make this ‘true prep’ book an upcoming remainder in the bookshelves. also, the fact that chip kidd had to stick his ugly frankenstein mug in this book in an already ugly (not ironical design) was unnecessary. by the way, i sold my copy of the proof for 34 bucks, and was glad to get rid of it. p.s. ralph lauren is a fucking fraud

    JRS on September 7, 2010 8:04 PM:

    Well said. I’m looking forward to mine arriving later this week.

    ELIAS on September 7, 2010 8:28 PM:

    True preps don’t need a handbook. They have their parents closet.

    josh on September 7, 2010 10:27 PM:

    What elias said….

    K.A. Adams on September 7, 2010 10:50 PM:

    Couldn’t be any worse than Take Ivy !

    L. Lindberg on September 8, 2010 1:43 AM:

    Whether Elias made his comment in jest or not, I find it quite annoying that some people require a certain heritage to dress a certain way. I therefore proclaim that Shetland sweaters, from now on, can only be worn by people who actually has family on those islands.

    jacob on September 8, 2010 3:04 AM:

    @michael mont

    Chip Kidd is the man!

    ELIAS on September 8, 2010 8:51 AM:

    @ L.Lindberg, don’t get your lederhosen all in a bundle. The comment I so eloquently made, was not that people can’t dress like preps or even use a guide book. But that true preps don’t need a guide book. You may dress like a prep, do as you like… it is a free country after all. Go ahead and pop you collar, where your reds with pride, slip on those sperry’s… But at the end of the day your only playing dress up. If, I am wrong, I am going to cabellas today, buying a filson and carhartt outfit and shall declare myself a worker!

    Matt on September 8, 2010 9:30 AM:

    Brett on September 8, 2010 12:45 PM:

    maybe we should all fight like the mods & rockers. That’d be cool. Preps V. American Workwear-ers.

    JLSLC on September 8, 2010 12:50 PM:

    Good idea, Brett. Lets see who is REALLY down for their affectation!

    Dave on September 8, 2010 1:55 PM:

    That’s what we need, some good old-fashioned tribes. Those were the days, no? When preps rolled with preps, punks with punks, mods with mods and rockers with rockers. Now we’re all friends. Sheesh.

    Matt on September 8, 2010 1:57 PM:

    Considering most of you aren’t really going to prep schools to become disciples of the far right…

    Matt on September 8, 2010 2:05 PM:

    Ah, the days when fashion actually stood for something other than looking a certain way? I’d take that any day!

    Gary on September 8, 2010 2:54 PM:

    So you can’t be a prep/dress Ivy unless you were born in New England to a wealthy family, and you can’t wear workwear unless you actually work in a factory, mine, steelmill or forest, and you can’t wear tweeds unless you’re shooting grouse in Scotland, and you can’t wear .. you can’t wear .. you can’t wear..

    Here’s your Chinese-made jeans and T-shirts from Walmart, prole, enjoy your life.

    JLSLC on September 8, 2010 6:24 PM:

    There’s a “New” England!?

    L. Lindberg on September 9, 2010 1:14 AM:

    Obviously, I touched a sore spot. It’s interesting that so many believe that old-money new englanders is THE ORIGINAL god-given v 1.0 when they obviously borrowed heavily from a number of sources… like the British. So, I guess we’re all playing dress-up.

    Lost Legends on September 9, 2010 2:03 AM:

    @michael mont
    Stooping to calling someone a fraud is never in style.

    Simon on September 9, 2010 2:39 PM:

    Is the original out of production? I just checked amazon, new paperbacks from $244.44! Yikes!

    Ethan-T on September 9, 2010 7:20 PM:

    @Lindberg, old early new englanders were of British decent. So are they borrowing or carrying on tradition?

    Matt S on September 9, 2010 9:37 PM:

    Bought the book, read the book, tossed book in the trash. Should have passed on a follow up if it wasn’t worthy — this book is just horrible….

    Brandon from Berea on September 10, 2010 7:35 AM:

    Grew up in the not so affluent westside of Cleveland. Someone gave me the original book way back in 1990? maybe as a joke because of how I dressed. Still have it, pages falling out and everything. I lived the prep vs worker growing up. I stuck out like a soar thumb with my patchwork J Crew corduroy shirt.ha-ha

    Gary on September 10, 2010 11:56 AM:

    it’s interesting that “real” wealthy New Englanders under the age of 65 don’t really dress “prep” anymore (go to cape cod), and “real” mill workers don’t wear ringspun denim and made-in-USA chambray shirts any more, and really both traditions are being carried on by hobbyists and those who just like the various styles. Out there in the real world nobody gives a shit about Quoddy Mocs or Bean Boots or Filson or Pendleton, they just wear crap from Costco.

    It’s all dress-up. Enjoy it and cherish it. We’re the only ones who give a shit.

    ELIAS on September 10, 2010 7:39 PM:

    Gary, thanks for breaking it down.

    Jeremy Needleman on September 10, 2010 7:41 PM:

    Nothing wrong with playing dress-up, which is what designers themselves tend to do. Tradition is always “tradition” no matter how old-tyme the manufacturing process is made to look. Every generation’s clothes look authentic after a century.

    Insisting on authenticity (“look, a real lumberjack!”) is like demanding that all books be non-fiction: Dogmatic and aggressively uncreative.

    Sir on September 12, 2010 9:16 PM:

    The new book is absolue rubbish. An interview with a muslim chaplain? Prada loafers for men? J. Crew? Obama a preppy? It’s just so bad. This read more like an update to The Yuppie Handbook; The book is so PC inclusive that, apparently, the only real requirement for preppiness is disposable income – there’s no oher defining characteristic.

    William on September 13, 2010 8:55 PM:

    It’s laughable to think that anyone that wears a blazer and khakis is playing dress up. People up, down, and around America have been dressing like this. Regardless if they ever set foot in Brooks Brothers or got their clothes made at a local haberdashery in some po-dunk town.

    I know we dressed like this, black and white, in my small town in Virginia, and nobody even had the foggiest notion that people in New England claimed they owned this style. My father dressed like this when he was a college student at Shaw University in the 60s. It was just a basic collegiate look, no matter wether you went to Shaw, Howard, Hampton or Harvard, Columbia or Princeton.

    doane on September 14, 2010 10:31 PM:

    Gary shot it out of the sky.

    Emily on September 22, 2010 4:50 PM:

    How come your copy of True Prep is different than what’s on other book sites like Amazon?

    Michael Williams on September 22, 2010 4:51 PM:

    Because I removed the dust jacket.

    Emily on September 22, 2010 5:46 PM:

    Oh, didn’t know. Thank Michael!
    Love your blog!

    Steve on September 23, 2010 11:32 PM:

    > The book is so PC inclusive that, apparently, the only real requirement for preppiness is disposable income – there’s no oher defining characteristic.

    I doubt I could have said it better.

Comments are closed.