Being Preppy

The word “preppy” means different things to different people. But what image comes to mind when the word is said?

Do you think of someone who is well off, dressed in pastel colors, with gelled hair? The Merriam-Webster dictionary describes the word as “Someone who dresses or acts like a student at a prep school (such as by wearing neat, somewhat formal clothing or by using particular words and phrases)”.

Since starting college, I’ve been looking into switching up my style. After two and a half years, I felt as if I had found the style that fitted my personality. In the past year or so, I’ve described myself as being preppy, not only in terms of dress but also in the morals that I believed in. To me, being preppy meant setting yourself to a higher standard and putting yourself second, if not third. I guess I’ve always had these inner standards. It just took time for my outer self to match my inner one.

In many ways, I see being preppy as being respectful of traditions and history. It is being respectful of where you come from, and the belief that just because something is new does not mean it’s necessarily better. But most of all, being preppy means embodying charity, compassion, and the desire to help others without wanting something in return.

However, this leads me to what we see online: Tumblr, Instagram, Pinterest. What do we see when we type up “preppy”? We see guys with monogrammed polo shirts posing in front of “their” sport cars that their parents paid for, girls lying on beaches sipping on some tropical drink. In short, we see people with backgrounds of privilege, affluence, and the attitude of getting more than what your neighbor has.

How about all the other things that are behind these pictures? Is being preppy having a closet stuffed with clothes and accessories? Or having money/property passed down from generation to generation instead of having a work-hard ethic to get where you are? Is that what preppy means?

There may be an endless number of attributes to what being preppy means, but at the end of the day, what does it all mean?

Am I guilty of playing into this trope of wanting to be preppy? Of course — but who isn’t? In the past 20 years or so (or should I say in the last 2-3 years), I’ve definitely tried to fit in, materialistically at least. In the attempt to find my own style, I had lost myself in a cycle of consumerism.

In short, it seems as if being preppy is not what it used to be. The word has been photoshopped, filtered, and edited to the point where the word has more extrinsic meaning than it does intrinsic. However, this doesn’t mean that I don’t respect the term –I did at one point in time, but it’s been changed to the point where it’s hard for me to find any part of the word that still relates to who I am today.

And what does this mean for me? I can’t give you a clear answer. Based on how the term “preppy” is defined by pop culture, I definitely do not fit this definition, and I don’t want to. I don’t go on vacation in Southampton. I don’t come from a rich background, nor do I have a plush bank account. My parents were foreigners from China. And my style of dress? It’s a mix of everything.

So if there’s one thing that you take away from this post, it’s this: large brand names, big houses, and fast cars doesn’t make a person better than the next. The best style is being true to who you are. At the end of the day, each one of us will be remembered for the kind of people we were, not what possessions we had.


12 thoughts on “Being Preppy

  1. Deeply enjoyed this post! A large part of being “preppy” is the philanthropy that goes along with it! Giving back to your community is a huge part! You should look at in a post called the “Preppy Manifesto” I think you would highly enjoy it!
    Thanks! XOXO,
    Kate Wins (


  2. Hi, Gina!

    It’s Shady Del Knight. I was delighted to find a comment from you on Shady Dell Music & Memories. Thank you very much for your interest! I see that you are just getting started posting. I am always looking for new friends and, based on what I have read about you, we have much in common. My two-part career revolved around writing and I have enjoyed authoring my blog for seven-and-a-half years.

    I enjoyed your musings about the term “preppy.” It immediately brought to mind the 1970 film Love Story. Jenny, played by Ali MacGraw, nicknamed Oliver, played by Ryan O’Neal, “Preppy.” Oliver came from a family that had more money than God and Jenny was of modest means. When Jenny called Oliver “Preppy,” it was her sarcastic way of acknowledging the silver spoon in his mouth and letting him know that she couldn’t be bought.

    I agree that “preppy” can mean different things to different people. It could describe a clean-cut, studious, goal-oriented young person who wears classic, traditional clothing styles, follows the rules and adheres to principles and standards. “Preppy’ might also refer to a condescending snob who cares more about wealth and status than about the plight and the feelings of underlings.

    I cordially invite you to come follow me at SDMM, Gina. If you like what you see over there and decide to subscribe then I will happily join you here at The LA Survival Guide.

    Thank you again for your interest!


  3. I remember the “Preppy Handbook” from the 80’s. To me, preppy meant people named Biff and Muffy who went to Ivy League schools and wore sweaters around their shoulders. However, as old-moneyed folks go, there used to be a sense of social justice and responsibility to help those less fortunate ingrained in that culture. I think it still exists to some degree.


  4. Preppy is a term that…for me…I can’t associate it in a favorable context. When I went to college Preppy’s were mainly the Frat crowd and they were all about social status and “who you know”. Don’t get me wrong, I will never dislike anybody just because they dress “preppy”…my son dresses that way sometimes…but the vibe I get from it isn’t usually favorable.


  5. Being true to yourself and your style – that is good advice! I always thought of preppy as not just a particular style, but as classic pieces that can be worn for years. I guess it can depend on where you shop and how you see “preppy” as a specific style that may or may not fit into your life. Thanks for stopping by my blog; it was good to see you. 🙂 Have a great week!


  6. I totally agree that it is important to be true to yourself. I think it is interesting to think about the fact that different words mean different things to different people. I always think of rich people with sweaters tied around their shoulders when I think of the word preppy. I guess I associate the word more with clothing than with anything else though. Great post!


  7. I don’t think it matters what other people think or say. Do what makes you happy. Your interpretation of preppy is what makes you unique. Dress and act the way that makes you feel good. Good-luck!


  8. I grew up in Southern California in the 80s and when I moved to Colorado, kids would call me California Prep. I really didn’t know what they meant since I just wore clothes that I like for the simple fact that they were comfortable. I’m not big into labels, though.


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