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.