In October, Avery Trufelman, the host of the Articles of Interest podcast from Radiotopia, set out to trace a trend that "against all odds, seems to come back over and over again," as she put it. The next seven chapters — each a 30-minute episode in season 3 — follows the prep style from its inception through to today, profiling those that pushed it into the fold and those that made it ubiquitous.
And in 2022, prep clothing is nothing if not abundant. "Yes, hedge funds and eating clubs are as exclusive and unattainable as ever, but my pet theory is that Ivy clothes have become everything Ivy institutions themselves are not — they're accessible; they're relatively affordable; and they're friendly," Trufelman says in Chapter 7, which dropped on December 7th.
This sentiment goes against the style's original wearers' intents. They used OCBDs and Step and Repeat Ties to signify wealth, something that was, for many, wholly unattainable, an exclusive and outright inconceivable fate, even if it seemed like everyone else was rich. For the middle class, prep became costuming, a method of assimilating into higher stature. But then prep became cool, courtesy of disruptors like Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr., James Baldwin, Miles Davis and John Coltrane, who remixed prep for their own purposes.
"Black Ivy style became a thing in and of itself, distinct from Ivy but always related to it. Ironically, the characterization of Ivy league clothing as quintessentially cool is due in no small part to the enormous, but until now undocumented, influence Black Ivy style has had on mainstream culture —past and present," Jason Jules, the author of Black Ivy: A Revolt in Style, told GP in 2021.
And at the end of 2022, prep remains quintessentially cool. The style, one could argue, is bigger than ever, and Google's Year in Search, the engine's annual recap of its users' queries, backs them up. The searches that spiked this year include questions about prep attire and how to pull off its pillar styles.
- Preppy aesthetic
- Old money aesthetic
- How to style a white button up
- How to style loafers
And these queries align with our coverage, which saw an uptick in stories that center prep styles: profiles on J.Crew (it's back!) and news notes on Le Alfré, an Oxfords-only shirt company, Blackstock & Weber (a Black-owned loafer brand), Rowing Blazers (an encompassing label founded by an Oxford scholar). But they also align with insights from other online services, like TikTok, where videos captioned with #oldmoneyaesthetic have cumulatively earned 462 million views. Views for #preppyaestethic, on the other hand, total up to astonishing 1.9 billion.
Whether you notice it or not, prep is back, but in new ways — see: Giant-Fit Chinos — making the seemingly eternal trend somewhat fresh again.