The preppy look has been around for as long as the American teenage dream has dominated pop culture consciousness, though some time around the fall of Abercrombie & Fitch, that look went out of favour. This season, designers across the board are referencing prep again—breathing new life into a look that has gone stale.
Prep has always been a visual shorthand for a WASP-ish kind of privilege, which makes it fertile ground for reinvention and reinterpretation in our current cultural climate. This time around, designers are imbuing prep with a new sense of playfulness, irreverence, and yes, even elegance. Even the king of prep himself, Tommy Hilfiger, has pivoted. At his comeback show during the most recent New York Fashion Week, it was prep like you’ve never seen before—exaggerated silhouettes, loud prints, Pop Art references, bold clashes of plaids and stripes, and other various bits of Americana.
The key to nailing the new prep is a statement varsity jacket—the bolder, the better—and how you wear it. Think less clean-cut and basic (out with the chinos, polos, box-fresh sneakers, and baseball hats) and more jazzed up—a little eccentricity here goes a long way: A granddad tie or a kitschy vest, an unexpected accessory, dressier shoes, trousers in pooling, or even billowing proportions. Nigo at Kenzo infused the look with a certain Parisian sophistication— there were stripes of different scales and a jaunty beret thrown in for good measure. Or take a cue from the late Virgil Abloh: At Off-White, the bomber jacket was worn with hip-hop swagger courtesy of a shaggy faux fur coat and extra-wide trousers; at Louis Vuitton, it was rendered in regal purple and laden with playful Afro-centric embroideries.