There are many synonyms for our style’s variations, and as I speak to all of them throughout the blog, I’ll offer to you my own nomenclature system to help you decipher between them all. Additionally, words that are italicized in the proceeding article are commonly referenced labels or “memes” that I’ve made up over the years for the blog that you may often see in my writings. I explain their meanings as well. Think of this posting as a glossary page for CollegeTrad!
First off, there is Classic East Coast Style or also known as Traditional American Clothing (simplified to “Trad” on internet fashion speak thanks to user Harris from the AAAC forum). This is the overaching label within menswear that serves as the forefather of the Ivy League Look, which has a more official moniker known as TNSIL (“The Natural Shoulder Ivy League Look“). The Ivy League Look is where we get our earliest forms of authentic inspiration for our represented style on this blog, and was prominent during the mid-20th century.
Eventually, TNSIL lead to the original Preppy movement (simplified to “Prep”) of the late 1970s to 1980s, that added more color and fashionable attitude to the monotone TNSIL. However, both the Ivy League Look and the resulting Preppy scene help set up the stage for our purposes of modern interpretation of Classic East Coast clothing.
Then add in regional differences of the popular Northern vs Southern Prep debate, which can further be broken down into Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, Southeast, and Deep South labeling, that each have their own nuanced translations of Trad & Prep.
Outside of the US, two international brothers carry strongholds to our beloved style. Japan has had a love affair with Trad since post-WWII, and if it were not for Japanese Trad carrying the flame as American menswear standards fluctuated through the decades, then we would not have rediscovered Take Ivy, known as the Old Testament to The Official Preppy Handbook’s New Testament and both being literary flagship guides to our Trad and Prep formulas, respectively. The Japanese also now own J. Press, which is one of the faces on our Mt. Rushmore of preppy brands. And the other mecca is where Traditional American Clothing owes its own lineage; from our Fogey Anglo-Saxxons in the United Kingdom.
So in summary, when you further read throughout the blog – Trad is my loosely-based label for Classic East Coast Style, which is the first generation and the overarching house title for style of clothing; as followed by The Ivy League look of the 1950s and 60s; descending to Prep of the 70s and 80s; and finally giving us the fourth and current generation that all of the built up sartorial influence resulting from its family tree for the the modern era. Prep is my loosely-based label for fashions that relate to the original Prep era to present decorum. Thus, you’ll see me refer to our specified branch of menswear as simply, Trad/Prep, in times that I generally allude to all of the above non-sense!
The frame of Personalized Style is the focus I use for CollegeTrad, in hopes of marrying the old with the new for the target audience of young male collegiate students and professionals. It’s the modern take that honors the traditional with the fashionably forward (the label I use to blanket address new fashions – from hip trends, to high fashion such as elite luxury houses like Prada and Gucci, to urbanwear and streetstyle).
Following below are more headache-inducing subgenres that further expand on modern classifications of what we know as Trad/Prep. This is my attempt at including what mainstream pop culture identifies our style with. It’s hard to accurately describe each as its own individual presence since they are all pretty much cut from the same cloth and pieced into Classic East Coast’s broadened quilt, but I’ll give it a shot. Caveat: I speak to these labels from the viewpoint of what you would see on a college campus today.
This is the largest and most popular genre that all college students can relate to, and probably at least half of your campus wears in some form or another. The majority of them shop the mall brands, which is a euphemism I use to describe readily accessible brand at major department stores and outfitters. Ralph Lauren is the big one, as a relic of the latter end of the original Prep era when Ralph’s polo shirt took over Lacoste’s reign. Tommy Hilfiger, Izod, and Nautica followed en suite, but lost our approval and street credit a long time ago, but these brands and others still serve a place for the discussion, although definitely not as the weapon of choice by Mainstream Prep.
Fitting ranges from the so-so to the horrendous. Purveyors of Mainstream Prep are amongst what I like to call the brainless masses, who are your typical guys who barely attend to their looks, and are predisposed to what pop culture has relayed unto them of what “authentic preppy fashion” is (and what we know is actually not). You will spot these guys everywhere. They think they are following true preppy rules, but sadly they live in a false world of ignorance. Fitting will be off, matching and pairing will be tasteless. Pants that are too long, untucked button down shirts, and the teen mall brands like Abercrombie and American Eagle may still be considered wearable (they are not). Mainstream Prep is everywhere in some shape or form across the nation and it is what the common public sees as today’s default preppy style. This is rather unfortunate.
With ill-fitting, disheveled appearance and a natural inclination to follow the herd of what is interpreted as popular, and thus somehow authentically preppy, they’ll be the ones flashing logos just to prove they are in the right crowd. But they lack the know-how illustrated on this blog that separates them from the lucky few who are actually in the know, and forever keeps them with the brainless masses.
Native Garb: North Face backpack, Columbia or North Face Denali fleece, Rainbow Flip Flops, Ralph Lauren Polo Shirt, Predistressed Levis 559, 11” inseam plaid shorts that hit below the knee from Gap, Oakley Sunglasses with Croakies worn for non-athletic events, mix blend Van Heusen button down dress shirts, brown leather belts with 1.5″ of width from Fossil, and Sperrys worn formally.
Native Behavior: Clothes are always at least a size too big. Short sleeves hit near or at the elbow. Thinks a button down (with a peeking white crewneck undershirt) worn untucked with baggy pleated shorts and boat shoes is dressy enough for a nice dinner. Wears jeans with flip flops more than he wears chinos with loafers. Thinks a yellow shirt, bright red chinos, and an orange bowtie looks good. Stopped popping his collar as late as 2012. Wants to buy a Calvin Klein black suit for his first job interview. Lets mommy or his girlfriend shop for him.
Native Habitat: Generic mall stores and department chains, primarily at the likes of Macys and Ross. Has never heard of J. Press nor Barbour.
NF fleece, croakies and plastic sport shades, generic tee and baggy shorts worn with mid-ankle socks and sneakers. Sad.
Neo-Prep (includes GMP)
This is the present iteration of preppy fashion within my general label of “Trad/Prep“. Heavy in Trad influences and clothing fundamentals such as chinos and OCBDs, Neoprep is the direct evolution from the Ivy League Look to Prep and from Prep to now. What separates it from Mainstream Prep is that it is cleaner, simpler, and more mature in its kinship to the true source that is Classic East Coast Style.
There is no need for graphic shirts and predistressed jeans for the day to day, as Neopreps instead opt for polos and button down shirts with chino pants or shorts for daily wear. The OCBD and Chino is part of what I call The Uniform, which is the most basic staple outfit of which to build your wardrobe on top of. Neoprep is not totally Trad in sentiment however, because it is an updated and relevant approach that is more modern than our classic ideas of Trad, incorporates synthetic fibers like fleece and thinsulate that Trad purists resist for natural cottons and wools; but the ground principles of practicality and function combined with minimal and tried-and-true styling remains. Attitude- wise, there are the GTH elements that many Mainstream Preps may not understand or dare to wear like pastel shorts and motif belts (or worse, wear in a gross manner that lacks proper accordance to good taste). Another big key is the attitude towards how clothes are worn. For example, chinos are worn often and have little to no break. Fitting should compliment your build but is not too restricting. Barefoot in boat shoes or loafers in warmer weather, and never wearing sandals unless at the beach.
Neopreps shop at the Tradly brands that most Mainstream folks may have never heard of, as well at even lesser-known specialty shops and regional brands. The neoprep students usually reign from, although aren’t limited to, elite East Coast Preparatory Academies and Universities (especially in the Northeast), as these prep meccas tend to breed the closest iterations of Trad/Prep style. These gentlemen are amongst the upper tier of the prep attired circle at your campus, that Mainstream Preps should aspire to. And those that are at the very top of the pyramid are what I affectionately call “God Mode Preps”, as they have unlocked GMP Mode (hint: think of it as a Call of Duty game.) have the best grooming in the style, and follow an innate self-guidance in tune to the most authentic and original styles of Trad/Prep. GMPs are aware and religiously follow the Trad Mannerisms, that you will learn of on this very blog. GMP is the expert level that novice Neopreps want to eventually achieve.
Native Garb: Jansport Rightpack, Brooks Brothers OCBDs and polos, Patagonia Synchilla Snap-T Fleece, Levis 505 and 501 (naturally distressed over time), Bass Weejun penny loafers, Allen Edmonds dress shoes, LL Bean chinos, Barbour Beaufort wax coats.
Native Behavior: Actually knows when to tuck in shirts and buy clothes that fit well. Isn’t afraid to bring a blazer and tie to semi-formal events. Knows how to match and compliment his clothing well. Those that are at the GMP level follow Trad Mannerisms that the vast majority of Mainstream Preps and even Neopreps do not know of nor follow. His idea of a comfortable and casual outfit is The Uniform of a OCBD and chinos. Likes to wear penny loafers more than sneakers.
Native Habitat: GMP-level holy trinity of JPress, Alden, and Barbour. Prefers the Brooks Brothers Golden Fleece logo over Ralph Lauren’s Pony, much less any other department store logo. Has heard of J. Mclaughlin and The Andover Shop. May be found studying in the libraries of Yale or University of Virginia.
JPress Shaggy Dog, OCBD, tortoise frame wayfarers, likewise preppy chick by his side. Signs of a God Mode Prep. Living the Dream.
Very similar to (and technically falling under the umbrella of) Neoprep, and made popular on today’s campuses of universities up and down the coast; notably most championed by the SEC flagships. A lot more GTH usage in colors and lightweight textiles like seersucker and poplin to match the warmer climate. The outdoor sporting culture has a large impact on Southern Prep. Costa Del Mar sunglasses polarized to protect you from the lake water glare and Croakies to save them from falling off-board. Columbia PFG technical attire for when you wheel in the next big one on a saltwater boating trip. Visor hats and shorter inseam pleated shorts for the sunny hot weather at the links. Hunting cap and oiled field coats for quail hunting. Bow ties. Madras. Justin Roper Boots for the Country Gentleman farmer. Coat and tie on gameday, white bucks for church in the summer.
Originators Vineyard Vines, Ben Silver, and Lily Pulitzer (for the girls) made way for the first set of innovators like Southern Tide or Southern Proper. These brands paved the Southern Prep & Fratdaddy scene, making it popular enough that in fact, there are so many college preppy brands these days that I like to address them as “Southern ______” to illustrate the continuous wave of logo frockets and polo shirts. Heritage is a big thing in the South and thus they have risen up to the dominance of traditional clothing that was once associated only to the WASPy Northeast. The Good Ol’ Boys are your truck-ridin’ who chew on Skoal and combine their Sperry Billfish boat shoes with carpenter jeans and Guy Harvey frocket shirts. They aren’t as in-tune to Trad/Prep as Southern Prep guys, and are closer to Mainstream Prep. I tend to reference these Good Ol’ Boys variously through the blog with a rather negative connotation…
Native Garb: Southern Tide polo, Patagonia Stand Up Shorts with 5” inseam, Sperry Billfish boat shoes, Orvis Shot Shell Belt, Costa Del Mar shades and Croakies, frocket tees from your favorite beachtown or your Fraternity letters.
Native Behavior: Not as cleancut as your Neopreps and GMPs, but a step above the Mainstream Preps. Loves the most out of any other prep to wear loud colors and patterns. Prefers the “Southern _____ ” college prep brands to the established labels. Only to be worn during or soon after college, with the transition to GMP status and a more mature look by late 20s.
Native Habitat: Southern outfitters like Perlis, Berle, and Ben Silver. Idea shopping trip is to Charleston, SC instead of New York City. Idea social gathering is getting drunk with his fraternity bros at The Carolina Cup.
Straw Gambler Hat, Costa Del Mars, OCBD, Red Pleated Seersucker. Southern Belles on each arm.
Fratty (includes Laxbro)
This varies a lot depending on the local region, but is pretty much the same as Southern Prep, going hand-in-hand in sartorial approach. In the south, Southern Prep and Fratty are basically interchangable, but the latter has a higher “jock” mentality.
Random mix n’ matching like OCBDs with athletic shorts, or chino shorts with white high top athletic socks and Nike Air Max sneakers (high top socks gives the appearance you are ready for a pick up lacrosse game at any moment!) Popular hair style is the Fratshag, also known as Swoop or Flow for the Laxbros. Field prep sports lacrosse (i.e. “LAX”) and soccer are the sport of choice, and collected LAX jersey pinnies from years of summer camps and grade school teams end up keeping your nipples soft when you step out of the jacuzzi to get another Coors Light. Another nickname I have for such styling direction is Dormwear, which is what your freshmen will usually wear. Both Fratty and Dormwear are equally apathetic when it comes to following the strict rules of Trad/Prep, and thus are the most relaxed in following of the preppy aesthetic.
Native Garb: Worn-in The Game College Bar hat or Flat Billed baseball hats, Adidas low-inseam soccer shorts, UnderArmour tech tees, Clarks Wallabees or New Balance 993 barefoot, high top athletic socks worn with everything, Chubbies shorts, neon frog shades.
Native Behavior: Found playing beer pong or practicing his stick drills. If he actually shows up to class then he is half-awake and smells like AXE body spray. Only to be worn by those still in his undergraduate education.
Native Habitat: Dicks Sporting Goods, UnderArmour website, and the basement of his fraternity house
Urban Prep (includes Americana)
The fashionably forward‘s answer to classic Trad/Prep. I also place UrbanPrep hand-in-hand with NeoPrep, depending on that particular usage, because in a way Urban is within the umbrella of Neo; birthed from the past few years as the latest movement for American menswear. This alludes to the Americana fashion movement that arose out of the ashes of the post-2008 worldwide financial crisis, which was a return to sensible, domestic-based minimalism inspired by proven vintage design; serving as our reply that called for “down to basics” mentality in the face of gluttony and excess that had compromised the modern era. Preppy fashion became as popular as it once was in the original prep years of the 1980s.
Clothing had become much more fitted that complimented individual attributes. Your neighborhood tailor became your best friend. Lots of cardigans, skinny ties, and tailored sport coats. Mix n’ matched elements of streetstyle with the traditional. Same old stuff but with an updated look. See: J.Crew, Band of Outsiders, Gant by Michael Bastian, and Brooks Brothers Black Fleece by Thom Browne. Some fashion houses came out with youth-oriented sub labels in response to Prep’s resurgence that targeted the collegiate crowd, such as JPress’ York Street, Rugby by Ralph Lauren and Flatiron by Brooks Brothers. Urban Prep by definition is the meeting of the Fashionably Forward and Neoprep.
Native Garb: Expensive items from the elite high fashion houses. Americana collaborations with heritage labels, such as Red Wing Boots and Filson.
Native Behavior: Astutely tailored garments. Impeccable eye on the smallest of details. Able to accessorize. Keen on utilizing the latest fads seen on the runway and catalog of next season’s collection. Seeks out big name and niche brands that offer Made in USA production. Great for the older young professionals who are now post-undergrad.
Native Habitat: Found at Barnes & Noble reading GQ magazine, JCrew sniffing the fresh leather of a pair of ranger boots, or at a warehouse sample sale that he learned about from the menswear blogosphere
**Final Note: I try not to solely associate myself with any of the specific labels above. It is important to understand that my blog’s mission to help you develop your own personalized style, and that our sartorial inklings can range from the sophomoric Fratty style one day, to the cosmopolitan chic Urban Prep the next. A successful CollegeTrad reader will know how to employ all of these looks effortlessly (except for Mainstream Prep…I hope to train you past those limited boundaries!)
Read Part II for updated terminology.