A Brief History Of The Preppy Style

Sponsored by Polo Ralph Lauren

Being preppy isn’t just about secret societies and tweed blazers. The style emerged from a long history of Americana fashion, but it means so much more than what you put on your back. In essence, it originated from tradition and social achievement. In modern day terms? That translates to classic style and dazzling success.

To celebrate the SS17 Polo Ralph Lauren women’s collection, which has made a brilliant return to the preppy style the iconic brand is known for, we at Grazia have taken a look back at the origins of prep, all the way from the turn of the 20th century to the present day.

Plus, see our gallery of the new SS17 collection below!


Of course during these decades, the word ‘preppy’ came from the preparatory schools that wealthy kids would attend before college. This was the era of oxford shirts, cable knit sweaters and loafers. The 1930s also saw the introduction of denim into the wardrobes of young college women. Not only that, but eyebrows were raised all over America as young women began to embrace trousers and loose shirts. My oh my!

Polo Ralph Lauren has given a nod to heritage in their latest collection, with the installation of a flawless cable-knit sweater. Pair the look with leather trousers for a modern edge.


Pretty soon, preppy style got a sporty injection. From 1950, preppy attire was intrinsically tied with sailing, fencing, lacrosse and rugby. Americana fashion saw an onset of equestrian clothing, stripes and nautical themes, (mainly in rich blues and reds.) Prep expanded way beyond Ivy League Halls and became more accessible, yet still exclusive. The 1980s was also the time that the Official Preppy Handbook was released. The tongue-in-cheek guide was meant to mock preppy culture, but instead, it inspired thousands to adopt the style. Preppy started to become less of a behaviour, and more of a trend.

Notice the nautical nuance in Polo Ralph Lauren’s Spring collection? There’s nothing like a monogramed navy blazer teamed with denim to say- distinguished ‘cool-girl.’

1980s- Now

Prep has now taken on a life of its own with major brands adapting the style and teaming traditional pieces with more modern items, (loafers with leather anyone?) Case and point, we’ve seen a re-emergence of white shirt dresses, nautical stripes and khaki in SS17. So, prep is here to stay and can always be modified to suit new season trends. It’s just a question of- in what form?

A crisp white oxford shirt will honestly never fail you, be it in your workwear rotation or weekend ensemble. Pair Polo Ralph Lauren’s classic oxford with SS17’s ultimate trend- unexpected hemlines (tassels, frays and flares.)

Check out some of Polo Ralph Lauren's SS17 collection in the gallery below!


Find out more about Polo Ralph Lauren's SS17 collection here.

Grazia magazine cover