Thursday, August 14, 2008
The Official Preppy Handbook
I know everyone remembers this, the 'Bible' of teenage preppiness. Released in 1980, this book, which was perfectly timed to coincide with the emergence of characters like Alex P. Keaton (the personification of the middle-class preppy wannabe), was supposed to be a JOKE. But teens everywhere embraced it as a sort of bible for dressing. Growing up in a working class suburb of New Orleans, I can't say that the Official Preppy Handbook impressed me as anything more than the farce that it was meant to be. As the years dragged on, however, and the New Wave years waned toward the late 80's, I did indeed embrace the wearing of penny loafers, sometimes with bobby socks folded down, sometimes with bare feet (this was exemplary fashion, but it was STINKY!). I was not, however, cool enough to resist the temptation to place coins in my shoes. I know this was poor form, but hey, what does a kid from a rough neighborhood like mine care if Biff and Buffy don't like the coins in my shoes??
I wore loafers straight through until adulthood, finally parting with them about ten years ago. In college, since I travelled overseas quite a bit, I took to putting foreign coins in those loafers (usually tiny Austrian Groschen). And I'm sure I impressed a heap of people with that little maneuver!
Except for donning those loafers, preppy didn't work too well for me. Yes, I worked at 'The Limited' and had to wear some preppier pieces than I would have liked to at times, but there were always the New Wave accoutrements (like strange head scarves or dangly geometric earrings or a fedora)going along with the plaids and khakis - it could be no other way.
Parents, don't you wish the fashions of today were as benign as what we had back then? Can you imagine a 'handbook' for fashion today? It would have to be called 'The Official Bling-Belly Shirts-Make Your Drawers Show Handbook'. It makes the Preppy Handbook seem like something from a REALLY LONG TIME AGO!
Did you know that this old fashion bible is going sometimes for as much as $30 - $40 on Ebay? I guess they are in short supply. Apparently once everyone turned 18 they tossed their handbooks out, finally realizing that the whole concept was a joke - and that the joke was on them.