Clothes in the 80’s fell in to as many categories as did the
people that wore them. There were new wave/punk rockers,
Madonna wannabes, hair band devotees and one of the most
infamous groups: the preppies. The term "preppie" (also spelled
"preppy") evokes a certain image: popular, smart, and rich. Whatever your
impression, Preppies had several main characteristics.
Preppies were part of a crowd of college bound kids, deriving
the name from the “Prep” schools they attend prior to college.
Typically, they were on the straight and narrow and not in with
crowds who got into trouble or who didn’t care about life. They
wanted to succeed and be on top of their game. There is a close
tie between the preppie (or “Richie” as depicted in
Pretty in Pink by Blaine and Steff) and the recently
post-college Yuppie which came of age in the 80s as well.
One such aspect of their life and succeeding meant looking good. Alex P.
Keaton on the show Family Ties is a great example. He was smart, he was
college bound, he cared about the world in general and he cared about
his appearance. Appearances were important and kept neat.
worn in the 80’s Preppie period included blazers, button down shirts,
polo shirts, a sweater casually drapes around the shoulders, dress
pants, and dress shoes (penny loafers). Traditionally,
they were nice clothes. Preppies didn’t follow the trends of ripped
clothing, punk rockers,
neon and exercise
gurus. They looked to the future and wanted to be taken seriously, and
the first step was looking good. Again, think Alex P. Keaton only a
little less uptight. LL Bean was a staple of the preppy wardrobe
-- turtlenecks, duck boots, and rugbys aplenty.
Many of the preppy styles for women were similar to their male
counterparts, but even so the ladies had their own favorite preppy
styles, which included Tretorn tennis shoes, knee high socks (early 80s)
with long walking shorts, Laura Ashley dresses (later 80s) and good ole
The great movies of the time illustrate perfectly what people wore in the
in Pink-- Top Gun,
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Girls Just
Wanna Have Fun, and the
Breakfast Club. These movies typically had at least one character with a
colored polo shirt (collar flipped up, of course), sweater or blazer, penny
loafer shoes and nice pants.
For some interesting and very funny reading to get you up to speed and
ready to be a true preppy, you may want to read The Official Preppy Handbook.