Rule. noun \ˈrül\: a prescribed guide for conduct or action
While the Prep craze of the big 80s has long since passed, preps, classic and modern remain everywhere. And, preps live life a certain way, and follow certain tribal rituals. A few include:
Do monogram where ever possible. On stationary, a signet ring, napkins, family silver, your LL bean tote bag, hand towels, or on the cuff of your oxford cloth shirt. Monograms represent your initials and can have two or three letters. A traditional three letter monogram has the initial of the individual's surname [last name] larger and in the center. When monogramming, I generally prefer the three-letter version in script; it feels more composed. If you don't have a third initial, in the name of balance - consider making one up.
Collared polo shirts are de rigeur for preps. Most colors are acceptable; anything in neon however is not. There is something passable about a faded shirt with a beat up frayed collar un-tucked tail flapping in the wind at the yacht club. It tells the tales of summers on at sea. Conversely, on the golf course, the shirt is crisp, the collar flawless and the shirt carefully tucked in. In all cases, including the tennis court, a flipped up collar will prevent the back of your neck from being sunburnt.
Skip all these crazy logos appearing on clothing and accessories (Dear Coach, please take note. And Mr. Lauren, please shrink the polo player back to an appropriate size.) Among the favorite preppy labels are Brooks Brothers' Golden Fleece, Vineyard Vine's whale, Lacoste's famous crocodile, Thomas Pink's cute fox and of course the palm tree that says Lilly. These iconic symbols of preppydom look great on polo shirts, but are also perfect on belts, flip-flops, bags, and ties. Other acceptable logos are; yacht club burgees, an Ivy League insignia, and country club motifs.
A martini is made with gin. If vodka is being poured into a martini glass with an olive and a hint of vermouth, well, that is called a Vodka Martini. If you are pouring Chambord, vanilla vodka, pineapple juice into a martini glass you are having a vodka cocktail, not a martini, so please, don't ask for a French Martini. It just isn't right, Buffy.
Dogs are preppy, cats are not. Preppy dogs do not hang out in bags. Nope. Not even a vintage Dooney and Bourke bag. Usually, they are too big (the dogs, not the bags). If they are small, they are scrappy. Preppy dogs are never dressed in silly outfits nor do they have collars with rhinestones (a needlepoint collar is swell, a stitched leash even better). Admittedly once in a while put your ray bans on them for a quick chuckle. As with children, teach dogs to swim when they are young, so they can play in the waves with you at the beach or join in on a family sail. They are often named after some iteration a cocktail, such as Kendall, Swizzle, or Hops.
Mail invitations; the favor of a reply is presumed. Thank you notes should be hand written. When socializing choose to hold a cocktail rather than an iPhone. Follow Emily Post's tenet and send a wedding gift after the wedding, honestly, just who is going to transport all those blue boxes home? Note that in accordance with tradition, you have up to a year after the event to deliver. Do not show up with an envelope, or even mail one. Look at the register, then order something silver and monogrammed from Tiffany that is useless, yet would sit nicely on a buffet table.
Be sporty. Preps start athletic pursuits young; at the family club or at school; lacrosse, crew, tennis, golf, sailing, rugby, squash, field hockey, paddle, and skiing are all terrific. Croquet is a timeless preppy sport for all ages.
Be a spectator. The Polo Classic, Head of the Charles, the Mackinac Race, the Kentucky Derby, Wimbledon, Del Mar, alma mater football games. All of these events are steeped in tradition, call for a special outfit, and typically have an associated cocktail.
Eat classically. Preps are not against healthy eating, but let's just say it is rather unlikely that tofu and an organic beverage would be served at a preppy occasion. Some might say our food is bland; however I beg to differ. Tea sandwiches, deviled eggs, shrimp cocktail, or perhaps a wedge salad with Thousand Island dressing would be a terrific start. Other classics include pigs in a blanket, lobster rolls, and perhaps perfect beef tenderloin.
Travel frequently. Most preps get their first dose of independent travel during college: road trips, spring break (typically not in Ft. Lauderdale), and junior year abroad. Preps travel smart, visiting with friends for a night or two, not over packing, and generally using their miles to upgrade from the insanity that is cabin class and to get the free drinks. Classic destinations include: Bermuda, Bar Harbor, Nantucket, Chatham, Newport, Palm Beach and Amelia Island. Aspen, Vermont, and Tahoe are fabulous for skiing. If you are swishing abroad, consider Chamonix.
Rise to the occasion. Preps love an event, from tailgating to reunions, milestones and celebrations, holidays and birthdays too. A theme will tie it all together; what to wear, what to eat, and of course what to drink.
Finally, you have heard it before, and it is true: Don't wear white before Memorial Day or after Labor Day. A crisp white shirt does not count, however. Dirty bucks can be worn all year; white bucks follow the white rule. This same rule sadly holds true for seersucker and linen as well. I tend to push the boundaries, wearing madras prints from spring through mid-fall. Other preppy fashion tips include: Do own a trench coat, wear khakis not jeans and if at all possible, don't wear socks.