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Preppy, preppie, or prep (all abbreviations of the word preparatory) refers to a modern, widespread United States clique, often considered a subculture. Preppy is both an American adjective and an American noun, while prep is only an American noun, traditionally used in relation to Northeastern private university-preparatory schools and denotes a person seen as characteristic of an attendee of these schools. Although considered slang, the noun prep has become a colloquialism in the United States and has largely replaced the noun preppy. Characteristics of preps include a particular subcultural speech, vocabulary, accent, dress, mannerisms, and etiquette reflecting Northeastern, upper-class families in the United States.


The term preppy derives from the expensive pre-college preparatory or prep schools that upper-middle-class children on the United States's Northeastern states sometimes attend. Lisa Birnbach's 1980 book Official Preppy Handbook, which was written to poke fun at the rich lives of privileged East Coast college students but ended up glamorizing the culture, portrays the preppy social group as well-educated, well-connected, and although exclusive, courteous to other social groups without fostering serious relationships with them. Being well-educated and well-connected reflects their upper-class status, which encourages higher education and professional success.

The term preppy is particularly well-known amongst American teenagers, but high school preps differ from traditional, East Coast preps. The usage of preppy in American high schools is quite often used to refer to a fashion choice, rather than the preppy lifestyle associated with upper-class East Coast preps. Prep in American high schools, simply refers to those who dress preppy. Unlike traditional, East Coast preps who come from upper-class families, high school preps are often middle-class and may be upper-class. Hollywood films of the 1980s, such as John Hughes' Sixteen Candles, Pretty in Pink, and The Breakfast Club, characterized high school preps of the 1980s, who are depicted as a shallow and transparent group primarily concerned with extrinsic things. The three most explicit of these extrinsic desires are often popularity within their own high school, physical appearance, and material possessions.


Preppy fashion started in the 1950's as the Ivy League style of dress. J. Press represents the quintessential preppy clothing brand, stemming from the collegiate traditions which shaped the preppy subculture. J. Press and Brooks Brothers, another clothing line highly associated with preppy fashion, had stores on Ivy League school campuses, such as Harvard and Yale, during the mid-twentieth century. Ralph Lauren, Vineyard Vines, and Elizabeth McKay are also frequently perceived as having preppy styles. New York City maintains itself as the headquarters for most preppy clothing lines, such as J. Press, Brooks Brothers, and Ralph Lauren, reflecting the impact of East Coast culture on preppy lifestyle. Examples of preppy attire include argyle sweaters, chinos, madras, Nantucket Reds, button down Oxford cloth shirts, and boat shoes.