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Last Updated on August 8, 2021
Are you a fan of preppy clothing brands but creating your own looks leaves you in a daze?
If you’ve ever sat pondering where to look for preppy inspirational outfits, this might just be the list for you. If you want to get inspired by the top preppy brands, read on.
This article contains a lowdown list on all the best preppy brands and what makes them stand outs.
It includes the clothing items made them popular plus all you need to know about each brand’s story, their signature style, and the core elements that comprise their DNA.
- What qualifies as Preppy?
- A Quick Overview of the Preppy Subculture
- Top 3 Preppy Clothing Brands
- Great Preppy Clothing Fashion Brands
- Clothing Fashion Brands With Cool Preppy Elements
- Preppy Beachwear Brands
- Preppy Footwear Brands
- Preppy Accessories Brands
- High Fashion Brands with Preppy Qualities
What qualifies as Preppy?
- Puffer jacket
- Tuxedo jacket
- Classic Blazer
- Varsity Jacket
- Polo shirt
- Oxford shirt
- Rugby shirt
- Cashmere turtlenecks
- Corduroy trousers
- Skinny trousers
- Colored chinos
- Plaid mini skirts
- Tartan midi skirts
- Soft Soled Leather Shoes
- Embroidered Velvet Slippers
- Platform tassel loafers
- Stripe scarf
- Clutch bag
- Pearl necklaces
- Mini houndstooth
- Nautical stripes
- Prince of Wales
The classic preppy style emerged around 1910 and gained popularity over the 50s until it became a recurring staple in the fashion cycle. It shares some of its main characteristics with the Ivy League style (traditional English dress codes, uniforms in block colors, and shields), although it is a bit more casual and bright-colored.
Easily recognized by its school uniform and nautical emblems, it often showcases elements related to expensive pastimes like sailing, rowing, horse riding, polo, fencing, and golf.
Depending on the location, the preppy style tends to vary to reflect local preferences. The New England preppy style generally showcases more of a country club culture and features darker or muted colors. Typical brands are Ralph Lauren, L.L. Beans, or Brooks Brothers. Southern brands like Vineyard Vines or Southern Tide are more colorful and have shorter styles that accommodate the warmer climate.
Top 3 Preppy Clothing Brands
#1 Ralph Lauren
Ralph Lauren originally produced men’s ties as part of the tie manufacturer Beau Brummell (1967) and later on sold men’s clothing out of Bloomingdale’s. They are, without a doubt, one of the most easily recognized preppy brands. Their style, quality, and timeless classics symbolize the quintessential American look while portraying exclusivity, fine living, and sophistication.
Fun fact: Ralph Lauren’s trademark look that we have come to know and love owes a lot of its core characteristics to The Official Preppy Handbook (1980). The book was originally intended to be humorous and tongue-in-cheek about its sartorial decisions and recommendations, but soon enough people were wearing their sweaters knotted over their shoulders and wearing khakis and plaid blazers unironically.
It sold more than a million copies and became such a viral sensation that the preppy style soon crossed over the Atlantic and gained traction overseas.
Over the years, Ralph Lauren helped to shape the preppy style, which would later be globally recognized as the basis for the Americana. I can’t wait to get my hands on Ralph Lauren: In His Own Fashion to learn more about the brand and the huge impact it had on American fashion and culture.
I also absolutely love Ralph Lauren’s aesthetic and flair, which is why this brand made it all the way to number one on my list. I would totally get any of their striped scarves, Polo sweaters, or green tartan overcoats from their 2019 collection. I am, after all, quite partial to plaid as you already know!
In 1980, Tommy Hilfiger began his career by designing preppy clothing for his eponymous menswear line and later expanded into women’s clothing. He has remained the head creative behind the brand to this day and creates collections that are stylish and wearable, but above all, luxurious.
The brand originally drew inspiration from 1960s counterculture but since the 80s it has remained true to the American New England style of preppy fashion. This style is arguably one of the most classic looks you can wear and one that you can be certain will still hold true 10, 20, or 30 years from now.
Its muted color palette combines earth tones like olive green, brown, and khaki with national American colors like red, white, and navy blue. Each piece of clothing is an investment made to last and can be easily combined with future collections, like these boating slip-on shoes.
Tommy Hilfiger is famous for celebrating the essence of classic American cool style by featuring preppy designs that recreate glamorous looks from the past with a current twist. What I like the most is how it combines staples like traditional English capes with brightly colored corduroy pants and beanie striped hats.
A great source to read more about the brand and the designer behind it is American Dreamer: My Life in Fashion and Business. What makes this brand rank second on my list is that I have yet to come upon a clothing item that I wouldn’t wear. Honest truth, they would all look amazing in my closet!
#3 Brooks Brothers
Brooks Brothers is the oldest clothing retailer in the US and according to themselves, the original authority on American style. It was founded in 1818 by Henry Sands Brooks in Manhattan. They introduced the ready-to-wear suit to American customers and even counted Abraham Lincoln among their loyal clientele. As a result of poor sales during the pandemic, the brand filed for bankruptcy in August 2020.
Although the brand is now considered by many to be quite traditional, it introduced many novelties over its lifetime such as applying button-down collars to dress shirts, creating the Ivy League sack suit, commercializing the Harris Tweed, and creating the wash-and-wear shirts.
In 1998, they also invented the non-iron 100% cotton dress shirt that would revolutionize the industry. There is a great book called Brooks Brothers: 200 Years of American Style that celebrates the remarkable heritage of the brand and its most iconic pieces of clothing. It is totally worth it!
When discussing preppy girl brands, Brooks Brothers continues to offer the best button-downs, knit sweaters, and loafers that are as much closet must-haves today as they were in 1930 for college women.
Their fresh take on heritage designs that are both modern and stylish and offers an amazing repertoire of items just waiting to be layered in delicious looks. If I had to choose one piece from them, I would opt for a Harris Tweed blazer or the ultimate white shirt classic!
Great Preppy Clothing Fashion Brands
#4 J. Crew
J. Crew was the quintessential yuppie clothing brand, featuring wool and merino sweaters layered over freshly pressed button-down shirts and rolled-back chinos. In 1998, J. Crew even featured the Dawson’s Creek cast as part of their new catalog. Sadly, it has since declined quite a bit, even filing for bankruptcy on May 4th, 2020.
J. Crew is now all about supremely comfortable clothing made from superior materials. Their jeans, khakis, and other basic items are ideal for a beachy capsule wardrobe that includes nautical references and relaxed patterns.
Lacoste is a French company that has sold clothing and sportswear, among other things, since 1933. The brand originally made its name as a knitwear manufacturer but it’s now widely known to produce elegant, sport-inspired attires that can be worn on the court and in the streets. This preppy t-shirt brand is also easily recognizable for its polo shirts.
They feature a ton of typical preppy elements like V neck sweaters and vests, polo shirts, button-down cardigans, nautical stripes, pleated mini-skirts, and boating shoes. I’m not a huge fan of Lacoste since its style doesn’t appeal as much to me however, they do have some of the best preppy stores to shop in!
Previously snubbed by the fashion industry, Victoria finally earned their respect with her sophisticated collections showcasing exemplary cut and fit. As if her use of rolled turtleneck cashmere vests and pastel V neck sweaters was not enough to earn her a place on this list, she also has some amazing Peter Pan collar shirts and to-die-for tweed blazers.
I personally own one dress of hers and I have to tell you, it is one of my absolute favorites! I would love to make room in my wardrobe for any items from that 2019 collection, too!
#7 Tory Burch
Tory Burch combines re-imagined vintage-style pieces with classic sportswear items for a casual, creative and modern preppy look. The brand favors using color blocking in bright and striking colors, as well as floral and nautical prints. One of their signature moves is to mix orange and brown or bright blue and tan for a 70s feel. It is undoubtedly one of my favorite preppy handbag brands, and their canvas tote bags are worth the investment!
Clothing Fashion Brands With Cool Preppy Elements
#8 Abercrombie & Fitch
Abercrombie & Fitch was once known for its sexualized ad campaigns. They were shot by Bruce Weber in black and white, depicting nude or semi-nude models. Their clothing style was the ultimate preppy and exclusive look of high society high schoolers: white shirts, thin men ties, wrapped-up chinos, leather loafers, and knit turtlenecks under V neck sweaters.
Thankfully, after years of struggling with an over-sexualized image of exclusionary stereotypes, Abercrombie & Fitch is reinventing itself by drawing on its history and portraying adventure and playfulness over exclusivity and sex appeal. Fly fishing and mountain biking are slowly taking the place of high school kids and sorority girls and actual clothing is making an appearance on their editorial campaigns.
Field jackets, chunky knitted sweaters, and layered flannel shirts are slowly replacing navy blazers, polo shirts, and long Bermuda shorts. It remains to be seen if the final destination of this brand resembles the original preppy style or completely reinvents itself into an outdoor brand like Patagonia or Timberland.
Since its creation in 1856, Burberry is internationally renowned for representing the quintessential British style. Thomas Burberry became famous in 1879 for creating the gabardine, the first waterproof fabric that was breathable, weatherproof, and hard-wearing. Soon enough the brand created their trademark trench with black, camel, and red Nova check and equestrian knight logo.
Burberry toes the line between Ivy League material and preppy style. Both its luxury scarves and cashmere sweaters are a preppy girl’s dream come true, especially paired with plaid pleated skirts and knee socks.
Their passion for the sartorial tradition comes through in their collections in the form of classic styles like tweed blazers, chunky knits, jacquard weaves, and paisley patterns. Their muted palette echoes the New England preppy style in many ways but it is in their layering of crisp white shirts and tweed blazers where the most potential to create a preppy look lies.
#11 Michael Kors
Michael Kors is an American fashion brand that sells ready-to-wear fashion to both men and women. They market themselves as a luxury brand that sells essential luxury items, rich sportswear, and sleek tailoring.
Their collections are usually perfectly balanced, offering polished silhouettes and garments that fit with ease, creating a look of timeless glamour and elegance. Preppy elements usually make an appearance in the designer’s collections, such as pastel blazers, double-breasted navy jackets, and ribbon-tied romantic shirts.
Preppy Beachwear Brands
#12 Southern Tide
It might be time to retrieve your preppy shorts from the dark corners of your closet and start preparing your preppy beach clothes…If you’re looking for an east coast preppy brand, Southern Tide is the one for you.
Their ultimate signature piece is the preppy shirt and they have a ton of perfect ones to choose from! But, to top it off they also offer amazingly cut chinos, printed beach shorts, and an array of varied accessories.
#13 Solid & Striped
The striped paradise collection of Solid & Striped is awaiting you with a ton of great swimsuits and varied cover-ups to complete your vacation look. Choose your lucky bikini, grab your favorite sunhat and let’s sunbathe!
Preppy Footwear Brands
Hunter is a famous brand that makes natural rubber boots for the Queen herself! These types of wellies can last for years and years without a scratch. I’ve had my pair for 5 years already and they show no signs of wear whatsoever.
They are 100% worth the investment. Your feet will remain dry and warm throughout the bitterest of storms and the coldest of days.
#15 Stubbs & Wootton
The ultimate destination for velvet slippers, be they cross-stitched, embroidered, or woven, Stubbs & Wootton has the perfect pair for you. They even have a special collegiate collection featuring Brown, Yale, and other Ivy League Universities’ initials. The ultimate preppy footwear to complete your luxurious outfit.
#16 Jack Rogers
Jack Rogers sandals were created in 1960 when Jackie Kennedy requested her Palm Beach cobbler to create a pair of sandals out of a style she had recently seen in a trip to Capri. The style is characterized by whipstitched leather and a rondelle motif. For preppy girls, when summer comes, it’s Jack Rogers’ time!
The original American brand that made boat shoes a staple of the preppy look was founded in 1935 by Paul A. Sperry. Some say that Sperry slipped on the deck of his boat while sailing on the Long Island Sound. He fell overboard and the scare got him to design a safer, non-slip shoe he could use and trust. JFK was a particular fan of loafers!
Preppy Accessories Brands
The French luxury goods manufacturer is famous for its top-of-the-line leather classic duffel bags and silk scarves. The label is a symbol of class and exclusivity all around the globe, making Hermès handbags a very coveted item.
This is precisely why they are the ultimate preppy purse brand. No other accessory will complete the look as elegantly. Well, perhaps Cartier or Tiffanys are up to the task of competing since they are both ultimate preppy jewelry brands.
Mulberry is a UK-based luxury fashion brand that is renowned for its leather goods. It was founded in 1971 by Roger Saul and his mother, in the heart of Chilcompton, Somerset. The brand has established itself as a British lifestyle brand that produces clothing, accessories, and footwear for both men and women.
They recently launched an apprenticeship program to keep the traditional crafts alive among the local youngsters while also providing training and employment for the local community. Their style is classic, with a lot of heritage English elements like plaids, knits, jacquard weaves, and rubber wellies, making it an excellent source of preppy style clothing.
Interesting fact: Their Trout satchel, Bayswater, and Alexa handbags have all become contemporary classics and iconic British designs of manufacturing expertise.
Smathers & Branson is one of the newest companies on this list. They were founded in 2004, by a couple of college roommates that decided to start a company that offered needlepoint belts due to the fact that there was no other shop offering the product they were looking for.
Their belts (and keychains and hats) are handmade in Vietnam by artisan craftsmen and feature nautical elements, shields, initials, and small animals that fit the preppy style perfectly. They look great with tan chinos and crisp linen shirts!
High Fashion Brands with Preppy Qualities
There are a lot of preppy style garments that might have originated in Chanel, like the tailored blazers and jackets in a Jackie Kennedy style or the use of nautical elements in sailor-inspired garments.
Coco was a big fan of color blocking as well, and she often stuck to black and white. Pearls were also one of her favorite accessories and she often favored ballerina flats and loafers. Plenty of preppy elements to pick and choose from!
After years of minimalism, it appears as if high fashion brands are ready to finally embrace the goodness of preppy looks! During Fall 2020, runway shows like Chloé featured skirt suits, plaids, neckties, and college sweaters. We are all cheering for more preppy goodies, keep ém coming Chloé!
Most recently, during 2020, they featured Argyle sweaters, V neck boucle sweaters, tweed blazers, navy cardigans, checkered mini-skirts, pleated skirts, tweed woollen pants, and more key items of the ultimate preppy look. Their navy double-breasted uniform blazer is without a doubt one of the best preppy jackets I have seen and I can imagine endless combinations to make it shine over the years!
Coach’s style of preppy has more to do with the second wave that hit the fashion world during 1980s than with the original minimalist preppy classics. Its excessive, look-at-me-color and patterns plus the use of varsity style jackets signal preppy with a dash of rebel. Lots of prints and sparkles accompany this new take on the style and we welcome it with open arms.
You can check the complete Pinterest Board with a ton of more pictures to get you inspired right here!